Posts filed under 'Marketing'

You Can Do Better Than Brand Marketing

Often online marketing budgets fall into two camps: direct response and branding. The purpose of direct response is pretty obvious – to make money at a return that is aligned with the business’s goals. The other camp – branding – I’m kind of convinced is always a waste of money (at least the conventional idea of brand marketing is).

Boiled down to it’s most simple terms, advertising is when you are trying to persuade someone to purchase your product. Too often the idea of a “branding” campaign is something that is far from persuasive – it mostly consists of showing people your logo. Persuading someone is about highlighting the product benefits and differentiation with similar products. Customers rely on their own experience with products more than anything else. Showing your logo to more people is not enough to overcome the inertia of  purchasing habits and get someone to make a change. Persuasion isn’t easy; trying new things is high on the list of things people most want to avoid.

From the Ad Contrarian:

“Next we have to realize that successful brands are by-products. They don’t come about by “branding.” They come about by doing lots of other things well. Like making great products; satisfying our customers; differentiating our products in advertising.”

Trying to quantify the value of branding ads usually ends up being very anti-climactic. You can count the amount of impressions that were delivered to the targeted demographic, use click-through-rate as a way to evaluate relevancy – of those that click through you can measure page depth, return visits, bounce rate – all of which give you an idea of the kind of impact you made on the visitor – hopefully an indication that they will buy from you next time when they are ready.

So why would anyone want to do “brand advertising”? Because your direct response budget has such high return on ad spend targets that you end up only advertising to those people at the bottom of the funnel – you’re preaching to the converted. You’ve got to pay to add more people at the top of the funnel right? Yes, but you can do better than “brand advertising.”

Maybe it’s just semantics but when you think about your next media buy, your display ads, or the next bit of content you create, make sure that it has something to it that will persuade someone to buy instead of having the sole purpose of “branding.”

Add comment January 30th, 2014

How Important Is The Release Date?

Release it all at once or slowly over time? How much effort and money should be invested at the onset? How much buzz a new product needs at the start depends on a combination of how good it is and how long the product will be relevant. The longer you can stretch out the release the better for the customer and the creator.

According to the product adoption curve, the majority of people will wait for the feedback from the innovators and early adopters before deciding it’s worth their time. Money can carry it faster to the early and late majority, but it takes a lot of it. If the product is relevant for long enough, and you’re patient long enough, the product can carry itself into the consciousness of the majority.

It’s tempting to blurt out everything you have to say all at once. For the customer, participating in buzz is fun. Being the one to recommend something to others builds trust – both with their friends and the creator. What your audience wants from you is not just your product, but the ability to be the one to share it with others.

Add comment August 28th, 2013

Online Marketing Moving Towards Passivity

Online marketing has been positioned from the beginning as a much more interactive marketing medium than TV. As the web becomes more of a constant thing in our lives will our interactions with it become more passive like TV and thus change the way we market online?

Online marketers have always stuck their noses up at TV advertising because they couldn’t believe advertisers would spend so much money on a medium that was not trackable, was interruptive, was not precisely targeted, had no ability to engage the user further once the ad ended, was not shareable. Surely TV ads are inferior.

But when the amount of time people spend online is constant you need new math. The number of sites visited before a purchase as reported by google is growing exponentially – is this because people do more research or is it just because people spend more time online? When browsing is something that never ends, creating attribution models around touch points that weave in and out of constant browsing habits start to look futile. The sheer fact that someone showed up at your ecommerce site used to be a pretty strong signal of purchase intent and every time they didn’t convert was deemed a failure. Now, with mobile usage skyrocketing the value of a visit is dropping fast.

In the end the traditional principles of TV advertising – where you interrupt and grab attention by inserting advertising into an appealing environment and then make that advertising message entertaining, beautiful or interesting is maybe all that may really works after all. The majority of online advertising hasn’t been focused on that as much as it’s been focusing on precise targeting, number of “likes” and optimization.

Add comment June 13th, 2013

No Better Time For Starting Something New

Social Media is a one to one medium that gives brands a unique opportunity to be very customer focused. Not only is individual connection what the web is built for, individual connection is what we as humans most desire.

But many brands still only see online advertising through the lense of scale – using Facebook like a megaphone and Twitter as a mass marketing vehicle, which explains the constant lust for more and more friends and followers. But you can’t blame big brands for this, everything they do is done at scale, the ability to produce and distribute in enormous quantities is part of their essence. They are built to neglect the individual needs of their customers – they only work at scale.

As big brands are trying to fit into a one to one connection marketing world, smaller companies have an inherent competitive advantage online. We as consumers have pretty much everything we need but the one thing that never decreases in demand is attention, appreciation and belonging.

Increasingly the way we derive attention is through the content we share. The content we share is a reflection of our identity. Instead of someone deciding to share content about a product or experience after they have purchased it, the reason for purchasing something is to share it to friends (the point of going to that concert is so that I can tell everyone that I went).

Combine that longing to belong with creating identity through sharing along with our newly found weird niche passions (thanks to the long tail) and the money and resources to make use of the abundance of choice that now exists, and the environment is ripe for a small business making niche products hyper targeted to excited and neglected (by big brands) customers via social media that gives each customer the feeling of belonging.

Small Business Comparative Advantage

Add comment April 11th, 2013

How To Choose The Right Vendor, Agency or Consultant

I think the rule of thumb for choosing a vendor, agency or consultant, is whether or not they will leave you off better than when they found you. And this is not just in terms of increased sales or other KPIs. As they increase sales are they also increasing the competency of your organization so that one day the vendor/agency/consultant will work themselves out of a job?

This is an unselfish stance for a partner to take that requires:

  • Transparency. The client needs to see exactly how their partner is doing what they are doing. Too often agencies pull the wool over the eyes and make what they are doing look like magic so that the client feels like they could never leave. Vendors that use superior algorithms as their core competency maintain their clients by selling a threat that if they ever leave they will be worse off.
  • Aligned Interests. When the consultant or agency is “open kimono “ it becomes very easy to see if they are on your side or if they want to do just enough to stay employed.
  • Constant improvement. Due to transparency and aligned interests, as the client becomes more capable to handle the things the agency was initially hired to do, the agency needs to provide more value and take on other deficiencies that the organization has.

Too many agencies keep their processes secret for fear of losing their job but when the partner has reached a point where their services are no longer needed due to their transparency and aligned interests they can gracefully bow out and send the improved client on their way. Of course any client who has ever hired a partner with this level of commitment is rarely ever let go.

Add comment April 1st, 2013

In Between Brand Advertising and Direct Response Advertising

There have been two main points of view with marketing a new product: Elevate The Brand vs. Sell The Product or Go To Market vs. Go To Customer.

Elevating the brand is the sexy side of marketing. These are TV commercials, YouTube homepage takeovers and big interactive social engagement plays. All of these initiatives are centered around the kinds of things they teach in marketing classes in college – market segmentation, product differentiation and value propositions.

Selling the product is about waiting until someone is ready to buy instead of persuading them to buy. This is the direct response type of advertising where every dollar spent is expected to bring in an anticipated return – paid search, display remarketing, email and affiliate marketing.

I think there is place neglected by brand building and direct response that is often overlooked in between both strategies.

In Between Brand Advertising and Direct Response Advertising

Big brands ignore his middle opportunity because all they know (TV and print) is what they’ve been doing for decades. And the people focused on selling the product don’t tread in the middle opportunity because they are tied to really efficient return goals.

This middle ground is based on broader and more generic search terms, display advertising with layers of inferred and expressed data, content and social marketing based on micro-conversions, etc.

This middle ground is more measurable than brand building but also more costly than a lot of direct response advertising. Its conducive to a/b testing and optimization but less sexy. It’s more targeted and relevant but casts a smaller net. Ad Agencies don’t want to touch it because its not showy enough and can be easily pulled apart with data. Direct marketers don’t go there because it brings down their remarkable ROIs.

Yet I think this is place where a disruptive brands can win.

Add comment December 3rd, 2012

Triple Threat To Retailers

I haven’t been in a shopping mall for over a year (except for last November when my wife was overdue and we walked in circles inside the mall in hopes that it would induce labor (it didn’t work, she was two weeks late)). So, I’m not big on shopping but I have to believe that traditional retailers should be worried about the disruption of retail due to the internet. There are three killing pressures that threaten stores:

1. Transparency of pricing which takes away any leverage the retailer had as a result of the customer not knowing there was a cheaper price down the street.

2. The efficiency online competitors gain by consolidating merchandise in a few locations, which saves operating costs and capital and real estate.

3. Consolidating data about merchandise, prices and service. This is the one that I think most stores at least equipped to compete with. Online you see your friend buy something new, you read customers reviews of it, watch a demo video on YouTube, Google it to find the best price, and the internet gets it to you. Store? Who cares what store it comes from, let alone what the salesperson at the store has to say? Most people walk into a store having already decided what they want thanks to research online. Retailers once were the middleman between the brand/manufacturers and the customer but with 84% of all purchases being researched online prior to purchase, who needs a middle man? Your friends can now be your curators and merchandisers. You need not care who fulfills the order.

Retailers are not going away anytime soon, many have huge reserves of trust with their customers, and shopping is still considered a fun activity (for some) but as we grow up online retailers are going to have to figure out how to add value to the path to purchase because right now I don’t see one.

Add comment May 21st, 2012

Why Does Advertising Cost So Much?

There are up to three expenses when doing any kind of advertising campaign. 1. The cost of the creative. Paying the photographer or graphic designer to create the ad or paying the video production company to film and edit your commercial. 2. The cost of the media. Once the ad is made you have to pay a publisher to syndicate it – paying the site, magazine, TV channel or newspaper to show your content. 3. The cost of an agency. Often advertisers invest in agencies to service the whole process. They come up with the idea, create it and then execute it for you.

The cost of doing #1 is coming down thanks to inexpensive, professional level DSLR cameras and cheap editing software like Final Cut Pro. Sure, the real expense is hiring the talent to use these tools effectively, but as the tools become less scarce the ability to tell the difference between pro and amateur work is getting harder and harder. The cost of #2 is also coming down if you consider how inexpensive online advertising is. It will still cost a fortune to run a commercial on TV or run a full page ad in Opera Magazine, but those are no longer the only options (and arguably the worst ones). Free can get you pretty far online via YouTube and social media if you have something that is unique and worth sharing. If you want to pay for exposure you can also get pretty far on a limited budget.
So if #1 and #2 are cheaper than ever before is #3 getting cheaper too? It doesn’t look like it, but it should be.

I agree with Seth Godin that when execution gets cheaper, so should planning (and therefore the cost of working with an agency should drop), “The cost of building digital items is plummeting, but our habit is to plan anyway (because failure bothers us, and we focus on the feeling of failure, not the cost).”

If you’re building an online marketing campaign, spend less money on the meetings, sign-offs and planning and invest that money into learning and optimizing. Instead of paying to figure out which idea is best before picking the final winner, invest that money into running them all and optimizing the ones that work best. I think you should publish it all and then let the best filter to the top, more content is worth more than perfect content.

Add comment April 30th, 2012

Why Do Advertisers Spend So Much On Print?

The chart below shows the over-investment in print and the under-investment in mobile and web compared to the relative time consumers spend with those mediums.

Flurry points out a few reasons why mobile is so under-invested in, including the fact that agencies and brands have yet to adjust to the unprecedented speed of adoption of apps by consumers and the lack of systems in place to buy inventory in volume.

The part that confuses me is why so much money is spent on print, when the amount of time consumers spend with print is the lowest of all mediums. Besides the reasons Flurry notes above, I think the answer is because the people making the buying decisions have a strong interest in keeping their jobs and when it comes to allocating the marketing spend, its much safer to do it like you’ve always done.

The thing that’s scary about online or mobile advertising is that its much more measurable. And once its measurable you can be blamed. They like to be creative, tell stories and take the time to craft the right font, color scheme and images. But when technology puts control into the hands of the consumer, they can choose to skip and ignore your story, and you’ll see how bad your well-crafted idea crashed and burned in real time.

Also, advertisers want to be the ones to decide what ad creative will be shown, they don’t want data to decide for them. If the data decides which image or tagline works best than how do they justify their big salaries?

Print also lends itself well to an advertiser’s desire to have brand consistency, which is easy when one ad campaign is seen by thousands of people in a magazine all at once. As soon as you are marketing to a mass of niches, you have to start tailoring it to those niches which causes it to loose that brand consistency. You can’t treat people like they are all the same anymore, that’s why taking a print ad and pasting it onto the web doesn’t work either.

Add comment April 9th, 2012

More Sophisticated Sales Are Still Just Sales

Loyalty is when people are willing to turn down a better product or a better price and continue doing business with you. Repeat business is easily won, loyalty is not. Manipulations like sales, discounts, rebates and limited time offers cause repeat business, not loyalty, and are an addiction. There is no question that these manipulations work. Over the course of time they cost more and more and the gains are only short term. Like any addiction, the drive is not to get sober, but to find the next fix faster and more frequently. The internet is pushing that fix faster and more frequently than any medium ever.

Advances in technology are creating very innovative, and I’ll admit very cool, ways to get promotions, sales, deals and offers into the hands of customers. Consumers are now being alerted to, using, reusing and sharing offers and deals in never ending ways. I get the feeling that some brands think that since their discount is delivered via a cutting edge method it won’t have the same negative affects that normal discounts have. Discounts on top of exciting new mediums are still just discounts and still have the same negative addictive effect on brands.

The trend of sophisticated discounting is only gaining momentum, moving towards localization, personalization and real time deals that  will be triggered by ever more curated and more targeted offers to consumers based on known profiles and preferences. These offers will ‘find consumers’, not the other way around. Any product that can be compared to others on price will be and those companies that compete with discounts will continue to loose loyalty until becoming irrelevant.

The brands that invest in loyalty rather than discounting will be the ones the succeed in the future. They are the ones built on purpose and that are of such high quality, so unique, so authentic or so personalized that consumers don’t even want to look for reviews, price comparisons, discounts or deals.

Add comment March 26th, 2012

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Hi, my name is Zach Olsen, internet marketing professional, web entrepreneur & proud dad. Read more...

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