Category Archives: Core

Aside

The growth and breadth of items showcased annually at CES has led to the attendance of more than sellers of electronics – it’s caused an ever-growing onslaught of entertainment marketing folks to jet over to Vegas. Wayne Friedman of MediaPost … Continue reading

Navigating The Cost Of Innovation

It’s a new year and we are all on the continued lookout for things new and innovative. The Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2014) kicks off every year with many promises of innovation and they often deliver. Walking those halls provides a course in one way to look at innovation – which we’ll delve further into later. Many companies claim that they place an emphasis on innovation – and to a point, they are delivering – but when it comes specifically to marketing and buzz generation, companies set themselves up to fail in the innovation category.

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Sure.  They may execute a campaign that utilizes a new technology or create a video that goes viral and generates an insane amount of views. They might even develop marketing product that revolutionizes the industry or makes use of an existing product in ways nobody thought of before. But when it really comes down to it, most companies fail when bringing innovation to their marketing because they don’t plan or spend in the right way that lends to cost-savings down the road.

It would seem clear in the writings on this blog that I am all for marketing innovation and have pulled off some executions that I am quite proud of.  The buzz and impressions they generated were phenomenal and have often brought on follow-up coverage in the press. But they could have been better.  Many innovative marketing products could be better if they were not treated as the end-all product that is oft copied, but as something that builds upon itself.

Innovation done correctly is built with future iterations in mind so that products and development can be built on or added on cost-effectively. Too often, those new product are developed for one execution and then, upon its success, they do not allow for augmentation – forcing companies and their vendors to start from scratch.

Numerous factors lead to innovation that is not cost-effective.  Sometimes, it is due to a lack of vision or strategic planning – you were only looking to do this one creative vision and didn’t think how it could be used or grown beyond that.  Others, it might be due to a company’s determination to support ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out.

All of those factors, and more, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be.

It really comes down to the ability to have the long-term vision and communicate objectives well. With the right executives supporting the long-term innovation play – where a specific near-term ROI may not happen – the environment can be ripe for marketing success for quarters and years to come.

Here’s how you do it.

Again, think more than one step ahead. Auto manufacturers build concept cars with the full knowledge that the car as a whole might not make it to the dealer, but components like auto-parking most likely will.  With that vision toward the future derivatives, even an unsuccessful campaign is not a waste of money. Be thinking of what components might be re-used in the future and make sure your team and vendors build those elements accordingly.

You need smoke and mirrors to be a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way. Going back to the CES reference, you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What might surprise many is that a lot of the hyper-cool technologies shown at CES are not real or ready for prime-time. Sometimes features are faked in to prove the concept. Other instances show content that is not optimal or canned to showcase a technology. An example of this is the content that is shown on 4K monitors.  No broadcaster is filming in 4K yet and they started showing those monitors two years ago with dummy content to show clarity. What they did was build an environment of hype that pointed to a vision of what the future could be – with no true revenue stream to show for it immediately. Be prepared to create assets that just show off what you are planning to do in order to effectively communicate expectations within the company.

Utilize communication and spin control. If innovation is treated solely as a magic force that nobody has insight into, it is doomed to fail in the long run.  Even the major technology companies that have super-secret labs share some of their developments internally and sometimes, even externally. Maintaining to others that you are doing really cool things under a shroud of mystery will only lead to further questions on the money that’s being spent. Conversely, communicating too much without conveying the ultimate vision can be almost as damaging.

Develop key KPIs to measure your success. Innovation is not an always win proposition. You may not find huge marketing numbers to point to a winner. Come up with those elements that prove its working.  Is it money saved on future campaigns?  Is it press coverage of your marketing products? Is it related to time-to-market for future products? Is it tied to sales? Brand recognition? Whatever it is, make sure that is known to your team and management. Without those clearly understood KPIs, you’re effectively spending a lot of money on illusion…

When all is said and done, there needs to be an environment or atmosphere that welcomes trial and error. Intrinsically, there is no other undertaking that comes across so much success and failure with few traditional methods of measuring both. It is those corporations and organizations that truly embrace innovation (and not just tout that they are innovative) who most consistently bring successful innovations to market.

Sometimes innovation can seem just outside your grasp (as an individual or an organization) but with vision, communication and execution, it will come back x-fold in marketing and anywhere else.

Timeless Copy, Design And Placement

Some might chalk it up to being in a part of the United States where there is no connectivity, so printed materials are all you’ve got. I chalk my excitement about an ad read while camping in New York up to actually seeing a compelling bit of copy with solid layout and even better placement. In a time where we seem to either find too much copy and imagery cluttering ads, or the other extreme of oversimplified condensing to a hash-tagged  word, the value in good copy is often ignored. That unconnected time in the woods brought me to an ad pitching a British watch made for an American bomber squadron with simple, entertaining and compelling copy. It stands as a timeless example of good copy, solid design and perfect placement.

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What is striking is that it seems like we’re just stepping back in time. With a strong balance between negative space, words and imagery, it maintains a feel that is consistent with the brand and this specific product.  The British watch brand, Bremont, does have a little fun with the topic that is – no pun intended – timely regarding revealing too much information. They astutely convey very little beyond some basic facts and the influence of the B-2 bomber.

The ad is somewhat of a throwback in that it doesn’t provide a url, hash-tag, QR code or other gadget – probably because their consumer knows where to find them.

Media placement plays a huge part in this ad as well. Bremont’s ad was in the July issue of Wallpaper magazine – a perfect placement for their messaging and target.

The interesting thing is that the placement was in their July edition, meaning it might have come out in late May or early June – yet the ALT1-B2 was released in April and you can barely find it on their site, let alone in a store.

Which brings us back to their use of copy, design and placement… Sometimes its not about the product that’s being shown. All of these elements – when used properly – go beyond product and begin to convey brand. And that is when it becomes timeless.

Tools For Maintaining The Brand Heat

One of the challenges any Marketing (and specifically the digital team) run into is the education of the entire staff about what’s new and exciting.  It’s even more challenging to move beyond the listing and explanation of platforms to how the brand is meant to utilize each. The Campbell’s soup team is getting some press for distributing its own “survival kit” for all things digital. The question remains whether it will be more than corporate subsidized access to digital content and platforms and actually convey specifically how the tools are used by the brand and benefit the company’s bottom line.

In a package that seemingly was built by the relatively new social agency, SocialDeviant on behalf of Campbell’s Head of Digital and Social, Adam Kmiec, a good amount of “stuff” to provide digital literacy to its staff. He even goes into further detail about the Digital Fitness Accelerator Kit on his blog.  What we may never see, but is suggested should be a guide that not only explains what these pieces do, but also some ideas about how they might be utilized in the extension of Campbell’s brand.

The stated reason for producing these kits – regardless of recipient – is to enable employees to have a deeper understanding of developments within the white-hot technology development space.  But, as that pace is so quick and the staff can be at different levels of digital proficiency, they would be best served by conveying theories, methodologies and strategies that can leverage marketing technology and platforms to ensure they are able to deftly maintain the heat around their brand.

The X Factor Of Being Heard

 

Sometimes, you see a technology that is extremely cool and can’t wait for it to hit the market. And sometimes, you see something like Headphone:X from DTS that feels more like a pipe-dream that leads you to imagine where it might make the most sense. Could this X-Factor ever really be heard by more than a select few? Which got me thinking that DTS and Headphone:X is a prime technology candidate for marketing and experiential sampling.

HeadphoneX

We first experienced Headphone:X at CES 2013 and blogged about it in the recap. They put people in a room with 11 speakers placed about and did a white noise cycle.  Then they asked everyone to put their headphones on and seemingly repeated except they did not use the speakers, all the directionality was via the headsets alone.  They then went on to showcase a bunch more music and sound effects and challenged you to take the headphones off to kill your disbelief.

 

Needless to say, it sounded amazing – but the questions were:
-          What content was engineered in 11.1, and
-          Was a new receiver required or was it backwards compatible with existing DTS receivers.

 

The immediate response on site was that you would need new hardware…

 

To me, its an incredible sounding gimmick that might never really find real momentum, just like 7.1 is hard to come by because very few elements are engineered for it, nor do most consumers have the required 7 speakers in their music room. Headphone:X is a great solution as you can use most any set of headsets, but that processing and source engineering poses some release challenges.

 

Now, if we’re talking about experiential environments that can truly transport someone through audio alone, there’s a huge opportunity – but you’ve got to find the client or content creator with a need and wherewithal for such a thing. Creating that environment that truly tickles the senses in a way people aren’t accustomed to is much stronger than just re-purposing video or an experience the consumer could easily have elsewhere.  With the right utilization, Headphone:X could be the X-Factor that differentiates your message being heard rather than ignored.