More Value for the Customer and You

If you’re like me, you have the tendency to think about online marketing as in-page ad units or interstitials of some flavor. I’ve recently been exploring several new online marketing approaches that just may offer some insight into the future potential of the Web as a marketing venue.

Some of these new approaches have come about as ancillaries to current online advertising tools. Others were born of frustration with the ineffectiveness of many of today’s current ad models.

I’m not ignoring keyword searches, sponsorships, or direct email, but my objective this month is to profile online marketing models I feel clearly offer consumers something of value in exchange for their time and participation in the online marketing process.

Consider where the industry is. Online advertising has historically been based on page ads focused on driving traffic to an advertiser’s Web site. Familiarity breeds contempt. Click-through ads and their pop-up counterparts have become less and less effective with time.

Newer technologies, such as Flash, have come to the forefront recently. But although data size restrictions can be eased using the vector-based tools, many of these ads are still focused on driving traffic.

Online advertisers have played with different ad formats, sizes, and placements. In some cases, they have bumped up the effectiveness of ads. New approaches soon become stale, and usage numbers settle into a narrow, lower range.

Technologies such as email have had some success, but for most recipients the sheer number of unfocused spam offerings detracts from the few messages that may offer benefits.

In short, “What’s in it for me?” often isn’t answered to the consumer’s satisfaction.

Mission Marketing

During my tenure as a columnist here, my focus has been on the relative effectiveness of rich media and interactive advertising approaches. For many advertisers, gaining a full understanding of how interactive marketing can be used to create meaningful usage data has been a long and expensive proposition.

It’s no secret that to attract the attention of an online consumer, advertisers must offer something she can benefit from.

According to Michael Smorenburg, executive VP of Entermark, that fundamental approach is the basis for the company’s Mission Marketing product. The philosophy behind Mission Marketing is most consumers don’t randomly drift around on the Web seeking information but have active “missions” that bring them to the information they want.

Advertisers using Mission Marketing can provide customers with an incentive model that provides value in exchange for their participation in learning about a given advertiser’s products and services. By using merchandise or service offerings as prizes in a virtual raffle, advertisers can encourage consumers to get actively involved in the branding process.

For example, a wireless phone service provider might create a way customers can earn free minutes on their phone service in exchange for their time spent answering a marketing quiz. For every correct answer, the player wins tokens, phone minutes, raffle entries, or points toward a drawing for a prize or opportunity.

By using traditional media such as print, broadcast, and direct mail, advertisers can direct consumers to Web sites using Mission Marketing structures. There, they can exchange time and attention for prizes, information, and value.

For the consumer, the quid pro quo approach is beneficial. For the advertiser, the results include an engaging marketing format, high click-through percentages, and measured data showing consumers not only were exposed to the marketing information but understood it as well.

Mission Marketing examples can be found at: Coolio.com, WinDaily, and Prizes4Fun.

DeskTopAuthor

Another new online marketing approach that caught my eye is DeskTopAuthor from dnaml Pty Limited in Australia. The concept is to allow marketers to create interactive catalogs and brochures from existing layouts and formats in familiar programs, such as Microsoft Word.

These brochures share much of the look and feel of their real-world counterparts and provide additional tools, such as menus and navigation. The files can be saved as either .exe or proprietary .dnl files. The latter requires a free plug-in for playback, but the data-only .dnl format means content will always be virus free. It also means overall file size for the brochure will be smaller.

This tool can be used to create information packets that can be easily downloaded from a rich media ad or a Web site. And they can provide the consumer with added value.

If you know of an “alternative” online marketing approach that provides consumers with benefits in exchange for their time and attention, I’d love to hear about it.

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