Predictions for Marketing 2017

There is One Thing You Can Definitely Count On

Just like every January:Genius

  • People make wild predictions.
  • New things will happen.
  • Mobile will get more mobile.
  • Websites and apps will have more opportunities to put your message in front of people.
  • Someone will come up with the next “it” marketing catchphrase and trick.

Book it. It’s a sure bet… Yeah, right.

There is (and never will be) one “silver bullet” for marketing. Although people will think there is. Or at least hope there is… We want to find the one thing that we can do that costs $1 and results in $1M in sales.

It doesn’t exist.

Still I will make a predication that is a sure bet for 2017: the companies that operate their marketing and sales strategy out of a written marketing plan, tactic map and content calendar will be the most successful at marketing in 2017. 

That is a sure bet. Because it is a sure bet every year. Here’s why:

A plan defines clearly what you’re trying to do.

If you’ve ever been in a company, you’ve probably heard someone say, “I’m not sure what management (the boss, the owner, insert colloquialism here) is doing.” That is often true of marketing and sales, as management bounces from one idea to the next. A plan, when implemented and managed, lets everyone know what we’re doing:

  • Grow sales by 10%
  • Develop a new prospect lead system
  • Launch two new products
  • Successfully cross sell 50% of our current customers
  • Launch a new website… etc.

Whatever the initiative, from a simple marcom tactic (we will create and distribute 6 press releases) to a major undertaking (we will launch a new product), it will be better understood in a plan that is mapped and put on a calendar. It helps us stay on task as an organization and as individuals.

A plan gets things done.

No, the plan doesn’t do the work, but when a plan, map and calendar are developed all of a sudden everyone know what needs to be done… and when. Managers put resources towards completing the planned tasks. Staff discuss what needs to be done and who, how and what will be done to meet the plan. When we don’t manage out of a plan, the urgent tasks of the work day, week and month means marketing and sales activity deadlines are missed or forgotten all together.

The classic example is the newsletter (printed or emailed). Issue one is terrific. Issue two is pretty good. Issue three never happens. Why? There was no plan for content, who would do the work and a calendar deadline for production/distribution. Everyone throws their best stuff at issue one, issue two gets the rest and we’re far too busy to worry about issue three. And so it goes with marketing and sales when there is no plan, map and schedule.

A plan creates integration.

Should a marketing plan be developed, it will include tentacles that reach into every department of the company. New products mean operations and manufacturing need to know when launch dates will be. Promotions mean accounting has to have a budget. Sales support means marketing and sales will need to talk and coordinate prospect and customer contact. The marketing plan, which should naturally evolve out of the business and financial goals and plan of the organization, will help drive the organization out of its silos and into meaningful work towards fulfilling the mission of the company.

A plan creates accountability.

When no plan exists, it’s easy for everyone to work in a silo and do all the right things for their department or division. Yet that could be a cross purposes with the mission, goals and strategy of management and the activities of other departments. When a plan exists, activities and budgets all must be bounced off the plan: “Is this task something that will help us meet the plan?” A plan then naturally creates a feedback loop to the plan manager (in most cases for small organizations the business owner). The different people and departments of a company report in on how they are doing towards fulfilling the plan. If it doesn’t happen, the plan manager can drive accountability by requiring updates and status reports against the plan and calendar.

A plan eliminates surprises.

Too many times I receive calls stating that “We need a show booth.” Or “We need a brochure.” The reason for the call? The show is next week. Or Sales got an important appointment scheduled and need something to give the prospect.

No one likes surprises at work. They are fun for birthdays, but not when the financial well being of a company, or the future work situation of staff are at stake. By developing and operating out of a plan, we can cover most (not all) of the needs that will develop in the course of the business cycle. Of course, new situations occur during a year which must be addressed. Plans must be tweaked, adjustments made. It is still better to react in the context of changing the plan than to be reacting to external stimuli.

Practice makes pattern.

This is the saying of a coach I used to assist. His goal is never perfection. No one is perfect. Practice rather creates the pattern that makes an athlete not only better at his/her sport, but also develops the pattern of how to become better. The same is true for companies: planning grows into the repeatable processes that make a company great.

Developing and delivering a consistent brand and value message will always be the best way to maximize marketing spend and effort. Consistency comes from processes. Processes come from planned activities. There are two parts of planning: 1) developing and 2) executing the plan. Start small and put your emphasis on actually delivering on the plan. The results will come.

Have a a great marketing year in 2017! 


Convinced your organization needs a plan but not sure where to start? Contact me, I can help!

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Video Marketing is Imperative

Or What a Soft Boiled Egg has to do with Marketing Online

Video marketing is imperative as part of an online marketing strategy. I’ve been trumpeting video for a long time. I sat in on a session featuring a Google SEO expert. He confirmed

video is one of the ways Google rates websites for good content. However, a personal example to which I think we all can relate bears out the importance of video:

One morning, I decided to make a soft-boiled egg. I’m not sure why, I just hadn’t had one in a long time. In fact, it was so long ago, I wasn’t sure how long to cook it and so I ‘googled’ it on my phone. Up popped countless links to helpful information about soft boiled eggs. 

I skipped past the couple video thumbnails listed at the top of the page, and looked for a credible source site for correctly boiling an egg. I clicked one (a major cooking magazine’s website) and began to read. 

Paragraph 1: how great soft boiled eggs taste and how easy to make. (perfect, I think, these guys know what they’re talking about)…

Paragraph 2: an allusion to Julia Child and her method for soft boiling an egg. Wait, no not an allusion, a full blown description beginning with choosing the best eggs at the market. 

And I’m GONE!
Thirty seconds or less, TMI (too much information) and not on pointe for my need. Back to Google and I click on a video thumbnail. How to make a soft boiled egg in the microwave. A minute of video later, I knew how to make a soft boiled egg in the microwave. No voiceover. Captions in a language I couldn’t read. Didn’t matter. Video showed me how.

You probably have done the same thing. I know I have for home projects, changing a car headlight, and so on… most of us have looked at a video to learn something we didn’t know.
This story points out a few things:

  1. I’m not very discriminating about soft boiled eggs. If you have the time and inclination, go for the Julia Child method. If you want it now, microwave. It was actually pretty good. (How can you mess up a soft boiled egg?)
  2. A one minute video was all I could handle in my pursuit of knowledge.
  3. I am not alone in my short attention span.

There is no doubt some people like to read. Still, given the ubiquitousness of video and the convenient video screen we all carry in our hand, pocket, briefcase or purse, video is indispensable.

So why don’t you use video in your marketing? I love to write and I love to read, but there is no doubt that video marketing is a critical part of the mix. Yes, it could be advertising, but also instructions, FAQs, tips or a video blog. In fact, I am going to start posting both written and video versions of my blog. Here’s the link to this article in video form:

If you are not sure how to do video, need help with production or content ideas, let’s talk. We’ve helped many companies use video to boost SEO, tell their brand story and sell their products.

From now on, we’ll take our own medicine and use video as well.

Want to see how to soft boil an egg in the microwave? Click here. 

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Problems with Programmatic Advertising

Or “How I Came to Watch the Same Ad in an App 17 Times in a Row”

Video of the same ad played 17 times. Click to watch it now.

Video of the same ad played 17 times. Click to watch it now.

Ever been in an app in which you get bonuses, more turns or something else in exchange for watching a video ad? I was using a sports game app. In this app you can watch ads to get “gold”. Gold is used in the game. So, when given the opportunity, I will watch a video ad to get gold. How easy is that? However, the advertiser, and maybe even that app’s owners, probably do not realize that they sometimes serve up the same ad. In this case, 17 times (Don’t believe me? Watch the video of it here.) This is obviously a problem – a marketer is paying for exposure of their ad to an audience, but not two, let alone 17 times in a row. (If you make it through the 17 ads, there is actually a different advertiser’s video which gets served up twice in a row.)

Programmatic Advertising

Programmatic advertising is the use of technology to help make decisions about to whom, how, where and when your ads will appear. The technology is necessary because it is literally impossible to know all the digital spaces in which your ad would best appear: on desktops, mobile browsers, in apps, etc. No one can possibly know where to place their ads anymore. The analogy would be that old stat that some time in the late 19th century was the last time any one person could “know” all the world’s knowledge. At that point, the amount of things known exceeded the human ability to learn and remember knowledge… there was just too much and it was growing too quickly to keep up. (Ending the ability of anyone to be a “know it all”.)
So it is with advertising once the internet came along. There was a time when a good marketer could “know” all the places that a brand or product should be advertised. Not any more. Between cable TV, digital radio, in app ads, mobile devices, multiple digital ad networks, social media, and so on, it is literally impossible to manually place ads.
Enter programmatic, which uses data to target the right placements for your audience. It uses data on the target audience (you define) and the context of placements (profile of the digital media user, content of the page, site or app, etc.) to place the right message, in the right place, to the right audience.
There are different ways to pay for this advertising. Basically: by click (think Google text ads); or impression (think number of times an ad is served up on a particular site). Sometimes, like with Facebook ads, you can choose whether you pay by click or impression. I’ll write about some reasons to choose one or the other in a future article.

Nobody’s Perfect: Even an Algorithm

Still, no system is perfect. An example: site retargeting ads, which are those creepy ads that “follow” you after you visit a site, are built on the premise that if you visit a particular site you want to see ads from that site/brand/store. Not always true. Last year my wife sent me a link to a dress she and my daughter were considering buying. For the next month I was treated to dress ads on news sites, sports sites… pretty much any site I visited. (You can get rid of these by removing the cookie from the site that is serving up the ads. Here’s a link to a website that tells you how to stop retargeting ads (note, this site serves up retargeted ads 🙂

And here’s how Google suggests you stop such ads:
Those dress ads were wasted on me… That’s one example of how programmatic advertising can be a waste for the advertiser and annoying to the viewer.

Why You Want to Audit What the Machines are Doing

No matter what service you use, a third party platform, or even running your own digital ads through Google, Facebook and other networks, you get all the reporting data you ever wanted. Be sure to dig into this data. Ask for data on specific sites and profiles of audiences who were served the ad. While even programmatic isn’t perfect, your provider should be able to show that your ad did appear in front of the right audience.
I always say that “all marketing is a test”. There is no better example than programmatic. Be sure you are grading the test, checking the results in detail and getting the end result you desire… that’s usually ultimately sales, but can also include increased digital interaction, leads in the pipeline or even brand awareness. Even machines need accountability.


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Value Exchange

“Life is about choices.”

That’s what my fellow scout leader said to the young scout. We were standing in the middle of the West Virginia mountains in a campsite, discussing whether the scout would or would not go to his merit badge class. “You can choose either way, but the choice comes with different outcomes.” The scout went to the class.Value Exchange in Marketing

That’s the way in life isn’t it? We can choose a seemingly infinite number of options with just as many outcomes from those choices. How do people make such choices? Most often, based on value received. Or perceived.

This discussion took my thoughts to marketing (it’s an awful thing being in the woods and being so wired that a discussion between scouts makes you think of marketing). Business is about value exchange. No matter the size or type of commerce, it is a value exchange.

  • A lemonade stand – exchanges a buck or less for a possibly buggy, diluted beverage and the feeling and resulting smile that you’re helping a young entrepreneur.
  • A product purchase – exchanges the selling price for the promise (and hopefully, the reality) of solving some problem.
  • A social media site – exchanges data about you and your eyes on ads for access to odd memes and uncomfortable posts from former acquaintances.

Value exchanges are understood from our earliest experiences. The scout had a pretty good idea of the outcome if he did, or didn’t, go to his merit badge class. It’s true of consumers as well. Consumers weigh value exchanges all the time.

  • Is it worth the “chance” at $500 to respond to the survey?
  • Is it worth calling the number knowing they will be asking for all my contact information before I get any information I want?
  • Is it worth clicking the link and filling out a form knowing I am going to get all that email?
  • Is it worth walking into the store (will “I’m just looking” work or will I be hassled)?

Marketers need to consider the value exchange when developing campaigns. We must weigh our needs with those of the suspect. The Marketoonist nailed it with this toon.

This is one reason the correct use of online tools is so important to the sales process. While we want to identify the suspect and get them into our pipeline as a prospect, they want to get the information they want/need without a resulting hassle. In other words, it’s okay to provide value through information without making someone provide all their information.

One problem we face is the belief that our information is so important, why wouldn’t someone want to give us their entire life history?!?!? That’s not the case, though. People do scrutinize the value when asked to “trade” their information.

So don’t think like a business owner or sales manager when considering a value exchange in your marketing. Think like a cynical customer (I’m sure one comes to mind…maybe it’s you!). Make sure your value offer is worth that cynical customer’s time and information they trade. Do it right, and you may just reduce the cynicism in the world. Maybe…

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Bad Marketing

Bad Marketing

Click to enlarge the image.

Received this email today. At first, I thought it was a junk email. You know, the kind that is mass emailed to a purchased list. Then I realized this was different. It was addressed to me. From a company that I know… have used as a supplier in the past. This wasn’t junk mail. This was careless and bad marketing. In fact, REALLY bad marketing. Let’s take a look:

  1. The assumed close. I dislike the assumed close. I’m more of the type to use the straight forward “ask for the business” close. They are clearly trying to confuse me, or bet on the reaction of “Did I forget a meeting?!?!” To get me to read their email.
  2. “California manufacturing” – I’m in Pennsylvania. Now I do work with companies that sell in California, but see #6. I’m not in California for a meeting. This comes from a company that says it uses data to target the right prospects for your business.
  3. Arrogance: “your business should be able to reach its goals”. That’s quite the grandiose statement. Don’t mind the business climate or other factors. You’d reach your goals if you hire us.
  4. Who wrote this? “with help from marketing” – What does that mean? Who or what is “marketing”?
  5. Clearly a lie. “based on your website” – They obviously didn’t look at our website, because if they did, they’d see we aren’t a manufacturer in California. They’d also see we are not a fit for their lead generation system or digital marketing plan. (I know this since, again, this is a company I know and have used on client projects.)
  6. I’m not in California and I surely do not want to share anything about the future of my business with someone who would send me such a poorly crafted email.

By the way, the links in the email are legit… this is not a junk email that says one thing and then sends you to a link that is a Romanian hosted website selling dubious health improvement products. This is a company that sells data, online marketing and has an online database/directory of OEMs and suppliers.

This is bad marketing. Be smarter. Think through your offers and message. Check your data. Don’t use the familiar in a solicitation email. Clearly state your value proposition, have a good conversion offer and be ready to follow up on their offer.

Need good marketing, great marketing or even “Genius Marketing”? Contact us to discuss the possibilities.

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Three Things You Can Learn from the Super Bowl Commercials

Applying Good Principles (or avoiding mistakes) in your Marketing

The Super Bowl commercials are often as big, or bigger than the game itself. Everybody ratesSuper Bowl Commercials Applied to Your Marketing them, whether formally as on USAToday Ad Meter, or informally at SB Parties… “I like that one! The koala is hilarious!”  However, once the accolades or social media trolls fade, can we take any marketing lessons from these high-profile ads? I think we can…
This is not a comprehensive review of all the ads, but rather some principles to apply to your advertising, or any marketing effort… with examples (good and bad) from a few Super Bowl ads.

The Principles

  1. Don’t let what you can do with technology drive the creative. Use technology to support the creative message.
  2. Don’t let the creative idea steal from the point of the ad.
  3. Use storytelling to reinforce features and benefits of the product.

And a bonus tip: Tie Your Creative into a Campaign.

Click each principle to read more and see the related Super Bowl ads.

Have a question about getting your creative or content right? Connect with me for a no obligation conversation.


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Applying Marketing Principles from Super Bowl Ads – Bonus Tip!

Bonus tip: Tie Your Creative into a Campaign.

Example: Snickers William Dafoe/Marilyn Monroe

Often Super Bowl ads kick off new creative campaigns that are carried to other media. That’s fine. It is truly a waste when a big splashy ad is run once on the Super Bowl. The Marilyn Snickers ad built on a well integrated and long running campaign for Snickers. The viewer certainly was intrigued with the opening: William Dafoe in a dress that obviously was the classic Monroe pose. Then immediate recognition when Dafoe is told to eat a Snickers.

Too often Super Bowl ads try to do too much creatively, technologically or otherwise. The reality is that good creative, deft use of digital technology, a fun story, or even leaning on a tried and true formula can make a memorable ad that make the viewer want to act. To create not just a funny ad, but an effective ad.

That’s the whole point of marketing… to explain a product or service well so that people want to buy.

Let me know what you think the best (or most effective) ad was. If you’re interested in learning how to make your marketing effective, let’s talk.


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Applying Marketing Principles from Super Bowl Ads – Principle 3

Principle 3: Use storytelling to reinforce features and benefits of the product.

Super Bowl (and other) advertising is best when it tells a story. People love stories and being caught up in one. We love to be carried along to a conclusion. Like creative, however, the story should not be about the story, but about product features and benefits. I mentioned in a previous blog that Puppy/Monkey/Baby did that successfully. It featured a mixed creature as a metaphor for the three unique ingredients in Kickstart. (However, it failed in other ways.)

Example: Kia First Date

This spot features Kevin Hart tracking his Kia using the Car Finder app on his smart watch. Rather, tracking his daughter’s date… and making sure he is in close surveillance of the young suitor and his daughter throughout the evening. This spot does a great job of building the story in a way that shows the feature (Car Finder) and benefit (date cut short 🙂 of the Kia. A classically funny premise (dad and dating daughter) turned into a story told well, makes this spot memorable. Not a surprise that it rated highest of all ads on USAToday’s Super Bowl ad rater.

Example: Honda A New Truck to Love

Another car company and another clever story that shows a feature of their new Ridgeline truck. Speaking animals usually rate well on spots… so why not singing sheep? Great concept and intriguing storytelling… why are the sheep singing? Of course, because of the truck bed speakers in the new Ridgeline. Not sure you can say teaching sheep to sing is a product benefit, though!

When considering your next marketing piece, whether video, audio, digital or print, consider how your piece can tell a story that is tied to the value proposition of your product or service.

Have a question about getting your creative or content right? Connect with me for a no obligation conversation.


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Applying Marketing Principles from Super Bowl Ads – Principle 2

Principle 2: Don’t let the creative idea steal from the point of the ad.

Too often creative is done for creative’s sake. The creative angle is so sweet that it becomes the focus of the spot, rather than the actual reason the spot is being run (to promote a product, or raise awareness of a company, or communicate a value proposition. When the creative is done for creative’s sake, the message is lost.

You can taste test this one – ask someone who watched the Super Bowl about the viking ad… you know, the one with the Vikings rowing their dragon ship. Here’s the test: what product was that promoting?

Example: Quickbooks/Death Wish Coffee

In this spot, we are treated to a ride on a Viking dragon boat, as the men are exhorted to press on to Valhalla. Through this 20 seconds (2/3 of the half minute spot!), the viewer is trying to place the ad: “Is it a movie?”, “A car commercial? Beer?”, “What is this for?” Then suddenly, we’re in a kitchen as the Vikings are swallowed by a guy. That leaves 5 seconds for the point of the ad – explaining that this is an ad for Death Wish Coffee and it is proudly brought to us by Quickbooks which supports small business – #TeamSmallBiz! What? Where? What?

This creative was over caffeinated (sorry, not very punny)… I’m sure the idea was to engage the audience with the story and then surprise them with the reality that it’s coffee in a mug! WOW! What a creative idea! In reality, the creative is too long and the punchline too short. Remember the next ad is up and the viewer just moves on. It’s too much time spent on creative for creative’s sake. By the time the viewer has a chance to catch up the spot is over and we’re wondering why Helen Mirren is dining alone.

Simple Fix

A simple edit to this spot would solve this issue: start with the message “Quickbooks is proud to promote small business”, state this is a spot introducing Death Wish Coffee, put the company’s URL on the screen through the Viking bit, end with a visual repeating Quickbooks supports small business. Such a re-edit prioritizes the message to: Quickbooks supports small business (Priority 1 – our message); that we really mean it… we’re using the balance of the ad to promote our customer, a small business (Priority 2 – our proof); and THEN fun creative with Vikings (Priority 3 – engaging creative).

The only thing this edit would take away from this spot is the surprise factor…. but hey, it’s a Quickbooks ad, not a M. Night Shyamalan movie. Forget the surprise and communicate with your audience. Don’t let your brilliant creative get in the way of your purpose. Sometimes it’s best to use the old speakers adage: Tell ‘em what you’re going to say. Say it. Tell ‘em what you told ‘em.

Have a question about getting your creative or content right? Connect with me for a no obligation conversation.


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Applying Marketing Principles from Super Bowl Ads – Principle 1

Principle 1: Don’t let what you can do with technology drive the creative. Use technology to support the creative message.

Example: Puppy/Monkey/Baby – Mountain Dew Kickstart

This ad features a CGI created creature which is a combination of a puppy, monkey and baby.

You can almost imagine the creative meeting when they came up with this idea. To promote Kickstart which combines three “ingredients” (do you remember them from the ad?) Dew, Juice and Caffeine, someone suggests they could create a three featured animal! “It’ll be great!, they say. “Everyone loves puppies, babies and monkeys! We’ll combine all three!” (As a side note, monkeys are creepy… but that’s just me.)
This is a good example of technology running over the creative. Perhaps they thought they were going to set off a social media phenomenon and everyone would be walking/dancing like the creature (see the end of the ad). In reality, people were probably trying to figure out “What is that thing?!?!” and really lost the good (yes, good – see point 3 below) concept of the ad showing the three main ingredients.
It’s easy to fall in love with technology, but when it becomes the focus “Hey, look what we can do!”, rather than used to support the creative message, it detracts from the ad or marketing.

Example: Pokemon 20

This ad has quite a few tricks of digital technology. It works because the technology and effects are there to support the message of the ad that “You can do that”.

The entire end scene is CGI – stadium, Pokemon creatures, etc. However, the spot has been leading up to this “reveal” by delivering a solid storyline and creating anticipation for the viewer (especially for fans of the franchise). A great example of using the technology to support and deliver the creative message.
So no matter the technology available, make sure it’s the dog that wags the tail of the creative. And leave the monkeys at home!

Have a question about getting your creative or content right? Connect with me for a no obligation conversation.


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