September 30, 2008

It's everywhere.

As I’ve mentioned, a new initiative at work involves the marketers writing [insightful] blogs about the state of the market, industry, etc. Now, because I know my SEO (that’s search-engine optimization, yo), I would never duplicate content online, and jeopardize the search rankings of my company’s website. But because it hasn’t been published yet, I thought I’d share here for now.

Mixing it up, marketing-style

Finding creative ways to reach consumers isn’t new. From sponsoring radio shows, to the ever-present green screen ads behind home plate, advertisers have always been looking for the newt, creative way to get in front of their ideal audience. The past has brought us such advertising gems as:
  • Billboards inside bathroom stalls: The best one I’ve ever seen of these was for some kind of liquor – it listed random trivia facts, for no other reason than to occupy your time (Did you know that Donald Duck is banned in Finland because he doesn’t wear pants?) The worst? An ad for the boxed DVD set of “Sex and the City” that started playing the theme song as soon as you entered the stall. I couldn’t get out of there quickly enough.
  • Commercials before movies: Remember when these appeared out of nowhere and everyone was in an uproar? Now, we’re used to the complete branded experience that theaters offer – sneak peeks at a television show that you can chat about with your date, while seeing a car ad while texting the cinema radio station to tell them what song you’d like to hear next.
  • Text ads that populate based on what you’re writing an email about: The talk of the town when Google introduced these, they allow advertisers to contextualize their product. Writing an email about a new CD you bought? Go see that band in concert! Creepy, or helpful?
The newest trend is what Forrester research has deemed “ubiquitous marketing,” a varietal of marketing that acknowledges that today’s consumer environment is all about interactivity. We text message to vote for pop stars, choose interactive kiosks over human interaction, read magazines online so we can share our comments, and check review websites for everything from doctors to bars.

To reach consumers in such an environment, it can’t just be about broadcasting more ads out into the world, and it’s certainly more hopping on the Web 2.0 buzz train – effective marketing must be about providing targeted information to your audience and knowing how that audience expects to receive information. Let’s not rehash how the internet has changed the way the world works. Beyond the changing face of online advertising, there’s a world of interactivity options out there for your marketing message – and a slew of compelling reasons that your brand should consider them:

MOBILE. While Japan and Europe are already aboard the mobile train, American brands are running a little late. Mobile marketing doesn’t have to mean a promotional text message that most consumers would align with SPAM. Rather, start to think of phones and BlackBerrys (how are those for ubiquitous?) as a way for consumers to interact with the rest of your marketing mix. In field marketing, use a bar code or SMS to provide your audience with an additional branded experience – or to gather more information from them. Mobile couponing – already widespread in South Korea and Japan – truly shortens the distance between your audience and point of purchase by allowing the consumer to carry your promotion around with them.

OUTDOOR. A time to interact with your audience that was once lost can now be filled with out-of-home advertising. Is your message particularly relevant to a certain audience or environment? Align it with content offered via videos or interactive kiosks in sports clubs, bars, restaurants, elevators, amusement parks, taxis, trains, at gas pumps, etc. Your customer is already engaged, this type of interactivity enables a natural call to action. Digital outdoor displays kicks the billboard business up a notch (or 50) by delivering content in real time, to truly relate to its viewers in an and actionable way: In Times Square during lunch time? Stop in at Friday’s.

Effective marketing shortens the sales cycle and/or narrows the space between point of purchase and consumer. For your message to reach the right consumer and elicit the right reaction today, your marketing must be service-oriented and truly facilitate the consumer experience. Ubiquitous marketing allows you to do this by relying on digital technology that is inherently easier to track, evaluate and update.

Most new media channels have measurement built in – gone are the days where a media plan that was crafted 18 months in advance can see your fiscal year through. The successful brand must be nimble – able and willing to react to data as it comes in. Imagine the possibilities of performance-driven advertising: No longer do you have to cast a wide net or be satisfied with brand awareness. You can follow your consumer through the marketing funnel and fine-tune your message – and investment – to maximize sales.

Does your brand have an identifiable audience, and a goal beyond building awareness? As consumers flock to DVR capabilities, upgrade to the latest phone with the gamut of interactivity offers, and become more and more immune to the One-Size-Fits-All mentality of traditional advertising, not supplementing your media mix with some cutting-edge capabilities becomes dangerous. Ubiquitous marketing is a challenge, but an exciting one that promises a more practical return on your investment, as well as productive data that you can use to establish workable campaigns, procure more budget, or justify an unusual spend.