Mowing the Digital Landscape

Putting It All Together
October 20, 2008, 8:44 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

As we’ve explored over the past nine weeks, emerging and new media can and should be included in your integrated marketing communications mix. Leveraging the power of the Internet, Web sites, social networks, 3D virtual worlds, blogs, streaming media, and mobile devices are just a few of the ways that marketing professionals can build brand awareness and increase their company’s bottom line.

Just as important as considering these tactics is that you don’t lose sight of your target audience. There is not a one-size fits all solution out there when it comes to emerging media. In fact, the ability to segment and then target is one of the benefits of the media discussed in this blog. Engage your audience with sincerity and in a responsible manner, and the likelihood of them responding to your message will be much improved.

Finally, it is imperative that your virtual presence be consistent with how you portray your brand in more traditional media. You don’t want to confuse your audience, nor give them mixed messages about whether or not your product is for them.

An example of putting it all together is when ABC built an integrated marketing plan during the launch of their hit show, Lost. Prior to the debut of the pilot, ABC previewed the show to a group of 3,000 at the annual Comic-Con convention in San Diego. At the same time, a series of “unofficial” fan sites were produced on the networks behalf, building buzz for the new show. Commercials for Lost were aired during other ABC programs to reach viewers that may not have been privy to some non-traditional tactics being implemented. To cap it off, ABC organized a publicity stunt that included the dropping of 10,000 plastic bottles on the beach with a note inside that read “I’m Lost. Find me on ABC.”

The results of this IMC campaign? Lost became one of the top three rated shows in every market it was aired, as well as the fastest-selling TV series in Buena Vista International Television’s history. Last but not least, Lost won the 2005 Emmy Award and the 2006 Golden Globe Award for Best Drama Series. While credit for the show’s success must also be given to the writers, producers, and actors, there is little doubt that ABC’s IMC efforts (which included Web and buzz marketing) enabled the show to get off the ground running.

It is my hope that you are able to implement some of the tactics that I’ve discussed in this blog in your own marketing campaigns. While most of us will not have a chance to work on an Emmy award winning program, with a budget the size of the GDP of Uruguay, we can all find ways to better engage our audience. Best of luck in your efforts!


Obama on Your Xbox
October 20, 2008, 7:04 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

The Democratic nominee for President, Barack Obama, raised a record $150 million in the month of September. How do you spend that cash in order to entice young males to get out and vote on November 4th? You put your candidate where the target audience will find him, video games.

Obama is now featured in 18 video games, including Electronic Arts Madden NFL 09 and NBA Live 08. The ads appear as billboards within the game’s landscape and will be active until November 3rd in most of the highly contested battle ground states. Only gamers that play on Xbox consoles connected to the internet are able to receive the new ads as they are downloaded as compressed images. Marketers have been submitting advertisements into video games via this method for a while, but Obama is the first political candidate to include this tactic in his or her marketing campaign.

While the cost of the in-game ads to the Obama camp have not been released, it is clear that this has become a lucrative practice for video game companies. In-game advertising is predicted to be a $2 billion industry by 2010.

So what does this mean to you, the average marketer without aspirations of reaching the highest political office in the land? Consider these numbers. Both Adidas and a major candy bar manufacturer realized at least a 70% increase in brand awareness and product recall amongst the sample of video game enthusiasts exposed to their in-game ads. In addition, in-game ads are an ideal opportunity to cross-promote your brand’s Web site, much in the way Obama does in his virtual billboards.

If your target audience includes males between the ages of 18-34, then in-game ads will need to be something you consider during future IMC campaigns. Just make sure that your brand fits within the lifestyle of these young gamers, or they will quickly become upset at your intrusion into their living rooms.

The Rebirth of Advertorials
October 20, 2008, 6:12 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

You find them in print media all the time.  Full page advertisements that look and feel more like an article.  They are everywhere from fashion magazines to in-flight periodicals, discussing the benefits of age defying cover ups and traveling to Chicago for the weekend.  Well, the advertorial has finally made its way on to the digital landscape. 

The rebirth of the advertorial began in 2002, when Sony announced it would be launching a $10 million online campaign leveraging the medium.  The content included first-person informational accounts, written by real consumers, with related links to Sony products near or at the bottom of the copy. There was a minor uproar when sites such as and CBS MarketWatch refused to carry the piece because it looked too much like an actual article. 

Despite concerns from the FCC, consumer watch dogs as well as a scarcity of standard rate card prices for advertorials, they are popping up more and more online.  For example, I was recently surfing the Food Network’s Web site and clicked on a link for ham recipes.  I was immediately redirected to the Cook’s Ham site, where I could find details on preparing an entire family meal, with most of the dishes featuring Cook’s product. 

As a marketing professional, I was instantly aware that I had left the Food Network site and that I was now on Cook’s virtual real estate.  The problem is that according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project, search ads are still unrecognized as paid content by 62 percent of users.  As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, transparency is key.  People looking for ham recipes may not care that the ones they find are being presented by a company that processes ham.  But they might.  The Food Network, and other companies that sell advertorial space on their Web sites, should utilize a name convention such as Google’s sponsored links.  That way consumers can make a decision early in the process of whether or not they want Cool’s Ham recipe or one from Paula Dean.    

Do You Wanna Be On Top?
October 20, 2008, 4:50 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We all want our Web sites to be placed at the top of Google and Yahoo’s search results. The results of a 2006 study conducted by researchers at Cornell University revealed that over 50% of Google users fixated on the first two links presented within their search results. After spending a significant amount of time and money on building a site, you yearn to be one of those links that consumers are fixating on.

The question is how do you get to the top of the list? Invest in organic search engine optimization? Maybe. Enthusiasts of this method claim that if it is performed correctly, a company can:
-Improve their Competitive Edge
-Expand Customer Base and target Audience
-Boost sales / Increase their return on investment
-Save time and money

The major downfall is time. It can be a very tedious process to properly optimize your Web site so that it has priority placement on a search engine. So what’s the alternative if you are in a hurry to get your site in front of the online consumer base? Paid placement.

Paying for your site to be featured at the top of a list, in the “sponsored links” or similar section, is the quickest way to moveon up. While the ethics of this practice can be debated, and may have, what can’t be questioned is how profitable this practice is for the search engines. Paid search is expected to become a $33 billion industry by 2010. This means that many of your competitors, if they are not already, are paying Google and Yahoo to be placed above your link.

My suggestion is that if you decide to take advantage of the instantaneous upward movement of paid search that you ensure that your link is clearly marked as a paid link. The last thing you want is negative push back from consumer watch dog groups negating the positive effects of being front and center on page 1 of a Google search.

Want specific advice on how to go about implementing paid search? Sit back, relax, and enjoy these words of wisdom from m0serious.

It’s Nice to Meet You. Now What’s Your Social Security Number?
October 20, 2008, 3:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yes, consumers are becoming more comfortable with sharing information about themselves with the rest of the world. The popularity of Facebook and YouTube are perfect examples. As marketing professionals, however, it behooves us not to take it for granted that people want to tell us everything that we would like to know about them. If we are too forward with our requests, often consumers will look elsewhere for information on a brand.

Luke Wroblewski, in his article, Sign Up Forms Must Die, argues that consumers are more likely to interact with your Web site if you allow them to engage with the content and/or service before asking them to answer a series of questions. People visit your site for a reason. Allow them to try your service first before they commit to providing their demographic info.

Case in point. Google Video requires content generators to complete an eight question form before being granted access to their services. Jumpcut, a lesser known competitor, used to allow you to upload and edit short films without providing a single piece of information about yourself. It was not until you decided to publish your video that you were asked two questions: name and email. Unfortunately, Jumpcut now requires a Yahoo! login and password to complete the same tasks you used to be able to do effortlessly.

Put yourself in the shoes of your potential site visitors before implementing a sign up form early in the process, especially if your product or service may not be something most people are comfortable with others knowing about. I think that you’ll find that your guests are more willing to gradually provide info as their loyalty to your site builds. Otherwise, it’s like you are asking for a recommendation letter from your boss on the first day of work.

Letting Go of Your Design
October 20, 2008, 2:27 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

We all know that the design of your Web site can make or break its ability to effectively market your brand. Research has shown that visitors decide whether or not they like your site within roughly 1/20th of a second. Yes, first impressions really do count online as well as in person. But can we be too consumed with the details of design, such as font size and color scheme, that we forget the big picture? Author John Allsopp thinks so.

In his article, A Dao of Web Design, Allsopp argues that the flexibility of the medium should be embraced, not considered a limitation. There is a chasm between the “web as we know it, and the web as it would be,” stemming for an inability to move past the characteristics of Web publishing’s ancestor, print media. The author argues that designers need to rethink their roles and be willing to allow the viewer to control the look and feel of the page. After all “hardness and stiffness,” as the Taoists say, are the “attributes of death.”

Ensuring the form follows function is not an easy task. But it makes sense. After all, as consumers become more comfortable with Web 2.0 platforms and social networking sites, they will increasingly expect corporate sites to offer a similar level of adaptability.

Take a look at your company’s site. Is it a one-size-fits-all mechanism? Or can consumers with various needs and interests view your content in a format the suits them? Following Burger King’s lead, do you invite visitors to have it their way? If not, you may want to begin adopting the Taoist doctrine of “accepting the ebb and flow of things, nurturing them, but not owning them.”

When One Life Just Isn’t Enough
October 20, 2008, 1:23 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

In 2006, roughly 1.42 million unique consumers visited Second Life and experienced Linden Labs’ 3D virtual world. While the number of active users of Second Life is estimated to be much lower, around 200,000, there is still evidence that investing in real estate that is not real may be of benefit to your company or organization.

For example, Nesquik was looking to improve its image among young consumers. The company hired The SLAgency to create a Nesquik Bunny avatar to directly engage with others during their in-world visits. In addition, The SLAgency built QuikSk8 Park, a virtual skate park, which soon became a hot location for in-world parties, including Nesquik’s annual Halloween Costume Contest.

Over a 20 week period, the Nesquik campaign generated an estimated 36 million impressions via in-world interactions, advertisements, and web banner ads. Other companies such as IBM, Circuit City, and Coldwell Banker have experienced similar success. Not earth shattering results, but enough to warrant a second look.

Looking for a non-corporate example? My undergrad alma mater, Ohio University, has dedicated a significant amount of time and resources into their Second Life campus. Here is a quick look at the results.