“E-Marketing” Drops the “E”

The past two weeks have included our annual family vacation to Wingaersheek Beach on Cape Ann, one of the last “undiscovered” (and still largely private) beaches in New England. With a bit of downtime and essentially zero interruptions, I got to thinking about media models that could withstand an interruption-free condition and how that would affect the mix and associated spend in current advertising and marketing channels.

The most prominent feature — in fact, part of a shift already underway — is the rise of user-driven media and a much more integrated approach to commercial communication. This is fundamentally being driven by the digitization of all content forms. Consumers have a much higher degree of control over consumption, use, interpretation, remixing, and ultimately the retransmission of digital content. This means integration versus silos (since the range in significant touch points correspondingly increases) and direct marketing versus mass-oriented interruptive media (since uninvited guests are increasingly bounced at the door).

Adding to the momentum, an increasing selection of tools supporting user control is being pushed into the market with no sign it will wane. Why would it? When was the last time you heard a consumer ask for less control? Control means I’m a participant instead of a couch potato. Think Axe and Red Bull, both focused on being consumers as participants. Marketers to women are part of this, too; look at the positioning for the new pink Tab Energy.

As for integration, the shift to an all-digital media landscape continues to expect “e-marketing” to drop the “e” (no silos, remember?). More and more, it will simply be “marketing,” finely tuned direct marketing campaigns that leverage multiple channels, with messages aimed at very specific users. A lot, in fact, like the way many forms of direct marketing have worked for some time. Big Media, long the awareness workhorse, will likely have the toughest road as content digitization occurs. In most agencies, the new channels have been relegated to the least tenured (a sort of “let Mikey try it” approach to new media), while established creative brains and account execs focus on the cash cow, TV.

Doing great work in a medium that still dominates much of the older markets makes business sense. But it has also created a big opening for newer, smaller, quicker thinkers who are aligned with Millennial behaviors and have immersed themselves in the consistent use of multiple channels supported with relevant metrics, a powerful combination savvy clients and shareholders alike are starting to expect in all promotional work. Last time, I talked about the CMO/COO role in product development. That same combination can drive marketing, too, and in the process will push the “accepted on faith” costs of advertising through the same quantitative rigor as any other business expenditure.

On the campaign side, the new “Beetle Art” from Tribal DDB (again, aimed at women as participants) not only combines online, traditional, and real-life touch points but also creates a larger-than-life word-of-mouth vehicle, adding social media to the mix. Like the personalized Mini Cooper roof campaign that preceded it, and the Mikon personal logo generator, the Beetle campaign is all about giving an individual the tools needed to express individuality. In the process, it gives marketers (and people, in the case of Mikon) a way to extend the reach of both a brand and a persona in the social channels that don’t rely on interruptions. That’s the kind of forward-thinking marketing we’re likely to encounter more frequently and, ironically, to find more effective as marketers and less intrusive as consumers.

All of which brings me back to the beach. In the past week we’ve purchased sunscreen, switching to one of the three brands that blocks all types of UV, based on an article my wife Jennifer read online. We bought lobsters at a wholesale pier my friend Paul found via the phonebook and the old-fashioned method of calling and asking. I shopped for cocktail ingredients, including Mojitos, which I first learned to make in Madrid, Spain in 1994. And, of course, there was the standard “five families cooking together in a beach house” assortment of groceries, many of which were directly influenced by point-of-sale coupons and house-brand prices.

If your family’s anything like ours, you’ve no doubt noticed when you’re on vacation, all whole-wheat bread is the same. Each of these purchases was influenced by a different touch point, ranging from prior social gatherings to online to the phonebook to point-of-sale coupons. Though we watched the final games of the World Cup and the French Grand Prix, none of these purchases were influenced by TV. Instead, we responded to messages that arrived in the context of what we were actually doing or what we really needed at a specific point in time. The more I think about, this is how I want to be marketed to all the time. I suspect I’m not alone.

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Overhead view of a row of four business people interviewing a young male applicant.