Is advertising becoming too democratic?

It was Warhol who said:

A Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum on the corner is drinking.

When I say Democratic this is the definition I’m talking about.  Where it is accessible to everyone, irrespective of knowledge/background/education/colour/religion etc etc…

I read this article in Adage about how a small agency was gazumpted (love that word) by a corner coffee shop. It made for interesting, if scary reading.

But the truth is that it’s true.  And I think that this is a result of a few things:

  1. Low barriers to entry (technology) – The standard technology that is now used in advertising is available to all and sundry for a relatively small price (and coming down all the time) – this applies to creation as well as tracking.  Anyone with a laptop can create an ad
  2. Low barriers to entry (knowledge) –  There is no industry standard or minimum qualification like lawyers/financiers have.  Anyone can join in and do it
  3. Low barriers to entry (skills) – the above two PLUS the fact that the overall skill base of consumers with creative software is improving (‘thanks’ Adobe and Apple for making this stuff cool!)
  4. The market is ripe – clients are looking to make their money go further and small, one man shops will be much cheaper  and keener (even if they may take a little longer)
  5. Good enough is enough – everyone is covering their arse and doing something (even if wrong) is often seen as better than waiting to do the right thing
By this post, I am by no means implying that any one-man shop is going to be crap.  Only highlighting this new reality for agencies.  To be fair to clients, if I was a small company with limited budget, would I go to an agency (however small) or call up someone I knew who had an interest in this to help me? Definitely the latter.
What are your views on this new landscape for agencies?

No, thank YOU!

As part of my yearly resolutions I decided that I should try to read more – at least a book per month.  And I intend to do it.  It won’t always be a “work” related book, but it keeps me in the habit.

A couple of months ago, I heard about Gary Vaynerchuk’s new book ‘The Thank You Economy”. The book is essentially a call to arms to all businesses to join and use social networks/social media to promote and sell.  It goes through the caring & commitment needed, tips, ideas, case studies and statistics about doing so.  It’s the only way to re-humanise business.  We have moved too far from local community shops where everyone knows everyone, to a time where companies are faceless; where your relationship with your local shops only extends to a ‘Hello’ or ‘Goodbye’.

I’ve always been quite interested in SM and Gary is an infectious speaker; full of energy and passion (see this video).  I decided that I would give it a go. And I wasn’t disappointed.

Vaynerchuk defines TYE as (essentially) a throwback to the 50s, where businesses knew their customers personally, knew their needs intimately and delivered diligently. They knew that if they didn’t people would go elsewhere.  He believes social media gives us the opportunity to create that one-to-one relationship enjoyed by our elders.

He takes us through a brief history of how we have come full circle to a place where customers demand individuality, appreciation and authenticity from the people they do business with.

He goes through objections to social media (and provides arguments to counteract them) and what businesses need to be aware of/need in order to make the most of this opportunity. He also notes the biggest mistakes companies make with Social Media:

  • using tactics instead of strategy
  • using it just to put out fires
  • using it to brag
  • using it as a one way communication vehicle
  • just retweeting other people’s content
  • only pushing product
  • expecting quick results

Lastly, and this is where the book gets really interesting, he goes through several case studies where people have used social media to good effect for their business – in a variety of sizes and a variety of industries.

Do I believe in it all? Not all of it, but a large extent.  I think bigger, more established companies will always struggle more to ‘get with the times’ &  make it work simply because of the bureaucracy and hurdles involved in making things happen in such monolithic organisations.

Nevertheless, all in all, this was a really enjoyable book with many valid points, perspectives and arguments. I think anyone involved in social media would benefit from reading it – especially if only just starting their business and looking for a cheap (but time consuming) way of promoting it or companies who are just starting to dip their toes in the water.

Below are some quotes from the book (some salient to social media, others just amusing) as well as an illustrated version of the book (courtesy of Ogilvynotes).

Real business isn’t done in board meetings; it’s done over a half-eaten plate of buffalo wings at the sports bar…

In 1984, you’d get stuffed in your locker for gloating over your new Apple Macintosh; in 2007 you could score a hot date by showing off your new iPhone.

There’s only so low you can go on price. There’s only so excellent you can make your product or service.  There’s only so far you can stretch your marketing budget.  Your heart, though – that’s boundless.

Everybody counts, and gets the best I have to give.

But they’re not going to give me that chance unless the other guy slips up.  And even then they’d probably give him a second chance, because forgiveness is the hallmark of a good relationship.

..if you wait until social media is able to prove itself to you before deciding to engage with your customers one–on-one, you’ll have missed your greatest window of opportunity to move ahead of your competitors.

The customer you should be scared of is the one who has a bad experience, doesn’t say a word, and never returns.

It remembered that behind every B2B transaction, there’s a C.

What came first? The geolocation business or geolocation customer?

I love geolocation. I love Foursquare and I’m trying to love SCVNGR. The promised land for these sites is great with location based offers providing a great opportunity for brands to attract passing footfall, drive loyalty and trial.

However, the reality is still far from that. The problem is, other than competing with friends for points and trying to get Mayorships, I’m getting nothing from these sites.

I know the technology is there but the shop/brand adoption is not.  Whilst I cannot be certain of what that is I would offer the following theories:

  1. Reach of these sites is not yet wide enough for big brands to adopt – As a result the shops/brand people use on a regular basis are not offering the deals the technology promises and can deliver
  2. Lack of small business adopting it means that from a brand/retailer perspective, the technology is still in the early adopter phase – the technology is still a long way off reaching the tipping point and that means that the interactions people can have with brands, the sites and each other is still very limited. Widespread adoption by small business is what will start to drive that forward and once it does then user base size will rapidly increase in size
  3. Go to market strategy was wrong – because this type of interaction and possibility was so new simply launching it as a game (as much fun and as useful as gamification is) limited it’s appeal to people beyond gamers and those who really needed to be involved (i.e. retailers).  

Personally I think these sites will have a big future in commerce, but they need to do a major recruitment drive to get adoption with 2-3 country specific big, nationwide retailers that people use everyday (coffee houses, supermarkets, petrol companies) and lots of smaller businesses that will help provide case studies for even bigger recruitment drives.

A clear case of  chicken and egg.  Customers won’t come if there are no retailers, retailers won’t play if a user base isn’t there.

How do you feel about the adoption of geolocation by businesses and consumers? Are you Foursquare-d up? If so, befriend me.

[UPDATE] Just released was this infographic from Mashable

Are you game?

So, SXSWi is currently going on.  I loved Austin when I went there about 6 years ago and I would love to be there – all the music and tech you can shake a stick at. And the ten-gallon hats!

If you’ve been following it you’ll now that gamification, and SCVNGR in particular, is currently getting a fair amount of press. So I thought I would give my perspective on it.  I have also downloaded it to the iPhone to test it (although the annoying bit is that it is yet another profile to create).

On a technical front it’s difficult for me to make a judgement because it hasn’t properly launched in the UK, certainly not to the level it could (as I see it in my mind’s eye) and not enough of my friends use it.  It works fine, the interface is simple enough.

On a business front, I think it has legs. Games and a sense of competitiveness appeals to me.  Some people (and the comments on the article above are proof) feel gamification is childish and won’t work – especially when tackling serious subjects like disease and the environment.  I don’t think it is childish; I don’t know if it will work but I’m open minded about it.  I certainly think it is a worthwhile approach to try, so I wouldn’t dismiss it off-hand.

On Priebatsch’s comments on location-based services and deals then I think he has it spot on.  As I mentioned in a previous post, the issue with Deal-services is that they are one-off and engender the wrong type of purchasing behaviour. Rewards based on repeat consumption is likely to work.

I’m intrigued by what it can offer and will wait to see how the whole thing pans out before making a final decision.  In the meantime, here is are two videos: Gamification 101 & Seth’s talk about gamification.

As a last note, anyone calling themselves ‘Chief Ninja’ should be quickly and unceremoniously slapped.

Never, ever, ever ask for a viral

I recently partook in a LinkedIn discussion around viral campaigns for B2B (in particular videos).

My views on viral are fairly simple.  Clients should never ask for one and agencies should never seek to create one.

And the reasons are simple:

  1. The virality (if such a word exists) is not down to the people creating it or the people approving it; it is down to the people receiving it. So with all the will in the world, agencies can create the funniest clip using cats and laughing babies but if it doesn’t rock the boat of the person seeing it they won’t send it on
  2. It puts the wrong focus on the campaign – from message to something people will share… if you focus on the latter you dilute the former and then what’s the point
  3. What’s viral anyway?  Is one person sharing it to another viral?  Technically yes, and if that happens to be the forwarding of a simple email or video to the person who will ultimately sign multi-million pound checks then is it not worth it?  The problem is most people want the million-plus views etc and sometimes that is just not the right brief.

Brands need to consider the following:

  • what are you trying to say?
  • to whom?
  • what’s the best medium to use?
  • how will people receive it? In what context/frame of mind?

For it to be viral, it has to be of perceived value to recipients – valuable enough that they would trouble their contacts with it. It doesn’t matter if it’s funny, if it’s B2C or B2B.

If they care, they share.

So don’t ask for a viral, simply ask for something that is on message, then seed it through clients, staff, twitter, website etc.  If enough people see value in it, they will pass it on.  Then you’ll have the viral you always wanted!

Is blogging still relevant in B2B?

Social media marketing continues to dominate business press coverage about marketing plan trends for 2011.

However, much of it focuses around Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook.  But what about the more ‘traditional’ web2.0 activity of blogging.  This discipline seems to have been somewhat forgotten in favour of the afore-mentioned vehicles.

Blogging is still one of the, if not THE, most important social media discipline for B2B business.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. They allow companies to promote their message without being hampered by word limits – see this CBSNews article for a perspective on this.  This means people find it easier to take part.  Using technology like Twitter requires you to be able to condense your thoughts into 140 characters which not everyone can do (or feels they can do)
  2. They promote thought leadership / perspective for businesses – why people should listen to you, how you’ll make/save your clients money
  3. They can be an end destination from the likes of Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook or the beginning of a user journey into your website.

Tom Peters and Seth Godin agree that blogging is still important

So, make sure this is part of your social media strategy for 2011.  If you need help in getting started then read this ebook.

How easy is it to find your business?

Geolocation and tagging has become one of the hot topics around social networking.

The advent of Foursquare, Gowalla, Yelp and, most recently, Facebook Places have pushed this facet of technological capabilities into the forefront of customers’ minds.

As with most social networking sites, the application in a B2C environment is clear to see, but what about B2B?  I started thinking about this whilst working on a project that involved ReachLocal (a more regionally targeted version of PPC).

I can think of only two instances where Geolocation could come into play for B2B companies:

  1. If you provide a service (and have a business model) whereby you need to have several branches (think Reed offices, Big Yellow storage or Screwfix) to reach your customers.
  2. If you have a 3rd party distribution network that is geographically spread (think Vaio resellers or telephony solutions)

One of the reasons for the success of Foursquare etc is the ‘Check-in’ and the potential for deal to be offered to repeat customers.  This is absolutely something that companies could and should look at.

Beyond this, I’m struggling to see it being applied in B2B.  So the question is, will B2B companies get behind this and will it work?

I’d be interested in your thoughts/experience for more applications of Geolocation in a B2B market.

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