Archive for June 2011
I love outdoor advertising. I know I might just be the only one in London who does, considering how often I hear people complain about Tube ads, but I do. Maybe because I am a marketer.
I am a bit picky about the ads I like, though. I have a main requirement for all advertising I see, outdoors, print, digital, or otherwise. It must fit in the context of the situation. If I am reading a magazine, then a great ad would do more than just recognize my demographic and general interests. It would play with the medium. And if I am in a London Tube, it should understand that context, too.
That’s why I love this ad.
It was shown in my local Tube station for about a month, and each day it made me smile, and maybe reminded me not to wave my smartphone around. I highly doubt that the creators of this ad were trying to make a public service announcement. Rather, I think that they had gotten tired of the ubiquitous “What your valuables” notices that are scattered around all the London Tube stations. They decided to have some fun. And because they weren’t the only ones who were tired of those notices, the audience got a smile, maybe even a chuckle, out of the ad, too.
I am not the only one who liked them, either. Here are some quotes I found with a simple search for “Beware of Pickpackets.”
“On the billboard side of things, the latest McDonalds adverts are really great and generate a real ‘smile in the mind’.” – Payne by Name
Of course, there’s another insight that went into this ad: that everyone likes to steel fries. That’s the part that makes us want to hit the nearest McDonald’s come lunch or dinner.
Content Publishing Is Hard
One of the hardest things about inbound marketing is coming up with content, particularly content you hope will rout into sales. The problem is, as Mitch Joel points out at Six Pixels of Separation, marketers want to publish about their goods. We’re like those two men selling fruit. We need to unload our product. The entire point of publishing content is to help us do this. But if all we do is egotistically tout our wares, we’ll bore our readership and they will never come back. Worse yet, we won’t make a sale.
There are a few ways to go about content marketing successfully. You could be like Hubspot, which publishes tips and research like a stripper takes off her clothes. Not all of it, just enough to get you to really want more. Or you could be like Joel, who writes more like a journalist, commenting on industry developments. Either way works; neither is easy. Other strategies are popping up all over.
But not everyone can publish the same stuff. Most of the rules of thumb are agreed upon by this point, and though there is still plenty of debate in our industry, there is not really enough for everyone – all the freelancers, contractors, consultants, and organizations – to each have a large audience. There will be some, like Hubspot, who get the audience, leaving smaller firms without.
Hiring Journalists Could be the Answer…
Joel suggests that companies should hire a journalist to publish for them, hopefully creating interesting content that doesn’t just laud the company’s goods or services. This is a pretty good idea, encouraging companies to focus more on the industry than their own profits.
If you look at Joel’s blog, that’s pretty much what he has done. His blog is called “Six Pixels of Separation by TwistImage,” TwistImage being his company. This is something like a sponsorship with the corporation providing hosting. This is probably why he is suggesting that companies that have difficulty cutting out the hard sell from their blog copy should hire a journalist and adopt this set up. He says, “Maybe the reason this Blog has some level of success is because it’s more like journalism than it is about what Twist Image offers and sells (I prefer to write relevant articles about this industry).” The only thing that challenges this rosy picture is that Joel actually is the President of TwistImage.
…But I Disagree
I would argue about what success means in this context. It seems Joel is taking success to be a large readership. To me a corporate blog is not about the industry, it’s about the corporation’s take on that industry, their perspective and point of view. When job seeking, this is one of the first places I go to see what the company is like. When looking at potential business partners or service providers for clients, the blogs help me judge possible synergies. The number of readers is irrelevant compared to the quality of the leads. Six Pixels of Separation is valuable to TwistImage precisely because it is written by Joel, the company President. The blog shows how he understands the industry, a valuable insight and selling point for possible clients.
If a company hires a journalist, they are really publishing a small magazine or sponsoring a blog. This is advertising, and like advertising, the goal is to get in front of as many people as possible. The company may be better off purchasing sponsorships in existing publications. In Joel’s version, the journalist is taken to be unbiased in order to establish industry street cred, but it’s easier to piggy-back off of someone who already has established credibility, potentially multiple someones. And it would probably be a bit cheaper, too.
This past week I went to the Econsultancy Future of Digital Marketing event. The speakers spoke on everything from online video to publishing to community management. We had around 15 individual speakers taking us through the now, next year, and then “beyond.” Talks ranged from about an hour long to 7 minutes.
But there were some highlights and a general pattern emerging from the talks. First the highlights.
Top 3 Best Speakers
Before I name names, let me clarify, there was a lot of great stuff presented during the event. For the sake of space, I’m just picking three, in order of appearance.
Alex Gisbert from Expedia: Alex spoke on e-commerce, one of the most pressing topics today. I enjoyed his talk for two reasons.
- Alex did not talk about website design, he talked about widgets. He was talking about the open API but in a way that you didn’t have to speak techese to understand.
- Like many speakers, he spoke about his company, showing off. Unlike many speakers, when he showed off, it was useful for us as the audience and not just good publicity for Expedia. He made his company into a useful case study.
Alex’s message was also simple. He basically told us that if we needed to sell something, we shouldn’t care where it is sold. Expedia has Expedia Everywhere, where they allow third parties to embed their open API into many other websites so that users can make their travel plans wherever they are on the web. Apparently, Expedia is already getting most of their traffic from embedded widgets on other websites. Now they just have to do more.
Dave Wieneke @usefularts: Dave is an entertaining speaker, which did his ideas justice. His message, again, was rather simple: the internet, and content, is everywhere, so we should not be restricted by platform. Examples he used included a Mercedes iPad app that allows salesmen to close the deal right inside the vehicle, even signing. He also pointed out that 22% of all fixed line traffic during prime time goes to NetFlix in the US. Not too shabby.
Part of this movement away from fixed-platform utility is the rise of the mobile. Dave pointed out that Pandora, the American Spotify, receives 2/3 of its sign-ups directly over mobile. In France, you can even shop and pay by smartphone in a Group Casino grocery store.
Internet is everywhere, so we can now expand past the original platforms for our services. The usual example is for publishers, but I enjoyed Dave’s service-oriented approach.
Emma Jenkins @emmajenkins: The previous talks I’ve highlighted were rather lengthy, but Emma’s was only 7 minutes. She tackled virtual goods, a rather complex and doubted area even within digital marketing, in those 7 minutes. That takes talent and guts!
She organized her talk in a very simple and classic method – she spelt the word “Virtual” with the first letter of each of her points. But they were good points. So good, I’m actually just going to list them.
Value: Though we may not understand it, people plop down real money for virtual goods.
Investment: People are collecting these items, and prices are rising. They are investment pieces!
Real: So what if they are pixels? They are still rather real to those who buy them.
Two point one billion: the estimated amount to be spent on virtual goods next year.
Universal: No one demographic is buying them. It’s everyone.
Affordable: They are priced so everyone can get in on the action.
Legitimate: And all of this makes it a legitimate business space.
I enjoyed Emma’s speech. It kept me engaged, partly because of her simple format. But it also supports the idea. I can understand the doubters. Though I was familiar with the subject before Emma’s talk and knew that it is a lucrative market, I still felt that it’s a bit weird to spend money on pixels of World of Warcraft gold. And I played World of Warcraft. But after hearing Emma’s explanation on why my personal preferences don’t matter, I’m sold. I still doubt I’ll buy a virtual tractor, but I won’t laugh at those who do.
The Big Theme of the Day…
…was mobile, or at least not being married to a platform. You might have guessed this from my first two highlighted speakers, but it was heavily prevalent in many other talks, some of which were entirely about the future of mobile. We even had a talk on augmented reality by King Yiu Chu of Layar.
More than just mobile, however, the idea was that your service, whatever it is, be accessible regardless of the platform. For instance, another speak, Andy Hobspawn, spoke on the Internet of Things. This isn’t really about mobile so much as everything being connected. Even online video was linked to mobile with the potential to view it everywhere, on multiple devices.
And that’s what I took away from the event. That even if you have a website, make sure that your website is viewable on non-PC devices and perhaps via other website, and provides a service in those places. It’s a simple idea, but after living in a website-world for a while, it’s a rather big one.
Not too long ago I went to a blogger’s meetup. There were bloggers there who had successfully monetized their blogs and those who were just thinking about starting. All were listening raptly to the night’s speaker, Muireann Carey-Campbell (AKA Bangs) from BangsandaBun.com as she discussed finding a voice, a theme, for her successful blog.
Business Bloggers Have it Easy
Business bloggers do not have this problem. The theme is set: the company and the industry. All that’s left is to find content that is engaging, whether that be examples of the product’s uses, like Kodak’s A Thousand Words, or personal anecdotes from the front lines à la Nuts About Southwest. (To be sure, these companies do blur the lines.)
Personal bloggers have it a bit harder. We think we have to have a theme. This is an easy trap to fall into. We think that we have to have a reason to blog. We can’t just post something online. The idea of a theme becomes a crutch holding us back, not guiding us forward. But there is another way of looking at themes for a personal blog.
The Writer Is the Theme
During her talk Bangs tackled this issue and provided what I think is a pretty good answer: Don’t care about themes. Just be yourself. A blog is not carried by the subject matter. It is carried by the blogger’s personality.
Particularly in the beginning, bloggers can take advantage of the fact that no one is reading the blog to find their voice. Once this voice is found, the readers will start coming. The key is that if a person is real, not a persona, the blog is that much better. People do not have themes. We have interests. And so it is perfectly acceptable to write on variety of topics. The real person behind the topics, the tone of voice and personality, is what ties it all together.
Don’t Forget That Pesky Audience
This is the reason I have two blogs, this one and The Masked Geek. Put simply, I have two pretty distinct audiences I want to talk to. Sci-fi and fantasy geeks may use social media, but chances are, most don’t really care about the finer points of content publishing on social channels. Social media marketers may like going to see superhero themed summer blockbusters, but I highly doubt the vast majority want to discuss if Batman is really Bruce Wayne or if Bruce Wayne is just a front for Batman.
You may go into blogging knowing what the target audience is, as business bloggers do. You may just want to write and not have a clue what you will eventually be writing about. But, as a marketer, I just can’t help but think that you have to know who you want to talk to. Even Bangs agrees with this point. During her talk, she said that you have to develop common ground with the readers in order to get traction. This target audience may change as your interests morph. For instance, this blog started out meant for fellow young people entering the workforce, thus the post on where to wear a name tag. Now I talk to fellow digital marketers. That’s fine. It’s okay. The key is to use yourself as the theme, but find common ground with those you want to talk to.
We have fewer rights to do things with our digital purchases than our physical ones, even though digital is supposed to offer us more freedoms. If there was ever an argument not to buy digital goods, that one is probably it. Just because you handed over your hard earned cash or credit card debt does not mean you actually get to use the product or service you just bought as you see fit. Not by a long shot.
Your Login Details Are Not Yours to Share
Let’s suppose that you want to share your Netflix login with your friends and family. You’re thinking that you bought it, so it should be yours to share if you want. If you live in Tennessee, though, don’t.
Tennessee just passed a law that makes it illegal to share your Netflix login information. The law is meant to target people who sell logins in bulk, but it is worded in a way that if you shared your login with your dormitory floor, or even just your extended family, you could be in trouble to the tune of $2,500 plus jail time if you take $500 or less.
What this basically means is that your digital purchases are not yours. If you want to share movies, buy them on DVD. You do not have the same rights with digital goods as you do with physical ones.
Your Books Are Not Yours to Share
Books, the paper variety, have been one of the most shareable items in the world. Sharing books and other printed material has spread the ideas necessary for political and social improvement, such as Thomas Payne’s “Common Sense” prior to the American Revolution.
Yet, if you own a digital book, you do not have the right to pass it to a friend. Yes, there are systems such as the Nook’s LendMe feature which allows you to pass a book to a friend’s Nook for two weeks, but I honestly have a book on loan from, oh, two years ago (Sorry, Aunt Julie. I promise to return it, eventually).
Besides the Big Brother company watching over your activities, there is a platform war. Because the ebook sharing is based on Nook technology, not the universal epub, I can’t share any books with my father, who owns a Kindle. And he can’t use the Kindle version of this feature with me. This is not an attempt by the book sellers to mimic the freedoms we had with paper books. This is an attempt to get more readers to use their platforms by providing the benefits of the network. It’s more like the Betamax vs VHS wars than going back to visiting a friend’s library.
The worst thing is that these laws and gimmicks are highly unlikely to cut down on piracy. Rather than getting the movies through a semi-legitimate source, many who used to use a friend’s Netflix login are more likely to turn to pirate sources than buy their own accounts. And the inability to pass books on to friends with different platforms is more likely to limit people’s exposure to more material, and you can’t buy what you do not know about.
More than this, however, it’s the question: Who owns these digital goods? Not you. Even though digital opens the opportunities for more freedom with your purchases and information, you actually have fewer rights with digital products than physical ones. You just paid a one-time only renting fee to use them.