Conversational Media Redux

I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised by the CM Summit put on by Federated Media. I chatted with John Battelle last night at the cocktail reception and made the observation that this whole event was very web 2.0 of him. Meaning one of the keys of understanding what makes Web 2.0 tick is the idea that it's great to show your competitors' content—as long as they come to your site to see it. Literally a third of the people at the event had FM name tags,  but they provided value so I was happy to shake hands (I think about 7 of his people will be visiting Traction next week) because the event was pretty terrific.  Lot of interesting insights about how brands are able to use conversations as marketing—and this is important stuff to understand. As budgets start to get slashed in the coming months, it will be companies that understand how to foster connections with lower cost connections between brands and consumers that survive and thrive.

I'm going to go into each of these in depth in subsequent blog posts, but here are my top ten random nuggets from the conference:

  1. Brands are Twittering like mad and a few new success stories have emerged—like Dell generating half a million bucks in sales from tweets about surplus inventories.
  2. Avinash Kaushik, whose published some great books on web analytics, had this quote: "Engagement is not a metric, it's an excuse." I love that. He went to say don't try to sexify your metrics. Call them something ugly so they just say what you're really measuring. Time spent on site should be called "Time Spent on Site." True nuff.
  3. My pal, Richard Jalichandra from Technorati, was on stage. Showed a great case study of how brands can align with content relevant to their audiences: an NFL Draft channel on Technorati sponsored by Hummer. Brands need to think about how they can align with conversations. Great creative media example. Also, seems to be doing really well with Technorati Media network annoucning an acquisition of AdEngage yesterday.
  4. creative = media = creative ... these disciplines are becoming more and more intertwined
  5. Federated Media launched a new social media metrics dashboard tool. If you know the url, post it in comments!
  6. Social media tactics such as Facebook brand pages and Twitter are less expensive, but not without investment. They are only effective and authentic if they are done well. That takes time, energy and experience. A combination many brands don't have.
  7. Current TV VCAMs (viewer created ad messages) are preferred 9 to 1 by their users. Kind of obvious and one of those statistics that don't mean much—but the examples they showed were pretty damned good spots
  8. Justin Curtis, the digital creative director at Grey (and a very nice guy) pontificated that the art director/copywriter model cannot survive. The need to think across technology and media is a challenge. A great specific example he gave: a client was doing multivariate testing in a rich media banner and he had to direct the copywriter to give him 25 headlines to test in the ad. Not the kind of thing a creative director trained to find the one line that best expresses a very specific message necessarily knows how to respond to.
  9. Porter Gale, the VP of Marketing at Virgin America, presented a case study on their brand. A great story of a brand being built from the ground up (reminded me of my conversation with the CEO of Pandora). Really great. I  but I don't think they're doing a good job leveraging conversational media and I'm not sure why she was presenting at this specific conference. Porter, expect a phone call...
  10. Hashem Bajwa from Goodby showed this great piece for Wii on YouTube. Props. 


Conversational Marketing meets Experiential Marketing

The CEO of Meetup.com just announced that they are allowing brands to sponsor real life meet-ups that are organized on their site. He's on a panel discussing how conversational online marketing is being integrated into real world experiential marketing. I think this is going to be an emerging trend we see articulated in the media. 

This is the same premise behind the work we proposed to GM earlier this year (sadly, they took our thinking and executed with their retainer agency). Pontiac needed to get people in cars, so we showed them an idea called Karaoke Cab, where we put karaoke machines and video cameras in cars and gave people free rides in exchange for them singing on camera on the way. Then we were going to upload the video to the web and give people a mechanism to invite their friends to vote for them to win a Pontiac Vibe. Something we're going to see more of as brands look to inject themselves into consumer conversations—and avoid huge media expenditures— over the coming months.

Gian Fulgoni from comScore at CM Summit

Gian Fulgoni, the CEO of comScore is on. Talking about cookies. Making the point that cookies have been the accepted measurement device for unique visitors to websites, but a very high percentage of browsers now allow users to block cookies, resulting in inflated numbers. As high as 30% are deleting cookies once a month, he claims.

He's got a slide up right now measuring the impact of search. Says direct effects only account for 16% and indirect online effects another 21%. That means offline effects of search account for 63% of how it impacts buying. Basically, what he's been getting at is the need for ROI in everything but it's really a hard thing to quantify. 

However, he's optimistic retailers are going to continue to shift dollars online. Here's a study they did on impact of online marketing to offline sales:

119% search & display
82% search only
16% display

Makes me feel good about being an interactive agency.

CM Summit

I'm at the CM Summit today and tomorrow. Will get a few posts in. John Batelle from Federated Media is on stage right now. Tells us we're going to learn what works and what doesn't over the next two days. Of course, half the people at this event have name tags that say Federated Media, so I'm kind of sitting at an ad. But I'm here, so I guess it works.

More later...


Online marketing in a downturn

I attended a BtoB Magazine marketing event this morning here in San Francisco. Some interesting presentations from client-side marketers and some good insight during the Q&A session into how companies are reacting to the financial crisis. The presenters were from SAP, Sybase, Visa and Barclay's, so it was a good sampling.

So, how are these companies approaching the meltdown in the market? Differently.

If you want to skip the details, here the summary;

SAP - cutting budgets
Sybase - increasing budgets
Visa - not changing budgets

If you do want some details, keep reading...

My friend and client, Kevin Cox, Director of Strategic Initiatives for SAP Global Marketing told us that SAP is cutting budgets—but will continue to invest in building their brand while striving to find the most cost-efficient means of driving traffic to their online properties. He stressed that while budgets were being trimmed, "we're not shutting off the lights." Comforting.

Kevin gave a very insightful presentation on how SAP has evolved their use of search. SAP first started using SEM as a more cost-efficient means of driving traffic than print and traditional direct marketing. However, after observing their online properties, they found that investing in SEO by developing search engine-friendly content led to even more traffic through organic search. So much so, that now, they've abandoned landing pages and now focus on building optimized resource centers for customers on their website. Is it working? These resource centers are getting 40% of their traffic from organic search.

SAP is cutting, but Sybase is going the other direction. Mark Wilson, their VP of Marketing feels like now is the time to make some noise and be provocative. He said that Sybaseis actually increasing the budget for a new campaign set to launch in the coming weeks. Comforting.

He also characterized himself as a "chronically stingy" marketer and gave three tips for inexpensive, yet effective techniques he thinks works.

1. Video. Lots of it. Sybase is shooting cheap, single camera videos with limited production value of product managers writing on whiteboards, product demos (imagine someone just holding up an iPhone and walking you through an app) and customer testimonials. Then they distribute them everywhere they can: the web, sales presentation, even email. He cited a 50% increase in email newsletter click-through rates when Sybase started adding video to their emails.

2. Mobile. It's easier than you think to publish a short-code and get a mobile program up and running. Sybase used it at a golf event they sponsored and awareness rates for those who received the mobile ad were exceptionally high compared to those who didn't.

3. Conversation Monitoring. We've done a bit of this at Traction for some of our clients. There are a number of vendors out there that allow you to monitor the volume and tone of conversations about your brand and your competitors online. Sybase monitors them regularly to see what the customer is saying about them and adjust their messaging accordingly.

Alex Craddock said Visa is "keeping marketing budgets static" and continuing to shift toward online media and finding innovative new ways to connect with their customers. Comforting.

He showed off their Visa Business Network Facebook app which is pretty cool. I actually had joined it a few months back because they give away $100 free credit in Facebook ads as an incentive for joining. Great incentive. Very relevant to their mission of helping small businesses leverage new channels like Facebook. The app is kind of a community with a community on Facebook. I'm not sure if they've actually created a valuable tool that has staying power, but they have 70,0000 people who have added the app, so if they can continue to provide ongoing value, this could be a really great program for Visa.

Also spoke to a few agency people I know. Like Traction, they are staying busy and doing well (knock on wood). Interestingly, Traction is participating in an RFP for a major travel company right now. The reason they are looking for a new partner: because they want to shift their marketing budget online and need a partner that can help guide them toward a path of being ROI-focused marketers. We also just won a major account (that I can't talk about yet) that is looking for us to come up with big viral ideas—that are not dependent on big media budgets. Seems like a trend.

So, there you have it. The trickle has not yet come down whole hog on marketing yet. I'm sure it will, but the trend is toward innovation and online channels. I'm glad Traction doesn't make our bread and butter on mega-budget TV spots.


Traction on FastCompany.com

This interview with blogger Wendy Marx is supposed to be on the front page of FastCompany.com this afternoon (my favorite magazine these days):

Word of mouth marketing, the power of everyday citizens to talk up – or down – a brand is on a roll.

If you ever doubted its power and reach, take a step back for a minute to April of this year when a no-name blogger outed Sen. Barack Obama for his now infamous “bitter remarks.” The bittergate story changed the political landscape and for a time upended Obama’s campaign.

While word of mouth is certainly not new, smart brands, agencies and personal branders, not to mention politicians, are taking up the WOM cudgel as never before and making it a strategic part of marketing.

That’s because the Internet has spiked WOM’s reach. Call it the power of everyday folks to help make or break a brand.

Or as branding expert Adam Kleinberg, CEO of advertising and marketing agency Traction puts it, “Marketing is not just a conversation between a brand and consumer but between individual consumers. It’s no longer just one-way communication but two-way communication.”

In the old days, if you had an opinion, you told your friends. Then came the Internet and social media, and suddenly anyone had access to a worldwide megaphone to air his or her opinion. Smart marketers are recognizing that ordinary consumers want to express their thought and passions – and enabling that.

“Social media,” says Kleinberg, “is all about giving people a chance to realize that ‘what I say’ matters.”

Kleinberg’s company, for example, created a Facebook community for a new product called Livescribe, an audio pen gizmo geared to students. A case study in how to grow a successful brand online, Livescribe’s Facebook page grew to more than 10,000 people in just 45 days. The secret? An adroit combination of new and old media, including a clever viral video to encourage students to identify with the brand, a promotional giveaway for joining the Livescribe community and an opportunity for community members to talk about themselves and the product.

“We’re allowing people to interact with a brand,” says Kleinberg. “In a sense we’ve created a ‘circle of life’ for a brand. People enter the community and see how excited others are about the product and these new members in turn inspire others.” The proof of course is ultimately in the numbers. Livescribe had 9,000 people get on the pre-order list before their pens were even on sale.

“At the end of the day, social media is about allowing people to create their own content online,” says Kleinberg. “Social media’s greatest strength is to get people who are passionate about your brand interacting with it. The operative word is interactive.”

What are you doing to get people to interact with your brand? I’d love to hear from you.

Wendy Marx, Peronal Branding and PR Specialist, Marx Communications, Inc.