Category Archives: Content

Customer Engagement

Good session at MPlanet on customer engagement. Speakers included Tom Hernquist from Hershey, Craig Coffey from Nokia, Michael Fasulo from Sony, George Harrison from Nintendo and Paul Woolmington from Naked Communications.

User-generated content was a big topic of discussion. Nintendo’s Harrison talked about attending a launch event in Los Angeles for the Wii gaming console and ending up on YouTube: “It’s a little disconcerting. You have some sleepless nights when you open [your brand] up to UGC. But you have to accept it.”

Coffey talked about how Nokia tapped into the blogging community for the launch of its N95 handset. The marketing team identified five core bloggers – “super influencers” – and invited them into one of its flagship stores before the launch, giving them access to product information and letting them interact with the hardware. Giving them early access to the product “helped them embrace what we were doing,” Coffey said. The positive comments of those super influencers “had a huge ripple effect” on the rest of the blogosphere, he said. A day after the official product launch, there were more than 1 million queries on Google for “N95.”

Asked later about how to deal with bloggers who hate marketers, Coffey said: “We didn’t disrespect the power that these bloggers have. Don’t patronize, don’t condescend.”

Harrison added: “There will always be a large percentage of bloggers who are purists, but others want access and want to engage about new products.”

Other takeaways:

Woolmington described four major transitions taking place in the marketer-customer relationship:

  1. Interruption to engagement, the latter defined as creating the content, tools and experiences to incent people to seek you out.
  2. Control  to empowerment.
  3. Aggregate to integrate. Using all channels to tell your story, but “not painting everything the same color.”
  4. Isolate to affiliate. Mobile third parties to help engage the customers you’re targeting.

Panelists agreed that the 30-second spot is not dead. Fasulo cited a logical reason: Boomers still watch between 14-16 hours of TV a week. Harrison said Nintendo still spends about 70% of its advertising budget on TV (down from 95% a few years ago). “Software launches are a lot like movie launches – we only have 5-6 weeks to build awareness,” he said. “It’s hard to do that without TV.” The difference now, the executives said, is layering in other components to augment the TV spots.

Programming note: Others blogging from MPlanet include Josh Hallett, Garrett French, and Peter Kim.

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Ick Alert: In-Text Ads Gaining Steam

Those annoying in-text ads that you normally find only on gaming and other niche sites are making a comeback in mainstream media, appearing on sites including Fox News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and Popular Mechanics, the Wall Street Journal reports. You’ve no doubt seen them: double-underlined words in an article that, when you mouse over them, pop up a contextual ad. These insidious ad types represent the most blatant of journalistic church-state violations and should be banned immediately from our culture. 

WOMMA’s Ethical Blogger Contact Guidelines, or Tips for Dumb Marketers

The Word of Mouth Marketing Association posted a discussion draft today of 10 rules that marketers should follow when interacting with bloggers:

  1. I  will always be truthful and will never knowingly relay false information. I will never ask someone else to deceive bloggers for me.
  2. I will fully disclose who I am and who I work for (my identity and affiliations) from the very first encounter when communicating with bloggers or commenting on blogs.
  3. I will never take action contrary to the boundaries set by bloggers. I will respect all community guidelines regarding posting messages and comments.
  4. I will never ask bloggers to lie for me.
  5. I will use extreme care when communicating with minors or blogs intended to be read by minors.
  6. I will not manipulate advertising or affiliate programs to impact blogger income.
  7. I will not use automated systems for posting comments or distributing information.
  8. I understand that compensating bloggers may give the appearance of a conflict of interest, and I will therefore fully disclose any and all compensation or incentives.
  9. I understand that if I send bloggers products for review, they are not obligated to comment on them. Bloggers can return products at their own discretion.
  10. If bloggers write about products I send them, I will proactively ask them to disclose the products’ source.

Let’s simplify things and boil the list down to three: 1) Don’t lie, 2) Don’t cheat, 3) Don’t deceive. There, that was easy.

Big Media, Big Changes – and a Tired Old Story

Was it just a year ago that broadcast execs had their boxers in a bunch over TiVo and time-shifting? Today I read that Fox plans to begin streaming the full season-opening episode of “The O.C.” on the web a week before its network premiere. Fox is following the lead of NBC, which premiered two of its new shows on the Web ahead of their boob-tube debut in September. From YouTube trailers to iPod downloads to this latest announcement, the shift in the networks’ approach to their TV programming as it relates to the Web has been stunning in both its speed and its scope. Talk about a tipping point.

But lest we get too excited about the transformation of Old Media, read this story in the Hollywood Reporter about how the Tribune Co., NBC Universal, CBS and others are asking the FCC (again) to relax its restrictions on monopolies, er, ownership of local media properties. The FCC is reviewing its (much-needed) regulations that limit single ownership of multiple broadcast outlets, TV stations and newspapers in a single market.  And the media companies are whining (again), with CBS citing increased competition from everything ranging from Google to YouTube to the iPod to cell phones as justification for looser restrictions.

The Hollywood Reporter provides a voice of reason in an opposing viewpoint from the Consumer Federation of America’s Mark Cooper:

“There is simply no evidence that supports permitting further media consolidation — no justification in law, economics or social policy,” said Mark Cooper, director of research at the Consumer Federation of America. “The cornerstone of the FCC’s argument to relax ownership limits is that consolidation is in the public interest. The evidence to the contrary is very clear. Stations that consolidate don’t produce more news, they produce less. And diversity of news and opinion from the most influential media declines. The record is clear: More consolidation hurts our democracy without any discernible benefits.”

Exactly.

Content: Quality vs. Clicks

Interesting discussion going on here and here about SEM, link farms and the value of quality content. I’m an old-school news guy, so I’ve always argued for top-shelf editorial as a difference-maker for publishing companies. But in a market fueled by page views and unique visitors, it’s tougher to make that case these days. The “content lite” strategies of SEM “seagulls” (as David Churbuck cleverly calls them) is a chilling reminder of the devaluation of original, quality editorial.

I still believe content is king, but I also understand that it’s not enough to pay the bills in the digital world. For many media companies, the pendulum has swung fully on the side of driving online traffic (and revenues) through SEO and SEM – quality be damned – but I’m convinved that long term, there has to be a better balance between relevance and quality. The lesson applies not just to media companies; any marketer must understand that without good content, the message won’t stick.