Tag Archives: media strategies

Make it a sweet ’16

On the runThis January we reflected on some of the work we have been doing lately and how clients are evolving.  While marketing has become so much more complex, mainly due to the many trends we have posted about here, we also see the net effect as working to make 2016 a “sweet” year for the industry.   You can help make this the Year of the Superhero Marketer by keeping these points in mind:

  • DISRUPTION GOES MAINSTREAM.  Our last post dealt with this topic and was one of our most popular.  It reminded us that back in the day (Mad Men era) and even up to a few years ago, clients were not up for rocking the boat in any way.  This was especially true in large corporations, where playing it safe meant you kept your job. The ethics of the newer generations (Millennials +), mobile workforce, and the power of social media have changed the fear of creativity and innovation.  Heck, it’s ALL disruptive now, with the new popularity of digital detox camps being proof of that (“Leave your cell:  bring your bottle”).  Today, the Big Boys want to show how nimble and with-it they are, and many of their employees are secretly hoping to be fired so they can launch a start-up.
  • SMARTER CLIENTS.  Some of the old-timers decry that marketing was a lot more fun when clients weren’t so in-the-know.  We disagree, as it’s more enjoyable to play tennis with someone who plays better or at least at the same level as you.  A client who is already up on strategic and media tactics that work is one you can take to a whole new level without stomach-churning stops & starts. Turning your client into a thought partner is what it’s about today.
  • INFLUENCING vs. PUSHING.  We have bloggers to thank for helping raise the consumer message bar.  You can’t just dump rubbish on these folks. These arbiters of good (or bad) taste help keep marketers on course by immediately exposing phony pitches, tepid tones and other marketing sins.  Influencing may take longer, but once is sticks, it lasts.
  • MAKE METRICS MATTER.  Perhaps nothing brings more fear to a marketer’s heart than measuring and evaluating programs.  We’ve frequently posted about the importance of metrics, but it wasn’t always easy to measure success in traditional advertising.  Former boss David Ogilvy was just one of the ad gurus credited with saying:  “Half the money spent on advertising is wasted.  We just don’t know which half”.  Again, digital media to the rescue, with myriad ways to check, in real time who reads your stuff, who likes it, who buys it.  If you’re a weak marketer, this  allows you to change a campaign’s direction before disaster strikes.  Think about that benefit alone:  you get to keep the client!



Positive disruptors

This week, the National Retail Federation Foundation announced 25 individuals selected for honors,  “representing power players, disruptors, givers, influencers and dreamers who are changing the face of retail – many doing so behind the scenes.” (You can read about them on the link below this post)

For now we want to focus on one descriptor listed above: DISRUPTORS.  More than the others listed, this says what marketers should be all about.  Let the players manipulate, the givers hug, the dreamers doodle, and the influencers network, but if marketers are not shaking things up they are not worth their salt.

You know you were born to be a Disruptor when as a kid your parents received notes from the teacher, reporting:  “An eternal chatterbox”, or “Fidgets and flirts non-stop”, or better:  “Has an answer to everything, sometimes the right one.”  In short, a pain-in-the-ass student.

Now that we are all grown up, the NRF calls us:  “True originals who rock the boat with ideas so crazy, they just might work. These are the people who make you rethink what you thought you knew…opening you up to new worlds never imagined.”

Wow, take a look, Mom!  Aren’t you glad I didn’t drink the KoolAid??

There’s another word — its polar opposite — we use for a lot of companies :  ENTRENCHERS.  The image is of soldiers in (wet!) dugouts, poised with guns pointing, awaiting orders to jump out into a scenario that might mean certain death.

It’s not just big companies that are guilty of Entrenchment.  Small family companies are often the worst , living in their comfortable world,  digging in, believing all should be done the way it has been done for decades.  Until, one day…

Today we know that Disruptors and Entrenchers are a “match.com” (to quote a respected strategic planner colleague).  They are meant to learn from each other and work together to slaughter those sacred cows (see our post re this) that threaten to kill any business that does not innovate and differentiate.

We give special thanks to the NRF for letting us come out of the classroom closet and take a (shy) bow!

Trends forecast


Houdini“I see…no, wait…it’s an ad blocker!”

At the start of the year, our clients typically ask us what we see in the areas of consumer marketing and media…a glance into the crystal ball, as it were.

This past year most of us were focused on enhancing digital outreach. We have seen this area at least double in activity in our campaigns over the past two years, as clients’ desire to customize and measure the impact of their messages grow.  We see no different for the new year.

In short,  “If you ain’t doing it digital, you ain’t doing it right”, as one of our agency creative gurus quipped.  But HOW to keep doing it right is the question.

Rather than reinvent the wheel on this topic we are taking the shameless and easy path, excerpting what “alum/chum” Publicis — the world’s largest ad agency — tells us.  If they don’t know  about this, then no one does.  So, without much ado…

1. Programmatic targeting of content, not just ads.  Programmatic targeting of ads is now very common for brands and advertisers. In 2015, we’ll see a critical mass of publishers begin to leverage behavioral data to programmatically target content to optimize experiences for users on publishers’ sites.  Content will be personalized and specifically aimed at individual consumers on websites and blog pages, similar to the way ads have been targeted until now. Medium-to-large sized publishers will also invest in data management platforms and in-house programmatic resources.

2. Content marketing spend will need to deliver a more measurable ROI impact.  In 2015, we’ll start to see more sophisticated means of measuring the impact of content marketing campaigns, leveraging multi-attribution techniques to understand the downstream impact on conversion caused by these higher-funnel marketing activities. For example, a brand might spend $1 million on a native advertising campaign but not understand to what degree — if any — that investment impacted ROI.

3. A critical mass of merchants will finally optimize their mobile affiliate tracking capabilitiesWhile the browsing experience is now largely optimized for mobile devices, the same cannot be said for tracking of performance campaigns on mobile devices. [In 2015], we can expect to see retailers work continuously to improve conversion tracking and affiliate payouts in order to satisfy the demands of their increasingly mobile publishers.

4. The startup bubble will deflate slightly and result in consolidations of a fragmented adtech startup market.The last few years have seen an avalanche of entrepreneur startup companies, many focusing on the adtech space. While this has resulted in a great deal of innovation — publishers and advertisers have benefited from a wealth of choices for optimizing their ad spend — we’ll start to see this slow down as some of these companies struggle to raise successive rounds of funding.

5. Point solutions will struggle, and clients will shift their desire to want to work with more full-funnel marketing suitesIn a similar vein, some adtech companies offering point solutions will also start to struggle, as an overwhelmed publisher and advertiser community will prefer to work with fewer partners, opting for ad tech companies offering full-funnel marketing suites. This likely will result in further consolidations of the fragmented adtech market, resulting in stronger conglomerates offering their customers a number of key services combined.

6. Publishers will develop sophisticated in-house capabilities for behaviorally programmatic targeting of premium advertising. Historically, publishers have worked with ad networks and other programmatic adtech partners to outsource their programmatic ad targeting. However, in 2014, a number of larger publishers started to bring this capability in-house, and invest in infrastructure to manage their audience data, such as data management platforms.

7. Ad blockers will become as big of a problem in 2015 as “viewability” was in 2014. The increasing technical sophistication of the adtech market and the increasing demands on accountability by advertisers saw ‘viewability’ become a dominant theme in 2014. Technologies that can filter out automated bot traffic and determine if a human truthfully saw an ad are regularly used now despite it reducing impression metrics significantly. This movement will continue in 2015, with attention turned towards ad blocker software.

Ad blockers (in the form of toolbars and browser extensions) have quietly gained popularity by users wanting a faster, ad-free browsing experience. However, a little-known fact about these ad blocker companies is that they monetize by charging ad companies to let their ads bypass the blocking software. While a marginal problem in the early days, the popularity of these ad blockers means that ad revenues for publishers are impacted; on average about 20 percent, though up to 50 percent for publishers with a tech-savvy readership.

In 2015, we will see a variety of solutions emerge on the market, offering various experiences around user-driven personalization of advertising. (Credit:  Publicis Alum Group, via LinkedIn.)



Was it good for you, too?

Go-to gal
Our go-to gal

In our continuous quest to find out what makes the supermarket shopper tick, we often rely on the go-to folks on this topic:  consumer affairs directors (or CADs, as we call them).

These are often the unheralded, way-back-in-the-corner office, female (mostly nutritionists or dietitians) at most major supermarket chains.  While category managers and buyers are great for telling you about what’s good for their chain, CADs will tell you what’s good for their customers.

We find CADs are like the school nurse:  she knows her patients well and can spot an epidemic before anyone else.  She can also tell when you’re faking it.

That’s because shoppers, like schoolchildren, lie.  Our experience has shown us that shoppers tend to tell researchers what they think they want to hear, such as: “Yes, we’re eating much healthier now!”  But the scanner data reveals a different picture…until now.

One CAD at a regional chain has seen scanner data that shows the tide has shifted.  Shoppers today are really into “good-for-me” items, she explains:

“We believe it’s the cumulative affect of the new healthcare initiative, more active lifestyles, concerns about the environment, and the phenomenal growth of natural and organic foods. They’re leaning so much more on social media now, and are just more aware of these issues.”

This viewpoint is echoed by the explosive growth of chains such as Whole Foods, Sprouts, etc., with new banners (i.e. Mariano’s) popping up, joining long-time purveyors like Stew Leonard’s and others that serve up retailtainment alongside the kale.

Even mass-marketers like WalMart see the sea change.  CEO Bill Simon noted in a recent report by PlanetRetail:  “Customers needs and expectations are changing…and we are transforming our business to meet their expectations.”

And transforming they are.  Along withTarget, and Dollar General chains, Walmart is leading the march toward new, smaller-format stores featuring trendier, healthier SKUs.  Drugstores chains like CVS are also revamping,  creating health-hubs where shoppers can consult with care and nutrition experts.

The question our clients are asking now is:  “Is good for them good for me, too?”  Several seem convinced, and are now focused on launching products and marketing communications that reflect goodness.

While corporate sustainability and social responsibility initiatives are almost old hat by now, there are some cornerstones for building a “good-for-you” campaign worth remembering:

  • Tell a story.  The magic of corporate story-telling is not to be underestimated, even if the narrative doesn’t directly relate to health and wellness.  Find compelling and heartwarming info about your family and/or company’s history to tout: “rags to riches” anecdotes, key challenges surmounted, etc., and watch the “halo” effect take hold.
  • Stand for something.  Ideally, the storytelling should include a unique positioning, ideology, philosophy that sets you apart from those without a mission.  Everyone knows you’re in business to make money: there ought to be something more.
  • Put your money where your mouth is.  Even a humble effort toward some form of social conscience, such as Fair Trade certification, a corporate foundation, or community-giving program allows you to say you’re involved.
  • Beware of “natural”.  It’s become a  cliché, in fact, has lost its meaning.  We’ve also blogged about that type of labeling coming under fire by the regulators.  Surely there are other, more creative terms for identifying your product attributes…

Remember: “good for me” is a fairly open concept.  It doesn’t have to an actual product attribute but can merely be a corporate attitude that’s communicated passionately and creatively.

Slaughtering sacred cows

Is it time for the slaughterhouse?
Is it time for the slaughterhouse?

We marketers are often faced with a quandary.  The client hires us to overhaul the company’s brand, then warn us, “But you can’t touch that!”

“That” can mean anything.  In some cases it’s the logo colors (unchanged since 1945), or where, exactly, the photo of the mascot dog goes on the label, or what we can say about Grandpa, the company’s founder.  In short, we call these “sacred cows”.   Like those fabled beasts of India, they walk along with impunity, daring anyone to run over them.

Yet as marketing consultants, our job should involve doing just that.   In fact, marketing firms should be veritable slaughterhouses.

We don’t do it to exert power over frightened clients:  to show them who’s the real boss.  It’s not about gratuitous change.  Change for change’s sake is rarely a good strategy.

We do it because sacred cows come with a lot of baggage:  stuff  that can weigh down a brand in today’s fickle market, rendering  it unmovable, a victim of irrelevance.   The key is leaning the difference between luggage and wings.  One holds you hostage while the other lets you fly.

In fact, Trendwatching tells us in a recent report how established brands are coming back from irrelevance with…irreverence.   That’s the  ability to laugh at oneself and to let others in on the “joke”;  to place that sacred brand somewhere no one expected; in short:  to do the unthinkable.

There’s an acid test for identifying sacred cows.  Complete the following sentences, and then think about what might happen if you did exactly the opposite of each statement.

“Our brand must ALWAYS ____________________”

“Our brand must NEVER _____________________”

In fact, consider what’s the worse that can happen… That may just be the best thing for your brand!

One example of aggressive slaughtering is the venerable French Champagne brand Moët.  Previously, it was only available at tony bars and high-end liquor stores.  Recently, though, they introduced it in tiny bottles in (gasp!) self-serving coolers…at department stores.

This is an example of “massification”, or making an elite brand mainstream.  They didn’t just change the product format, they changed the entire distribution channel.  Quelle courage!

Another example came from FlyDubai, an all-economy-class carrier representing a country where the roads are paved with gold, or at least good imitations thereof.   Problem was,  the brand didn’t quite appeal to the Arab princes.  It lacked the cachet to match their exploding, luxury-image country.

So they did the opposite of Moët: they upgraded the brand by creating a business class with attendant top-tier services, positioning the airlines as classy and elite.  Sales took off.

Another example involved a gentle repositioning with powerful ramifications involved giant sacred cow Marriott (at least we all know that one!)  The recession and downtrend in sales prompted them to take a new, hard look at the business they were in.

They saw the writing in the wall about cut corporate travel budgets and mobile workforces.  They saw the competition was a “sea of sameness”.

The company was then motivated to root down to the basics, and realized they were really in the business of…(drumroll)…selling space.  So they started doing just that:  selling desk spaces by the day for business people to work from, whether or not they were actually sleeping there, repositioning this “brand extension” as Great Workplaces at Marriott.

We have three good examples of companies who dared to rebrand using mainstreaming, upgrading and differentiation strategies, all slaughtering their sacred cows .

In closing, a caveat:  not all brands should be sent to the slaughterhouse.  There are indeed those with a heritage that has stood the test of time.  You can tell if the brand should be left alone (for now) if sales are steady or rising.

But then again, consider physics:  what goes up, must come down.

SPECIAL SERIES-Post #4: Minding the Media

This is the fourth of a “back to basics” review series  of the marketing process.  For series introduction, see 4/5 post

After your integrated marketing plan is nicely in place, the ACV assured and the complete program ready to roll, there is one area often neglected but which can mean sink or swim for you or your client. 

That area is media relations and, judging by the recent events with Tiger Woods and Toyota (see our previous posts on these hot subjects),  never make the mistake of assuming you are too “big” to learn this discipline… Importantly, good media coverage doesn’t just happen:  it requires careful planning.

Thankfully there are some experts willing to help us, like agency colleague Dee Munson, who is in the forefront of all this, having recently squired Olympian Apolo Ohno on a media tour. (Lucky lady!)  She shares her valuable insight:

“Much has changed in the several decades I’ve been doing marketing communications in the food area –especially the media.  But I do think some basics still apply now, as when I first started.  These basics are the foundation of successful communication.  It’s still the what, who, why, where and how.

First, what.  Know exactly what you want to say.  Call it ‘messaging,’ staying on point, focus, strategy, whatever.  Spend some time to really distill your message so that it becomes automatic.  You can add some subpoints and additional messages, but not until the key point has been made perfectly clear.

Second, why.  Why do you want consumers to know about you or your product?  Obviously, to increase awareness and sales.  But you have to commit to more than that.  Consumers today want you to be serving them, so determine what it is about your company and your product that will answer that “why” question.

Next, who.  There are two parts to this question.  Who is your target?  Knowing who you want to reach helps answer the remaining questions.  That target audience will be a major factor in determining the where, when and how, including the spokesperson, as well as the media for the spokesperson to deliver a message. 

For example, most food products have a common target – the woman who selects and purchases the food, and most likely for a family.  Research will help you determine more about this woman – her age, her education, where she and her family lives, what her media preferences are, how frequently and where she buys your product and more. 

The investment in research goes beyond value – it helps you know exactly who you are trying to reach.  And, in most with produce, the target audience who buys your products is not you!

If you’ve lots of bucks and can get directly to the consumer, advertising works.  Reaching consumers through channels that they use for information is less expensive and has the additional benefit of implied endorsement – from magazines, social media, broadcast.

Who can best deliver your message?  Here’s where spokespeople come in.  If you are going to use a spokesperson you need to vet that person as completely, if not more so, than a possible employee. 

After all, the spokesperson is speaking for you, standing for your product or your brand and will be the most visible representation of your product or brand. You can use focus groups, either formal or in-formal.  Or check out Q Ratings.  Q Ratings is a form of research that rates the popularity of spokespersons. 

 Also look at other products this person is representing and get recommendations, or warnings.  There’s always considerable financial investment, but the investment of your reputation with the spokesperson cannot be measured, except in harm done if you don’t do your due diligence. 

And here’s an important tip when budgeting for a spokesperson – remember that, in addition to the spokesperson’s fee you have to have enough money in addition to cover how you want to use that spokesperson: point of sale, media events, advertising, appearances and more.  Figure on at least double the spokesperson fee, or better yet three times or more.  This is investment spending.

Be perfectly clear about your expectations for a spokesperson.  You’ll be involved in a contract and working with an agent.  Be sure you have some legal guidance as well.  It’s good if you can be in love with your spokesperson, but it’s also good to have a “pre-nup”…

And it’s very good if your spokesperson is in love with your product.  Sincerity shows.  It’s important for your spokesperson to tour your operation, use your product, become familiar with your communications and be down pat on your messages.  Most professional spokespeople know that this is their responsibility, but it’s also yours, so don’t be blinded by fame or celebrity – make sure the spokesperson is yours.

Now, where.  This is where a media event comes in.  The event is an opportunity for you to bring your spokesperson face to face or computer to computer with influencers who will amplify and multiply your message. 

As you recently read in this blog, you “fish where the fish are.”  The media these days are overworked, understaffed and besieged by invitations to events.  They pick and choose, so your event has to be meaningful, attractive and convenient for them. 

Your invitation has to be specific about time and place but also about what the media will get from attending.  Familiarity with the blogs of some well-known editors can tell you just how selective they are. 

Remember that the media get many, many invitations to press events each day and yours has to stand out from the crowd.  An attention-getting delivery helps, but the substance of the information from the event has to be there.

When:  If your products are seasonal, you want to reach the media either in mid-season, or, in the case of magazines that prepare their features six months or more in advance:  far enough out that they can include our information during our season.  Broadcast, news and bloggers want immediacy.  You must decide which is more important for your product.  Ideally you’ll do both.

How.  Spend time to create a complete media kit.  It can be on a drive or disk or even the old-fashioned printed kit, and must have all the information you want to communicate, but concisely and in a format easy for the media to access. 

Photos? Absolutely!  Depending on the event, you’ll want a professional photographer there to capture as much as possible.  Following up with a photo for the editor gives you one more point of contact.

A few other pointers: 

  •  Don’t under-budget for an event.  You want enough staff there to handle all the details, to meet with the media, to assist the spokesperson and to make things go smoothly. 
  • Plan the event minute-by-minute to avoid any last minute needs and surprises, and get some professional help.  This is what we PR folk are for – we know what’s needed, what to expect and how to handle last-minute situations. 
  • Don’t assume you and a few company people can handle it; and there’s no need to be lavish, but don’t skimp.  Cheap looks cheap and reflects on your product and your company.  Again, here’s where a professional can help make a difference. 
  • Finally, it’s a positive personal relationship that can make a difference.  Make an effort to meet the media and to understand their wants and needs.  NEVER say: “We want you to run a story about our product.”  Provide the information based on all the points outlined above and trust that your planning and hard work and the right spokesperson are going to get the message across.
  • Always follow-up with more information, photos or just a thank you.  And continue to do so.  Produce people know that a successful crop starts with seeds, working the soil, ongoing attention and a thoughtful harvest.  It’s the same with media relations.”

(Dee Munson, is president of Seattle-based The Food Professionals, Inc.,  and is a veteran marketing communications professional, with experience as a magazine editor, commodity board marketing director, agency executive and spokesperson.   She can be reached at dee@thefoodprofessionals.com  (206) 463-5677.  Or visit her web site: www.thepfoodprofessionals.com )

NEXT SERIES POST:  Measuring performance!