No Pain, No Gain in Interactive Marketing

Kodak‘s chief business development officer Jeffrey Hayzlett knows it’s tough to introduce change at a company.

Take the time when he asked Kodak employees to pose for updated company photos. Some resisted, and Hayzlett pushed back.

“I took everyone’s security picture and pushed them up on the Web,” he said. He apparently convinced the camera shy to change their minds.

Hayzlett’s struggle to inspire or force change in business approaches and marketing strategies is one that was echoed by other business executives gathered at this week’s ad:tech SF.

The Kodak Moment

Change was a necessity at Kodak, which has seen its consumer film business fade like a color print from another generation. Hayzlett arrived there in 2006, a year that the company saw its annual revenue slide to $13.3 billion, a 7 percent drop, and recorded a net loss of $601 million.

Hayzlett tossed tradition out the window. Kodak will sever ties with the Olympics, marking the end of an advertising partnership that dates back to 1896.

“The first day I was on the job, I moved us out of the Olympics. Not for a political statement. We don’t think it’s a good media play for us,” he said. Kodak is more interested in sponsoring events with greater frequency than every two years, such as the PGA Tour. “If we’re going to be a fast digital company, we must develop our own culture. Even if we screw up, we’re going to move fast,” Hayzlett said.

And that includes taking risks in online marketing and advertising. Consider an online video produced for Kodak featuring Vincent Pastore, an actor on “The Sopranos.” Pastore whacks a rival’s printer while yelling, “You sucked me in with your low printer prices and stabbed me in the back with ridiculous high ink prices…Now you get what you deserve!”

Kodak has also taken a whack at its internal business, undertaking a four-year corporate restructuring. It now aims to increase revenues from products in its consumer digital imaging group, such as its new inkjet printers, as well as its products in its graphic communications unit, including commercial printing and imaging equipment.

Targeting Social Media Marketing

When a big brand ventures into the realm of social media, there are risks to consider.

Take Target, the $63 billion discount retail chain, which set up a dorm survival guide on Facebook during the fall 2007 semester.

“This wasn’t about pushing products. We wanted to create a special space for social interaction. We gave them good taste, they invited their friends, and they spread the word,” said Jason Ring, AKQA‘s creative director, who likened it to the role that a host plays at a party. AKQA was retained by Target to work on the project.

Something that Target couldn’t necessarily anticipate: someone drank a little bit too much party punch and asked members of Target Rounders, a group of college students who provide the retailer with feedback about fashion and other trends, to praise Target on Facebook while keeping their Rounders’s affiliation secret. Critics objected, and Target subsequently said an unnamed agency that runs Target Rounders had made a mistake.

“A junior-level person at the agency really wanted to get the [Rounders] team engaged. She went about it in the wrong way, and it’s not something we would have done,” said Jason Kleckner, Target’s information architecture manager. Kleckner works with both the company’s business and creative teams.

That hiccup notwithstanding, Target’s Facebook initiative was deemed a success. It contributed to an increase in back-to-school sales, and the Target product page on Facebook has more than 27,000 members.

Sharing lessons learned from that experience, Kleckner said there’s work underway to improve Target’s Facebook experience. That includes continuing to educate the company’s internal team on how to participate responsibly in social media. “We need to make sure people understand the power of social media,” he said. Without disclosing specifics, Target is exploring partnerships with other social media outlets, as well as other digital marketing opportunities as technologies advance.

Kleckner also fessed up to another online marketing misstep involving Target.

A blogger was offended by a Target billboard depicting a woman with her arms and legs splayed out on top of a Target bull’s-eye. The blogger asked Target for comment and was told that Target wouldn’t comment because it “does not participate with non-traditional media outlets.”

“That was the wrong thing to say, between you and me,” Kleckner told an ad:tech audience of several hundred. “That required the education of the internal team, letting them know this is something we should be serious about and take the time to do it right,” he said, exemplifying refreshing candor and transparency that’s much needed among brand stewards today.

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