Thursday, December 28, 2006

Consumer Empowerment Turns Your Message & Reputation Into the True Vehicle of Your Brand

A lot of the industry discussion around Engagement has been a reaction to consumer empowerment. Even the Advertising Research Foundation’s news release – first paragraph, mind you – announcing its working definition of engagement signaled to it:
As the advertising industry grapples with the profound changes in media, marketing and the emerging empowerment of consumers, the concept of engagement has emerged as 'more of a demand creation' paradigm than the 'reach or awareness focused' paradigm of the past twenty five years.
But in all the hype of consumer empowerment, I think it’s very important not to fall into the trap of “consumer control,” a false paradigm which marketers too often embrace when rationalizing this period of great change.

The truth is that consumers now have a voice, they have more choice and can hold marketers accountable as never before. Consumers can quickly organize, mobilize, reward and punish. Their gestures and votes are far more impacting. The ANA is right in suggesting that “truly interactive dialogue” is imperative, and those who don’t “abandon their historic ‘command and control’ model of brand building” will suffer.

So are consumers in control? No. They are more empowered, but there are two sides to this relationship. One side is the marketer and the other the consumer. It takes two to tango, and the balance of power is equalizing, to be sure. Contrary to hype and alarm, marketers have tremendous control over the variables and customer touch points that matter most. The result is that marketers must revisit the fundamentals.

The fundamentals – which you can control – include customer respect, your own innovation and product, your storefronts and your customer service among others. In a world increasingly driven by word of mouth–where reach, awareness trial and loyalty must be earned, not paid for–these factors become the building blocks of your message and your reputation. Your message and your reputation then become the true vehicle of your brand–much more so than any traditional notion of media.

And this is the core issue the ARF seems to be alluding to in its aforementioned statement that engagement is becoming 'more of a demand creation' paradigm than the 'reach or awareness focused' paradigm.

What do you think?

(These were key themes in my recent MediaPost op-ed here.)

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Yahoo Explains What’s Wrong With The Page-View Metric

Peter Daboll, chief of insights at Yahoo, and former president of comScore Media Metrix, just dished up a very good articulation of why page-view Web metrics are so irrelevant. (Btw, I used to work with Peter when I was a marketing and analytics guy at comScore Media Metrix.) He says:

Page view counting has been a key measure for a decade but just because it was once the obvious solution, doesn’t mean it’s the best one now. A couple of reasons why:

  • PVs aren’t a good reflection of web activity in 2006 and beyond. It’s a broadband world and page views are irrelevant to some of the most frequently used Internet services like instant messenger, VoIP, or video, in addition to technologies such as Flash and Ajax. More page views might actually reward sites for poor site design in light of these new technologies.
  • PVs have never been consistently measured by third parties or by sites themselves. Everyone has a different definition of when and how a page is counted.
  • PVs don’t represent ad inventory. In the early days of the Internet, page views were used to represent available ad impressions, but the reality is that page views and ad impressions are actually counted in different ways and don’t correlate. PVs also have little to do with available inventory with the different types of ad units available today using text, audio, video, etc.

The bottom line is that the page view has outgrown its usefulness. The industry needs to embrace change and develop new metrics that measure this new world more accurately. We all need to help to wean the industry off the crutch of familiar metrics in favor of more accurate and representative ones. We all need to be smart about these new metrics — the measurement companies, major publishers, and advertisers.

But the problems with the page view reflect a more inherent problem that ties into the advertising Engagement discussion: what's the value for advertisers across higher- or lower-involvement media experiences, interactions and different contexts? The publisher business wheels and deals in the buying and selling of consumer attention captured by intrusion and disruption. Whatever the new metric becomes of that, you must also pursue the higher calling of determining actual outcome when marketers and publishers hold hands, and juxtapose commercial messaging with content. Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 points out a likely evolution of this conundrum: a fuzzy middle ground between direct response and brand advertising.

Monday, December 18, 2006

ANA's Top 2007 Transformation: 'Consumer in Control'

Bob Liodice, CEO of the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), dishes up his top-ten list of the most important marketing transformations for 2007:
  1. Consumer in Control: Marketers will abandon their historic ‘command and control’ model of brand building in favor of a truly interactive dialogue with consumers. Recognizing that consumers now have the power to control how, when and where they interact with advertisers, brand marketers will radically reinvent their approaches, putting the consumer in the driver’s seat and unleashing a tsunami of interactive campaigns across all media forms.

  2. New Agenda for Agencies: Agencies will be turned on their heads, with their efforts increasingly tied to client brand performance. Marketers will expect them to integrate strategic brand management, creativity and innovative media management – and to deliver big, game-changing ideas.

  3. Hail to the Chief: The chief marketing officer will rise in stature as a C-suite player, not only serving as chief brand architect and marketing discipline integrator, but also as the enterprise’s business system innovator, organizational teacher/ motivator and, most importantly, chief revenue builder.

  4. Unconventional Outreach: Marketing will become increasingly unconventional – tapping into social networking, word-of-mouth, local events and more – to break through media clutter, consumer multi-tasking and the growing cacophony of marketplace noise. With the use of the internet, mobile and other new media forms, combined with the innovative use of traditional media, marketers will find ways to reach and engage reluctant consumers and customers.

  5. Media Buying Metamorphosis: Media buying and selling will be transformed. The old, antiquated ways of doing business will give way to new, automated, highly transparent processes, as demonstrated by the growth of online media buying exchanges.

  6. Let the Fighting End: Government policymakers, consumer advocacy groups and brand marketers will begin to find common ground, aligning business goals with public policy needs. Marketers will increasingly embrace their role in helping to advance national priorities in such areas as diversity, education and health – proactively addressing such societal ills as illegal drug usage, obesity, underage smoking, alcohol abuse and others.

  7. Organizational Overhaul: The marketing organization will undergo a top-to-bottom reinvention, providing better professional education and skill-building, with a focus on enhancing creativity, strategic alignment and, ultimately, brand stewardship.

  8. Research Renewal: Research will become the next frontier in the accountability equation. Marketers will insist that macro measurements (Nielsen, Arbitron, ABC), marketing mix modeling and brand performance research become far more relevant to and aligned with critical brand accountability goals. Marketers will be especially vocal in their desire for granular, brand-specific commercial ratings.

  9. Blow up the Back Room: Archaic business systems and back office operations will be overhauled to lower costs, increase efficiencies and redeploy non-working dollars to hard-working, productive investments.

  10. Continuous Marketing Reinvention: Continuous marketing reinvention will become the mantra of marketing executives and the cornerstone philosophy for successful brand building, integrated marketing communications, marketing accountability and the marketing organization.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Brands for the Chattering Masses

Keith Schneider penned a nice story today in the Sunday NYTimes business section on Nielsen BuzzMetrics (the company I work for) and the overall emerging industry we call consumer-generated media (CGM) measurement. He asks a key question:

As consumers eagerly post word-of-mouth commentary in online communities, message boards and Web logs, a straightforward question confronts brandmeisters: Who wins and who loses as time-tested practices of mass production and mass marketing are undermined by the informed and often cranky voices of the knowledge age?

That very question should be applied to evolving definitions and models of engagement. Why? Because CGM offers massive clues into engagement, including the media context, the brand, the commercial message and the resulting magic that happens (or doesn’t) when the aforementioned pieces come together. CGM represents not predetermined transactions, nor potential units of media consumption. Rather, CGM is an untainted, rich reflection of the passion and significance of human experiences, conditions and intentions. CGM is not intelligence structured according to the agenda of brands or mass marketers; rather, CGM represents perpetual digital residue which offers an unbiased, ongoing and open-source record of how brands exist in people’s lives. It’s such a simple and powerful idea -- a moment of truth -- yet so contrary to so many approaches which place focus on other ancillary responses.

Read the entire NYTimes story here.

Friday, December 15, 2006

To Market To People, You Also Must Market To Algorithims

We market to people. Wrong! We market to people, as well as emerging intermediates, called algorithms. And that's the subject of my next MediaPost column.

Engagement models must incorporate algorithms, because algorithms could be the most influential force destroying linear decision-making processes among consumers. But it's rare to find an engagement enthusiast (who are mostly mass brand and media types) get far past linear decision models.
You Must Market To Algorithms, Not Just People

by Max Kalehoff, December 15, 2006

The most elegant insight at the Word of Mouth Marketing Association’s annual confab in Washington, D.C. earlier this week came from Ted Leonsis, vice chairman of AOL. He noted that “Marketing isn’t just to people anymore. You have to market to algorithms.” He backed this up with a few examples of algorithms that have significantly influenced his own purchase and life decisions: Google, blog search, car diagnostic systems and Amazon recommendation engines.

Leonsis’ comment underscores a growing and inextricable link among algorithms, their interactions with people, and influence on broader information flow among people (a good topic for a conference on word-of-mouth marketing). As more human behaviors emit trails of digital residue, the more opportunities reside for algorithms to harness those human-induced data and become information intermediaries, often delivering order, additional value or influence. Many so-called Web 2.0 services fall into this realm, but the essence of algorithms and their interactions with humans extends far beyond conventional notions of Web browser-based services. They are becoming embedded and central to a variety of smart products and services that impact our lives in both subtle and blatant ways, from phones to GPS mapping services to medical devices to RFID tagging systems.

This concept is terribly important to marketers that must now rebuild their consumer decision-making models. The old linear decision models are becoming irrelevant, and must be replaced with new ones that incorporate not only overt word-of-mouth behaviors, such as face-to-face discussions or online consumer discussions, but all behaviors that create halos of metadata, which algorithms process, mediate and disperse to others.

The bottom line is that algorithms now are entrenched in our lives and influence what information we search, discover, share, communicate, receive and believe. Algorithms are increasingly defining our perceptions and reality, and we often don’t realize when this process is going on. The impact can be subtle or massive, immediate or lagging, narrow or broad. Consequences can be intended or calculated, but are often chance.

Search is among the most obvious marketing discipline to embrace algorithms, but their application most often is focused on short-term, direct-response tactics modeled around rational decision-making. But the fact is that algorithms are having a massive, macro impact that marketers must embrace deeper and more holistically–even on emotional and psychological levels. Yes, even the mass-market brand advertisers’ singing engagement must tackle algorithms in order to adapt to changing consumer mental models.

The subject of algorithms is far too broad to tackle further in this short opinion column, but I’ll sign off by presenting some obvious algorithms tapping into my metadata, along with others’, to impact my purchases, media-consumptions habits and other life decisions:

  1. The Zagat restaurant guidebook, through its member surveys, database and search algorithms, helped me choose more than four dozen restaurants to visit this year.
  2., a software-download and review service from CNET, helped me choose almost a dozen PC software titles through its search function, user reviews, ratings and, especially, the total-download stats.
  3. The New York Times real-estate database listened to my criteria and recommended houses to suit my needs. I’m now in contract to purchase one of the houses it introduced me to.
  4. My stay at the Helix hotel in Washington, D.C. this week was completely the result of Expedia’s algorithms, including criteria for search, price, coolness, user ratings and proximity to the WOMMA conference.
  5. My wife and I are researching nannies and related services based on search results and testimonials displayed on parenting boards.
  6. Music playlists help me discover new music, to sample and purchase.
  7. GPS mapping services in cars help me decide which roads to take, which towns to pass through and which stores to stop in.
  8. Social-media filters and recommendation engines–like Digg and Tailrank–help me decide which news and information is most resonant or important, or which photos and videos are most interesting.
  9. EZPass highway tags record and notify me every month how much I pass over toll roads and bridges, and how much money I dish out to our public transportation authorities. Becoming conscious of those aggregate fees has influenced me to sometimes take alternative side routes.
  10. My credit-card company’s algorithms identified fraud and notified me about it, so we could work together to chase down criminals. Another credit-card company didn’t, and now I don’t do business with them.

Which algorithms do you notice impacting your purchase and other life decisions? Which are most noticeable? Which are invisible or subtle, yet sweeping? Better yet, are you marketing to them?

Sunday, December 03, 2006

When Reporting Media Engagement Rankings, One Must Define Engagement

Andrew Hampp at AdAge praises National Geographic Channel for its engagement leadership, based on two studies released last week:
If you're looking for viewers who are engaged with what they're watching, then Rich Goldfarb, senior VP-media sales at National Geographic Channel, should be on your list of people to call. Mr. Goldfarb's 5-year-old cable channel leads the pack of specialized cable, print and online media that scored high in a pair of studies on consumer engagement released yesterday.

In a commissioned study of the cable industry with the Gallup Organization, National Geographic Channel had the largest portion of engaged viewers, 45%, when compared to 16 competitors such as A&E, Discovery Channel and TLC. The National Geographic brand also scored high in nearly all the major engagement categories in Monroe Mendelsohn Research's third annual PReSS Survey, which added websites and cable networks to its list for the first time this year.
But two outstanding questions are left unanswered:
  1. How is engagement being defined in both the aforementioned reports?
  2. Is there any evidence that advertising or sponsorships with the most engaged media titles behave differently from the least?
This is one of the challenges of the advertising industry’s engagement initiative. The buzzword is too often accepted at face value as a scorecard metric, with no industry-wide agreement on a definition. Until there is acceptance of a common definition, everyone in the media, marketing and advertising industries must define exactly how the term is being used, whenever it is cited. This goes for research vendors, research buyers, trade associations and trade reporters who cover the space among others. Providing case-by-case definitions is as important as explaining research methodology.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Triumph Is Edutainment & Engagement, Not Interruption

The NYTimes reports today about Genmar Industries’ use of online product demonstrations for its line of Triumph power and fishing boats. The catch? These videos double as entertainment:
The campaign, by an agency in Durham, N.C., known as the Republik, is centered on efforts to demonstrate that Triumph boats are “the world’s toughest…Up first is what is titled the bubba test: a good ol’ boy, considering buying a Triumph boat, hitches it to the back of his pickup, without a trailer, and drives it at high speeds on dry land, bashing and bumping the boat innumerable times until it fishtails into a lake…“I’ll take it,” he tells the dealer, who replies with a nonchalant “O.K.”…The bubba test is available for viewing on a special Web site (, along with similar video clips showing Triumph boats dropping from helicopters and being pounded by sledgehammers.

Triumph executives [note] its model of engagement rather than interruption: people watching the bubba test online choose to be there, making it likely that more than a few of them are in the market for a boat…“We can start a conversation with the consumer,” said Doug Andersen, president of Triumph Boats in Durham…“And it’s measurable,” he added, referring to the ability to gather data like how long people remain on the Web site to watch the video clips and whether they click on a link to the regular Triumph Web site (
Advertising that people really want to watch? Advertising that entices prospects to assimilate with the brand? Advertising that is measurable in its ability to pull people into the sales pipeline? With a campaign budget of $250,000, it seems that Genmar Industries could have a good campaign on its hands.

But one must not omit two factors in this equation: the creative and the perceived integrity of the product plays a major role, in a high-consideration product category. While certainly not a rule, this case underscores how good creative and product, combined, can be effective with little or less paid media.

Also, the Triumph campaign has redneck and testosterone appeal. But its sensational affiliation with quality and toughness is not original for small watercraft. Credit is due to the Boston Whaler and its inventor, marketing and engineering guru Dick Fisher:

Boston Whaler was thrust into the national limelight on May 19, 1961, when Life magazine featured photographs of Fisher sitting in a boat as it was sawed in half. Subsequent photographs depicted Fisher casually driving away in only half a boat. Thus, the "Unsinkable Legend" was born.

(Time Life photo from Continuous Wave.)

Finally, here’s the buba video. Interestingly, the Toughboats site does not enable embedded video, but I found the spot on YouTube. I contacted Triumph customer service by email to tell them of this missed opportunity, and they responded in 15 minutes with this message: “THANKS YOU ARE CORRECT I WILL SEE IF THEY CAN CHANGE THAT.”