Friday, August 15, 2008
Co-conspirators: Demand And Influence The Soul Of Integrated Digital
By Kendall Allen We all know that the dynamics of consumer marketing perpetually shift. They just do, as marketplaces mature. And, within digital, as we have gotten clearer about those shifts, the conversation has changed. In a manner of speaking, it's gotten downright scintillating. As I have been preparing talks and lectures recently, it dawned on me that I am simply addressing two -- count them, two -- principles that are much more soulful. I extol them here.
Conventions and the continuum. For decades, we have spoken mechanically on the continuum of customer creation -- attract, acquire, retain, expand. This is the stuff of planning, white-boarding, and the core framework driving what we've been doing for clients, one way or another, forever. This is what we've repeated as a planning mantra as we established plans to market -- reach and get frequent, outlay and get visible, create buzz, boost consideration, foster loyalty, expand the lifetime of relationships. While it is true that branding and performance, and especially CRM approaches, are weighted differently across this frame -- this flat progression is not only open to interpretation, it doesn't say a whole lot about what's really going on with the consumer. Not these days. We must get deeper.
Drilling into the soon-overused concept of engagement, we as an industry oriented around a beefier principle to milk our marketing investments. Engagement, "relationship speak," were and still are rampant concepts. BUT, I say a more clarifying shift was evident, as digital really got digital -- and new platforms matured. Demand, anyone?
As we differentiated between push and its up-and-coming friend -- the pull -- it started to get more interesting. This, because when we really get into demand, our inner social psychologist gets more thoughtful, as we market. It's just a little more to the soul of things.
Strategic consideration of demand and soon, of influence -- gave us the dynamic duo that now is at the heart of the strongest integrated digital initiatives today. These are power principles. Let's take a snapshot of each and then ponder their collective strength.
Demand announces itself. Those of you around for a while will recall the early, out-of-the-ashes, Phoenix-like emergence of the search industry. Following the great slow-down we all recall, search was one of the areas, as the new millennium progressed, where online spending started to return full-force. Our first observation was that this return was due to the basics of search in performance -- its measurability, the advancing analytics tools set, and the raw speed with which we could operate and change course. But, as we truly woke up to this media, the smart ones realized that a little something called demand was driving the bus.
When the light goes on, you realize the primal beauty of search is that it spins on demand -- consumers actively raising their hands and ASKING for what you offer. Wake up, right? This is a gift. You have an opportunity to answer and deliver, before your competitors do -- and this appreciation is reflected in your keyword list, the titles and descriptions you serve, the landing pages to which you drive.
Let's start there. As the industry has prevailed and captured share, being rooted in demand is what makes search such a strong play to your integrated efforts. In some ways, it is the purest of ideas -- be the first and the best at giving consumers what they demand. Alas, the art and science comes in finding the sweet spot between how you market your brand, your very essence -- and that express consumer demand. There is skill in the balance ---but bottom line, today, like never before, we have the ability to listen to the market and take immediate, measurable and scalable action.
Practically speaking, embracing the demand principle is committing to consideration of mindset. In an environment where platforms and channels are more mature in general -- online, mobile, video, content and community -- the best consumer marketers are considering their consumer's mindset within each channel or platform and planning and developing to that contextual mindset. This commitment to attention brings me to the next operative principle: influence!
Influence as brand fuel. As marketers, we naturally think about influence. But, in the recent years of digital -- as social media has come of age -- it's taken on new magnitude and implication. A strong brand influences; a brand that engages an influencer can perpetuate, extend its reach, and so on.
But, today, quite literally, there is a much more aggressive and lively market environment around the influence principle. Not only is everyone an influencer, but now they have the forums and tools to wield their influence, enroll their peeps and simultaneously extend your brand while notarizing their own.
As we have discussed, the precursors to social media are the earlier methods of audience development, community building, Interactive PR, and so on. But, as advanced integration goes -- social media now has more guts and is more integrated in general. There are new creative options, easy application-build possibilities, and campaign management utilities that truly allow for scale, as you integrate. Community building is no longer separate from a good marketing plan, but part of it. Smart marketers are not only tuned to consumers as influencers with great tools, they are fully planning and developing to this reality every day, in every program, on every initiative. As another example, lighting up the blogosphere on behalf of your brand is now just good marketing sense.
To me, through my converged media lens, it's rewarding to be immersed in digital, where integration is essential. And here, in an age of digital confluence -- where storytelling, engagement, data and results conspire -- it seems infinitely wise to tune your brand to the soul of it all, to uncover the hotspot where demand and influence around your brand unite.
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Kendall Allen is currently advising clients and partners on digital marketing and convergence media. Previously she was managing director of Incognito Digital, LLC, a boutique digital media agency and creative studio. She also held top posts at iCrossing and Fathom Online.
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