Brilliant marketing made simple – Trust the creative heart.

“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Einstein

I got a recommendation from someone to read the book by Martin Lindstrom, called “Buy·ology; Truth and lies about why we buy what we buy”. It describes the new neuromarketing sciences exploring how the brain’s physical reaction to our thoughts, sensory stimulation or even rituals can evoke  brand loyalty or apathy .  According to Lindstrom, this new understanding of the biology behind our unconscious mind’s ability to make “decisions” faster than our conscious mind, represents a, “…historic meeting between science and marketing. A union of apparent opposites.”

Now, I deeply respect Mr. Lindstrom’s work, but TBH, these types of branding books are a marketing person’s nemesis. They are often recommended to us by CEOs with the implicit expectation of; “Read this so you know which buttons to push. And tell me what you think in 4 days. Thanks.”

If a CEO were to ask me summarize the book, it would pretty much boil down to:

1) Our subconscious mind is much much faster than our conscious mind to take in stimuli and make “snap” decisions.

2) The line between alternate outcomes (dare I say alternate realities) in a situation is as thin as a single thought. If you believe that a ritual or a treatment is going to work – it more probably will. A potent principle in marketing when applied to shampoo or shoes or new technology.

3) If understood correctly, there are fundamental mechanisms in the brain that can be used by marketing to evoke immediate and lasting impact in current and future purchase decisions. Highly useful, no doubt.

4) Finally, the book nobly tries to empower us to make better decisions because we are “armed” with information. I must say, this Mr. Lindstrom’s weakest moment. Being armed with “conscious” rational information does not particularly seem efficacious if we are to believe the bulk of the book which explains in rich detail how driven we are by mechanisms that transcend rational thinking.

But as informative as the book was, I think it misses a big part of the branding story. Mr. Lindstrom, like many others who are drawn to the razzle dazzle of new mind mapping technology, often overlook the real nuts and bolts of what makes marketing really great.

Being great in brand building, IMHO, does not start with technology, but starts with the power of a creative heart. Unlike Mr. Lindstrom who believes that till now marketing and science were “apparent opposites”, I can tell you that much of what Mr. Lindstrom described in the book as powerful branding techniques were not new to me. Why? Because great creative minds in the agencies were using these techniques all along, we just didn’t have the technology or the fancy names to label what we knew anyway.

Some examples:

  • The book refers to “Sensory branding” (page 142) whereby attaching multiple senses to a branding program works a lot better than only  one sense. It also demonstrated that if two senses were inconsistent with each other, (e.g. an image of a lemon has the smell of vanilla), this combination was the least effective in creating a positive brand association. Twenty five years ago we simply called this principle “cognitive dissonance” and any good creative mind knew enough to avoid it without any SST brain scan.
  • Then there’s the very cool idea of mirror neurons, where if you just see an experience, it can feel as vivid as though you are doing it. This mechanism explains the deep satisfaction we get watching spectator sports or theater. Again, back in the 1980s, we knew about this phenomenon even though we did not know the name. We knew about the principle when we created Folger spots to linger lovingly on the brew process so that you could “almost smell” the fresh brewed coffee. We knew this was a powerful marketing technique even if we didn’t have the benefit of science to inform our work.
  • And also we nailed the importance of “Rituals” years ago. Duncan Hines focused on the ritual of making cookies with your kids and Folger became “the best part of waking up”. Again, these principles were masterfully utilized by creative people doing what do they naturally.

We must remind ourselves that neuromarketing or even taken further, the latest new digital marketing technology are tools for the artists and creators. And the best of these minds were using these “latest” ideas decades ago. There was no tension of “opposites” Mr. Lindstrom alludes to, but rather we used our talent to intuit the “science”. The best creative minds already knew what science is now telling us.

I believe Mr. Lindstrom would endorse for a balanced approach. In today’s techno-rich, techno-dense marketing world, it is so very easy to let technology blind you into thinking that there are silver bullet answers in creating powerful brands, (could this account for the stupendously low average tenure of a CMO of about 23 months?)

Instead, let’s turn the model around. Rather than promote the new science as the way to brand vitality, let’s demote technology to its proper place – as a means to an end. Let’s celebrate the creative mind as the primary force that animates it all. It’s about recognizing that for great marketing to live and breathe; even the most amazing new technique won’t work if there is no creative expression of it or if that message is inconsistently applied.

In the end, neuromarketing techniques may tell us that yellower yolks makes eggs more appealing, but ya still gotta get them to buy the eggs in the first place!

Why Google Reminds me of AT&T – Take 2. Can you spell DOJ?

Many of you will remember the July 7 article in AdAge on Why Google Voice Reminds Me of AT&T, where I broadly outlined how Google, like AT&T before it, can be undone by its ambition to dominate a key “infrastructure” sector, like the web. I contended in the article that, much like AT&T’s quest to dominate information systems, Google’s quest to dominate web services can divert precious resources from core businesses leaving it weaker not stronger.

The article generated, uh, considerable conversation; some polite, some not – but most were incredulous that I could even dare to make such a comparison.

Now, a mere 3 weeks later, Fred Vogelstein of Wired Magazine chivalrously comes to my defense (however unwittingly on his part) with his article; “Keyword: Monopoly …Why is Obama’s top antitrust cop gunning for Google.” where he explores the Department of Justice’s newly launched anti-trust investigation of Google (see where this is going?).

The article explains why the DOJ is going after Google now:

“Recently, Google’s size and ambitions have begun to obscure its halo. Advertisers watch nervously as the company’s share of the search-advertising market have jumped to 75% from 50% …Google’s largest problem isn’t what the company is today; its what is plans to become. Google aims to create a world in which web services replace desktop software.”

Does this not sound familiar?  The government gets nervous whenever one, very large, commercial enterprise wants to dominate any key infrastructure, whether it is software, information or the web. It was why AT&T and Microsoft were targeted in their day and it explains the DOJ timing now.

This investigation is yet another element demonstrating the parallel between the two companies. Sadly, the DOJ investigation changed everything for AT&T and it is likely to fundamentally change how Google does business, even if the case is not brought for years.  You see, once the government had a “virtual” seat at the AT&T table, the lawyers started running the show. It slowed us down, blunted much of our competitive bite and even restricted which technologies we considered. It simply took the life out of AT&T. Google seems prone to face similar constraints.

At this point, I hope most of you can at least understand why I saw and continue to see a pattern repeating itself. The real question becomes what’s in store for Google? What can Google do better/ differently than either Microsoft or AT&T when they were at this critical crossroads? Maybe nothing – I don’t know. Yet, that does not seem to sit well given Google’s well earned reputation for its Google genius. So for a moment, using history as our guide, let’s consider “out loud” some of their choices – together.

In the face of a potential anti-trust suit, Google can follow the path of Microsoft to fight to keep Google whole. It can use the legal argument of “anyone can go to any number of competitors with a better mousetrap” strategy. But that approach is not without peril if the lesson of Bill Gates’ now infamous court testimony with the resulting loss of Microsoft public good will is any indication. Poof – in a virtual moment, a decade of good will was gone. And the irony of following in Microsoft’s legal footsteps is rich given Google’s corporate culture of being as much anti-Microsoft (e.g. their “Don’t be evil” mantra) as it is “for” anything.

Google has another option; one that celebrates what Google what it does most brilliantly; innovate with new business models to create sustainable, profitable and ethically oriented corporate growth. It is an option that follows the contours of AT&T’s footsteps (read on before you all descend into an epileptic shouting fit), but avoids its failures.

Here’s what I mean.

AT&T ended breaking itself up into seven companies (the 7 Baby Bells of which three are still around) after a lengthy and costly battle which left AT&T very much weakened in the process. Maybe, just maybe, Google takes the first, brave step to focus on getting smaller and better – not necessarily around becoming bigger. Google can consider innovative ways to spin off smaller, more sustainable businesses via a consortium or community of like-minded companies. This community of companies model was first tried successfully by the Bell Labs New Venture Group in the late 1990’s. It operated with a structure that let connected businesses share basic, scalable overhead services like HR or marketing, but they remained relatively small to allow for innovation and ideas to flow freely. I was there that time and I can attest to the fact that with this model, we were able to more quickly assess and launch new technologies with successful outcomes.

While getting “smaller” may echo back to the AT&T “breakup”, that’s where the similarities can end. AT&T never really embraced the notion that smaller companies could be stronger and more profitable. Perhaps Google, by staying true to its very DNA to “be a force for good on the Internet” can free us from outmoded business models where bigger is automatically assumed to be better. Google can keep its cool by being a role model for a well balanced company that’s big enough to stay strong and innovative but not too big that it drowns in its own grandeur and bureaucracy.

It has not been done yet. In this respect Google reminds me of no one. And maybe this is what saves them.

Judy Shapiro

This is a reprint from Ad Age DigitalNext column.

Making the Magic of Digital Marketing Work

If you follow many of my posts here, you’ll know I advocate a balanced approach when thinking about how to introduce new marketing technologies within a mature, marketing planning model.

That’s easier said than done because there is fundamental disconnect in understanding how to use new technologies and in knowing what the business value of these technologies are. Often, there’s simply no way to know what they’ll do.

And that’s the hard core problem – these newer technologies are often time hogs with unknown results. If you do them, you are diverting precious resources from proven programs, but if you don’t, you could be missing great, new efficient programs that could really help.

*sigh* …

Agencies don’t help much either. If they are a digital agency, then they advocate lots of great ideas – but often the client has to execute (no small investment). The larger agencies kinda stick to the mass media programs they can execute these efficiently within their fees (labor intensive programs like social media is a nightmare for larger agencies given falling fees).

So for those of us on the firing lines in the marketing world, let’s learn to become magicians. We have to learn create a solid foundation upon which we can create new “magic” program that brilliant marketing is all about.

 What this means is that we do a thorough “kick the tires” discovery of the new technology. Then decide where it “fits” in our marketing engine. It is meant, for instance, to “improve” the efficiency of how we spend marketing dollars as in remarketing programs. Or, is the program useful for adding new qualified emails to your database.

 No matter what you think the main objective is for the new program, be sure it delivers at least one other value beyond the key performance metric you have in mind. You may, for instance, do a co-reg program but it should also has value to you for improving the quality of your customer database. In short, don’t put your all marketing eggs in one metric basket because there’s a 50/50 chance that at least one thing will go wrong.

 Becoming a magician can be great fun and a challenge. But it can be done because it is really a function of practice, patience, persistence and a keen eye on the end game. Stephen L. Carter succinctly puts it, “Words are magic. We conjure with them.”

Start conjuring … but be smart about it.

Judy Shapiro

http://twitter.com/judyshapiro

One man’s technology “bleeding edge” is another man’s mainstream

I was having lunch with a long time friend who has worked at large ad agencies virtually all his professional career. I was complaining to him about the challenges of deploying digital marketing programs from a client’s perspective because digital agencies often black box their services. They often make it hard to understand deliverables, performance metrics or even getting alignment around basic SLA’s (service level agreements).

As I expressed my frustration for nearly 30 minutes, my ever patient friend smiled gently and said, “But Judy, no wonder you are struggling – you are working with bleeding edge marketing technologies.”

That’s stopped me cold because I never thought of myself as bleeding edge in technology and certainly not in this space. There were so many people who knew so much more than me in the technologies that drive social marketing.

I started to protest. “I am not bleeding edge,” I countered somewhat more intensively than I intended. “I am mainstream!” I exclaimed louder than was polite given the small restaurant. Again, his gentle smile came across his face and he said, “I don’t understand why you resist being called bleeding edge – it’s what you are”.

His simple words, again, stopped me in my track.  Aside from the fact that I pride myself on being the advocate for the average non-tech consumer in the tech world, it still didn’t feel right – I didn’t feel like I was bleeding edge. And after another vigorous 10 minutes we both hit on an insight.

In many mature categories, such as packaged goods, mass media is the most efficient media vehicle to get the word out. These brands spend billions in traditional media to gain awareness and conversion and it is a proven model. But in emerging categories, like eCommerce or communications, digital media is the marketing backbone of an organization. For these categories, digital marketing isn’t bleeding edge – it’s mainstream.

Once we came to that realization, I felt better. After all, being “bleeding edge” can get messy (the blood metaphor is not without relevance). I like to live in the main – it’s a lot cleaner that way.

Judy Shapiro

Top 6 Free Social Marketing Technologies for E-Commerce Success

                              

I am often asked by friends who have ecommerce sites what they can do to improve sales. They have noticed current E-Commerce tools like SEO and Pay-Per-Click advertising are no longer delivering the bang they once did. And my friends also know that “social marketing” has become a valuable marketing tool, but they are not sure what terms like word of mouth, grass roots, and viral marketing even mean – much less what they can do to drive business.

 

So I recently posted an article on HostReview on my top 6 free social marketing technologies for E-Commerce. http://www.hostreview.com/icontent/the-blog/top-6-free-social-marketing-technologies-e-commerce-success

 

As I wrote in the article, these tools are … “all free … all powerful … to help drive your business.”

 

1) Create an online community.
Why is an online community important for E-Commerce? It allows a company to utilize their customers as evangelists; enlisting them to advocate your brand to potential customers. Additionally, this expands your ability to engage with existing or potential customers. For example, take a look at a case study put together by Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) about how
customer recommendations influence buying products and services.

 

Myspace offer online networking and Paltalk offers free, on-site communal chat rooms that can include webcam chat.

 

2) Stay abreast of your category by subscribing to Google Alerts.
This is a totally free service that allows a business owner to track trends in their industry. Simply list which keywords you are interested in, and Google will send you news, blogs, web pages, etc…that include those words.

 

Why is this important? It’s because social marketing is about participating in the conversation. Once you see which articles and reporters are relevant to your category, you can participate – and in a meaningful way.

 

3) Deploy a Customer Feedback platform
E-merchants can also take advantage of free customer feedback platforms. One such platform is UserTrust offered by Comodo, a leading provider in online verification and security infrastructure services. UserTrust is a
free tool which allows online merchants to gather customer feedback. Just as important, site visitors can see other user’s real experiences. These testimonials provide one of the most powerful social marketing technologies available on the market.

 

4) Utilize free digital PR
In order to create additional SEO rich content, online merchants can create press releases and distribute them using free digital PR sites such as
i-Newswire.com, PR-inside.com, PRLog.org, Free-Press-Release.com and 24-7pressrelease.com. Don’t be intimidated to write these releases yourself – they need not be brilliant works of literary art. Your press releases should reflect news that your customers or prospects care about (even if the NYTimes will not). You can announce a new product or a big customer win or even a great review.

 

The point is that this tactic is mainly about driving improved SEO rankings and ultimately traffic to your site.

 

5) Blog it
Creating and regularly posting on a blog is another good way to increase SEO value. WordPress.com is a free platform that lets users quickly and easily create a blog.

 

6) “Birds of a feather” affinity marketing
It’s useful to know what your customer profile looks like, not to mention those of your competitors. Quantcast is a
free service that gives you a demographic profile of a website’s visitors. Their reports also include a fair amount of detail on what your audience likes and even other sites they visit. This information can be invaluable in helping businesses identify opportunities.

 

So there you have it – my top 6. I will keep adding to this list as I uncover new tools that really work. If you have had great success with a social marketing technology – I’d love to hear about it. Share the knowledge –

 

Judy Shapiro

What’s sweet about tweets.

             

Colleagues constantly ask me; “what’s the deal with twitter”, “I don’t get it”, “how can I use it”. Behind the question lurks a slight embarrassment because they feel they should “get it”.

 

So dear friends, not to worry, of course you don’t get it – no one does yet – not really. And anyone that claims to know, well they’re kinda of making it up as they go. We all are, even Twitter (anyone see a solid Twitter monetization model yet lately?)  

 

But here is how I answer my friends about what Twitter is good for – it is the perfect digital sweet treat for our compressed, sound bite, social casting world.

 

Twitter makes you reduce your life to a mere 140 characters at a time.  A quick digital snack to share with your world about what’s going on or where you can see what’s going on with others.  

 

Ok – but what does that mean? Well, if you are in sales, you can see what’s on your prospect’s mind. Conversely, you can share a new insight about your service quickly. In the end, Twitter acts like mini candy store letting you consume and share little info treats (or should I say tweets) on the net.  

 

Yet, Twitter is not for everyone.  While the cool pundits might make you feel insecure if you are not high on Twitter sweets, and corporate offices buzz about Twitter (anyone remember the Second Life frenzy?), its useful to realize that as Twitter  matures, they will reach a realistic market niche or “set point”. And then the buzz will move onto to the next best thing because Twitter appeal will level off given it limited “nutritional value”.

 

So if you don’t get Twitter, fear not. It’s not that you’re not cool – you just may not like the Twitter snack. But if Twittering satisfies your sweet tooth – tweeting can be sweet.

 

Judy Shapiro

Go online? Then you’re an Early Adopter.

                             

I remember clearly the first time I heard the term “early adopter”. It was around 1990 and I was an account person working on AT&T at NWAyer, an advertising agency. The agency “research guy” named John Bowman explained that it referred to a group of consumers with the personality type willing to be first to try a new product. And, if these early adopters liked your product, you could count on them to help spread the word.

 

So once we were introduced to this concept, we agency folks wanted our clients to create cool advertising campaigns to attract these early adopters. But there was a hitch. Early adopters tended to be a very small group. While they probably will become your champions, their ability to evangelize on your behalf was sorely limited. These early adopters could not sustain a business because they could not carry the message broad enough or far enough. For a business to become profitable, the product had to “cross the chasm”, appeal to the masses. Maybe early adopters helped the process, but more often than not, sheer marketing muscle in the form of advertising, did the trick. And to “cross the chasm” could take many months, if not years, and money – lots of it.  

 

That was then. This is now.

 

Today, I believe EVERYONE is an early adopter. If any of you go online or visit a social network or shop online – you are now squarely in the camp of the early adopter.

 

Why?

 

Because the pace of technology change is so rapid, that it has compressed into months what previously took years between the early adoption stage and the category maturation cycle.  For instance, if you go online today, I bet you will try some new “online thing” within the next 30 days. This makes you an early adopter – whether you be 16 or 86. Early adopters share a frame of mind – not a demographic, so that makes them a huge market. See what I mean? 

 

And social networks accelerate the rate of technology adoption even faster and further with newer tools like user ratings, online video chats, expert reviews etc. But social networks are also powerful accelerants of what new technology we adopt. We all get tons of emails or tweets from friends entitled, “check this out” – the promise of early adopter evangelicalism delivered.

 

I hope now you accept that everyone (ok – almost everyone) is an early adopter, and so you can start playing with how your marketing programs need to live within that new paradigm. You can identify various early adopter segments and develop a social marketing program appropriate to them. Create proper ways for your adopter segments to interact with each and with you. Solicit their input on product development and ask their help when you need it.

 

Creating businesses around early adopters is fun because once hooked they tend to be passionate about you. And they tend to trust you. Early adopters – gotta love ‘em.

 

Judy Shapiro  

Postscript — It is worth noting that the “research guy”, John Bowman, is currently an Exec VP at Saatchi and remains a trusted colleague.

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