Home  › Marketing › Strategies

How to Keep Your Interactive Marketing on Track

  |  August 4, 2009   |  Comments

Follow Sir Topham Hat's rule: be useful.

Among the big stories of last week (notably the seemingly pointless deal between Microsoft and Yahoo), was the release of a Forrester Research report on American's media consumption times. The study, conducted with 40,000 Americans, asks people to report back on the amount of time they spent with different media channels: radio, print, television, and Internet. For the first time since 2004, the amount of time people spend using the Internet did not shoot up dramatically. In fact, it slightly dropped, leading many observers to conclude that we may have hit an equilibrium point with the Internet in daily life.

Consider the nature of this question. The study is asking people simply for a raw number of hours per day that they devote to using a particular device for content. There are only 24 hours in a day and most of us are either commuting, eating or sleeping during a good chunk of those hours (i.e., not consuming any media); the amount of time spent with media can't go up infinitely. Time may be grabbed from some of those other activities, and we've certainly see cases where people shift their news-consumption time away from print and toward television and the Internet. But we need to remember that a new device or a new channel can't introduce new time into the day. It simply must compete for the available hours.

For advertisers, this is one key question; the other is to what degree to consumers rely upon a particular channel. Time spent with newspapers is low and getting lower, but there is a core group of readers who absolutely rely upon that paper and refuse to let the medium hit zero. So, the question I'd like to know is not only how many hours do you spend using the Internet, but how much do you care about those hours?

It's All About "Using"

If you look at the chart from Forrester, you see a peculiar thing in the headings of the data. The question asked was, "In a typical week, how many hours do you spend doing each of the following?" and the bars are noted "Watching TV", "Using the Internet", "Listening to the radio", "Reading the newspaper", and "Reading magazines" (those last three also have the qualifier "not online").

If we want to take a guess at how valuable the time is spent with the medium, I think those verbs -- watch, use, listen, and read -- are the key. The Internet is the only medium that we "use" (except for swatting a fly. Print publications are great for swatting flies in ways that Web sites can never be). If I were a careful survey taker, I would be able to consider all sorts of online activities into the category of "using the Internet," from getting my e-mail to chatting to buying airline tickets, to writing down my thoughts to watching "The Office."

The Internet is useful. It is not a place where we watch, listen or read, even if that is what we seem to doing. What I mean is that, even if you are reading something online (this column, for example), the experience and the content are fully surrounded by tools that allow you to make use of it. There are buttons to save or forward the content. You can search it, reblog it, and comment on it. In some cases, you can extract bits and remix them. We offer up things online not just to be consumed but to be used.

The Topham Hat Rule: Be Useful

My kids are big fans of Thomas the Tank Engine, a set of stories (and toys, books, games, magazines, ice shows, and who knows what else) about a group of trains with faces. The man who runs the rail yard is Sir Topham Hat who is always imploring his engines to be "useful." In fact, the highest compliment that you seem to be able to get in the Thomas stories is that you are a "very useful engine."

We must apply this same logic and approach to interactive marketing and advertising. You have to make sure that you communicate your message. At the same time, you must provide something worthwhile, because, simply, people want to use the Internet, not simply view it. If you want to advertise in cinemas, you have to take advantage of the big screen and the surround sound to be impactful and memorable. If you want to be successful online, you must take advantage of the fact that you are marketing on a medium that people see as a tool, and they anticipate getting value out of.

This is why the time spent on the Internet is most often seen as highly valuable to a viewer. People increasingly feel that their Internet connection is the single most important content delivery channel they have. You can leverage that, simply by remembering to always try to be a very useful engine.

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Stein

Gary Stein is SVP, strategy and planning in iCrossing's San Francisco office. He has been working in marketing for more than a decade. Gary lives in San Francisco with his family. Follow him on Twitter: @garyst3in. The opinions expressed in Gary's columns are his alone.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.

Resources

Jobs

    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...
    • Technical Project Manager
      Technical Project Manager (Agora Inc.) - BaltimorePublishing Services, a subsidiary of Agora Publishing in Baltimore, MD is looking for a great...
    • Financial Research Associate
      Financial Research Associate (Confidential) - BaltimoreThe Financial Research Associate will be responsible for responding to research-level customer...