December 2010 Archives
For the other thoughts on questions like which brands make the best use of new media and what will be the biggest challenge facing brands and agencies in 2011 view the article on the iMedia Connection website.
This is probably a disappointing response, but I do believe that Facebook will be even hotter in 2011. It'll evolve from being the "social utility" to a brand with which we begin and end our days. Arguably, that is already happening for many consumers. Facebook will be the internet for even more users in 2011.
Another brand that will matter in 2011 is News Corp's The Daily. It hasn't launched as of yet, but when it does, it is going to be extremely influential as the world's first iPad newspaper. Will it succeed? Time will tell, but we're certain to all learn lots from it, and it will be a hot brand.
In the physical world, I'll place my bets on Best Buy. It's taking the concept of "social brands" further than anyone else, and it is going pay more dividends for it. Every brand is going to need to follow in its footsteps.
Other brands that I think will continue to be hot are Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and SoBe. I happen to have some insider information on what those brands are planning, and I just know it is going to be mind-blowing!
- Confusing terminology used across all facets of digital. Early in my career as an information architect and developer, I witnessed some serious nomenclature debates. What to call the Information Architecture discipline and how to relate it to other complementary disciplines. Those debates pale in comparison by the confusion caused when Digital, Social Media and Mobile are all considered different things. They're all facets of Digital in my opinion. Period.
- Metrics that are overly simplistic and overly inflated. One of the powers of digital is that it is uniquely and deeply measurable in ways that other channels and platforms are just beginning to become. That's wonderful. That's a strength but it is also one that's abused.
Please let's not club PR Earned Media impressions (fundamentally about media reach and brand mentions in mainstream media) with social media impressions (consumers mentioning brands in, with and to their own networks). They're different. Both are extremely important but they're different and need to be looked at separately.
- Confusing Social Media expertise with Social Media Marketing expertise. It is often too tempting to conflate these two into one as well. But you shouldn't. To be a social media expert, you need to know what social media is and need to understand the philosophies, influencer dynamics, best practices, platforms, advertising formats and landscape very well. To be a social media marketer, you also need to understand marketing and you must have a strong digital marketing frame to guide your thinking preferably from a pre-social media era. If you don't have the latter, don't call yourself a social media marketer.
- Defining online audiences by demographics. I've seen this done too much over the last few years and even now whether its agencies, publishers or brands we sometimes still think in terms of demographics only. We love to define digital audiences pretty much by their age and then maybe their gender. Somehow that seems enough to us far too often.
With all due respect to everyone doing that out there (and I'm guilty of this too sometimes), that's that's the most simplistic form of audience, customer, segment definition and its not right. If you're not getting to psycho-graphics, behaviors, cultural values and influence circles for example, you're not practicing digital marketing. Sorry.
- Treating digital as an extension of television and just another channel. This is something else that I find irritating. Maybe too irritating. But I believe we sometimes all forget that digital is not just another channel that's evolving at the same pace and with the same complexities as Print, Television and Radio. It's adoption, innovation and disruption trajectory is far greater than anything else that came before. Also, the ability to talk directly to consumers and have them talk right back at you (I believe the word is interactivity!) makes it so much more the important.
Yes, it doesn't always have the scale and can't be managed and priced as neatly as other channels or platforms but it doesn't mean it is a stepchild. We need to think about digital for what it is - unique and transformative in ways that is fundamentally changing television, print and radio! The MTV research showing that Twitter influences TV watching habits is just the most recent example of this.
- The "Tell Me What I Want to Hear" ecosystem. Call me crazy but we have an ecosystem that is pretty flawed. It is driven by telling anyone who's specifically one step further up in the ecosystem exactly what they want to hear and giving them metrics and proof points that are sometimes designed more for promotions than evaluating business success. As a result, we all end up living in a bubble.
The digital publishers package their ad inventory for exactly the way the agencies want to see them versus what the agency client's need and the agencies create their media plans often more with the fickleness of their clients at the top of their minds than actual needs of the client business. The clients in turn become thin skinned and sometimes whimsical. No one really hears a conflicting point of view from anyone who's a peer or further downstream. You're probably thinking that this is how business works everywhere but I'd suggest that in Digital and Media we're probably too much of the "Tell Me What I Want to Hear" ecosystem.
- Extreme Shiny Object Obsession. Every industry and every company suffer from a bit of shiny object obsession. But in our industry, I feel largely because we're at the intersection of media and technology that obsession is taken to the extreme. We talk, think, act and write so much more based on what's the Shiny Object of the moment than what's moving the business needle. Maybe its our technology fascination or the impatience to change and be one step ahead of the competition but we get too easily distracted by what's round the next corner than what maybe driving our businesses today.
What's the opportunity cost of this? We invariably lose sight sometimes of what matters most to our business and don't go deep enough in the big boring drivers, media platforms and technologies that are having the most meaningful impacts on our business. We sometimes prioritize fame and media attention over our businesses as a result. And it isn't good for the businesses, for our careers and our industries in the long run.
- Conference Inflation and Echo Chambers. I like conferences and I attend and speak at many of them in a given year. I have a lot of friends who do the same and they're great places to network, exchange notes and learn from others. But I do feel increasingly that we've gotten far too many conferences on the same subjects without enough breakthrough thinking, research or case studies to share.
On the surface, there's nothing wrong with this but there's more to it than that. Deep group think sets in. We all begin thinking and saying exactly what we're hearing versus focusing on what we're experiencing and uncovering for ourselves. The net result - our industry as a whole doesn't innovate at the pace it probably could. I don't see too many product folks from Facebook at our industry conferences and I think they recognize that they have to filter out all the noise to do breakthrough work.
- We play the competitor card far too much. This one could be totally personal but it is quite amusing how media companies and technology vendors try to sell me something with the argument that our competition is using their service or is on the verge of. Sure we all make some business decisions for defensive, competitive reasons but that doesn't drive our thinking and it shouldn't. This matters to any company anywhere in the ecosystem.
When I evaluate a partner, I want to see how his product or service will add value to my consumers and align with my marketing strategy in a cost effective manner. That's the greater priority than focusing on doing something only because our competitors might jump on it or already have.
- We get too comfortable with the structural status quo. I truly believe that for such a large and increasingly influential industry, we do not do enough to question the status quo in terms of how our industry is made up and how business flows through it. I speak to publishers all the time and for many of them the social media companies and Facebook in particular are considered an aberration in digital marketing versus a beacon of where our worlds are headed. Many publishers like to think that the 25% of all digital inventory being sold by Facebook and the increasing CPMs that they're able to get away with, are not a sign of tectonic shifts in the digital media landscape. Others don't believe that IAB ad units need to evolve and change.
To them I say - the likes of Facebook, GroupOn, FourSquare and The Huffington Post aren't shiny objects or aberrations. In many ways they represent the future. And we should all embrace that future and evolve our own media properties, brand strategies and technology platforms for an industry that is truly transforming more quickly than any other facet of marketing.