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Why Organizations Must Be Faster Than Real Time

“I’ll check with my supervisor and get back to you.”

Why doesn’t that remark cut it anymore? More often than not, it’s symptomatic of an organization that isn’t adaptive. One that hasn’t taken advantage of new technologies, or empowered (or trained, or created policies around) the tools and technologies available to their employees. Tools their employees are very likely already versed in and using in their personal lives.

The adaptive organization is one of the themes I’m working on this year as a research analyst. Its ramifications directly target corporate leadership: CEOs, COOs, etc. Next in line is the marketing organization (and who hasn’t heard the refrain that today’s CMO may well be tomorrow’s CTO?).

Marketing organizations are currently siloed. There’s advertising, social, and communications. Digital may be walled off from traditional, content from display and broadcast. All these divisions function as fiefdoms, competing internally for budget and prominence. Within digital alone, there may be display, search, social, email and a long line of sundry et ceteras competing for a piece of the pie

Incentives to work cooperatively are often minimal at best within organizations. Small wonder brands have difficulties getting external agencies, vendors and marketing service providers to work in concert. These constituencies have business and revenue models even less conducive to opening kimonos than do internal staff.

Having just done a deep dive on how paid, earned and owned media are converging (The Converged Media Imperative), it’s become abundantly clear that organizations need to adapt – now – to flow learnings, functions, processes, creative and analytics across all three media channels while eliminating redundancies. Moreover, it’s increasingly necessary to do so with extremely agility; ideally, in real time or something very close to it.

Flowing paid, earned and owned media together is a team effort. Each channel is, on its own, highly specialized. Yet commingling these channels not only results in demonstrably better results for digital marketing initiatives. Converged media is also rapidly flowing out into the “real world” of traditional media as well as offline inevitably becomes more digital. Already we’re seeing examples of converged paid, owned and earned media occur on digital billboards and on television.

Some forward-thinking marketers are already erasing hierarchies between media types. Just weeks ago, Intel’s Nancy Bhagat blended the company’s global and social media teams into a single marketing strategy operation.

“Why does this make sense?,” asks Bhagat on her blog, “ I found we were having similar conversations across teams. The role of communities is not exclusive to the social space. Our paid media partners are looking for ways to drive engagement and conversation in ways previously unheard of. Our social partners are open in an exciting way to new product ideas and testing. The idea of ‘test and learn’ has never been so real.”

So real, or so difficult for enterprise organizations. Take content marketing, for example – or ‘owned’ media. Content is absolutely essential and central to paid, owned and earned initiatives. Without solid content, brands cannot achieve earned media at scale. Earned media amplifies messaging, builds word of mouth and buzz, spreads awareness, and with increasing frequency surfaces those ideas that become the core of creative advertising strategy.

Yet most organizations have yet to develop a plan or an organizational model to create, disseminate, publish, share and govern content. There’s general awareness that content strategy and marketing reside in the marketing org chart, but where? Just today, I spoke with an organization trying to unknot who is creating content where in the enterprise. Are efforts being reduplicated? Resources shared? Best practices and guidelines adhered to?

Their best detective efforts have thus far surfaced over 25 individuals in six distinct divisions who “do” content. It’s assumed very few of these people have met in person, much less collaborated. It’s assumed each group uses its own ad hoc software solutions for managing creation, workflow, resources, etc. Clearly, findings and insights are shared between these disparate content creators, much less their colleagues across the marketing organization.

Real time insights and optimization, and shared learnings that inform other initiatives (not to mention that can inform their own work) are an impossibility in vertically organized, hierarchical organizations. Enterprises must be able to move as quickly as their customers do. This requires bold realignment as well as informed empowerment.

Rebecca Lieb's picture

The Converged Media Imperative

20th century, when the commercial internet was in its infancy, there was  no end to the griping about “silos.” Back then silos referred to That Which Is Digital and That Which Is Not Digital. The gripe (from the digital side of the equation) was that the not-digital team got all the budget, and didn’t even accord the digitals a place at the table.

So ingrained was the silo grudge that no one, but no one, grew to understand silos better than the digitals. In a scant decade, more digital silos emerged than you can shake a stick at: Search. Email. Display. Social. Analytics. Online video. CGM. CRM. Targeting. Retargeting.

The list goes on. Digital is, after all, highly technological and all these areas legitimately require high degrees of specialization. They still do, but now there’s a very compelling reason for digital to stop the Balkanization it so actively criticized just a few short years ago.

The reason? Media are converging. The new research report I publish today, together with co-author Jeremiah Owyang (we were ably assisted by Jessica Groopman and Chris Silva) reveals that consumers, who flit like so many butterflys between devices, screens, windows and channels, are making little distinction between media types.

Paid, owned, and earned media? It’s rapidly becoming all just…media. Ads, blog post, social interactions – either they’re interesting (or entertaining, or engaging, or helpful, etc.), or they’re not.  Brands must integrate paid, owned and earned channels now. It will not only make marketing more effective and efficient, but it will prepare them for the future. As traditional media becomes increasingly digital, this trends is beginning to occur offline, too.

Converged media is tough to wrap your arms around. Paid must inform owned which must inform earned, and vice versa, and sideways, too. It’s complicated, but it can pay off in much-improved optimization, reach, insights and above all, effectiveness. We like to think of it as a stool. Three legs (paid, owned and earned) provide a better foundation than one or two would.

To effectively commingle paid, owned and earned media, brands must get everyone around the table and make them play nice together – easier said than done. Ecosystem players such as software vendors and agencies have areas of specialization – not to mention revenue models – that rarely scope beyond one of these three channels.

Yet effectively converging media brings with it an advantage beyond more effective advertising and marketing.  Integrating teams, both internally and externally, will help smash the multitude of silos that litter the digital landscape.

Converged media is both a reality and an opportunity for better integration and collaboration across a myriad of digital specializations. Imagine the possibilities when we all start really collaborating with each other!

As with our other reports, The Converged Media Imperative is published under the Open Research model. Use it. Share it. And we’ll publish more.


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The Necessity of Storytelling

At ad:tech San Francisco last week, I caught up with the team from AllVoices to discuss storytelling as marketing

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Paid > Earned > Owned > Earned > Paid > Owned > Paid > Earned

Advertising and in media are experiencing a moment of convergence. The lines are blurring between paid, earned and owned media. Each is bleeding into the other, blurring the lines between where advertising, marketing and consumer-generated media begin…and end.

Examples of earned and owned media that morph into paid:

Facebook: Among their new ad units are pieces of content (owned media) from brand pages that can be converted into an ad unit. “Anything you can do on your page,” Facebook promises  brand advertisers, “you can do in an ad.” Earned gets rolled into the equation as these ads are displayed to friends-of-fans, along with Likes and other forms of CGM.


Bazaarvoice: The company that built its reputation on powering ratings and reviews has moved these forms of owned media into both paid and owned media. Take their new ad units that display user review in standard display formats. Reviews can be targeted on a number of demographic and behavioral factors, e.g. gender, geo-location, or products viewed.

Microsoft: dotJWT created a campaign aimed at the IT community by monitoring conversations in an online discussion network. Comments that were particularly favorable or trenchant were pulled from the private community and plunked into display units. “Geeks don’t respond to advertising, they respond to other geeks,” dotJWT head Jon Baker told me.

This examples are just the tip of a very large iceberg. Paid can take a reverse course and morph into owned. And earned. Or both. Consider the long lives of advertising spokes-characters on the web: The Old Spice Guy. The Most Interesting Man in the World. Seinfeld & Superman. This list seems endless.

So, with the publication of a research report on content marketing behind me, it’s time to take notes, amass material and look into another area of digital disruption: the convergence and confluence of paid, earned and owned. I’ll be working on this project with my colleague Jeremiah Owyang. Stay tuned for more on the topic as our research theme takes shape and the process begins.

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The Future of Content Marketing

Four months, 56 senior marketing executives, one topic: content marketing.

My team and I have been conducting some deep research on how organizations are rebalancing in their shift to find equilibrium between “push” (read advertising) and “pull” (read content) marketing initiatives, and the results of this research have just been published. (It’s available to download here.)

We learned a lot about how companies are adjusting culturally, in terms of resources, training, staffing, and how they’re using external service providers. We identified five phases of content marketing maturity organizations achieve on this journey. But one of the most fascinating aspects of the study was talking to marketers from organizations such as Ford Motors, IBM, GE, Coca-Cola, Adobe, Nestlé, ToysRUs, and a host of other household-name brands about the channels they’re currently using for their content initiatives, and the channels they plan to use in the future.


The future of content marketing


Understanding marketers’ content channel needs and priorities is critical to the process of rebalancing. While determining which channels content should be used must always be approached strategically, and with a view toward overall marketing goals, it cannot be ignored that each new digital channel brings with it new technological and budgetary requirements.

We found marketers are increasingly looking toward more technology complex channels, such as video and mobile, for content marketing. At the same time, they’re lessening their dependence on text-based channels including blogging, bylined articles, and online PR. This means they’ll have to up their content marketing budgets. Creating and distributing multimedia and mobile content require greater investment in technical and production expertise, not to mention measurement, than does text-based content.

As marketers become more ambitious technologically and, at the same time, less reliant on advertising, the need to ramp skills, hire and budget effectively, and plan for the future become correspondingly more complex. Consumer preferences and trends put increased pressure on this area. Blogs have receded in significance as more social channels and video have risen to the fore. Visual content is increasing in importance. Marketers aren’t only interested in video, but are looking to images and infographics to tell their stories. So, apparently, are consumers – how else can you account for the meteoric growth of Pinterest?

As interesting as what marketers say they are interested in, channel-wise, is what they don’t say. Gap analysis is essential when looking at this chart. SEO hovering near zero? Email not even on the radar? Yet we know each and every marketer we interview for our study is investing serious resources in both channels.

We came to call this “bright, shiny object syndrome.” Sure, exploring mobile is a great idea, but it’s no excuse for ignoring the fundamentals. In fact, one global CPG digital chief we interviewed was quick to say the primary reason his organization invests in content is SEO.

This sin of omission should be a rallying cry to search practitioner and to email marketers. The former group has its work cut out for it if content moves as quickly and decisively into video, visual, and mobile as the leaders of marketing programs want it to. Optimizing in these channels is harder than working with HTML-based web pages. This means by definition search won’t decrease in importance. Making this new content visible and findable will be exponentially more difficult, challenging and labor intensive.

Content flowing into mobile channels and apps has to be somehow discoverable by users. SEO isn’t the only channel through which this occurs. Digital PR pros and email marketers excel at creating awareness of new initiatives such as these. Their particular digital specialties, however, are losing a bit of luster as glitzier channels push to the fore. This means they’ll have to be a bit pushier– and cleverer — to maintain a seat at the table and make their voices heard.

In the context of content marketing, it’s important to remember that as with other media, changing channels never obliterates what came before. TV didn’t kill cinemas (which didn’t kill the theatre), and home video didn’t wipe out television. We have the internet, yet print persists.

Search, email, blogging, digital PR, and  even (brace yourself) advertising have, and will continue to have a place at the table as content marketing grows in importance. And grow it will. Every single one of the 56 marketers we interviewed is increasing investment in content marketing and content strategy.

Just as organizations must rebalance to add content to the marketing mix, practitioners of specific digital marketing functions must rebalance as well. It’s time to strategize how existing skill sets will be applied to integrating content into the broader marketing equation.

Cross-posted from iMedia Connection

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Learning in 2012: My 10 Top Digital Marketing & Media Topics

Another year, another stream of predictions. Not that predictions aren't interesting, mind you, but I've never been one to focus on them. Sure, I avidly follow trends in digital marketing and media, but what really jazzes me about following the sector for a living is the surprise factor. It's not knowing what comes next because next can be so out-of-left-field disruptive.

The other cool thing about this job is it's like being permanently enrolled in grad school. That may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I happen to love constantly watching and learning. So rather than share predictions for 2012, it seems more grounded and sensible to share a list of the top things I plan to study more closely and learn more about in 2012. Perhaps one or two of these topics will turn into a formal research report, perhaps not (oh, to be able to deep-dive into everything!).

  1. Behavioral Targeting: Not to begin on a negative, but I'm becoming increasingly convinced BT plain doesn't work. That's why I'd like to examine it more closely. Having done all my holiday shopping online, as well as extensive research and buying for a home remodeling project, it's appalling how many wasted BT ads I see, most for the selfsame products I actually bought from the advertiser. "This can't be right," says my consumer persona to my analyst persona. "Look more closely at the methodology of all those studies out there that 'prove' BT's effectiveness."
  2. Personalized Search This has been going on a while now, of course, but more and more, your search results differ significantly from my search results. Location, time of day, social graphs, search history -- a zillion factors figure in to what search results are displayed, and as a result, what ads and data appear in your browser. Need to keep up with this continually moving target.
  3. Social Media Fatigue Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Foursquare, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Miso - and that's just a few off the top of my head. Just as consumers never watched all of the 200 or so cable channels bundled into their subscription packages, there's only so many hours in the day to update where you are, what you're doing, what you're watching and eating and with whom. This space seems primed to shake out, doesn't it? How will consumer behavior and adoption change, and how fast can new social plays keep launching?
  4. Big Data Collecting, crunching and making actionable data from disparate on- and offline sources will require significant investments in technology, manpower and learning for companies. Big data is all the buzz, yet many marketers still don't know precisely what it is. Everyone needs to bone up on this topic in 2012.
  5. Real-Time Marketing Top consumer brands, notably Pepsi, are starting to take this topic very seriously, and even some B2B giants such as GE are looking at the space. Monitoring, assessing, triaging, assigning, and responding to real-time conversations, events, posts, tweets and other digital information increasingly matters. And like Big Data, the challenges and resources it requires are formidable. A fascinating area to keep an eye on.
  6. Regulated Industries It's fascinating to watch highly regulated industries, such as pharma and banking, attempt to embrace digital marketing in general, and social media in particular. They face formidable barriers and more interesting challenges than most. I'm hoping to speak with more marketers from regulated sectors to learn more about how they're coping.
  7. Internet of Things When everything has an IP address, everything gets a lot more interesting. Once devices from cars to refrigerators and the dog's food bowl are connected, the implications for marketing, communication and even society will take surprises turns. This space is quite simply mesmerizing.
  8. Effects of Social Movements Occupy Wall Street fallout, the presidential election in the US, societal shifts in the Middle East. Social change resonates in digital channels (and vice versa). It's going to be a big year for social change, and that will inevitably impact digital.
  9. What's Starting Up? As always, I'll be keeping a close eye on start-ups. What's launching trend-wise? Who's getting funded? Who isn't? Following the money and the technology is not optional - it's integral to watching this space.
  10. Content Marketing A pet topic, the subject of my most recent book and my forthcoming research report. Keeping a close eye on how marketers are moving into content, which requires a rebalance of thought processes (ongoing, not episodic, campaign-based thinking), as well as new budgets, agency relationship and staffing requirements - not to mention a shift in corporate culture.

That's my 2012 syllabus. What's yours?

Please reply in the comments. And if you're behind a company active in one of the above areas, perhaps we should arrange a briefing sometime this year.

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Content Marketing: How to Play It Forward

It’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.

One essential difference between content marketing and episodic, campaign based advertising is the former is a continuum. It has a beginning and a middle, but the end should ideally recede somewhere over the horizon.

It’s therefore essential to plan for continuity in content marketing. Without a story, characters, a theme or a hook that has legs over time, the well will run dry awfully fast and marketers will find themselves staring at the proverbial blank page, puzzling over how to fill it.

What strategies and tactics can marketers adopt to ensure longevity? There are several, and they fall into fairly neat categories. The following is by no means a comprehensive list, but instead aimed a getting you thinking about the themes that make content sustainable.

Character: Marketing is rife with mascots, from sock puppets to Mr. Clean, from Mr. Whipple to Madge the Manicurist (“You’re soaking in it.”). A strong character drives narrative. JWT’s “Believe” campaign for Macy’s is centered around a fictionalized version of Virginia O'Hanlon, the real-life girl who wrote the letter resulting in the famous editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.”

Virginia (pictured above) appears in animations on the store’s website, as an augmented reality character in certain points of the store itself, and even stars in an animated television special. There are supporting characters in her story, and licensing agreements are underway for a line of dolls and toys.

Yes, Virginia, characters can be a content marketing tent pole.

Curation: Just as Virginia existed in real-life, so does a lot of useful content in the wild. No matter your product, service or industry, there’s lenty of content about it out there already, and likely more every day: news, trade publications, conferences, blogs, online videos, interviews and much more – more than your target audience is likely willing to wade through without guidance.

That’s where content curation comes in. Rather than reinvent the wheel, curation is a continual approach to judiciously finding and presenting relevant, topical and current content on a given topic, industry or area. It’s a common tactic. Nearly half of marketing executives (48%) are using content curation according to a 2011 survey from HiveFire.

People inherently rely on trusted sources: friends, family, brands, companies, experts, you-name-it, to help keep them informed, educated and even amused. Just as you probably have one go-to friend for car advice, another who can tell you what new books or films are worth seeing, or another who’s got the lowdown on the latest places to eat, business are collecting, organizing and filtering content around their own fields of expertise.

Community: Build it and they will come – and create content for you. OK, maybe it’s not that simple, but plenty of companies have benefited tremendously from creating communities in which consumers can gather to discuss given topics. This holds particularly true in the tech sector, where brands such as Apple, Microsoft, IBM and any number of major electronics manufacturers run forums in which members can discuss business problems and product issues, offering one another help and support.

The benefits go far beyond ongoing content creation. By listening and participating in discussions, the sponsoring brand has an early-warning system regarding problems, issues and often, competition in the field. Monitoring discussions can lead to advances in product development, and customer service expenditures can be dramatically reduced when customers are empowered to help one another.

Rubrics: News isn’t predictable, but newspapers are (magazines, too). Pick a periodical, any periodical, and you’ll find a wealth of regularly scheduled features and columns: the editorial page, a daily horoscope, or a weekend “What’s On” section. Wednesdays may be devoted to cooking and recipes, Thursdays to cars, or home design, or science. These regular features anchor the publication. They give readers something to look forward to (and return to).

Content marketing can work on the same principle. Develop regular, repeatable content units: an events calendar, expert opinion columns, how-tos, a video of the week. Make it original, repeatable, and schedule it to appear regularly. Rather than re-invent the wheel, these editorial calendar foundations drive their own momentum while providing the audience with both new material and a reassuring sense of familiarity.

The above is only the beginning of ways you can play content forward. We haven’t even begun to discuss user-generated content (hey, why should you do all the work!), or ongoing initiatives in how-to, utility or educational content.

But by now, you should get the idea: sustainability. It sure beats looking at a blank page and wondering how to fill it, day in and day out.

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Is There a Digital 180 Degree Law?

Everything old is new again. Apparently this holds true nowhere more so than in digital channels. When there are major, disruptive shifts in digital, the needle doesn't just move. It moves straight across to the opposite pole, 180 degrees.

Why does this matter? It's something digital strategists, marketers, advertisers, media companies and others must take into consideration as they look toward the horizon to plan and strategize. They must realize that in the future things will not only be different than they are now. They could well be the opposite of what they are now.

Following, three examples of the digital 180 degree rule.

Distributed to central to distributed Remember what started the internet revolution? It was the shift from network computing to desktop PC's, from distributed to central computing. It freed users from dependency on a server - everything they needed was right on the desktop hard drive. The past five or so years have turned that advance on its ear. Computing is distributed again. We live in the cloud and rely on mobile devices as much (often more) than our laptops. As for the PC, it's becoming something of a relic. The return to distributed computing changes everything about how and where users interact with digital channels.

Walled garden to open internet to walled (well, solidly fenced) garden In the beginning there was Mosaic and the BBS. Not a lot of people were there. The internet began to achieve mainstream popularity when AOL (together with competitors such as Prodigy and CompuServe) inundated consumers with diskettes that, once installed on a PC, promised a graphical online browsing experience, provided you didn't stray from the parameters of your content provider/ISP. As the "real" internet developed (and broadband proliferated), users ventured beyond these walled gardens into a brave new world. We're beginning to witness an attempt by some of the major digital players to, if not confine users to a content-rich garden, then to at least make it more compelling for them to stay longer, and stray less often. Spearheading this trend is Facebook, working hard to become a one-stop destination for all the news, media, music, streaming video, communications, photos, games, apps and etc. you'd ever need. Why go anywhere else? This trend may not go a complete 180, but it will be interesting to see how Facebook, and perhaps Google, influence (or hog) traffic as each strives to become a one-stop destination for almost all your internet needs.




Distraction from mainstream media to probable primary media  access point. Remember when the web was going to obliterate newspapers, magazines, books, music and pretty much every other form of traditional media? It didn't (and it won't). The 180 degree shift we're in the process of witnessing is the migration of all forms of media consumption to digital channels. Ebooks now outsell hardcover and paperback editions - combined (while ereaders are plummeting in price). Moreover, books are subsidized by advertising on some versions of the Kindle. As consumers cut the cord, TV viewing is migrating to digital, too. New platforms such as GetGlue and Miso make watching TV social, wrapping it up with promotions from retailers and media properties alike. The New York Times has more Twitter followers than print subscribers. Spotify delivers almost all the music in the world - free - if you share what you're listening to with your Facebook friends. DIgital isn't eradicating traditional media. Instead, it's turned distribution, consumption and monetization models upside-down.

In which area will we witness the next digital pole shift? Hypothesize in the comments, please.

All images licensed under Creative Commons

Walled Garden photo - mguhlin.wikispaces.com  Newsstand: Joe Mabel  


Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.


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