Controlling the Uncontrollable

  |  January 12, 2011   |  Comments

Don't fall into these marketing traps.

In the northeastern United States, where I live, winter is an enviable part of the annual experience. And while the thought of winter may conjure up images of a white wonderland of snowball fights, sleigh rides, and shoveling piles of snow from point to point…that isn't always the case.

For example, while we had a good-sized snow storm a few weeks ago, it was almost immediately followed up by unseasonable warm temperatures that melted the snow and allowed the dry, brown lawn under it to reemerge. So far, our winter wonderland is pretty much missing the winter part.

As a homeowner, and the guy who does the shoveling, I'm not complaining. However, the current lack of snow is reminding me of a time about 15 years ago, where we had two winters in a row that lacked significant snowfall. Following the second winter, a large number of local ski areas were forced out of business. As you might imagine, no snow = no skiing = no payroll.

I bring this up because, while a number of ski areas were forced to close shop, several others were able to prosper during the same time because they had invested early in snow making equipment.

The takeaway?

If you have to rely upon luck or good fortune for your success, then it's only a matter of time before that luck will change for the worse. However, for businesses willing to be proactive, there are often solutions that reduce the need for chance and they can instead rely upon consistency.

We can apply this lesson to the challenges we face as media buyers as well. In many cases, we find ourselves relying on a perfect storm of events to help a campaign succeed instead of guaranteeing that success from the outset.

For example, in my career I've worked with a number of advertisers that have the tendency to believe that their offers are so compelling that consumers will instantly change their behaviors in order to take advantage of those offers.

From poorly-designed graphical user interfaces (GUI) to poorly-focused ads with no definitive call to action, the Web abounds with sites and campaigns that are hoping against hope that the right person will happen by to take advantage of their offer. This can only end badly.

The bottom line: Consumers (us!) do things for very personal reasons. We have criteria for what we consider important/interesting/engaging/actionable, and that criteria is based on our fundamental or perceived needs of the moment. For advertisers who are able to define what we need and when we need it, campaign success can be more easily assured once they figure out the best way to get the message delivered.

You need to take luck out of the equation. Campaigns based on consumers magically finding them, taking advantage of vague offers, and embracing concepts that consumers don't currently want or need are doomed. However, campaigns that do the proper leg work of identifying the real target audience, find a message that resonates with this audience, and can place these messages in front of the right consumers at the right time will never need to rely on luck. They can make their own as they go along.

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Rob Graham

Rob Graham is the CCT (chief creative technologist) of Trainingcraft, Inc., where he heads up development of customized training programs for a wide range of digital marketing, entrepreneurial development, and digital media clients.

A 20 year veteran of digital media, Rob has served as the CEO of a multimedia development company; an interactive media strategist; a rich media production specialist; a Web analytics consultant; a corporate trainer and seminar leader; and a chief marketing officer.

When he isn't on the road presenting training workshops, Rob teaches at Harvard University, Emerson College, and the University of Massachusetts - Lowell where he teaches classes on Digital Media Development, Web Store Creation, Software Programming, Business Strategies, and Interactive Marketing Best Practices.

He is the author of "Fishing From a Barrel," a guide to using audience targeting in online advertising, and "Advertising Interactively," which explores the development and uses of rich-media-based advertising. He has been an industry columnist covering interactive marketing, digital media, and audience targeting topics since 1999.

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