My blog is about exchanging ideas and best practices on all things marketing and communications related. I'm interested in your thoughts, feedback, additions, arguments and point of view.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The 50-plus set - not as old as you think.

Being marketers, we’re constantly training our eyes on what’s next – new technologies affecting how to reach and interact with consumers. In recent times, there’s been lots of attention focused on the 15 – 24 year olds, the gadget savvy, text messaging set we call the ‘Millennials.’ Mostly due to their sheer size – around 80 million strong in North America, we’ve been watching and analyzing their every move, figuring out new ways to engage them with a 2 inch mobile phone screen. Today though, they don’t have high earning power yet, as many are still paying off student loans and getting their careers going. In fact, Millennials in some ways are an audience that holds promise but isn’t ready for prime time.

However one group emerging as an online powerhouse – wealthy, engaged, connected and spending big in travel, finance and electronics, you have to look no further than the heads of many households in Canada, according to ComScore Media Metrix and Statistics Canada. Say hello to mom and dad - the 50+ set!

It’s easy to overlook the influence older Canadians have on our economy, given our obsession with youth culture. Canada’s digital media universe increased 1 million to 23 million users in June 2007 compared to last year, according to ComScore Media Metrix Canada, with a large portion of growth coming from Canadians aged 50 or older. In fact, the average Canuck spends close to 43 hours a month online, burning through 4,000 page views – more than any other country in the world. And older Canadians use web services such as online banking at a higher percentage rate than Americans do.

What makes the 50+ target group such an attractive demographic for an advertiser isn’t just their size, although that is part of the reason as boomers account for almost a quarter of the entire population. It’s their spending power.

According to Statistics Canada, households with at least one member age 55 or older spent 71% of their incomes on discretionary purchases – or $144 billion annually, and are expected to grow to more than $215 billion in 10 years. Granted, older Canadians account for a relatively small portion of the total online universe (around 7%), but consider these recent insights on web usage from Ipsos Reid:

71% of 50-plus Canadians with home access to the web have a high speed connection and spend an average of 8.7 hours per week online.

50-plus Canadians spend a large portion of their online time on research type activities such as trip planning (47%), product purchases (40%) and comparison shopping (37%).

29+ of Canadians aged 50+ visited a social networking site in May 2006 compared to 8% in September 2006. This is mostly due to the influence of their children, using Face Book and the like to reconnect with friends and old acquaintances.

The 50-plus Canadian consumer represents a large, diverse and growing segment of the online population. They like to comparison shop, need convenience purchases, shop for quality and most importantly have the time to spend looking for what they need.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Are Retailers taking back "Christmas?"

Back in the summer months, marketing folks across the country were busily planning the end of year retail season and asking a question to each other and their agencies– are we wishing a “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” to customers this year? According to a survey by Rasmussen Reports this year, retailers shouldn't be shy about wishing customers a "Merry Christmas" after all.

And this public sentiment seems to be filtering into our seasonal messaging. So far this year, I’ve noticed the word Christmas being used more frequently in advertising, most notably in ads by Leon’s Canadian Tire, and Staples (in the background music anyway). Is it just me, or are we returing to the more traditional interpretation of December 25th?

Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation, said the "Merry Christmas" versus "Happy Holidays" debate has been around for a few years now. After asking 1,000 adults in mid-November which they preferred, they found that 67 percent of adults prefer the Christmas-specific greeting in seasonal advertising, while only 26 percent want to see "Happy Holidays."

Examples of US retailers from seasons past who opted for the more secular term come to mind. In 2005, Target stores ditched the use of the word “Christmas” in their advertising materials, but then decided to resume using it after an immense public outcry. Also in 2005, Wal-Mart forbade its employees from wishing customers “Merry Christmas,” opting for the more generic holiday terms. That decision was protested by religious groups including the Catholic League, which boycotted the retail giant. Wal-Mart announced during the following season that it would return to using the word “Christmas.”

Regardless of what term we prefer, it's the idea of Christmas that should matter the most to Canadians, so who cares what we call it?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Radiohead - Seeing Rainbows...

According to Nielsen SoundScan, retail sales of CDs in the US have fallen by 20% in 2007. Eighty-nine million CDs were sold in the first three months of this year compared with 112 million during the same period in 2006. Even the growth of digital music downloads failed to pick up the slack, with overall album sales dropping 10%. (SoundScan counts every 10 downloads as a "digital album.")

By contrast, individual song downloads are up 20% from the same period last year, to a record 288 million. Customers are exercising control over their media experience - cherry picking songs rather than downloading entire albums and being stuck with tunes that end up dragged directly to the recycle bin.

Singing the blues.
Arguably more than any other, the Music industry has been suffering from technology’s affect on their business model. From a splintering audience, increasingly complex distribution channels, free downloads, and reinterpretations and challenges of existing copyright law, music companies are frequently cut out of the transaction when music is swapped and traded. And some would say the industry has been slow to address this rapidly changing marketplace.

When heavy metal band Metallica heard a demo of their song “I Disappear,” circulating across Napster, even before it was released, the band quickly launched a lawsuit in 2000. The band won, Napster filed for bankruptcy protection in 2002 and was later acquired by Roxio, but the existing distribution channels and copyright laws were forever changed.

That’s why I listened closely to a promotion by the band Radiohead to promote their new record, “In Rainbows.” An industry first for a band this size, they allowed people to set their own price for downloading it – from $0 to the sky’s the limit. People could pay whatever they thought it was worth. And Radiohead would watch to see what happened.

Why Radiohead?
Radiohead seemed to be the best case to test a ‘pay-what-you-can” approach. They have a large, loyal audience composed of educated, sophisticated listeners, the sort who may actually care a bit about the issue of how artists are compensated. Plus a reader survey in the British music magazine New Music Express asked fans how much they would pay – most said an average of $10. Not scientific but anecdotally it confirmed what they were already thinking.

Results so far.
According to ComScore, of the 1.2 million visitors to Radiohead’s “In Rainbows” website between October 1-29, 62% of customers who downloaded the album did so without paying – and 17% spent $4 or less. On a happier note, many of the payers, about 12%, paid between $8 and $12 per copy. This translated to an average $2.26 per download. Not great results if revenue is the only metric.

Interestingly, other music research done in this pay-what-you-can approach suggests fans are much more likely to pay less money for music from mega rich artists like J-Lo, Gwen, and Justin. They won’t miss it, right?

Lesson Learned - again.

For me, the Radiohead “pay-what-you-want” promotion succeeded in many ways if you look beyond just the money.

First, the approach generated millions of dollars in media coverage, far more than the label would probably have spent on promotion.

Second, the distribution model was less costly, meaning better gross margins with more money ending up in the band's pocket.

Third, in this age of digital downloads, trying new approaches and challenging old ones, the golden rule of marketing still applies - 20% of the band's customers generated 80% of the revenues.

Now that's a classic tune worth sharing.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Be a Twitter

...i'm hung over from the CMA's last night...(send)
... it’s warm in my bed...(send)
...i think i need new batteries for my camera...(send)
...I just paid my hydro bill. (send) it ok to eat yoghurt after the sell by date?...(send)

No I haven't cut and pasted sentences from various emails into one incoherent paragraph, nor am I playing a thought association game. I'm demonstrating the art of Twitter. The New York Times calls it, "one of the fastest-growing phenomena on the Internet." TIME Magazine says, "Twitter is on its way to becoming the next killer app," and Newsweek noted that "Suddenly, it seems as though all the world's a-twitter."

Welcome to the art of Twitter - living in the moment and staying connected, Millennial style.

A new toy for the tech savvy Millennial.
Those of you following trends created by the current 'it' group of society, Millennials, you’ll know that when these guys do something en masse, marketing people tend to notice - even if it doesn’t amount to much. Millennials number around 90 million strong in North America, and include people born between 1980 and 1995. They’re also the most coddled, preened and fussed over generation in memory, raised by dotting parents who told them they were special every chance they could (or at least left them voice mails to that effect).

Millennials are also the most connected, tech savvy, gadget owning group in history, and have a strong emotional need to stay connected with friends and family. Twitter could only make sense to this generation.

Creating a running life narrative.
Twitter began as a research and development project inside Odeo, Inc. by Noah Glass and Jack Dorsey, and debuted in March 2006. Also called micro blogging, it’s based around a simple idea – what R U doing right now? In 140 characters or less, users send text messages or “Twitter” at regular intervals to a pre-screened list of friends about the events in their daily life, from the mundane to the magnificent.

“It’s like creating a running narrative about our lives,” says Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter and Blogger. “In the beginning, bloggers were viewed with disdain (do they think their lives are so important to write about?), but as it moved mainstream, writing about oneself on My Space and Face Book became the norm. People are reacting in a similar way to Twitter, (do they think their lives are so important?) What we’re creating is an ambient intimacy with our network of friends that’s real, readable, and then gone.”

It’s the paradox of the Millennials’ need to feel close and connected to others, but at arm’s length that makes Twitter intriguing. It’s an easy, non committal way to keep tabs and staying emotionally close to our friends with low effort, risk and intrusion.

Next Steps.
Setting up a twitter account is easy and takes a few minutes -
And there’s a handy Twitter guide that answers your questions.
The product team at Twitter is focussed on building a large following of users...with business models and revenue opportunities to follow. A Millennial said it best – “Some people may say that I think narrating my own life is crazy.... but for my own selfish reasons, it’s fairly natural to me.”

And said in 140 characters or less (136 to be exact).

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fresh Salad anyone?

This is a great outdoor billboard by MickeyD's... Sixteen varieties of actively growing lettuce are in the billboard (iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, baby red romaine, baby green romaine, baby red leaf, baby green leaf, baby red swiss chard, baby red oak, baby green oak, lolla rosa, tango, tatsoi, arugula, mizuna, radiccio, frisee) and are arranged to spell out "Fresh Salads." "These greens were planted on a vertical wall garden system.

The board was hand painted and textured to match soil underneath the plants. The individual plants were germinated from seed in a greenhouse and installed as seedlings onto the board" the creative team says in an E-mail. "None of us have had any experience working with horticulturists or anything even close (in fact, not one of us has even a remotely green thumb). We wanted to work with someone who was an expert in this area and we were lucky enough to find Greg Pierceall of the University of Illinois."

Since the introduction of McDonald's Premium Salads in the U.S. in 2003, the fast food company claims to have sold over 486 million salads, placing them in the upper echelon of greens distributors in the U.S. It has been recorded that annually, McDonald's uses 80 million pounds of Spring Mix lettuce and an additional 100 million pounds of green leaf lettuce and iceberg lettuce on its sandwiches, 30 million pounds of tomatoes, 6.5 million pounds of grapes and 4.2 million pounds of walnuts. And that's not including their billboards, which have been highly supported by neighboring McDonald's franchise owner, Ernie Cochanis.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Give your Creative Director a hug...

As we head into mid – November, the 2007 awards season is in full swing. Last month was the DMAs. Last week saw the CASSIES and Media Innovation awards. This week it's the "black tie" Canadian Marketing Awards.

If you think awards shows are a self-congratulatory love in, designed for the winners to slap themselves on the back and hug their creative team, you're missing the bigger picture. Yes, the shows are no doubt a party - part celebration and part reflection. However the best award shows fill an important role in our industry – to learn from best and brightest in marketing about what campaigns succeeded in breaking through the clutter and connecting with Canadians. And, as much as we can, understand why they succeeded so well.

It's a great feeling for marketing and advertising teams to be singled out for producing programs that achieved results. Being client side, I tend to measure campaign results first by increases in revenues or share points. Creatives, on the other hand, first tend to look at production values, emotional impact or how memorable their message was with its audience.

Naturally, there's tension that's created by looking at the same challenge from different perspectives. That's why in my opinion, a show needs to recognize both viewpoints in order to identify outstanding work.

Despite all the great work that has been, or about to be recognized this year, there's one category that consistently impresses by delivering focused and clear messaging that rarely fails to impress. I'm talking PSAs. If you asked me to name just three PSA campaigns that were standouts for me, I could easily remember six.

The Sick Kids “Believe” campaign featured children and babies fighting off the evils of cancer and disease, but only with our help (of course). Produced by JWT, it succeeded in generating $79 million in fiscal 2007.

The TV spots and amazing website by Youthography, are in my opinion excellent examples of work that speaks directly to young people, not down to them. The list continues - Flick Off, United Way, Canadian Blood Services, work by DDB Canada, and my newest favourite PSA campaign by Participaction.

Even though in most cases, we’re being asked to open our wallets, we can’t help but listen intently and be moved by what is being said. Why is this work so powerful, so memorable? I have my theories....

1. Is it that the PSA message, almost always emotional and empathetic, taps into our humanity far more profoundly than the benefits of XYZ detergent ever could?

2. Is it that the work is done pro bono by an agency, so clients are more hands off, less meddlesome in the creative and copy writing process, so the essence of the idea isn't harmed?

3. Are PSA marketing briefs better written? Less muddy and more clear and concise, with objectives and approaches clearly laid out?

It's worth thinking about why so much PSAs end up winning awards every year. It's the best for specific reasons, not simply by chance. Perhaps the reason agencies clamour to work on PSA campaigns is for a chance to flex their creative muscles with the least amount of intrusion, and show the depth and power of their abilities. Persuasion at its purest and most powerful.

At this year's CMAs, creative now accounts for more of the judges' score. The new breakdown: 40% Results, 40% Creative and 20% Production. Show producers are promising a celebration of the science and the art of marketing – Results-driven as always, passionate about great creative work like never before.

Regardless of who and what is recognized, industry award shows raise the bar for creative and marketing innovation in Canada. So if you happen to be one of the lucky recipients of an award this year, make sure you give your creative director a big hug to show that you care.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Making Silence.

James Katz is my hero.... Recently he was quoted as saying, "If anything characterizes the 21st century, it’s our inability to restrain ourselves for the benefit of other people. The cellphone talker thinks his rights go above that of people around him, and the jammer thinks his are the more important rights."

This article from the New York Times, talked about a new technology that jams cell phone transmissions - cutting off that annoying person beside you who is giving suggestions on the right type of wine to buy for breaking up with her, like boyfriend. Sweet, but wrong.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Oprah - You Tube?

Today, Oprah Winfrey launched her own YouTube channel. The queen of daytime tv is now the queen of new media. How else is she going to keep herself relevant to the millennial generation.

Oprah Winfrey already has a successful website ( since 1999. Her YouTube channel will add a new dimension to social networking related to her show and brand as well as additional viral marketing opportunities.

Hopefully it won't be a dumping ground home for all the uneditied footage not good enough to air...

Come to the CASSIES!

Any plans Tuesday evening?

Even though it`s a school night, there`s a dinner slash party you should definitely make an appearance at. I guarantee you’ll eat well and not fall asleep after the dessert course.

Celebrated since 1993, the 2007 CASSIES takes centre stage at the Liberty Grand, where agencies and marketers celebrate made-in-Canada advertising successes from the previous year. The idea started in the UK in 1980, called the IPA Effectiveness Awards. In 1993 our equivalent was born, running every two years until 2001, then annually.

The CASSIES represents one of the rare instances where awarding-winning advertising is calculated this way:

Great creative message + Measurable marketing results = Business success.

But don’t let the straightforward math fool you. Today, marketers face huge challenges reaching, connecting and impacting a rapidly fragmenting target audience. And it’s becoming more difficult to isolate both the effect and effectiveness of advertising in the mix. This night is our opportunity to hear from some of the best creative and marketing minds in the industry showcase new approaches that generated results.

And judging by the number of entries this year – 92, up 77% from last year there’s a lot of innovation happening that’s worth celebrating.

This year’s event brings a number of enhancements including a dinner format that no doubt will mean less rushing and more lingering and chatting over the work. New categories have been added too – Best Use of Media, Canadian contribution to a global or multi-country campaign and renaming the Import/Export award to Canadian Success outside Canada.

Chair of judging this year is Bill Durnan, EVP, Toronto Chief Convergent Creative Officer, Cossette Communication Marketing. He leads a 15-person panel of high profile senior-level representatives from advertisers, account management, creative, media, account planning, research, direct marketing, and academia.

All award-winning case studies from previous years can be viewed in the Case Library section of the CASSIES web site.

Because case studies are submitted jointly by agency and client, it’s also where winning creative and marketing teams share the podium – together. That reason alone should bring the curious out.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

When customer loyalty from Bell Mobility fails to Connect.

Before you read my story, here's the lesson in it - sometimes it's better to do nothing – to not make a decision to buy something new or trade in the old. Sometimes doing nothing is a reward in itself.

Such was the case this past week, when I was thinking of upgrading my cell phone to one of the “mobile” varieties from Bell Canada. You see I’ve owned the same one for 5 years and it basically does one thing very well – make phone calls. But getting a mobile, on the other hand – opens me up to a new world of digital possibilities.

“I’m ready for this,” I convinced myself – a mobile lets me do everything – download music, take photos, text friends, check my LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, watch podcasts – even be at the ready to shoot video just in case... of escaping circus elephants rampaging down Yonge Street. I imagined taking that esteemed position on YouTube – owner of the most downloaded video in history. I can’t wait any longer, I thought – where do I go to sign up...?!

The timing was perfect too. I just received a friendly letter from Bell Mobility telling me I had been a “valued” customer for more than 5 years – 3 of these without a contract to bind us together. It seemed because I had chosen to be with them, they recognized this and were about to reward my loyalty big time.

The letter went on -“we would like to thank you for your business.... so we’ll give you a credit worth up to $250 as a bonus renewal offer towards the purchase of a new phone or PDA when you renew your service agreement...“thank you for choosing us.”

Sweet, I thought - I can get a really cool mobile for next to nothing and gladly surrender to a three year term with the beavers until the next generation of mobiles comes along.

Well, here’s what happened.

I went into a nearby Bell World retail store, letter in hand, and was met by a pleasant sales person named Wanda. I told Wanda I was ready to make my move to mobile, and even had a $250 bonus credit as a renewal offer to work with. I explained I’d been a loyal customer for five years and just got this special letter saying as much. “Wanda, I said - only show me the best and latest of everything you’ve got. I’m ready!”

“Well actually,” Wanda said, “the price you see beside each model is the price you pay – we’ve already factored in the discount – the $250 credit in this letter anyone can get.” Oh I see. So I asked Wanda to check my account. Surely there’s a notation saying how loyal a customer I have been and to give this golden apple whatever he asks for....

She looked up my details and paused...hmmm, she said, slightly puzzled, “it says here DO NOT RENEW.” “What? I asked, what does that mean?”

“Well, she explained, you have a really good mobile rate we don’t offer anymore, so when we get you in here and sell you a new mobile phone, we put you into a “current (read: more expensive) rate plan.”

My hopes of going mobile were quickly fading like a weak transmission signal...

With either of us not ready to give up, Wanda took me through the latest models, asking lots of good questions in order to point me towards a model and monthly plan that we thought would suit my needs.

I thought to myself, well I’m already here, Wanda is helpful, I love this mobile model she showed me, and it’s not that much more a month – I’ll just suck it up and get it.

We made our way back to the register when she dropped another one. “I wanted to mention that you’ll also have to pay a $35 ‘upgrade fee’ because you’re getting a new model.”

Call me crazy, Wanda, but can we summarize here?

1. The $250 bonus renewal offer I received is available to anyone – not just us “valuable clients?”
2. I still have to pay the net cost of the phone ($49.99 for the model I wanted)?
3. If I do get a new mobile, I have to go into a more expensive monthly rate plan?
4. I have to pay an upgrade fee on top of the $49.99 for the phone?
5. I'm a valued client of Bell Mobility - a loyal customer?

How sad - I did understand all this correctly. Oh sure, I could call an 800 number, wait on hold for 20 minutes and then complain to the customer rep on the other side of the world that I feel totally taken advantage of. But why bother? If they don’t get it... why bother??

I have two points of view here on how I’m feeling after this experience.

As a Marketer
I see the revenue and profitability potential with this program. It probably went something like this: Generate a list of active GTA subscribers with expired contracts. Send them a letter with a $250 phone credit as incentive to drive them in store. Then upgrade their model and monthly plan.

I’m sure the ROI on this program is through the roof – the DM piece was less than $1 and the lifetime value of my business is in the thousands of dollars.

What is the effect on long term customer satisfaction with these types of programs? Did anyone really scrutinize the offer copy and come to the conclusion that it was in fact no offer at all? What's the cost of losing a high value customer (me) to their bottom line?

As a Customer

I feel like I was tricked into coming into the store – duped by a letter implying I was entitled to a reward for my loyalty that didn’t even exist. I feel cynical about what it means to be called a "valued customer" and what a "bonus renewal" offer really means.

That day, my goodwill towards this company dried up quicker than fresh rain on a desert floor. So I did absolutely nothing – I walked out of Bell World with my old, trusted and reliable cellular, knowing that every month I get a bill for services that I’m paying less than Bell Canada wants me to.

I guess I do get a little reward after all.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Take a bite out of this creative...

I was sent this billboard ad from and it made me laugh.
on Ads of the World. This one is for Formula Toothcare.

Now, this billboard will definitely get noticed, but will it work to drive sales? I don’t know about that. Of course, it may be the perspective of the photo, but the copy seems very small. Without that copy and the photo of the Formula Toothcare product, it would be difficult to know what this ad is for. It could be for any toothpaste brand or a variety of different products.

What do you think?

Monday, October 22, 2007

How's this for direct mail?

A colleague sent this to me at work today. We were debating whether or not this was an actual DM piece from Papa John's or something funny that someone put together. Joke or not, it's a good way to surprise someone next time they look out their peep hole...

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Mobile technology gets personal...

This month, the Kelsey Group released its “Mobile Marketing View” tracking study of mobile user behaviour, including asking what customers want to do most. Number one on the list – better Internet capabilities. Almost half of those asked, 44.7%, say a mobile phone with better Internet functionality and a cheaper internet plan are tops. According to the survey, only 26 percent of mobile phone service subscribers currently opt for an Internet access plan.

“The combination of unlimited data plans and next-generation Internet-enabled mobile devices, like Apple’s iPhone, suggests mobile Web access will grow to become ubiquitous,” said Matt Booth, a senior vice president at The Kelsey Group. And what do customers want to do with those unlimited connection times? Search for local businesses along with a custom map and turn by turn directions. Travel across the Pacific ocean to Japan, however, and you'll find they're way beyond having a cell phone point out landmarks or the nearest takeout restaurant.

Introducing the Wellness Navigator – a touch screen slider phone manufactured by Mitsubishi. It was shown off earlier this month at CEATEC 2007 in Tokyo. Among other personalized coaching features like counting calories and offering up motivational messages, the phone has a built-in bad breath meter that lets you know if you have the halitosis. You simply cup the receiver with your hand and huff – and your personal stink sensor goes into action –alerting you to pop a mint or that it’s ok to have another piece of garlic bread. The phone has a built in pulse meter and body fat analyzer which sends a weak electrical signal through your body to assess your paunch.

My New Best Friend..?
The mobile phone continues to evolve as a personal device. For many, it’s within reach at every waking moment, customized with photos and ring tones (one for each friend!) as it securely transmits our most intimate conversations into another person’s eardrum. Therefore, it's inevitable for some that mobile technology take on more human traits.

But many of these offerings with a ‘softer side’ have been slow to find a North American market. Why? Some observers believe that it’s because we draw the line on what we allow technology to do for us. Buying movie tickets with our mobile is one thing – being told to lay off the double cheese pizza is another.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Integrated Marketing Communications – Taking the 360 degree approach.

I had lunch with our agency account director this past Friday. It had been a while, so we had a lot to catch up on - a mutual friend’s promotion, what we did over summer holidays and celebrating the completion of a marcom project.

But there was one topic we spent a lot of time on, starting with our entrees right through to cappuccinos and waiting for the bill – the growing importance of integrated marketing communications, (IMC) and the challenges for the modern day marketing officer and advertising agency.

According to a recent report published by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, developing integrated marketing communications is the number one concern of senior marketing executives (followed by accountability, aligning their marketing organization with innovation and building strong brands). Of those surveyed, 91% believe that an integrated campaign is of critical importance to their success; however only 21% believe that their organization actually does a great job delivering it.

Taking a 360° view.
The answer for a growing number of marketers is to take a 360° approach, zeroing in on a target group likely to be receptive to a message – and surrounding it from every angle, using a variety of media to touch customers at different points along the decision-to-buy pathway.

Although it began as a media planning tool, 360° has since expanded to embrace the entire process of communicating with customers and prospects. In our new media world – having moved from manufacturer-controlled to consumer-managed, companies have been forced to rethink how to reach people. “If you are talking about reaching the consumer, you are missing the point,” says Wenda Harris Millard, chief sales officer at Yahoo! Inc. “You can reach anybody. The challenge now, because of media multitasking, is connecting with consumers.”

So using new media tools to deliver a 360° approach means understanding each one's relative strengths and ability to influence the consumer:

1. Talk to your media planners and understand the strengths and weaknesses of each - which ones work best at generating message reach? Conversion? Consideration? Purchase? Which offer efficient regional or local audience coverage?

2. New media options are creating new ways to measure engagement - and need to be included in the campaign metrics pages of your plan. For instance, what is the value to your brand of watching a video on You-Tube, writing on someone's wall on Face book, or collecting an email address?

3. Work closely with your research owls and see what the correlation of media usage is on conversion and purchase. What new media options are more efficient at delivering buyers than others? What's the cost per lead per vehicle?

4. And, since many of us see the poetry in program ROI calculations, it’s about getting the media investment to align cost-efficiently with the above insights.

To impress the marketing director with your dazzling command of the new media world, work with an agency that takes an agnostic approach to recommending different media. One clue - look for new agency roles including chief activation officer, or media integration planner as cues they understanding the new ways to connect with consumers.

I remember back in the day when I started my career in advertising. For those of us who didn’t go to OCA for a fine arts degree, a common way to get a foot in the door was through the media group. Spend a few years as a media estimator, then a media planner or buyer. Since the better paying jobs were in account services, in short order you were focussed on a role as an AE or Supervisor.

However today, with the amazing innovations in media, technology and the rapid pace of change, it seems to me some of the most important, coolest jobs found in any agency today are in the media group.

Now how 360° is that?

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Facebook - Taking the Windows business model to the UGC world.

I have to admit - the first time I heard about Facebook was sadly, when the Virginia Tech School shooting occurred April 16th, 2007. Not being part of the 16-25 year old ‘millennial’ generation, I had never heard of it before.

But as I listened to news (on television), reporters continued to reference this ‘virtual meeting place’ as the primary means by which students located their friends and worried family, wrote messages and eye witness accounts on super walls (a feature that lets users create, draw and share messages with each other). Sadly, some walls became student memorials, with friends writing words of remembrance and condolence and commiserating about the senselessness of the act.

For me, this was Facebook’s debut as a mainstream online tool that captured my imagination - I got it and I wanted to try it out. Up to this point, I thought social networking sites were for exchanging personal dating profiles, hooking up, or a way to locate like-minded people passionate about, say, digital photography or baking with Splenda.

For those of your just joining us, Facebook is the number one social utility in Canada that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them. In less than a year, Facebook has become the most popular online social network – and Canada is now number 1 in the world for users.

According to the latest Ipsos-Reid survey, nearly two-thirds of 18-34 year olds have visited an online social network or community – and 55% of them set up a profile. Facebook has the largest share at 65%, followed by 20% on and 15% on MySpace. And we’re spending huge amounts of time there as well - an average of 5.9 hours a week. When you consider Canadians spend about 10 hours per week online, social networking activities accounts for a huge chunk of time.

Why Them? Why Now?
In a recent interview with TIME magazine, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, all of 23 years old (don’t you love it?), the new poster boy for the Millennial generation, attributes the explosive growth to the launch of Facebook Platform.

Borrowing a page from Microsoft’s Windows developer playbook, Facebook's platform enables anyone, anywhere, to build complete applications that you can choose to use. “The possibilities are endless,” he says... “For the first time we're allowing developers who don't work at Facebook to develop applications just as if they were. That's a big deal because it means that all developers have a new way of doing business if they choose to take advantage of it.”

And it’s not a coincidence Microsoft has an exclusive deal to sell advertising on the network and reach Facebook’s 30 million users. They get the power of this business model too. With the strategy in place, users will be introduced to a steady stream of services, features and content innovations.

I think it boils down to this key challenge – generate enough positive interest to keep the growth momentum going and continue to deliver quality content (sponsored and otherwise), useful online apps and services.

Otherwise, Facebook will become stale with users, who will no doubt move on to the next online widget that shines light in their eyes.

Facebook is fast becoming the new Internet jump off point for the millennial generation. And when this company gets its IPO together (assuming it keeps saying no thank you to suitors including Yahoo! (who offered $1 billion) and Viacom ($750 million), Mark Zuckerberg, 23, will be the newest member of the billion dollar club.

I wonder if he shaves yet?

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Microsoft to Google - "It's On."

This past week, I’ve been reading with interest the latest coverage in the share battle between Microsoft and Google in online search and advertising.

This time, it’s not the same press coverage about which company they’ve snapped up or what anti-trust suit is being filed. Rather, Microsoft, eager to challenge Google's internet advertising empire, has hired Brian McAndrews from aQuantive as its general manager, in charge of waging war against Google. And this time – it’s on.

Since announcing the deal to buy aQuantive and recruit McAndrews last month, Microsoft has been expressing its online advertising ambitions more loudly. “We are hell-bent and determined to allocate the talent, the resources, the money, the innovation, to absolutely become a powerhouse in the ad business,” said Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, at the company’s financial analyst meeting in July.

While Google has a big lead in online advertising, a field that is relatively new to Microsoft, McAndrews is seen as the right person to challenge the search giant. And it's in the area of search where McAndrews is planning to attack, by offering up Microsoft advertisers a system known as "conversion attribution."

Credit where it's due.
In a nutshell, the process of conversion attribution credits all the online ads and web pages a consumer has viewed along their personal buying path until they end up on a company’s website or online store. The system aims to give advertisers a fuller perspective on a customer journey and to give credit (I mean money) where it’s due.

With this new tracking power, McAndrews believes he will be able to seriously challenge Google by proving their advertisers are spending needless dollars on premium site locations, like top of page “Sponsored link” areas, to host web links – links that a customer was going to click on anyway.

Mr. McAndrews contends that search engines, which long have claimed credit for sending people to companies’ Web sites, do not deserve it all. “Google gets all the credit, and in fact, you might have just gone to Google to type in the U.R.L.,” Mr. McAndrews said, pointing out that people often search for companies’ names after seeing their ads elsewhere.

Using technology from aQuantive’s Atlas division, Microsoft will be able to provide advertisers with a log of all the places on the Internet where people see ads before going to the advertisers’ Web sites. The data is based on individual computers’ electronic signatures, not individual people.

More tracking means more computing power.
The new service will require massive server capacity and the ability to analyze billions of ad impressions every day. And Microsoft will be able to use the new tracking capacity to prove the value of its ad space, much of which is not directly related to search activities.

For the next generation of tracking technology, researchers are already figuring out how to measure the combined impact that online and offline media has on consumer awareness, interest and purchase.

After finishing this article, I got a chuckle....for when I typed in "aQuantive" in my Google search bar, guess who has both the top sponsored link and the first 'natural' result? I think I've found a way to save aQuantive some online media money by following their own advice.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Marketing to the Millennial Generation

Meet Paul. He could be described as the “average” young man of today. At 25, he’s just finished college, has a new job, a large circle of friends he can instantly connect to using his mobile. And he’s never had a land line. Paul is part of the generation of Canadians surrounded by digital media and technology since birth. By the age of 12, he’s been comfortable using IM, text messaging his friends and sharing music files.

And then there’s Tiffany, 24, a senior editor at a local online city site. She begins each day in her Liberty Village loft with a diet of Gmail, Hotmail, work e-mail, (I haven't picked up a print newspaper in like, forever," she says) and blogs, in that order. She says it’s a necessary regimen for maintaining a functional dialogue both at work and in her circle of friends. Tiffany, who grew up in Markham and earned a fine-arts degree from the Ontario College of Art, says mobile phone text messaging is the default mode of communication for her set, surpassing e-mail, instant messaging or even talking on the phone itself.

Introducing... the Millennials.

In a recent USA Today article, children of Boomers and older Generation X’ers are being referred to as the ‘next great generation.’ Since arriving on planet earth, they’ve been told they’re smart, to be inclusive and empathetic, and focus on goal setting and achievement. According to another ready by Claire Raines, Connecting Generations, Millennials have been bombarded with a unique set of consistently positive messages that have created idealistic, confident and hopeful youth.

"I heard it on the (digital) Grapevine."

As this group is the most tech savvy in history, they tend to use altogether different channels for gathering their news and information. "What we're seeing is a whole different relationship with marketing and advertising which obviously has ripple effects through the entire economy," said Mr. McKenzie, who heads a Millennials Strategy Group at Frank Magid & Associates. For the millennials, he said, "reliance and trust in non-traditional sources - meaning everyday people, their friends, their networks, the network they've created around them - has a much greater influence on their behaviours than traditional advertising." It’s the peer-to-group phenomenon - a digital-age manifestation of the grapevine.

Consider these thought starters and innovations as ways to reach the interactive generation:

1. Learn the abbreviated language and slang of the IM and text user.

2. Social networking spaces like Facebook and LinkedIn will continue to gain share of mind and time and become new digital ‘jump off points’ versus the traditional portal home pages of today.

3. Corporate blogging will be seen as a primary way for PR folks to plant, shape and influence conversations. Success will be measured by the frequency with which a company’s key messages become part of a content conversation string or ‘online snowball.’

4. Bloggers and their opinions will become new “brands” and will be actively targeted and courted in the hopes of your key message coverage.

5. Marketing programs benefiting those less fortunate or helping causes will be widely accepted.

6. Commercial units will be produced in a variety of sizes, formats and lengths to fit the vastly increasing number of video formats and delivery systems available.

7. Look for continued innovation on mobile phone screens that improve texting, graphics and general usability.

8. Look for more advertising messages that are activated before and after application usage, like browsing or texting.

9. On the horizon - “Active” searching, whereby a mobile user takes a ‘photo’ of a billboard of say, new Gucci eyewear (actually the phone is reading a barcode located on the ad), and then be automatically connected to Gucci’s company website.

10. Currently being tested - contextual messaging, where a user is pinged with a message from Jodie Foster herself, asking you to check out her new movie, as you walk by the Movieplex.

Millennials are a fast moving, connected, and tech savvy bunch who trade information in a flash. Being invited into their circles and keeping them interested in what you have to say will no doubt require ample battery power and seriously good conversation skills.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Advertising Slogans of the last Century

1. Diamonds are forever (DeBeers)
2. Just do it (Nike)
3. The pause that refreshes (Coca-Cola)
4. Tastes great, less filling (Miller Lite)
5. We try harder (Avis)
6. Good to the last drop (Maxwell House)
7. Breakfast of champions (Wheaties)
8. Does she ... or doesn't she? (Clairol)
9. When it rains it pours (Morton Salt)
10. Where's the beef? (Wendy's)


1. Look Ma, no cavities! (Crest toothpaste)
2. Let your fingers do the walking (Yellow Pages)
3. Loose lips sink ships (public service)
4. M&Ms melt in your mouth, not in your hand (M&M candies)
5. We bring good things to life (General Electric)

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Webinars – Made for the Modern day Multi-tasker

Where else can you listen to an in-depth sales presentation, one that’s hopefully interesting, while you’re eating lunch, catching up on email, or writing out your grocery list?

I’ve attended five webinars so far this year and I have to say that for the most part, they’ve been a good use of time, in that I learned something new, put a company on our consideration list and in one case made a purchase.

Most customers and prospects attend webinars for a multitude of reasons, according to a 2007 study by Osterman Research – to get company product information, understand market dynamics, learn about industry trends, or learn about a vendor before making a purchase.

Like a cold call without the awkward introduction, webinars reach out to current customers and identify new prospects for a relatively low cost. If you don’t want to invest in the technology, there are lots of service providers to choose from that offer end-to-end solutions. But before you switch on the microphone, there’s a few practices you should follow to improve your odds for success and impress your customers big time.

1. Guest speakers can improve attendance – studies show that a well know industry name can increase attendance by as much as 60%. If you don’t have a keynote lined up, consider an exclusive offer or promotion as a way to generate interest.

2. Plan a rehearsal – it’s good to run through your presentation in advance and check for flow, timing and pace. Plus you should confirm the transition slides for each speaker. If you’re using a 3rd party service provider, understand any bandwidth limitations and how customers will be helped that encounter technical issues.

3. Promote in advance
– Like other ‘direct response’ vehicles, generally speaking your current customer email and dmail lists will generate higher response rates than outside ones. Your sales force is also a great tool to identify and invite key customers to the event.

4. Collect relevant customer DNA – customers expect they’ll be asked a few profile and purchase intent questions when signing. But be brief and keep the list short. Ask only questions you don’t know answers to and make sure you have a plan that uses the responses after the event. Odds are your company dB is already bloated with unusable customer information.

5. Collect compatible customer DNA – don’t wait till morning to find out the prospect list you generated isn’t compatible with your customer dB. In some cases, webinar service providers will work with you to ensure information collected is compatible with your company’s internal database formats. However if you think you’ll be hosting webinars regularly, consider developing a sign up tool built specifically to integrate on your dB.

6. Deliver an exclusive offer to attendees – free product trial, a deep discount or another means to thank people for attending. Exclusive offers will also measure response rates and program ROI. Send invitations one week in advance too - and reminders the day before. Have a customer service number clearly visible to handle any attendee questions.

7. Limit the presentation to one hour max – and keep the pace at a moderately fast clip. Because you’re not seeing any visual cues (like yawns, bum shuffling, or blackberry-ing) in your audience to assess if your message is getting through, keep the subject matter moving along and of course, provide time at the end for a Q&A.

8. Ask for feedback – a BRIEF 3 to 5 survey delivered immediately after the webinar with only one open ended question is a good way to collect top of mind feedback from attendees. You’ll have a highly useful “did well/ do better” best practices list to aid in decision making the next time round.

Used correctly, webinars can be a highly effective method to deliver company and product information, and a very measurable marketing tool when paired with an exclusive offer or promotion. And of course, a most satisfying way for multi-taskers to spend time over the noon hour.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Happy Birthday Aveda

Sometimes the simple gestures make the biggest impact on customer loyalty. Every year, Aveda sends me a postcard in the mail, "Happy Birthday - from Aveda."

They want to help make my birthday a memorable one. So the next time I come into any Aveda store, I'll get a cup of comforting tea and a birthday gift.

Probably costs them no more than $2 to produce and mail the postcard, brew a cup of tea and send me home with a gift.

But I wonder how much I'll spend by the time I finish my tea.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sell it to me FAST baby...

Sometimes stating the obvious is a requirement. People are impatient. They want information and they want it now. Consider the thousands of online and offline media choices customers have to collect and evaluate information. The new media world isn't a place for the faint of heart.

Now more than ever, the 'communicate only one idea' and sell it in a unique way - is the golden rule if you have any chance of breaking through and holding a viewer's attention - regardless of the medium.

The new stopping power for "interruption selling" on traditional media such as television, has to be using innovative visual treatments that have never been seen before - to stop a viewer dead in their tracks...Think Apple iPod dancing. Think Sprint Ahead light effects. Think Xbox anything. These spots all have one thing in common - a singular idea with a powerful graphic treatment to grab the viewer's attention.

"Go ahead..." viewers are saying... but if you don't hold me with a stirring visual, a laugh, a gasp, and stop me from instintively reaching for the remote ... more than likely your spot will be reduced to 3 seconds of fast forwarded images.

Got it.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Corporate Blogs- the new breakfast meeting?

Organizations are seeing the value of creating and maintain blogs for their senior management team as an alternative to traditional PR channels. Arguably the most widely used and understood of user generated content types, blogs can be an effective way for execs to carve out a unique voice for their organization and connect with stakeholders – employees, customers and the investor community in a personal, more authentic way.

Blogs have also been used as a way for companies to locate highly engaged company evangelists and loyal product users. Once identified, it`s not uncommon to invite them into the organization for product previews, marketing program feedback and other planning initiatives. These evangelists are then more predisposed to deliver positive key messages to a wider online audience for you.

Business blogs can interact with a target market on a more personal level and build credibility that ultimately can be tied back to the corporate website. Nevertheless, they remain public relations tools that should be carefully, regularly monitored by your PR team. If you`re interested in setting up your own company blog, consider these starting points.

1. Identify important blogs in your industry including influential writers and opinion leaders.

2. Monitor target blogs regularly to understand what people are saying about your company (if anything at all), the market you sell to and leaders in your product category.

3. Ask senior executives to comment on other people's blogs, which can be an effective first step in delivering key messages, stimulate discussion, or reframe a competitive statement.

It`s estimated that 5% of Fortune 500 companies maintain external blogs and the number is growing by approximately 30% every quarter. The ones I've listed here are pretty good – they’re current, regularly updated and well written:

1. Mike Critelli, Executive Chairman, Pitney Bowes, Inc., "Open Mike"

2. Colin Byrne, CEO, Weber Shandwick UK - Byrne Baby Byrne

3. J. Willard Marriott Jr., CEO, Marriott International

4. Rudi Fischer, CEO, Telekom Austria - Rudi Fischer

5. David Armano, Creative VP, Digitas

6. Sab Kanaujia, VP, NBC Digital Media group - Sabk

Consider blogging as a fresh approach to delivering company points of view to key stakeholders with the added bonus of meeting super engaged customers. Could the days of the 7:30am corporate breakfast meeting be numbered?

The Clipping File

If you’re visiting the CMA blog this holiday Monday, we hope you’re enjoying our last long weekend of summer. I can’t think of a better time to dive into the clipping file and catch up on reading that I've been procrastinating over. Once I got through them, I found these articles interesting and entertaining. Perhaps you will to.

1.How Ads Affect Our Memory – New Research could help advertisers make a better impression. By Andrew Schrock, Tuesday, August 21, 2007,

A new study suggests that marketers shouldn't fixate on the number of people who click on ads. According to the research, just seeing an ad on a Web page can impact memory. The findings could have a significant impact on the way online advertising is made and metered.

Typically, to be considered effective, an online advertisement has to elicit a response--usually a click of the mouse--from a potential customer. But Chan Yun Yoo, an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky's School of Journalism and Telecommunications, found that when people view Web advertisements, they store information in two different types of memory: explicit and implicit.

Explicit memory involves facts learned through conscious interaction, while implicit memory involves unconscious retention. Click here for the complete article.

2. Color Branding: The Meanings Behind Colors – delivers a daily dose of insightful and interesting reading on a range of communication topics that us marcom types like to ponder. This article was originally posted on Aug 14, 2007, by John Williams on, who provides plausible explanations of the meaning behind colour and how our reactions can impact what we think about advertising or promotion.

Blue: Cool blue is perceived as trustworthy, dependable, fiscally responsible and secure. Strongly associated with the sky and sea, blue is serene and universally well-liked. Blue is an especially popular color with financial institutions, as its message of stability inspires trust.

Red: Generates a visceral response and makes us aggressive, energetic, provocative and attention-grabbing. Count on red to evoke a passionate response, albeit not always a favourable one.

Green: In general, green connotes health, freshness and serenity. However, green’s meaning varies with its many shades. Deeper greens are associated with wealth or prestige, while light greens are calming.

Yellow: In every society, yellow is associated with the sun. Thus, it communicates optimism, positivism, light and warmth. Certain shades seem to motivate and stimulate creative thought and energy. The eye sees bright yellows before any other color, making them great for point-of-purchase displays.

4.The New York Times online technology section: if you still have a few hours to kill before dinner, The Times' technology section is a great read. It's jam packed with interesting info on curent events, new technologies and the usual scuttlebut on the big players. Great web design too that makes navigating easy. Satisfying any day of the week.

Now that Labour Day is upon us, I look forward to longer nights, sitting through endless 2008 planning sessions and creating hundreds of 'what if' scenarios with the '08 marcom budget. And then the real work begins with the upcoming season of award shows and rounds of agency holiday parties. Another crazy busy Fall.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

How Search Engine Marketing can start an Argument.

This past week I sat in on a lunch hour webinar hosted by Pragmatic Marketing. The speaker was David Merrman Scott who recently published “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” I read his other work, “The New Rules of PR,” so I was interested in hearing his new marketing pointers.

David used the launch of his book as a case study on effective search engine marketing techniques, specifically how to reach opinion leaders. In his case, the leaders he connected with generated wide coverage for his message which led to an explosion in his site traffic, book downloads and sales.

Merrman Scott is notable because he realized what many small business owners try to do –get attention in a media fragmented world without taking a second mortgage out on the house. His practical tips are useful for the entrepreneur who needs straightforward advice on getting a message out as quickly and cheaply as possible.

No Interruption Required
The era of PR people spamming journalists with story ideas to get product coverage is OVER. In the old days, you had to have significant news before you were allowed to write a press release. It usually included quotes from 3rd parties like customers, analysts or experts. And the only way your buyer would learn about the content was if the media wrote a story about it. Plus one of the only ways to measure ROI was by counting product mentions in press clipping books.

Search Engine Marketing (SEM) is the only form of marketing that does not rely on audience interruption or cajoling an editor to get you attention. The internet has eliminated these practices, giving marketers direct access to buyers, where they scan Google and Yahoo! results pages at will, and consider a product story – in its original, unedited state.

However to appeal to your customers directly, you need to understand them intimately.

Getting to Know You.
To appeal to your buyers directly on the web, you need to understand their motivations, brand experiences and interest level in your product category. To do so, consider developing “buyer personas.” This makes writing content that appeals to a range of customer beliefs, attitudes, shopping needs and vocabulary – much easier.

For example, a big box home electronics store identified three buyer personas –Gordon the UBER GEEK, Harry the home theatre NUBIE, and Louise the “just visiting” casual shopper. In each case, distinct language, tone and content depth were incorporated onto their site to appeal to their user base and ensure product messaging was relevant and understood.

Once you understand your customer archetypes, it’s time to write press releases for them.

1. Write releases with ample keyword copy so your release can be crawled and included on search engine results pages more frequently

2. Understand the words and phrases that buyers understand

3. Create links in releases to your website that bring people to your site

4. Optimize press release delivery for searching and browsing

5. Drive people into the sales process and selling cycle with press releases

If you want your press release crawled by Google news and Yahoo news services, David suggests distributing your story using any of the following services: Businesswire, Prime newswire, or Market wire.

The cost can be as low as $80 to send a basic release. However to include anchor text links and photographs – features that let readers link back to your site, is in the $200 range.

In short order, his book release was picked up and reviewed positively by Seth Godin, an influential voice in marketing circles, and negatively by Steve Rubel, an influential PR writer.
Because these two power brokers had conflicting opinions, it fuelled more discussion and interest.

Before he knew it, David Merrman Scott was enjoying top natural search ranking results, incredible site traffic and more than 250,000 book downloads.

I wonder what would have happened if Seth and Steve had agreed on the book?

Corporate Blogs- the new breakfast meeting?

Organizations are seeing the value of creating and maintain blogs for their senior management team as an alternative to traditional PR channels. Arguably the most widely used and understood of user generated content types, blogs can be an effective way for execs to carve out a unique voice for their organization and connect with stakeholders – employees, customers and the investor community in a personal, more authentic way.

Blogs have also been used as a way for companies to locate highly engaged company evangelists and loyal product users. Once identified, it`s not uncommon to invite them into the organization for product previews, marketing program feedback and other planning initiatives. These evangelists are then more predisposed to deliver positive key messages to a wider online audience for you.

Business blogs can interact with a target market on a more personal level and build credibility that ultimately can be tied back to the corporate website. Nevertheless, they remain public relations tools that should be carefully, regularly monitored by your PR team. If you`re interested in setting up your own company blog, consider these starting points.

1. Identify important blogs in your industry including influential writers and opinion leaders.

2. Monitor target blogs regularly to understand what people are saying about your company (if anything at all), the market you sell to and leaders in your product category.

3. Ask senior executives to comment on other people's blogs, which can be an effective first step in delivering key messages, stimulate discussion, or reframe a competitive statement.

It`s estimated that 5% of Fortune 500 companies maintain external blogs and the number is growing by approximately 30% every quarter. The ones I've listed here are pretty good – they’re current, regularly updated and well written:

1. Mike Critelli, Executive Chairman, Pitney Bowes, Inc., "Open Mike"

2. Colin Byrne, CEO, Weber Shandwick UK - Byrne Baby Byrne

3. J. Willard Marriott Jr., CEO, Marriott International

4. Rudi Fischer, CEO, Telekom Austria - Rudi Fischer

5. David Armano, Creative VP, Digitas

6. Sab Kanaujia, VP, NBC Digital Media group - Sabk

Consider blogging as a fresh approach to delivering company points of view to key stakeholders with the added bonus of meeting super engaged customers. Could the days of the 7:30am corporate breakfast meeting be numbered?

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The True Value of your Advertising.

Today there are many paths a customer can take to respond to your advertising. If you're not considering all the available off and online channels in your ROI calculations, you'll probably be understating the true value that advertising brings to your program.

It comes down to understanding the value of leads from different media sources and having the right plumbing in place to identify primary from secondary responses.

Call Now!
In the not too distant past, there were just a few basic ways consumers could be tracked and counted - primarily by telephone or Canada Post. It was a binary process to count BRE’s (business replay envelopes) and unique phone numbers to arrive at a fairly accurate return on marketing investment.

Fast forward to today and the tools available for Canadians to seek out information as part of their shopping experience is infinitely more complex. New communication channels are being invented and tested in developer labs, then launched as new portal features virtually every month.

Call Us Now has evolved to Contact Us Now!
In addition to offline media like print and TV, online connection points after hearing your advertising come from social media sites, blogs, RSS feeds and bookmarks, texting, web URLs, organic and paid search – to name but a few. So what is the true value of these leads? Does one generate a higher conversion rate than the other? Do some produce slower responses to your campaign than others?

To track how traditional media drive people online, some advertisers manage the situation by using a suffix on their call to action URL, like Studies have shown this is a somewhat futile effort, as fully 25% of people type in the wrong address - and end up at a “404 page not found” dead end. And it underestimates the value that advertising has on generating responses from other online tools.

Any Lunch Plans?

The first step in planning a multi-pronged tracking plan is to make nice with the company webmaster and go for lunch. They are invaluable in helping you understand site traffic and can usually provide extensive details on ‘typical’ weekly activity, including referring domains, organic and paid search, and net new or bookmarked visitors. Then,

1. Present advertising media selections
to the webmaster so she can set up the right tracking URLs. Then you can follow customers from referring domains as well as leads from offline media.

2. Always drive traffic to unique “campaign” landing pages not the company home page. It's just way easier to track your responses.

3. Track conversion rates by referring source. This helps you understand which channels deliver more qualified buyers so you can refine your media investments and improve efficiencies next time out.

4. Understand the typical rate of traffic buildup and decline to your website when a program is in market. Then you can justify how long to count inbound leads – even after the program has ended.

If you’re looking for some starting advice and counsel in this area here, it’s worth a visit to the Marketing Management Analytics website based in Wilton, CT. They’ve been developing some innovative new measurement tools to help marketers assess and track the combined impact of sales from offline and online media.

I'm sure they'll know where you came from.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Using up all your agency hours before the project is done. What a buzz kill.

Right now, you’re thinking back to that moment. It was 2 months ago and you were sitting in the agency’s boardroom, listening to the creative team present concepts for the new product launch this fall. The ideas were excellent –any one of them could deliver the results you need. Your boss is smiling… everyone is taking lots of notes. You can’t wait to tuck a sample copy into your portfolio.

Cut to this morning – you’ve been in the throes of production for the better part of summer. It’s consisted mostly of eating lunch at your desk and steering through endless conversations. You’re ready to sign off the boards when you get the call – the agency has logged way more production hours than anticipated – and the account director is asking for more money. How did this happen? How did we get here? What a buzz kill.

Project fees are an effective way to manage costs. From a client`s perspective, fees are a good way to manage project costs. Agencies provide an estimate that summarizes the number of hours by department (creative, account services, production studio, etc.) that it thinks is required to produce the concept and generate a measure of profit. However until you get into the project details, it`s just that – an estimate, subject to change.

So how do hours get out of control?

I`ve seen product managers stop at nothing to ensure their work is 100% tight and locked down. All the pieces must harmonize together. Every copy point spoken aloud to ensure key messages roll off the tongue. Layouts are scrutinized and colour choices re-evaluated. It has to be perfect. And this manic commitment usually results in a total disregard for the number of hours the agency estimated to get your job done.

Set the ground rules up front - what do I get for my money? In my experience, in order for the fee model to work, ground rules need to be clearly established about service levels up front – before the first boards are marched down to production. Here are some of my best practice points to ponder:

1. Establish how many rounds of revisions are included in the estimate. Make sure it’s spelled out in writing and communicated to everyone on the team. It’s also helpful to give a distinct name to each round. For example:

Round 1 – Copy Deck Approval
Round 2 – Initial Layout Stage
Round 3 – Working Art Design
Round 4 – Final Art / Lock

Knowing you have a finite number of chances to review the work has a way of ensuring close scrutiny at every round. And sign off the boards after each approval stage.

2. Make sure the copy deck is approved by all stakeholders before layouts begin. I guarantee revising copy after it’s been laid out is the fastest way to burn through agency hours.

3. Typos and mistakes a client finds, or layouts judged sloppy and requiring additional studio time should not be logged against the estimate.
A client who feels like the agency proof reader is a relationship irritant that can lead to a conversation about “value for money.”

4. Have a ‘did well / do better’ chat with the agency at the project’s completion. It’s a useful way to acknowledge exceptional work and identify process areas that can be improved next time round.

5. Deal with issues as they arise today.
Don't put off a conversation like project hours and profitability - it could damage the relationship long term. And nothing pulls oxygen out of a room faster than a discussion about the past. Always be current and future focused in discussions with the account team.

If you add a few of these techniques to your next project, I can`t guarantee you`ll never have one of those conversations with your agency. But when they do call, more likely than not it will be about making lunch plans.

Yahoo! take a bow!
Thomas Claburn from InformationWeek reported recently that Yahoo! has reason to smile: the company took the top spot in the University of Michigan's American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) report on e-business Web sites. Yahoo gained four points to reach 79 on the ACSI's 100 point scale. In a written analysis of the study, Larry Freed, President and CEO of online satisfaction management company ForeSee Results, observed that the report's results bode well for Yahoo's bid to improve its profitability. "Yahoo is emerging as the leading portal, fighting Google for the search business. Wahoo!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

F**CK OFF – The campaign made me look… but do I want to turn the lights off?

I thought I’d wait until the media coverage died down before I reflected on a recent advertising campaign that had tongues wagging.

The FLICK OFF program, announced April 27th was designed to ‘generate awareness of the devastating effects of global warming and reach out to young Ontarians of every age, every demographic and encourage them to turn off the lights and conserve energy.” The initiative is a coalition sponsored by the Province of Ontario Environmental Defence department, Virgin Mobile, Muchmusic and Roots Canada. Total cost - $500,000.

During the news conference, I watched Minister of the Environment Laurel Broten (M.P.P Etobicoke – Lakeshore) and media junkie Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin, take questions from reporters. I listened as the tone gradually shifted from celebratory excitement to defensive explainations on how a cheeky four letter word and logo (that uses capital letters “L” and “I” to look like a “U”) will encourage us to turn out the lights.

Clearly, the client and agency felt that they needed this approach in order to ‘break through’ media clutter and get people talking. However judging by reactions of Ontarians, the results have been polarizing. The discussion appears to have landed on the creative execution instead of the messages being communicated. You either love it or hate it. Peter Kormos, an NDP critic, called the campaign “silly, embarrassing and clearly it’s an ad agency that has a bunch of flickin' amateurs as employees." The campaign's website uses such phrases as "Go flick yourself," and "Are we flicked?" On the homepage, there’s a “Flicker of the Week” and a call to action that says: "We need you to FLICK OFF, and tell everyone you know to FLICK OFF. The more you do it, the cooler it gets. The planet, that is."

I thought it would be interesting to evaluate this creative idea against a checklist I use to evaluate new campaign ideas recommended by our agencies:

1. Does the advertising surprise and reward the viewer?
2. Is it clear what action the audience is intended to take?
3. Will the creative breakthrough?
4. Is the visual style and tone of voice appropriate for the target audience?
5. Is it single minded?
6. Is it campaignable – does it have legs?
7. Does the idea work in French?

I’ll let you decide the answers. As a marketer, I can see both points of view here. On the one hand, to reach consumers in today’s fragmented media world of gadgets, web spaces, cell phones, PVRs, iPods and X-boxes, we’re constantly re-evaluating our approaches on how to get attention, deliver a message, have it understood *instantly* and track the results. On the other hand, I also see how this work is seen as juvenille and vulgar. But I also couldn’t help but appreciate the irony in this - that our 'media' world is as polluted and noisy as the real one and we need these ‘hyper-sassy’ messages to cut through. However, I’ll stop short of saying if I think the campaign is working until I see my next hydro bill.

Creating an Advertising Customer Promise.

Creating the perfect advertising tag line is like cooking the perfect burger. To start out, you'll need the right ingredients to work with (product / research / creativity); then carefully blend them until you achieve just the right balance of taste and texture (not too much stirring, just the right amount of spice), and then cook to perfection (know when it’s done by knowing how your customer likes it). And like the perfectly BBQ’d burger, the advertising tag line is a tradition that’s here to stay.

Advertising tag lines help create message order in a chaotic media world. In seven words or less, they deliver an idea, belief or aspiration. They organize related marketing programs under one umbrella. And as consumers become more and more expensive to reach, companies will assign greater importance and resources to building a distinct voice that gets into multiple channels.

To stay relevant in today's changing media landscape, tag lines will evolve to stay relevant. Look for more examples that include sound textures, video or new creative combinations designed to work together, build a distinct voice and get our attention.

Whatever the format the line takes, any good tag line should meet the following acid test: i). be distinctive and unique, ii). connect emotionally with the reader or listener and iii). be believable. Examples of tag lines that I think meet these criteria are:

1. I am Canadian – (Molson): This became a rallying cry for college and university students everywhere. Unlike the usual beer advertising, this phrase zeroed in on our desire to be recognized as different an unique (from our American beer drinking buddies).

2. Your potential. Our Passion. (Microsoft): The focus isn’t on the software that Microsoft builds, but rather the promise of what customers can do with their products. Simple and empowering.

3.You Can Do it. We Can Help. (The Home Depot). In six words, this tag line eliminates the fear and frustration out of home renovation projects.

In their own way, each of these lines is distinctive, believable and connects the reader with the product or company. Like a perfectly cooked burger – you know a good tag line when you taste it.

Got Joost?

I read with interest about a new technology called Joost (pronounced ‘juiced’) and its co-founders Janus Friis (30) and Niklas Zennstrom (40) in the March 12th issue of Time magazine. These guys have some huge technology achievements under their young, snazzy belts. In 2001 they launched Skype, the first internet – powered telephony service which they recently sold to eBay for $2.6 billion. In 2001 they pioneered one of the first music file sharing network services, Kazaa, simultaneously breaking new ground and moving the discussion forward on existing copyright laws. Talk about brain power squared. I got excited when I figured out how to imbed video clips into my PowerPoint presentation this week.

The Joost beta program launches in the next few weeks and has industry observers buzzing. Why? For one thing, they’re calling it a notable milestone in broadcast convergence that succeeds where others failed – streaming broadcast quality content onto the desktop PC. The other reason is the raft of believers – top notch providers who’ve signed agreements to deliver content including Viacom (MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon), Paramount and JumpTV, the world’s largest distributor of international TV stations with more than 270 stations in 70 countries.

Lean Back and Watch.
With user generated content (UGC) spaces, the user is asked to sort and click through hours of video clips and features. The accompanying advertising is framed around the content or tucked inside (remember the bridezilla meltdown on YouTube?) By contrast, Joost tells its users simply to ‘lean back and watch’ – much like what us TV sofa jockeys do today.

If you liked that…
I downloaded and installed the beta software (it will be free when launched and requires no hardware) and had the service running in about five minutes. The interface is clean and the controls are easy to use. The up/down menu lets you change content channels and access other features in the "widget menu" like news, instant messaging (SK8TR turn to channel 127 NOW!!!) or content scoring. And Joost can monitor your viewing preferences over time and suggest content options – a popular feature that online sites like Amazon already do – “if you liked that, you’ll love this…, etc.”

The advertising I’ve seen so far is similar to the sponsored content model on today's TV. But moving forward the service will be a laboratory where advertisers and agencies develop, monitor and measure in real time, the effectiveness of their new message formats and approaches. If Joost is a hit, look for ways to measure the medium not even contemplated yet.

Interactive, targeted TV is a promise we’ve already heard. But this time Joost might have the right mix of technology, content and usability working for both marketer and consumer. Plus, everyone is always eager to see innovation in the current 50 year old broadcast model. I for one will be watching, of course from the comfort of my channel surfing sofa.

To learn more visit their website,

Thank you for calling...

As a marketer, one of the daily to do’s on the priority list is listening for customer reactions to our company, products and marketing initiatives. And we're spoiled with the choice of tools that do it – sales results, research, website profiles, meetings with sales reps, etc. However one way and some would say the best way to hear feedback in all its unfettered pointedness is listening to the customer service team and regularly listening in on inbound customer calls. You hear it all - frustrations, product complaints, disappointing in store experiences – it's where virtually all pain points come to life (I’ll save the positive ones for another article). Welcome to the world of the 1-800 customer service number.

It can’t be all good news.
Collecting and acting on feedback in a timely way is critical if an organization is perceived as one that truly listens. I’m reminded of a meeting I had at Microsoft that helped me understand the importance of always listening for bad news. It was a monthly product unit meeting with senior Microsoft business unit managers (BUMs for short). The goal – deliver a comprehensive update after which the go/no go forward decisions would be made. At this particular one there were no major issues to report - no significant bug fixes, the content deals were signed on time and manufacturing and packaging dates were on target.

To the BUMs, it sounded a little too rosy. Even though we were doing our best to make appropriate decisions and keep the product launch on track, to their trained ears it was all… too good. Once we finished our presentation one BUM piped up, “I’m glad your team is hitting all the launch milestones, but what I’m most interested in are the problems that I haven’t heard about - give me the bad news, not just the good.”

Over the years I’ve taken this insight to always listen for bad news and to troubleshoot problems regardless of what type of marketing program I’m doing – before they have a chance to fester and grow into major issues.

The Customer Service team – your eyes and ears
The insight helped me always be aware of the importance of a well briefed and prepared customer service team. After all these company ambassadors are your front line eyes and ears and truly do have their pulse on what's happening at any given moment. How they interact with customers is a reflection on the entire organization, so the more prepared they are, the better chance we have to create a positive customer interaction.

Here are some lessons I’ve learned (some gladly, some painfully) over the years:

1. Consider the Customer Service Team (CST) a key stakeholder with any project you take to market – they’ll anticipate issues you hadn’t thought of and highlight lessons learned from the past.

2. Keep the team updated on changes
to launch timing – they may be staffing up based on your program and need to adjust levels accordingly.

3. Always give the CST the ‘macro’ view
of the project and not just the components relating to them – it’s amazing how motivated people become when they understand the bigger picture and relate how their work contributes to the overall success of an initiative.

4.Act upon customer feedback as quickly as possible – don’t delay when responding to an irate customer. And circulate the resolution to all teams as history can repeat itself pretty quickly.

5. Give the CST a copy of every marketing piece
– even something as innocuous as a letter sent to a few hundred customers - having it handy to review helps reps prepare and be responsive

6. Use customer feedback to build “Frequently asked Questions” or “Rude Q&As” which can also be used on your website – especially if a flaw has been uncovered in the program and there is a need to blanket message

7. If you’re running a contest, make sure the team is familiar with the rules and regulations
– the less they have to put a customer on hold to clarify a point reduces your overall cost per call

8.Spend at least one hour a month (more if you’re launching a new product) listening in on calls – I guarantee you’ll be amazed what you hear. In one example we moved the location of an 800 number in a direct mail piece for the next wave of activity because customers had difficulty finding it on the layout.

Spending time with your Customer Service Team and listening in on customer calls helps ensure the feedback loop to your programs is complete. And you’ll begin to feel very connected to how your program is impacting your customers and the market. For any marketer, that feeling is very cool.

Are you going to Search Engine Strategies 2007?

If you are, you’ll be surrounded by new search technologies, hear ways to make your online marketing dollars work harder, meet smart techies – even find out how to build your ‘purple cow quotient.’

It’s a global conference that stops in Toronto June 12th and 13th at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. This year sounds like a smart time investment judging by the conference lineup and list of exhibitors. In years past, SES attracted between 1,500 and 2,000 marketing types and business owners interested in brushing up their online marketing skills, networking with product managers and listening to technology innovations by industry leaders.

The conference itself is divided into three information tracks. The first – ‘Get me up to speed’ is an introduction to search marketing, optimization, key players in Canada, and how to identify online scams and performance myths. The second, ‘Let’s make some money’ covers monetization – there’s a website clinic, speakers who cover how to make cost effective online development decisions, and what skills we need in our online marketing tool kit. The third, ‘On the cutting edge’, discusses trends, innovations and new approaches in local search, paid listings and marketing to women online.

Of note is Track C (On the Cutting Edge) on Day 1 - Local Search: A Growth Industry. Leaders in the local search space including, Google and ZipLocal offer their update on the state of the art, explore chicken-egg frustrations, and attempt to glimpse into the future direction of local search. The moderator is Anne Kennedy, Managing Partner from Beyond Ink with speakers from Yahoo! Canada, ZipLocal and Darby Sieben, Senior Manager of traffic and distribution from On Day 2, Microsoft showcases their much talked about new online advertising solution. The keynote address on Wednesday is entrepreneur and change agent Seth Godin, author of The Dip.

Make sure you spend time on the show floor too. Arguably this is where your investment really pays off. You’ll be able to meet with developers and product teams who work on search and optimization products everyday. These folks have an intimate knowledge of how the tools function and can showcase competitive differences between providers. Plus they offer unique and well thought perspectives on the online search industry as a whole. It’s a rare opportunity to get up close to the technology and the people who build it, have a personal demonstration and ask lots of questions relating to your specific business situation.

The Search Engine Strategies 2007 Conference & Expo is at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre (Front Street) June 12th and 13th. To register, visit

Event Marketing - the B2B version of Show Biz

Trade Shows and Events are arguably the most exciting initiative a marketer can participate in. They’re fast paced, offer the chance to communicate directly to customers and have an unbeatable sense of immediacy. Receiving feedback to your work ‘real time’ is gold, which is why I find the experience, however intense, very gratifying. Good trade shows attract the most influential people in your market so it’s important you spend time crafting a solid approach and presence.

Like other marketing initiatives, when the big day finally arrives, it represents months of planning, decision making, countless agency meetings, telephone calls and contact reports. However, because most trade shows usually last just a few hours or days, when the doors open and customers wag their conference badges past security, it’s all systems go – and little margin for error. All your months of planning and decision making unfold in front of you.

Since most of us learn by producing, here’s what I’ve learned about producing trade shows and events:

1. Be clear about your goals before, during and after - is it to launch a new product (that requires pre hype and follow up?), to collect sales leads and establish a competitive presence? How are you measuring success? What’s your target cost per prospect? Is customer follow up messaging planned? The more up front thinking you do on your metrics and approach will help determine if the investment was worth it. As well, a good metrics plan helps make quick decisions when you’re in execution mode.

2. Start planning early
– at least 3 months from the big day. Because you’re deciding on many details and collaborating with internal and external teams, yes and no answers take longer to implement. As well, issues may not be under your direct control (like unionized venue staff), so it’s important to leave lots of trouble shooting time before the big day.

3. Check out the show website for competitors
– Most events host their own and it’s a great source of information on competitors, where they will be located, and their product focus.

4. Develop a solid customer demo
– nothing impresses prospects more than an enthusiastic manager who knows the product intimately and who shows key features in a relevant, real life way. Watching a smooth demo is not only very cool but one of your secret weapons to keep people engaged in your booth and listening to your story– and away from your competitors.

5. Have a *final* checklist meeting where equipment is preconfigured, checked and prepared as much as possible prior to shipment. Also make sure you know where materials are delivered to at the exhibition hall. Just in case one of your suppliers didn’t fill out the shipping label correctly and your pallet of computers ends up nameless in the back of a warehouse and you have to go hunting for it.

6. Be ready for customer questions – As ready as you can be. Spend time with the product and develop ‘what if’ scenarios. Know the competitive offering and how your product is different or better or wins, feature by feature. Most people are receptive to you not knowing the answer, but if you say you’ll find out and promise to get back to them – make sure you do. I find 'lunch and learn' sessions prior to a show an effective way to help booth staff get familiar with products and concepts in a supportive environment.

7. Look prospects in the eye – If you have junior or inexperienced staff, make sure they’re friendly (are you having a good show?) and to invite people in. It sounds obvious, but you’ll be amazed how many prospects respond to this small nudge. Look for groups of chatting booth people and give them tasks to do. Nothing looks worse or more uninviting to people walking by than uninterested booth staff.

8. It’s nice to give something away. Not because everyone does, but because it’s an opportunity to put a lasting reminder in prospect’s hands. Tote bags or branded desk accessories generate awareness longer; edibles and water bottles don’t. Cardinal rule – keep costs low. Unless it has a call to action built in, it’s one of the hardest things to measure the value of.

9. Appoint a key contact on the booth – the ‘go to guy/gal’ should be able to handle emergencies, customer questions, leads, VIP customers, etc. Make sure they know key event personnel and how to reach technical support in case you need urgent equipment assistance. This person should also manage the booth staffing, breaks, etc.

10. Communicate results in a timely manner. Because trade shows have such a short life, share results with your senior management fast. Everyone wants to know if the show met expectations on number of attendees, qualified prospects and customer reactions. In many cases, you’re being asked to commit to next year’s show now, so having clear goals at the outset will make this task relatively straightforward to decide.

Done well, trade shows are an effective, immediate way to reach influential target groups in your market with key messages, new products and offers. Just remember to write a good brief, give yourself lots of planning time and realize that not everything will go exactly and according to plan. But odds are it will still be a terrific opening.