Friday, July 13, 2012

How to live forever

100 years ago tomorrow Woody Guthrie was born in Okemah, Oklahoma.

He wasn't the greatest singer. He wasn't the greatest guitar player. But Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Jeff Tweedy, Johnny Cash and just about anyone who's ever strummed a guitar look up to him because he had something most people (and brands) don't: a point of view.

In describing his approach to his craft Woody said:

A folk song is:
what's wrong and how to fix it 
who's hungry and where their mouth is 
who's out of work and where the job is
who's broke and where the money is
who's carrying a gun and where the peace is.

This point of view informed his writing, his travels, his life. It defined him not just in his time, but for all time.

Great brands are like Woody.

They define their purpose in clear, simple, direct, plain language.

Doing this won't guarantee your brand will be around 100 years from now. But not doing it will almost surely guarantee it won't.

Happy birthday, Woody.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Too much of a good thing

I'm not sure how many of you watched the MLB All-Star Game on Tuesday night. But based the ratings, I can assume very few.

The game which as usual featured baseball's biggest names and best stories drew its lowest audience ever, just 10.6 million viewers. I was one of those for about three innings.

Unfortunately for MLB and Fox, Justin Verlander's uncharacteristically awful first inning ensured the game would be a ratings bust. But the lack of viewership can't all be blamed on Verlander's 95 mile per hour meatballs.

Ratings for the All-Star Game have been falling since their peak in 1976, driven by the near ubiquity of televised regular season games, free-agency and interleague play.

The All-Star game failed to draw this year not because the product on the field was uncompetitive, but because there's no more mystery in it.

Years ago, as a kid in an American League market, I watched the midsummer classic to catch a glimpse National League stars like Clemente, Bench, Carlton and Aaron who I only otherwise got to see play if they were lucky enough to be on the Game of the Week or make the World Series.

Now as a baseball fan I can see just about any player on any given night thanks to local affiliate broadcasts, ESPN, and MLB Network – arguably a good thing. But the benefits derived from those changes in media presence and the game's rules have permanently devalued one of the sport's crown jewels.

Exposure is a tricky thing: not enough and people don't know who you are; too much and you cease to be special.

No matter whether your product is baseball or breakfast cereal, getting the balance right between niche and mass is the secret to maintaining interest, loyalty, margin and profits.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Yes and

Social media acolytes will tell you that their way is "the way" and soon there will be no room in this world for traditional media like television, radio, magazines and billboards because we'll all be too busy watching user-generated content on youtube, tweeting about the great sale we just happened upon, or reading blog posts from self-proclaimed experts like me.

They are, of course, full of nonsense.

It's not either/or. It's yes/and...

Social media is a new and critical part of the marketing ecosystem. It has made it possible for small brands and businesses to launch and gain traction with very little investment. It has provided a platform for large brands and businesses to tell their stories directly to customers and prospects. It provides those consumers who care a channel to interact directly with your brand.

While some traditional media – specifically newspapers – have been hurt by the rise of the internet, social media works best in combination with traditional media. Why?

The internet is a now medium. Yes, the content lives forever – much to the chagrine of Brett Favre, Anthony Weiner, and indiscrete college students celebrating spring break in Cancun – but on Facebook and other social networks people are looking for and sharing what's now and what's next.

So even though stars like the Bieb and JLo's have videos with over half a billion views, most marketing videos sit forlornly on Youtube waiting for a click. Only a handful of online marketing activities have ever reached what anyone would consider a mass audience.

Last week it was Oreo's Gay Pride ad, before that it was the Dollar Shave Club video, before that the Old Spice guy, etc. These quick hits make a great impact but have little staying power. They're viewed once, shared and then they're gone. It's hard to get the frequency to build awareness through online marketing alone.

In contrast, even basic cable shows like Pawn Stars, regularly draw five million viewers per week. For building awareness and frequency, there's still no substitute for television.

Each medium has its strengths, and each its weaknesses. While the landscape is changing, the death knell for traditional media is far from tolling. The best strategies use both to lead potential customers from traditional media to your social platforms to the sale. Because after all, we're not marketing for marketing's sake. We're marketing to sell something.