Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Falling Diet Coke & Mentos Dominos End At Coke

You might recall the video interview I did with Fritz Grobe and Stephen Voltz of Eeepybird.com, famous for the Diet Coke and Mentos experiment (viewed millions of times!), and Steven Starr, CEO and co-founder of Revver.

Well, Fritz Grobe just forwarded me his new Diet Coke & Mentos Experiment II video. Interestingly, Coke finally gave in and partnered with EepyBird for this new video. It is part of the Poetry In Motion video challenge over at Coke.

What’s interesting about this Coke-EepyBird relationship is that it is a marketing-advertising-media-creative initiative which seems to have bypassed any traditional agencies (or could easily have). Are grassroots, up-and-coming Internet content creators the new competition to traditional agencies? As I wrote earlier on my personal blog, the verdict appears to be yes.

Press play below and check it out!

Dove Evolution Video Campaign as Engagement?

Today I wrote an article in ClickZ (Real Beauty, Real Breakthrough in Consumer-Fortified Media) suggesting that the much-discussed Dove Evolution spot nicely captures the essence of engagement.
  • "Success by viewer engagement. In many respects, this spot perfectly puts the concept of viewer engagement in perspective. A key goal of the engagement initiative is to explore and qualify new metrics and measures that push well beyond the overly simplified reach and frequency metrics. In Dove's case, there were views, comments, blog entries, links to blog entries, forum entries, board mentions, video responses, tell a friend, and even video mashups and manipulation that took the message in different, yet mostly reinforcing, directions. Each of these metrics informs perspective on ad effectiveness."
The other important point I underscore is that co-creation is a complete cycle not just a collaboration from the beginning. Along these lines I introduce the concept of "Consumer Fortified Media" (CFM). " Unlike the vast majority of viral videos out there," I note, this ad was 100 percent brand or agency created. But it was fortified by intense consumer commentary, conversation, and dialogue. Put another way, co-creation was an end result but not the starting point. Looking ahead, expect CFM to become a key success criteria for brands looking for tangible evidence of consumer appeal, involvement, and engagement. Every Super Bowl ad, for instance, has latent potential as CFM, but it's not a guarantee."

Monday, October 30, 2006

Does HDTV Solve The Engagement Condundrum?

In a story about advertisers' slow adoption of high-definition television, TVWeek.com observed:
Conventional wisdom holds that HD spots lead to increased viewer engagement, something advertisers hunger for in the DVR age of commercial-skipping. Sony Chairman and CEO Howard Stringer said at an industry event that there are people "who would rather watch grass grow in HD than tune in to a football game in standard definition." In that vein, advertisers think compelling ads that take advantage of the superior sound capabilities, pristine picture and wider screen of HD stand a better chance of cutting through the clutter than traditional spots.
HD is awesome, without a doubt. But there still are a few other outstanding issues: relative clutter (regardless of definition) is increasing, attention is eroding and owners of HDTV are almost certain to have a DVR. Is HDTV an answer to a problem, or is it simply a nice quality standard that inevitably will become ubiquitous?

(Photo Credit: FLC)

Advertisements Don't Have To Be Boring

Neil Patel at Pronet Advertising notes that:
Advertisements usually have a negative connotation associated with them and because of this most people don't like taking the time look at and even read advertisements. The good news is, not all advertisements are bad and some companies have taken the time to design some very clever advertising campaigns.
He then offers an awesome montage from his Flickr photo blog (via Digg):

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Engagement Is Meaningless Without Sales

Scott Karp from Publishing 2.0 observes a number of Web 2.0, new media and blogger insiders getting sucked into the engagement conundrum (including: Robert Scoble, the super blogger famous for bringing face and personality to Microsoft, and now an exec at a podcast media startup; video blogger Ze Frank; and Rocketboom video blogger Michael Barron). He writes:

What’s more amusing? Scoble and New Media folks discover “engagement,” a term that the old advertising establishment has been “engaged” with for quite some time. Or, that hot and utterly hip video blogging has been caught up in a he said, he said spat over audience measurement. Welcome to media! These guys sound like a bunch of stuffy old TV networks.

It’s so entertaining to watch technology-driven New Media stumble over the same problems that have long been a struggle for Old Media. Technology has empowered people to create media, but it hasn’t really made them all that innovative on the business side. Ze Frank and Rocketboom are like the Mini Mes of Television, squabbling over ratings…

Scoble is right that we DESPERATELY need some new media metrics. New Media folks may be ahead of the curve on formats and hip notions like “conversation,” but they’re actually playing catch-up on the deep, intractable problems of media — like how to prove the value.

Scoble, noted above, cites an interesting and intense example of engagement:

So, why should engagement matter to an advertiser?

Well, as an advertiser I want to talk to an audience who’ll actually DO something. Yeah, I’m hoping to get a sale.

Yesterday Buzz Bruggeman CEO of Active Words, was driving me around and told the story of when he was in USA Today. He got 32 downloads. When he got linked to by my blog? Got about 400.

My audience was (and is) a lot smaller than USA Today, but the engagement of the blog audience got his attention.

How could we measure audience engagement?

Is this something that Steve Gillmor’s GestureLab could do? If he could, that’d be a valuable company that advertisers would die to buy stuff from.

These examples above underscore the massive silos separating New Media from the Old. Why don’t they talk when there’s so much commonality? Just like the Old, New Media people want ad revenues. Second, the New now realize that some media experiences cause more impact versus others. In other words, all impressions are not created equal.

But if Scoble is at all representative, here’s where the New and Old digress: Scoble underscores the connection among engagement, action and sales. The absence of this connection in most engagement discussions is precisely why Erwin Ephron, one of the godfathers of media planning, has declared the engagement debate nothing more than Abbot and Costello.

What makes Scoble’s connection to a sale so unique is that he represents the media side of the equation. You almost never hear media people talk about engagement and sales in the same sentence – rarely, if ever! The reality is that few of them have any understanding of the relationship between their media content, their advertisers and the sale of goods to their audiences. Surely, in an increasingly ad-averse world, they must be scared it’s low, lowering and sometimes near nonexistent.

Conversely, Scoble and others in New Media, with far less to lose and much to gain, are beginning to ask those same questions because they are dependent on the same limited pool of advertising dollars. They also recognize their inherent competitive advantage in the engagement-to-action realm.

So how do we measure engagement? Whatever the solution, and it should depend on the unique circumstance, the connection to sales is imperative. That’s why, as a media company, Google is doing so well. But in most cases, especially Old Media, that’s the elephant in the room that so many are content to dance around.

(This is a cross-post with AttentionMax.)

Friday, October 27, 2006

How To Think Like Virgin Mobile?

What does it mean to think like Virgin? Think like your customers! I attended day two of the ARF’s What’s Next (warning: PDF link) workshops and offer below my on-the-fly notes from the keynote presentation by Howard Handler, CMO of Virgin Mobile, USA. This is a very late post, but better late than never, I hope. Also see Taddy Hall’s analysis of the event and Grant McCracken’s disagreement with Gerald Zaltman’s customer-mental model.

ARF Keynote Presentation: How to Think Like Virgin Mobile
Howard Handler, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Mobile USA

Consumer, Consumer, Consumer! Virgin Mobile is a company that puts the needs and desires of its consumers first. This keynote presentation opened with a bold, yet enticing Virgin Mobile commercial of a naked man in NYC’s meat-packing district using his cell phone as a cover up, which helped launch the business in 2002. The rest of the presentation covered company background, roots and insights related to clients. The presentation clearly linked the success of Virgin Mobile as a consequence of the company’s enthusiasm to listen to and engage its consumers.

Virgin Mobile has numerous partnerships, but what is most important to this company is the Virgin Mobile/Customer relationship with customers. Customer experience is extremely important. In fact, it is the “essence of what it is to be Virgin”. Technology is viewed by this company as a commodity.

Richard Branson, entrepreneur best known for the Virgin brand as well as his prolific, outrageous launches, is always about being a challenger AND consumer champion. Richard was reflecting on what he saw in the US with regard to the wireless telephone market: Confusing payment plans, not much flexibility, big brand carriers, COLD brands. He looked at wireless brands as utility, not consumer oriented brands. He also noticed that youth penetration was very low compared to other countries. Richard thought he could do better. And so he did.

During summer 2002, the Virgin Mobile brand was powerful and vibrant. The entire company was built around insights they had on youth market. 4 years later – 4 million customers. This success was a result of:

  • Pre-paid luster, new positioning – a way that you pay to a way that you use wireless service.
  • A service that was easy to use - PAY AS YOU GO
  • Control and flexibility was shifted from carrier to customer.
  • Customer Point of view was key – highest composition among teens and young adults compared to others in the category.
  • High customer satisfaction.
  • Staying in touch with consumers
  • Finding out who their consumers are, what they are feeling, what they need

To find out more about their audience, Virgin Mobile surveyed 2000 trendsetting, super-connecting, social butterflies, which the company classified as “The Insiders”. These customers opted-in to provide insights to the brand. Some of the findings are as follows:

Top responses of how teens view themselves

  • 65% responsible
  • 55% confident
  • 50% logical
  • 63% open-minded
  • 61% caring
  • 59% creative

I want to be…

  • Entrepreneur
  • Singer of musician
  • Doctor
  • Professional athlete
  • Teacher
  • Actor/actress
  • Artist
  • Engineer
  • Fashion designer
  • Lawyer
  • President/CEO of Major Corporation

Virgin Mobile also learned:

  • These teens recognize that education is a priority.
  • They embrace a college education and slant toward the desire of being an entrepreneur.
  • Mobile phones are an integral part of there lifestyles – make a connection to friends first.
  • Will not give up their mobile phone. Commitment and priority to cell phones
  • They have friends and/or family members who are also Virgin Mobile users.

As noted earlier, understanding the minds of your target audience is crucial to a successful marketing campaign. Virgin Mobile found that the following captivated the minds of its consumers and planned marketing efforts to relate to them:

  • Job
  • School
  • Parent’s health
  • War
  • Terror
  • Economy
  • Environment
  • Homelessness
  • Find someone to love

Virgin Mobile gets involved with its consumer, a 15-24 year old male or female involved with good-will organizations such as Youthnoise.org and Stand up for kids.org, who love to listen to music, in the following ways:

  • 5% of profits donated from all downloadable content.
  • “text 2 deduct” $1 for donation. Virgin matches each dollar
  • Texting novella-opt in to read a story on text
  • Global charm contest around regeneration and tossed out to user community to create. Each winner got to see artwork come to life and went on a wake up trip to sub Sahara Africa with Richard Branson. “Struck a cord to engage kids”
  • V-Festival, traditional summer music festival

We give them what they want NOW.

  • Games
  • Cool texting features
  • No handsets
  • Unlimited primetime
  • Text tones
  • Plans on their terms
  • Flexibility. Choice
  • More technology in the future
  • Rewarded for their time
  • Control

“Content and business in general is valued because we do focus on the customer,” said Howard Handler, Chief Marketing Officer, Virgin Mobile USA. Here is proof that the Virgin brand is successful because of consumer insight:

  • Recently awarded JD Power as #1 overall in customer satisfaction
  • PC Magazine reader’s choice for best pre-paid cell phone services

The presentation closed with this Q&A: “How to think like Virgin? Think like our customers.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

“NBC 2.0” Is All About “Engagement”

Continued digital disruption and seeming nonstop erosion of “broadcast” must have had something to do with the recently announced NBC 2.0. The initiative includes plans to slash expenses by $750 million and cut 5% of its workforce, to help the TV and movie giant with its transition from traditional analog media to digital.

But is “engagement” the real rationale behind NBC 2.0, or at least a huge part of it? AdAge this morning quotes one insider off the record:

"It's more that people in the $75,000-income households are working late, and reality and game shows attract lower-income households," one high-level media consultant cited as being behind the rationale. NBC said as part of its strategy it will look to develop advertising metrics beyond simple ratings, which may highlight household income as well as engagement.
In hindsight, the Consumer Engagement Conference speech from Alan Wurtzel, president, Research and Media Development, NBC, now makes a lot more sense. My colleague Sandra Parrelli paraphrased this quote during Wurtzel’s keynote in September:
Media executives have no choice but to adapt to changes now. Why wait? With the endless list of new technologies to consider – digital downloads, digital video, etc., industry executives must try to listen to customers while addressing accountability and must find a way to measure it. The media industry today is exciting and scary, because we are truly redefining the rules of measurement - not because they want to, but because they have to…If we don’t change direction soon we’ll end up where we are going.
I heard some interesting NPR commentary over the weekend, connecting NBC’s bold moves to the management culture of its parent, GE. That culture and its expectations must be very different from ABC, CBS and Fox.

(Photo credit: tenkai2002 via Flickr's Web 2.0 Oh No gallery.)

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

McCracken: Zaltman Model Wrongly Omits Culture

Grant McCracken, one of my favorite bloggers and anthropologists, was a panelist at today’s ARF Advertising: What’s Next workshop. I wasn’t there, but afterward he blogged passionately about his friendship, respect and firm disagreement with Gerald Zaltman (see earlier Zaltman video interview here) and his view of how customers think. What’s missing? Culture. Read Grant's post here.

Highlights From ARF "What's Next" Workshops

Taddy Hall, chief strategy officer at the Advertising Research Foundation, just sent over some highlights of Day One at the New York session of "Advertising: What's Next" workshop series.

I'm dissapointed I missed this year's workshop because last year's was awesome. Fortunately, my colleague Sandra Parrelli is going to make it over tomorrow morning to blog the early morning panels.

Here are idea highlights and key quotes from this gathering of serious thinkers and leaders on Day One, courtesy of Taddy:

  • If you accept the principles of co-creation, all advertising is interacitve.
  • Companies need to think of themselves less as a monolith and more as a hub of a network of related interest-holders, united in the purpose of co-creation of meaning.
  • There is a big difference between exchanging information with customers and dialog. Many more companies stop at the former.
  • Insight has many definitions but two basic functions: 1)create a new category (starbucks, Kodak funsaver) and 2)change the rules of an existing category (wal-mart, schwabb).
  • Innovation focused on functional benefits is a race to the bottom that rarely delivers enduring growth.
  • Inverting the traditional innovation process -- starting with core human values and then addressing the desired customer experience and only in the final stages focusing on product attributes -- can be extraordinarily powerful.
  • Larry Lubin: Two-thirds of what we see is behind our eyes.
  • Grant McCracken: Culture serves to organize the world's content into meaningful segments. Culture takes the form of shared frames that are employed, often subconsciously, to explain and make meaning.
  • John Forsyth of McKinsey on interviews with CMOs: A shocking two-thirds do not own innovation (then what do they own??). Marketing ROI is a fool's errand. High performance marketing and market research firms measure performance with business metrics, such as EPS and profit impact, rather than departmental metrics like productivity or return on research.
  • Jerry Olsen: "Deep Metaphors and Human Insights"
    • Marketing has taken greater interest in differences rather than explore for unifying universals.
    • Universals can be understood as "deep metaphors" that are unconsciously held and shared by all mankind.
    • Metaphors are central to making meaning. Each of us use about 5 per minute of speech.
    • Thought works in images.
    • 95% of what the brain does is subconscious
    • Levels of metaphors:
      • surface metaphors -- figures of speech
      • thematic metaphors -- cultural frames
      • deep metaphors -- universals
    • Deep Metaphors:
      • universal frames
      • unconscious
      • foundational: they structure our thinking
    • Deep Metaphors can be used as Design Criteria:
      • architecture
      • design criteria
      • advertising brief
  • The day's program concluded with Jeff Hermann announcing the news that Nielsen is launching a Video Game Ratings Service.

John Bell On Co-Creation & Engagement

Johh Bell at Ogilvy's 360 Degree Digital Influence practice (who Pete Blackshaw interviewed here) commented and pointed us to his recent post:
Co-creation is the process of inviting your customers in to help create products and services. Interestingly, there has been some discussion about the meaning behind the term "engagement" in relation to companies getting involved in social media. Some say the term is meaningless and that users/consumers/peopel don't want to get involved with companies. I don't buy that.

I believe that co-creation is the ultimate form of customer engagement. Inviting the customer or constituent in to help make a product or make a service better allows you to achieve three things:

  • Involve your customer in the brand at an "ownership" level
  • Introduce innovation to your company from the outside-in
  • Prove internally and externally that you really value your fans/customers and are willing to walk-the-walk of openness (yes, it takes more that a co-creation "stunt" but it's a start.

I posted before on 3 kinds of co-creation:

  1. Co-creation of marketing: inviting customers in to creat ads or marketing materials
  2. Co-creation of brand: that is like saying a dog wags his tail as brands are defined, ultimately, by the customer
  3. Co-creation of products and services: actually asking customers to help create the next "something"
John then offers a nice roundup of co-creation in practice.

Friday, October 13, 2006

I Saw An Engagement

Chris Thilk of MWW disagrees with both the ANA’s Michael Palmer and Micropersuasion’s Steve Rubel about the validity and mythology of engagement:
But what neither Palmer nor Rubel talk about is the squishy middle that exists between "creating the right programs" and "measuring the results." That's an important omission since that's where the possibility for true engagement lies...

Engagement to me means when a company or marketer reaches out to the participants of the conversation and gives them a pat on the back, follows up with more information or updates, writes in to correct something that's wrong or otherwise makes themselves available as a resource. There's very little that gets me more excited than getting contacted by someone I've written about. That shows me they're monitoring and want to engage in a dialogue. Building those relationships is beneficial to everyone since the company can be more certain of an accurate message being communicated and the writer gets a whole new stream of good information to draw from.
Chris makes some good points. But will advertisers be able to scale such interactivity from mass down to micro? The spirit is one thing, but the practicality is another.

The ANA also has more on this debate here.

Jim Nail Breaks Down Engagement

Jim Nail at Cymfony penned a nice piece on engagement for iMedia. He describes four dimensions of engagement, which he synthesized from discussions at the Consumer Engagement conference:
  • Media engagement. Ad-selling media organizations have pounced on engagement like a pride of lions on a wounded wildebeest. They aim to prove that their audience is more engaged with their media property than their competitors. But they typically fall back on old-school metrics like traffic or time spent with the medium. The ARF is trying to move beyond these metrics.
  • Ad engagement. Advertisers and agencies have begun to talk about how engaging their ads are but, again, typically relying on old communication metrics like attention or recall. These fall short of the ARF's new definition because they only capture whether the audience saw the ad, while the ARF is aiming for a more subtle measure of whether the consumer reacted to the ad.
  • Engagement marketing. An approach that plans a sequence of activities to draw the consumer through the purchasing process, e.g., running an ad that drives the consumer to a website where they sign up for email that delivers additional information over time until the consumer buys. This sequence actually comes after the more emotional engagement the ARF is focused on.
  • Brand engagement. This sounds closer to the ARF's idea, but also often defaults to old-school metrics like customer loyalty or the more recent Net Promoter score. Important metrics to be sure, but the ARF is looking to identify when the earliest beginnings of this consumer relationship happen so it can be nurtured and grown.

Coincidentally, Nielsen BuzzMetrics’ presentation and contribution to the ARF’s “meaning of engagement” white paper last March specifically detailed engagement in context of media, advertising and the brand. (Why isn’t this white paper freely downloadable somewhere? I have a few highlights of our contribution here.) In hindsight, the shortfall of these dimensions of engagement, on their own, is that they are centric to everyone in the marketing equation except for the customer. This is a catastrophic omission in a world where consumer response to commercial messages is falling and aversion is skyrocketing. Seriously! What good are media, advertising and brands without the consumer agenda represented? There is strong lip service paid to engagement, but left out is the consumer, the party that enables all the others to exist in the first place.

Reflecting this fact, Jim offers three ideas for advertisers:

  • Everything we know about advertising is wrong. Well, maybe not everything, but Dr. Plummer did effectively shoot down the "AIDA" model of advertising, in which the sequence of communication is assumed to start with getting the consumer's Attention, giving them reasons that will stimulate Interest, which turns into Desire, and eventually results in Action (i.e. purchase). "Recent research shows this model is wrong," Plummer said. I know that as a direct marketer, I was raised on this model and I suspect direct and interactive marketers still are.
  • Engagement is a new mental model for advertising. Instead, consumers process a lot of new information, including ads, on a subconscious, emotional level first, and later engage their rational mind to lead to action. He noted that research has shown that measures of "brand feeling" are much more highly correlated to purchase intent than ad recall. So instead of a "Think then Feel then Do" process, Plummer stated that consumers Feel, then Think, then Do. In this model, an ad's job is not to provide compelling, fact-based features and benefits of a product, but to seduce the consumer into beginning that subconscious processing of the brand. "Storytelling is more powerful than argumentation," Plummer concluded.
  • The concept of co-creation exposes this non-rational process. When the consumer "engages" in this subconscious processing, he or she creates associations, affixes symbols, imagines metaphors and imbues experiences into the ad message to give it personal relevance. It all sounds rather obscure, but Gerald Zaltman, a member of Harvard University's Mind, Brain and Behavior Interfaculty Initiative, and originator of "brand co-creation" has a technique to delve into the process. At the Engagement Conference, he showed the results of drawing out these subconscious elements from a Heineken beer ad.

Jim offers in his piece a few explanations of how different parts of the media mix should now fit together. But I think his three ideas beg one bigger question: Are the agendas of media, advertising and brands precisely what are keeping companies from engaging with their customers in the first place? Maybe it is the selfish legacies of these silos which are prohibiting the evolution of more meaningful relationships between companies and their customers? What do you think?

Check out Jim’s full story here.

(This is a cross-post with AttentionMax.)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Product Placement — You Can't Escape It!

Laura Petrecca at USA Today penned a nice story today on the ad-clutter wasteland and consumers fighting back. (OK, I contributed a few zingers for this one.) Here are some notable quotes and passages:
  • "I've never seen things changing as much as they are now," says Rance Crain, editor-in-chief of trade magazine Advertising Age and a 40-plus-year observer of marketing. "Advertisers will not be satisfied until they put their mark on every blade of grass." Ad-zapping devices — and a decrease in consumer attention spans — have created doubts about the effectiveness of traditional TV, radio and print ads. In response, marketers have become increasingly invasive..."Advertising is so ubiquitous that it's turning people off," Crain says. "It's desensitizing people to the message."

  • Most marketing executives know they have a problem. Many of the firms that buy ads are the same ones that put out research reports on the dangers of deluging and angering consumers. "Advertisers love to talk about advertising clutter," says [James Twitchell, consumer culture expert and author of Branded Nation and Adcult USA]. "That's like the doctor shooting a patient up with amphetamines and then saying that the patient is acting really frenetic."
  • In its search for salvation, the marketing industry has glommed onto the concept of "engagement" — a quality-over-quantity idea. The basic theory: Instead of, for example, running dozens of radio ads, create messages that the consumer seeks out, such as an entertaining Web video, and perhaps even passes on to friends. "Message clutter is not going to go away. If anything, it's going to proliferate," says Mike Donahue, executive vice president, American Association of Advertising Agencies. "If you're looking at 10 messages and two of them really involve you, engage you and connect with you, those ads will be less annoying and a lot more effective."
  • BuzzMetric's Kalehoff says marketers have to stop pitching so hard, fast, loudly and frequently. Kalehoff says they need to understand — and respond to — gripes from frustrated consumers such as Hertz. Only then will they be able to produce marketing that sells, he says. "If you want to make friends with your customers, you have to stop hitting them over the head."

This story raises a key point: When will the advertising industry start to become, foremost, a champion of the consumer – one that respects consumers above all else? Right now, in aggregate, advertisers are acting more like blood-thirsty mosquitoes versus friends of the consumer.

(This is a cross-post with AttentionMax.)

Most Consumer-Generated Media Are Not Engaging?

Rob Passikoff of Brand Keys writes:
The thing is that a lot of consumer-generated content is, well, terrible, not particularly on strategy, and not engaging, which are areas that even the most unskilled marketers can still maintain some control over. Consumer-generated content may awaken marketers to certain values or trends, so marketers should pay attention, but “let go”? We think not.

Consumer-generated content analysts have pointed out that there is no standard between paid and non-paid consumption, and that there is no norm when it comes to the extent to which the content is wholly created by consumers or assisted by marketers. But that is not entirely true. Just because content is “consumer-generated” provides no guarantee that strategy or creativity or engagement will be represented, let along attained.

Even back in the old days (1975) when advertisers still controlled the advertising and persuasion, there was a tacit acknowledged difference between “creativity” and “disciplined creativity.” So just because it’s “consumer-generated” doesn’t mean it’s good, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be effective, and it doesn’t mean anyone is going to be engaged by it!

Rob makes excellent points, but I think his focus on consumers as content creators versus marketers as content creators distracts us from the core of the issue. The best way to sum up my argument is to take you back to a debate that Nigel Hollis of Millward Brown and I had a few months ago. Nigel said:

The problem with consumer-generated media is just that, the consumer generates the media. They are in control, not you. The example of Chevy Tahoe should give all marketers a pause for thought. If you are not a brand that is universally loved, can you afford to give control to people that may not have your best interests at heart?

I responded:

When have customers and the people ever not been in control of brands? It would seem to me that they always have, at least to a terrific extent. People go around every day passionately communicating to others about which brands are awesome and which ones suck. For example, my frequent, positive references to JetBlue are not spawned by any blatant attempt by those companies to engage in so-called consumer-generated media; they didn’t consciously afford me control of their brands. Rather, these creations of consumer-generated media are expressions of my deep, personal experiences with the respective brands. It just happened organically – without the brand’s active or conscious participation.

While some marketers think they’re in charge, the reality is:

  1. we all have encounters with brands
  2. our brains process and reflect on those brand encounters
  3. if those brand encounters ignite passions, we often express those experiences in the form of consumer-generated media – sometimes in the form of face to face conversations, telephone discussions, online diaries, letters-to-editors and friends, and elsewhere.

People now have more control to speak out, and more control over brand dispersion, integrity and mutation. There now is a digital trail of raw consumer discussion – expression and evidence of experience – that forever lives on Internet servers, and, most importantly, in the indexes of Google, YouTube and the like, where active influencers and others stakeholders will discover it. Now – like never before – there is unavoidable evidence that consumers do talk about and control the brand once it’s in their hands. It is increasingly impossible for brand managers to deny this.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Listening & Pulling to Engage: The Harley Davidson Way

Laurent Flores of CRMMetrix writes in:

Yesterday, I proudly reported that I finally entered the Harley Davidson Legend... and as I was surfing the web and the Harley Davidson website specifically I really felt "engaged" by the Harley initiative on the Harley website (again note that engagement happens on the brand website, the place I consider the best place to engage with consumers because then they do want to engage with your brand!).

Harley uploaded a new video on their website called "Live by it" (www.livingbyit.com). The video does a great job at explaining the Harley-Davidson "Creed" outlining what the company believes in. The video also made it on to YouTube, further extending its reach.

Rather than talking and pushing messages to consumers the video really does a great job at pulling people in. The brand hosts a space where customers can get into the conversation and share their own "Creed".

What a great way to Listen, Empower Customers and make them further engaged to drive positive WOM and make your brand remarkable no?

Again, it all starts by Listening and Pulling consumers in from the brand website...OK, not everyone has a brand like Harley but come on, all brands have a website and at least some engaged consumers that are ready to further push the brand. So brands what are you waiting for?

I don't believe the brand Web site is the start to all Engagement, but Laurent is right in pointing out the strong role the brand Web site can and often does play. Similarly, Nielsen BuzzMetrics has routinely found that brand Web sites are among the most trusted forms of marketing in the eyes of consumers.

Is Engagement A Myth?

As posted earlier, Steve Rubel thinks Engagement is a myth; he said so in AdAge as well as on his blog. Conversely, the ANA, one of the leading trade organizations behind the Engagement initiative, has since joined the conversation and stronly disagrees.

As a marketing model, I think Engagement is in its earliest stages and needs to be cultivated and given a chance to blossom. At the least, it's a good thing because it's spurring discussion and bringing attention to many aspects of marketing we all know are broken or eroding. Sure, much of the Engagement discussion is blather, as Steve emphasizes, and misguided. But it has aligned a lot of smart thinking as well. It's much too early to write it off.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Engagement Video Series: Rex Briggs of Marketing Evolution

How much of your advertising sticks (or sucks)?

I left the ANA Masters of Marketing conference to return home to NewYork. Unfortunately, I missed the “What Sticks” presentation by Rex Briggs, CEO of Marketing Evolution, and Greg Stuart, CEO of the Interactive Advertising Bureau, who’s wrapping up a successful six-year run there. Rex and Greg recently co-authored What Sticks, a book about advertising measurement and effectiveness. Fortunately, I was able to pull Rex aside for a video interview, to be cross-posted here and on AttentionMax. Click Play below to view our discussion about the state of advertising, measurement, Engagement and the future.

The Great Engagement Debate: "Hot Air" or Meaningful Conversation?

Bigfoot_1Today in Ad Age, respected blogger Steve Rubel takes a few pot shots at the "engagement" movement ("You Might as Well Be Looking for BigFoot" p. 17). He uses terms like "hot air" and "blather." He's right on a few levels, and Max and I have often joked around the office about some of the silly directions and detours the "engagement" discussion is taking, or the near impossible lack of conscensus on such a "big tent" concept. But on another level I think Rubel misses the point. And he's not putting this "conversation" in its proper perspective. The ad research community has been stuck in the mud on traditional "reach and frequency" metrics longer than I've been alive, and the engagement discussion is finally pouring some fresh thinking and innovative measurement models into the mix. And of course there isn't consensus -- it's an early conversation, and a quite meaningful one (maybe even, dare I say, a raw and "naked conversation") involving a very diverse mix of smart and passionate people. The discussion is also unusually consumer (people, user, citizen...take your pick) centric -- e.g. how do we manage in a world of consumer-control -- and I think we all benefit by letting any conversation along those lines just flow and develop. Sure, the engagement conversation is flowing in from a different direction -- this time from the "paid media" crowd versus the early-mover Web 2.0 crowd (of which PR firms have been commendable leaders and "conversational catalysts") -- but more voices the better. How else do you truly move the needle!

Jargon as Barrier to Commonality: As a CGM evangelist, it's hard to disagree with Steve's final point that "we should focus on how we get people connected with one another and measure the number of times we helped them do so" or that we "should empower them to connect, and then get out of the way." But to be clear -- that is, in fact, a central building block of the engagement conversation, and it's a growing theme. Moreover, the notion of "co-creation" is not a bad starting point for moving this debate along. At the end of the day, we're all dancing around closely related concepts but with different reference points and jargon.

Too Early To Disengage! Which leads me to my very last point. This entire "engagement" debate is a major validation of much of what Rubel has been passionately and persuasively writing about for the past few years: conversation, blogging, community, and "participating" in the conversation. It's way to early to "disengage" brands and the very conservative research community from that promise, or lofty ideal. What's really needed at this point is an even more ambitious convergence of all stakeholder groups, and especially the PR leaders (recall my post re: PR & marketing), on this engaging topic. Let's stay engaged

(This is a cross post from consumergeneratedmedia.com)

Friday, October 06, 2006

Engagement Video Series: Joe Mandese of MediaPost

At the ANA Masters of Marketing conference, I met up with the humble but very smart Joe Mandese, editor-in-chief of MediaPost, one of the more innovative publishers in the new-media space. I write a weekly op-ed column for MediaPost, but I rarely get to interact with Joe. So I took this opportunity not only to catch up, but to conduct a video interview. Press the Play button below to view our chat. (This is a cross-post with my personal blog, AttentionMax blog.)

Are Engagement Believers In Denial?

After a week of pondering, here's my conclusion, delivered via my MediaPost Spin column. The advertising Engagement initiative is making good progress -- I'm a believer! But it's being held back by denial of fundamental questions. What do you think? Comment here on the Spin Blog.
MediaPost Spin: Are Engagement Believers In Denial?
by Max Kalehoff, October 6, 2006

Engagement is “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context.” That’s the Advertising Research Foundation’s definition of the hotly debated buzzword, as well as the focus of last week’s Consumer Engagement conference, led by the ARF and the American Association of Advertising Agencies. The impressive gathering of senior media, marketing and research execs fostered smart discussion about incorporating engagement measures into our advertising models. But I believe progress is tempered in part by denial and avoidance of some tough and fundamental questions.

Why? If last week’s conference was an indication, the discussion too often gravitates toward packaged, controlled contexts, with as much attention directed to paid media and television brand advertising as ever before. There’s nothing wrong with these traditional tactics in the marketing communications mix, but their failure to perform in a more cluttered, complex, consumer-empowered, Google-juiced world is precisely why we’re having this engagement discussion to begin with–isn’t it?

If we presume marketing communications’ ultimate aspiration is to drive and sustain sales–whether directly or indirectly through brand loyalty, awareness, involvement or direct response–then we need to thrust this engagement discussion further. It needs to go way beyond the margins of the traditional paid-for and interruptive attention models that we all seem to agree are broken or eroding.

Where do we start? I’d like to propose six new dimensions that advertisers need to inject into this engagement discussion right away:

1. Uncontrolled context. How should marketers approach turning on a mind when the context is uncontrollable and unpredictable, like social networks where word of mouth propagates? Ignoring context in these circumstances won’t cancel out reality. What happens when context is not orchestrated, but stumbled upon? Consider a brand being discussed in a gathering of friends, an increasingly important channel in a wasteland of clutter. Who’s in control then? The brand now exists not on the marketer’s terms, but the consumer’s terms.

2. Unfavorable context. How does context change when conditions become unfavorable for a brand? Similarly, what happens to brands when consumers become so annoyed by advertising context that they truly go out their way to avoid you? Why is it that TiVo users tend to skip you and record what we call programming? Why can’t you improve your context and messages so TiVo users actually record and time-shift your advertising as relevant content?

3. Product as context. What is the role of the product itself in creating context? Surprisingly, advertising still serves as life support for products that are mediocre, undifferentiated or simply don’t work (, i.e., the gel that takes scratches out of eyeglasses; trust me, it never worked!). In a Google world–where search engines connect passionate information seekers with passionate information speakers, truth and relevance–that crutch tumbles. Conversely, good products frequently sell themselves. Perhaps, sometimes, the problem of engagement has nothing to do with media and messaging and everything to do with product.

4. Customer service manifesting in media. What about customer service? With consumers in control–and empowered to self-publish and spit back–customer service and experience is increasingly manifesting in the most prolific kind of media: consumer-generated media. As people express themselves through democratized publishing, positive and negative experiences with your brand equate to positive and negative GRPs, or brand credits and debits. CGM ultimately competes against the traditional cadre of media that advertisers think they control. But the world just works more holistically than that. Customer service, in essence, is becoming a media department.

5. Consumer Control. What about control? Are we looking at consumer empowerment as an opportunity, or something to stubbornly fight? One major publisher at the Consumer Engagement conference talked to me about the importance of keeping users engaged within his walled garden. As a consumer, I consider that an attempt to hold me hostage, not empower me. If this publisher really wanted to be a relevant, useful entity to me, it should seek to empower me–not try to monetize me by keeping me inside of its cell. That’s not engagement!

6. Respect of consumer’s attention metadata. Finally, media are going digital, and consumer attention and behavioral metadata will become the lifeblood of advertising research, profiling and relationship management–arguably the new core building blocks of engagement. This is especially true considering massive audience fragmentation and serious declines in traditional research panel response rates. As we move more to a direct model, any discussion of engagement must embrace a newfound respect for the fact that: 1) consumers’ attention is a valuable commodity to them, 2) consumers own their attention data, and 3) consumers are becoming more aware of how precious it really is.

Now can we talk about engagement?

Join the debate on the MediaPost blog here.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Engagement A "Flexible" Term

Rob Passikoff, who offered some nice commentary in the Video Engagement series, writes:
I spent a lot of time at engagement discussions during Advertising Week 2007, and one of the key come-aways was that the definition of “engagement” remains a relatively, shall we say, “flexible” term.

To a large degree the difficulty arises from the fact that very few marketers have the courage to demand ROI metrics from their agencies and media providers. “Attention paid” – while eschewed when framed as “awareness” – seems perfectly acceptable if you can point and say, “well, the consumers seemed to have been paying attention.” Take for example, Katie Couric’s move to the top new spot for CBS.

Katie Couric's initial appearance on the evening news resulted in a big jump in viewership. But between opening night and last Friday, the newscast has lost nearly half its audience. Preliminary Nielsen ratings show The CBS Evening News with 7.5 million viewers, behind NBC Nightly News With Brian Williams (8.2 million) and ABC's World News With Charles Gibson (7.6 million).

Historically, incoming network anchors have delivered a ratings boost in their first week, but who among you would be surprised to hear that? But after one month. . . wait for it. . . their average ratings declined, the technical term when things like that transpire being, “Well, duh!”

Perhaps someone should point out to anyone who will listen that there is a big difference between consumer curiosity and profitable engagement and that both can be measured!
Consumer curiosity and profitable engagement? What shocks me is how much passive, forgettable television viewing still dominates this Engagement discussion.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Engagement Video Series: Dr. Anca Cristina Micu of Sacred Heart University

I’m a little late publishing this final video interview from the Consumer Engagement conference: Dr. Anca Cristina Micu, Assistant Professor of Marketing, Sacred Heart University. Anca’s research is in the areas of persuasion, news and advertising synergies, consumer processing of electronic communication, targeting in the online environment, and permission-based e-mail marketing. Press Play below to here her thoughts on Engagement.

Engagement Is a Euphemism For Measuring the ROI of Brand Advertising

Scott Karp at Publishing 2.0 attended the Consumer Engagement conference and offers smart feedback. (Btw, see the Engagement video interview with Scott right here.) He says Engagement is a euphemism for measuring the ROI of brand advertising:
Last week I attended the Consumer Engagement Conference, put on by the Advertising Research Foundation (ARF) and the American Association of Advertising Agencies (AAAA), where I discovered that the word “engagement” — which is being proffered as a new “output” metric for advertising to replace outdated “input” metrics like Gross Rating Points and Impressions — is merely a euphemism for figuring out the return on investment for brand advertising.

Several factors have combined to put pressure on the billions of dollars spend on traditional brand advertising — TV above all — to demonstrate “engagement” (i.e. what’s the ROI of all that money we’re spending?):

1. Mass advertising of mass brands is dying
2. Audiences are fragmenting at an exponential rate
3. The share of media time spend online is rapidly growing
4. Online video has arrived
5. Google has made billions on direct response advertising, finally realizing the promise of the Web to revolutionize advertising ROI measurement

The advertising industry has realized it’s only a matter of time before the pressure to demonstrate the return on invest for TV advertising threatens to collapse the whole system. That’s what drove NBC to negotiate what may be the first pay-for-performance deals in the history of TV advertising (Alan Wurtzel, President of NBC’s Research and Media Development, who spoke at the conference, wouldn’t confirm or deny, but it was pretty clear that’s where they are headed.)

So the problem I have with the working definition of “engagement” — “turning on a prospect to a brand idea enhanced by the surrounding context” — is that it obfuscates the real issue:

How much so companies profit in the short term and/or the long term from the billions they spend on brand advertising?
In other words, show it to me on the P&L statement!

The coming showdown over brand advertising is only going to intensify as Google comes at it from the other end. At the conference, Patrick Keane, Director of Field Marketing & Sales Strategy at Google, presented the results of — get this — an eye tracking study to show that consumers were more likely to look at an ad in a relevant context. Not click on the ad — just look.

Welcome to the wild, wooly, squishy word of brand advertising, Google!

Google is opening a 300,000 square foot New York office where “newer initiatives into print and audio advertising are being done,” but we all know that TV advertising is the real prize.

Between Google, with its algorithms, oceans of data, and direct response measurements (click!), and TV brand advertising, with its outdated input metrics that are useless for measuring real return on investment in dollars and cents, is the “fuzzy middle” where the battle for the future of advertising will be fought.

Whoever figures out how to bridge the chasm between brands and dollars will win the prize.

My response to Scott on his blog was:

Profit in short or long term is key; but so is competitive differentiation and relative performance within a category. But where does loyalty or preference come into play? Those are factors often determined by brand advertising. I guess it is that squishy middle.

Then Scott commented:

Max, competitive differentiation, relative performance within a category, loyalty and preference are all drivers of financial performance. I’m not suggesting these measures are not a necessary stepping stones. But reach and frequency dominated for so many years because advertising was not held accountable for the final destination. If we lose sight of the destination, we won’t be able to connect the dots, and again will confuse a midpoint along the way with the destination.

I suppose so.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Masters Of Marketing

Orlando, Florida: Here I come! I’ll be attending the Association of National Advertisers’ Masters of Marketing Annual Conference this Thursday through Saturday, and I plan to continue the Engagement blog coverage while I’m down there. Rumor has it that consumer-generated media will be a HUGE topic of discussion – in the keynotes, panels and hallway discussion. I’m looking forward to participating.

Speaking of the ANA, I refer you to the interview I conducted a few weeks ago with Barbara Bacci Mirque, EVP at the ANA. Her interview has been one of the most popular video views on the Engagement By Engagement blog. Check her out!

Finally, let me know if you’ll be at the conference and would like to do a video interview, or just shake hands. I’ve already got a few interesting folks lined up.

Joseph Jaffe: Desperate Times Call for Desperate Housewives

"New-marketing" Joseph Jaffe breaks down this week’s AdAge cover story. (I wouldn’t know because I don’t subscribe to print; only RSS.) The stories, titled, “Comeback trail” and “cancel the funeral: broadcast TV is alive and kicking harder than it has in years” are, of course, bullish on broadcast television. But Jaffe counters:

The article highlights strong season premiere numbers, with Grey's Anatomy for example boasting numbers which would have put it in the top 5, 10 years ago.

That said, it also shows a side-by-side comparison of the 2006 season versus 2005-2006, 2000-2001 and 1994-1995 and it doesn't take a genius to infer that all is not as rosy as the article suggests. One just has to look at exactly a year ago to see sharp drops across the board.

But moving beyond reach, Joe comments:

Where's the engagement factor? Where's the proof of view? Where's the ROI activation component which proves that consumers are watching, remembering, internalizing AND acting on said communication?

My fear is that the marginal (read: mediocre) marketers out there and the incremental (read: lazy) agencies are going to take this article as a huge sigh of relief that all is well in TV Land.

But it's not. Not by a long shot.

What we need to see is proof that TV as an advertising medium (interruptive commercials, product placement and brand entertainment), is worth its weight in increased CPM's (efficiency) and total dollar investment. We need to see proof that advertising still works (effectiveness) against marketing and business objectives.

Where's the research (not commissioned by an agency or broadcast/cable network) to prove and demonstrate that more (or enough) people are watching advertising, as opposed to CONTENT, AND that there is clear follow-through (cognition, investigate, intent, action) as a result?