Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Marketing With Paid Media As A Last Resort
By Cory Treffiletti A number of advertisers have come out and acknowledged the economic environment by either freezing or reducing ad spending in the fourth quarter, and many advertisers are delaying their plans for spending in Q1 and Q2. All that being said, these are the kinds of times where innovation thrives. By tackling the problem from a new vantage point, you can create opportunities for success that you may not have thought of before. Put even more simply: Why does everyone think spending money is the best way to market a product?
The first thing to keep in mind when determining how to build an effective marketing campaign in this economy is that your agencies are compensated to spend money. This is their strength but also their weakness. If you're working with an agency and you value the relationship, then you need to evaluate the type of compensation model that you have in place for them. Try creating a mutually beneficial relationship where your agency is compensated against ad strategy and performance rather than providing recommendations on how to spend money -- because with all the tools and services available to marketers, the last thing you should be doing is starting with a solution that spends money.
Once you've addressed the compensation model for your agency partners, you can get to the heart of the matter: using digital communications tools to engage your target in a discussion about your brand. I refer to this part of the model as the Engage and Activate stage. There are lots of tools in the marketplace available for engaging and activating a consumer. The most important is search, but we'll make the assumption that search is already taken care of by your base efforts, so the question becomes, "How do I drive consumers to find and locate my brand?" or "How do I drive consumers to search me out?"
Conversational media is the first, most important, place to start. Your message needs to be developed for two situations; proactive and reactive. You need to create a plan for proactive message development and you also need to create a plan for reactive message development. A great example of this is Ford. In the last week I test-drove a Ford Escape Hybrid with my wife and I twittered about a couple of days later. Within two hours of my tweet I'd been direct-messaged by Ford about other hybrid vehicles they were releasing and was invited to follow them on Twitter. As a result I read about other vehicles and I've started looking into them more thoroughly. Ford was proactive in developing its marketing messages, using a communication format that was aligned with my needs and desires. That's smart marketing and it wasn't a paid media placement!
Just past Conversational Media are Social Media and Applications. Social Media goes beyond the conversation and engages through video, photo and other rich media (including viral) while Applications become a remote access point for all of the above. They allow access from other Web sites as well as Mobile. To date the best players in this category are entertainment; music and movies. These vehicles depend on assets that can be aggregated and syndicated and music and movie marketers are loaded with assets. The upcoming "Watchmen" film is a great example of this, with its distribution of images and its creation of Watchmen Motion Comics. From a Social Media perspective they've done a great job of syndicating featured content and unique Web-only images. From an Application standpoint I haven't seen much as of yet, but it's still a little early and as many movie marketers have learned in the past, you need to build to a crescendo and be careful of not over-exposing your film too far in advance.
I use a model that stacks a few more components in the mainstream marketing continuum before we ever get to a paid placement model, but of course the secret source will vary from planner to planner. The concept is rooted in the fact that by monitoring the general discussion online, you can locate potential consumers that are interested in your products. The core of the message is that spending money to drive marketing effectiveness is the last way to build your business, but it is typically the first thing affected by an economic downturn.
If you address the model for compensation with your partners, you might be surprised what you can come up with. Incentivizing creativity through performance can be a very effective way to create a marketing campaign, so give it a shot!
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Cory is president and managing partner for Catalyst SF.
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