Monthly Archive: April 2012

Influencer Marketing And Social Media Marketing Are Additives, Not The Gas

I read two articles last week that got my attention, but not in a good way. The first was a piece in Wired about how companies are using Klout scores — which purport to rank a person’s online social influence — to provide perks, upgrades and also to determine if a person is right for a particular job.

The other annoying article was a recap of a speech given by Kevin Roberts, CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi.

Let’s start with Roberts. I often wonder if people in his position are totally out of touch with reality, or if they believe in, and enjoy, provoking their audience with inflammatory language. Roberts claimed that strategy is dead, management is dead, marketing is dead and so on. Yes, all in one speech.

“The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”

Speed and velocity is everything today. Marketing’s jobs is to create movement and inspire people to join you.

The best approach to this type of loose rhetoric is to laugh it off, or ignore it altogether. Yet, I doubt that’s what members of Roberts’ London audience did. They no doubt listened and some of them may have even believed what they heard.

Of course, the pace of communications in today’s networked world is new, but that doesn’t mean it is good, and it doesn’t mean that we all need to jump on a speeding vehicle that’s dangerously out of control. In fact, my advice is the direct opposite of Roberts’. Slow down, pace yourself and practice on your craft.

Do you think Apple Computer buys this nonsense about the big idea being dead and the need for lots of litte ideas? Clearly, they do not. Substitute another leading company for Apple and the answer is the same. The only people playing Robert’s game are Facebook, Google and other tech industry firms. And we’ll see how that works out for them in the long run.

Now, on to Klout and what’s wrong with influencer marketing. I don’t want to focus here on what’s wrong with Klout itself (that’s been done). I want to look at how brands are using Klout.

“We want to create powerful brand advocates,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of the Seattle Convention and Visitors Bureau, who arranged a two-day, all-expenses-paid trip for 30 high-Klout visitors. “We hope these folks will tweet and Instagram to their many followers.” Virgin America has offered free flights, Capital One has dispensed bonus loyalty points, and Chevrolet has loaned out its new Sonic subcompact for long weekends.

Here’s a video from one of the Chevy Volt drivers, who was loaned a vehicle for the weekend:

The video, which was posted last September, has just over 1000 views on YouTube. This is what Roberts means by lots of little ideas. But from a marketing communications perspective, I fail to see the point. When shopping for a car, we do listen to and seek advice from our friends and family. We may also read Consumer Reports for expert opinions. What we do not do is hunt through our Facebook and Twitter streams for insights, especially if those insights are being funded by a brand.

The video above has no reach, so even if it was a persuasive piece, no one’s seeing it. A weak commercial, with or without the benefit of celebrity star power, does a whole lot more for a brand than lots of litte ideas.

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We do live in a hyper-networked media environment today, where the “everyman” has a voice. There are plenty of positive aspects to this development, but the impact on marketing is still negligible. Go ahead and experiment with social media marketing and influencer marketing, but don’t put too many eggs in this basket.

Big ideas are always relevant and great new products and services will spread via word of mouth, but there’s still a need for traditional media. Look at Apple again. Apple uses commercials, print ads, out-of-home and email marketing to inform us and prompt us to buy. Apple’s best customers are often evangelists for the company, but Apple wisely does not lean on these super fans to do the hard work of crafting its messaging. They have Lee Clow and company for that, and there’s little doubt that Apple’s consistently great brand advertising is a huge part of the company’s off-the-charts success.

Blogging Isn’t Poetry, It’s A Means To An End

I’ve been thinking long and hard about blogs and return on investment for the writers, publishers and brands that commit to producing them. Given that blogs in almost every case are free to read, and that online advertising is a joke, you have to wonder what kind of return blogs provide, and why there are so many of them.

As someone who has chosen to go deep and spend nearly a decade pursuing the promise of push button publishing, I have many of my own tales to tell, and I intend to share, but first let’s look at some critical responses to the medium.

Kathleen Taylor is a freelance science writer and researcher affiliated with Oxford University. She stopped blogging on Psychology Today’s site, because the immediacy of it all didn’t fit her needs.

Blogging competes for our overwhelmed attentional resources. What attracts attention? Not slow thought, for sure. Fast responses, short statements, eye-catching titles and images, personal statements, provocative claims and moral judgements.

Yes. If we consider ad blogs for a moment, we’ll see that the sites that cram a bunch of content into their pages each day like Agency Spy and The Denver Egotist, or sites that use snarky commentary like Copyranter and AdScam are considered successful. “Provocative claims and moral judgements” have never much interested me, but I have in the past felt the need to race to complete X number of stories by end of business, a.k.a. bedtime. Thankfully, I no longer feel that pressure to produce. Not because I haven’t succeeded. Rather, because I have succeeded and found the rewards of said success lacking.

I’m pretty sure that I brought unreasonable expectations to the practice, like the ability to profit financially from my industry analysis. I also thought the community around the content would grow exponentially, that readers would stick around and actively engage. You live. You learn.

One thing I haven’t considered is how the format itself may in part be responsible for the things that haven’t quite worked as planned. Earlier today, I read If HTML5 Kills the Blog Format, I Won’t Shed a Tear by Scott M. Fulton. He rejects the limitations of the traditional time-based structure, while extending a degree of hope that HTML5 might help.

Not all articles should be created equal. Blogs are singular conveyor belts of nuggets of text. But a major news story, a feature on how to build a private cloud in your office, an interview with a mobile app developer, and some guy ranting about the stupidity of the blog format, are different beasts with varying life spans. Longer-living articles should be allowed to live longer, rather than being hurled off the conveyor belt into the void of invisibility when more replacements come along. HTML5 offers the possibility of componentized, two-dimensional layout where the Table of Contents can live and breathe again.

In another ReadWriteWeb piece Fulton argues that “news must be bundled with a service.” To which I say, absolutely. On AdPulp, the news we produce or reproduce is the “sugar coating” and the services offered for sale are copywriting, design, coding and so on. Yet, we’ve failed to make that perfectly clear. People see us as an industry news site, not a site run by ad guys available for hire. That’s a problem in need of a solution. Yet, there is no easy solve for this riddle, primarily because readers don’t visit AdPulp to be pitched, they visit for our unique take on the industry. Only rarely do readers connect the dots and say to themselves, these guys know their shit; hence, I want them on my next project or on my staff.

What I must reckon with, as co-founder and editor of AdPulp, is what if any marketplace value our unique take has. The site has always made a small amount of money each year, so there’s that. AdPulp also opens doors, but there’s a catch. The doors open so we can report on the host’s doings, not because they want to meet the guys behind AdPulp and work with us. As a professional brand builder, I can no longer tolerate that kind of marketplace confusion. While it’s easy for me to see that I’m an ad guy first, and an ad critic second, that’s asking a lot of other people.

Here, on this particular Web page the necessary balance, and clarity, is built in. This isn’t an ad blog, it’s a company Web site with a blog that covers important developments in content and marketing. Here, you know what’s behind the curtain — you know that the “news” is a loss leader, and that we’re sharing it with you to showcase our thinking, which can be rented by the hour/day/week. In other words, blogging makes sense here. I can’t say the same for AdPulp, and that pains me to some degree, but I’ve also had 7.5 years to adjust myself to the idea, so it’s not too painful.

This Is The Kind of Project That Makes Other Agencies/Media Companies Jealous

Intel, the largest private employer in the state of Oregon, is “sponsoring tomorrow.” As such, the technology company is busy spending millions of dollars to create avante garde experiential marketing events that live up to that bold claim.

Tom Foremski, the journalist who coined the oft-repeated term, “every company is a media company,” recently attended The Creators Project in San Francisco, a free art and music event from Intel and Vice Media.

Foremski notes that “It could have easily been re-named ‘The Curators Project’ because of the superb collection of bands, artists, installations, and even food trucks — all carefully selected by a small team of curators.”

Foremski spoke with David Haroldsen, Intel’s Creative Director for the project. Haroldsen said Intel considers the project to be very successful in meeting its goals and that Intel loves the co-branding and its partnership with Vice (a media company charging head first into marketing services).

I make mention of the campaign, now in its third year, because event marketing and content marketing are two strong siblings, growing bigger by the day. Both fall, as so many things do now, under the larger banner of Relationship Marketing, and both offer people an immersive journey into media. The San Francisco Creators Project attracted more than 45,000 people over two days. I’m sure many of the attendees didn’t think of it as a branded event, meant to make a lasting and positive impression. It was just something fun to do, brought to you by Intel and Vice.

Maybe your firm doesn’t have Intel’s deep pockets. Not many do. But it is still possible to find shared points of interest between your brand and what’s meaningful to your prospects and customers.

Intel is weaving arts and technology together, and providing a platform to explore both. Ask yourself what kind of event would make your customers or prospects happy. Or if you prefer ask me, and we’ll find the answer together.