Tag Archives: KPI

Mapping The Cost Of Innovation

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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.

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 a 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. Or, even worse, the execution doesn’t align with their strategy, so it hits the intended consumers like a thud.

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, due to a lack of vision or strategic planning.  Others might be due to a company’s lack of determination in supporting ongoing innovation expenditures. And then sometimes, products just don’t work out. All of those factors, are reasonable explanations for the waste of money but they don’t need to be. It really comes down to the ability to have 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 — 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.

Granted, some form of smoke and mirrors is a component of your innovation process – and not in a devious way – you might think of innovation as putting the cart before the horse.  What it does is build an environment of hype that points to a vision of what the future could be. 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.

To the finance types, developing key KPIs to measure your success is a necessary component. 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 just an 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 revenue streams you might not have even considered at the onset.

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.

The Marketing Magic As Seen In A Rock

When reading Christopher Knight’s Culture Monster piece in this past Sunday’s LA Times, I was struck by more than just the points he made about a “levitating” rock and the responses it is invoking.  The main components are permanent installation Levitated Mass by artist Michael Heizer (a 340-ton granite boulder perched above a 15-foot deep slot), the concerns of money spent ($10 Million) and the question of what constitutes art. I feel that the whole conversation pointed to a larger concern relating to people’s general inclinations when internalizing anything. Well, really, it might be more about how so little is internalized. While not getting all touchy-feely about how amazing a sunset is, or how much wonder can be found in a flower or the bee fluttering about it, there is a sense of our rushed lives leaving us unable (or unwilling) to appreciate the nuances of anything. In fact, much of marketing is the art of making products/experiences/ideas seem so obviously perfect that consumers have no idea why they would choose anything else. As we toe the line between being disruptive to the point of jarring and normal to infer that our product is the normal, natural and the perfect solution for what ails us, we are forever conflicted about whether we should be the rock or the magical levitation.

LEVITATED MASS by Michael Heizer at LACMA
Image: © Michael Heizer.

 

How often do we launch a marketing program that is grueling in its planning, exquisite in its execution and terrific in its ROI and KPIs – yet the response from the c-level or publications is ho-hum?  Or, conversely, how many times has something been slapped together at the last-minute with wonky execution and ho-hum measurables – yet the experience was so disruptive that it was lauded by senior executives and publishing pundits? Though it’s never so cut and dry as the examples above, we’ve all been a part of examples that take bits from each side.

In the case of Levitated Mass, who knows how many people will just look at it and not even thing of it as anything more than a garden rock?  Will people consider the whole story about Heizer’s conception of the installation some three decades ago and only recently finding the perfect “rock” in Southern California – or the crazy “parade” as the boulder made its way through the streets of a major metropolis? Ultimately, none of that really matters as the true test would be if people are actually moved when the come in contact with the installation.

That same test holds true for marketing – it can’t be about the big disruptive execution or the subtle representation of what a product does or can do for a consumer – it has to be about moving people and making a connection.

We’ve certainly seen some fantastic marketing product executions over the years – some have driven sales and some might have just garnered buzz and awards. Unfortunately, we’ve also come across some executions that are barely noticeable and, at most, only generate a shaking of the head with the questioning of, “So what?”

As opposed to marketing, art has time to build appreciation or importance. With some campaigns, there’s just a matter of days or weeks of life. In this case, there may need to be some consideration of the beautiful sunset or flower as the right mix of disruption and connection is required.  Disruption without connection doesn’t do much good in the long run. We know that people will probably never care about what went into marketing programs – nor should they.  They should only be concerned with how much they were connected with it.

Knowing that we would be naive to think that the marketing or business world is as ideal as this, we’ve got to sometimes take a step back, open our eyes and smell the flowers. In the end, it is about more than a rock.  It doesn’t need to matter about cost (with fiscal prudence assumed, of course), the way it was conceived or the route it took to get to its end state – all that matters is whether the “magical” connection was made with the intended audience. Everything else works itself out – at some point…

Leaders Of Media Will Get It And The Rest Will Be Pushing Buttons

Over the past couple of days, there’s been many good panels taking place at the Spring Digital Hollywood conference in Marina del Rey. I believe I heard the conference’s organizer, Victor Harwood, mention that there were over 600 participants through around five or six concurrent program lines (such as the Variety Entertainment and Technology, Connected TV – Hollywood Alliance, Content, and Urban Media summits.) There are more than plenty of sessions that could be taken in over the course of four days.  For the most part, I made it a point to check out the sessions on media/advertising – in gaming, online video and regular video inventory – and a couple of things became abundantly clear.  The major point to me is that there are many people who are focusing on the mechanics of how to pull off campaigns and not enough people who are developing media rollouts for a holistic and strategic point of view.  As more and more functions of the media business become automated, there will be a clearer delineation between those who get it and those who are just pushing buttons.

At these types of conferences, the best use of time is when there’s open discussion and even debate among the panelists.  Those times have come up a bit – and they are interesting more often than not – but there’s been a greater amount of timidity (or too much manners) on many of the panels.  In each case, the more excitement and engagement came when the audience (or strong-willed panelists) pushed the needle and added some spirit.  It forced the panelists to get beyond their surface comments and dig deeper into the hows and whats about what they were describing.  In those moments, you could begin to see the separation between the ideals and themes that will elevate further in the future and those that won’t.

Those who looked at issues of media from a holistic and strategic level that went beyond straight demos and display started to get into why a different way of thinking is required in order to excel in the digital space.  The times of planners being able to do the status quo and/or think of media in terms of how it has been thought of for decades is becoming the past.  Certainly, I’m not talking about a wholesale change.  But, if you consider the fact that exchanges for the purchasing of inventory will be automated in such a way as to emulate the financial trading systems (or exchanges) currently on Wall St, then you’ll see that there will be much more reliance on smart and nimble executives than on the “plaster the world with RFPs” mentality that is currently so common. Roger Wood , of iCrossing, talked about this in a session yesterday and Cory Treffiletti focused a bit on it in his column today.

The people we are trying to reach and the platforms on which to reach them are fragmenting so quickly that its sometimes hard to get a handle on it – much less convey the intricacies to the C-level – with the benefits and drawbacks to that fragmentation sometimes showing itself on the same side of a coin. On top of that, you figure in elements relating to social – and the opportunities become exponential. It is those who are smart about the ways to reach and engage that will stand out. Those who rely on gross numbers alone might tread water, but those who understand that managing those gross numbers AND finding ways to expand reach through intelligent execution, innovation and sound strategy will be swimming laps around the competition.

Even the establishment for what constitutes a campaign’s success continues to grow in the way of measurement options and their varying forms. While the KPIs may have been simpler or more clearly defined and consistent across campaigns, there are many more nuances to take into consideration from one campaign to another. It will require a much more strategic mind to qualify and quantify the milestones you are looking for – as opposed to just setting an impression threshold. That in itself is what will separate the opportunities in digital from what was the norm in the past.

While the mechanics are an important part of any product – whether it be a media campaign or a gizmo sold in Walmart – the overall vision is what separates ho-hum from solid or even spectacular. Those who get that, either on the client or agency side will be the ones to excel while the others will be simply going though the motions – and the differentiation will be absolutely clear.

Enough With The “Build It And They Will Come” Mantra!

With the winding down of the Digital Content NewFront (DCNF), one thing is clear – there is a lot of compelling video content.  The question remains – will enough people find it? Online/Mobile video providers are not the only ones confronting this dilemma. A multitude of options are available for audiences of all shapes, sizes, colors, etc. and that hasn’t changed – other than just getting larger by the day. While TV content providers had to go through a phase of dwindling audiences and learning to be able to deal with it, publishers of digital content never had anything but a diverse, wide and scattered environment with which to service. Those in the space always knew that while we could track more information and produce content more inexpensively – but it would be hitting fewer people than the broadcasters and many cablecasters were.  That scale was the first challenge that I think we have collectively gotten over.  Perhaps the biggest hurdle moving forward is the limited perspective usually found in dealing with everything surrounding the actual content creation and the driving of eyeballs to content. It was kind of understandable why many people thought they could build something cool, slap it up on the web and generate some traffic or buzz back in the day.  Before Social Media came on, that was certainly easier – not always completely effective, but more effective than it is now. Today, while many marketers talk about the need for Social integration with their brands and their digital marketing products, its frustrating to witness how many people are still mired in the ideal of “Build it and they will come.”

We see many instances of digital products that take off and generate buzz in a timely fashion, but only tick off one or two boxes out of the five that they could have hit if planned and produced fully across all channels and divisions. Many success stories are achieved almost by accident and many marketers jump on to take a part in its glory. It should no longer be acceptable for a marketing team or vendor to engage on a project based solely on a cool idea if they do not have an executable plan for reaching the right audience.  When setting KPIs or projecting ROI without a clearly defined smart distribution/seeding plan, you’re working in a “fingers crossed” capacity.  Some feel that by creating something cool and putting media behind it, they will be successful.  They will probably be more successful than if they just placed the marketing product in the digital realm, but it’s still not as strong as it can be.  And, that’s why strategy goes beyond any individual campaign and looks to leverage all existing distribution/seeding outlets.

Bringing it back to DCNF, Google/YouTube is the last presentation and will be touting the deeper opportunities with channels – where users can delineate what they are most interested in and have those videos come up in quasi-curated groupings. This might make things a little easier – especially on the video platform that serves up 3 billion hours of video a month. But, for the content creator and any advertisers who are paying for product inclusion within the content, there still needs to be some sort of engagement that actually drives the eyeballs to the content.

While it was nice to see some interesting content presented during DCNF, there’s still a huge lack of compelling discussion of how users will be drawn specifically to this content.  If they are just relying on the conceit that viewers are organically drawn to the affinity channels they most associate with, then they’ve had their eyes closed for a while.  On television, there are MANY channels that I have an affinity for. Yet, there are maybe 15 channels that I will flip through when not watching something in the DVR. Studies have shown that I’m not alone.  So affinity alone does not hold too much water when discussing the introduction of new shows and the generation of viewers.

Moving away from video and focusing on digital marketing products, it’s the same thing. A close friend of mine, Jo Oskoui, told me about an experiment his team just completed that speaks directly to this dilemma.  His company, Oskoui+Oskoui, will be publishing a study that delves deeper into the specifics, but the gist is that they had produced a piece of content and originally posted it only on their blog.  They posted the piece in Q3 2011 when there was a lot of buzz about the related product – a product with a huge cultural value that happened to have a major consumer product release at the time. Their blog gets decent traffic for a blog of that type, but they wanted a limited posting and then see what happened. The basic creative element got less than 50,000 views since posting on their blog – OK but not much.  More than six months later, they completed their experiment by engaging their proprietary social distribution and seeding network to distribute the same exact piece of content and were able to garner over 3 million views with a high rate of re-posting in only one week.

This exemplifies the importance of having a whole plan surrounding any digital marketing product launch. There is too much happening in the digital realm – without even get into the today’s crazy buzz about George Zimmerman’s legal defense team launching a site and social media outlets – nobody can rely on just placing content in the digital realm and expect people to find it.

The good news is that there are many cost-effective options for creating that holistic marketing execution. In fact, I would push vendors to not only come up with the creative idea, but the sound executable plan for generating the distribution that’s required to make a difference (and establish the parameters of success.)  Many companies already engage separate vendors to do creative production, social strategies and implementation, and publicity, but they don’t do a great job of keeping every group up-to-speed – leading to less effective campaigns and wastes of money. So, even if the creative agency isn’t a one-stop shop, that doesn’t preclude the marketing team from engaging all groups internally and externally to set the stage for a whole campaign.

We know that we won’t strike gold every time, but we’ll certainly do better if we go out with a smart strategy and ensure that the strategy and products are communicated across all parts of the company – not just putting content out there and crossing our fingers that people will find it.   FIELD OF DREAMS is a fictional story and we know that the famous line,”Build it and they will come”is just a piece of dialog – we just need to act like we know that when launching our campaigns.

Take the Right Steps in Building the Pieces of the Media Puzzle

It is undisputed that the elements of marketing are expanding and undulating at a phenomenal pace.  While some standard KPIs have been assigned to mediums and platforms, we’re finding that continuous technical change and outlet specificity are making those time-tested standards irrelevant if not obsolete.  As industries and businesses, we need measurement and analytic tools to see what type of ROI our campaigns are garnering, but it is becoming increasingly foolish to continue thinking that those metrics are reasonable or worthwhile.  I don’t know the magic metric to rule all metrics (for I would be a very rich man) but I do know that proper and innovative piecing together of the puzzle lead to a company’s stronger ability to establish measurable and meaningful KPIs and be able to find true ROI.

Courtesy of Google Images

  • You need to have a strong team that does not limit themselves to one form of media.  There is a movement – albeit a slow one – to not have digital be a department in marketing, but core to marketing.  Pepsico has fundamentally been doing this for a number of years.  Other companies are following suit. By doing this, you also ensure that elements feed into each other and don’t seem disjointed.  By leveraging all of the components effectively, the campaign only becomes stronger.  This is where strategists are key.  While many people are taking on the title of strategist, the ones who have solid knowledge of all media platforms (not just digital) are the ones you want to engage on your team.
  • Hire seasoned people and trust them to do their jobs. As part of this, make sure you staff effectively. If you are just staffing to execute the check boxes a brand manager might tick for a campaign, that probably means you’re not really running effective campaigns.  Conversely, if you’re top-heavy with senior people and too many strategy types, the attempts to execute “amazing” pieces will fail due to overwhelmed manpower.  Without proper staffing, your hits will be greatly diminished.
  • Realize that education and trends in the media landscape are no longer relatively static.  Because of this, embrace education across the board. Whether it is in the form of regular workshops or internal summits to learn about publishers and technologies directly from the companies.  For too long, employees have been protective of their domain and the friction and challenges that causes is counterproductive.  Additionally, you never know where that great idea is going to come from. Why handicap your organization by stifling those ideas? Embrace constant change and learning by allowing (or even prodding) employees to go to functions where their knowledge base can be expanded.
  • Now, take that last step further and give up on the fact that once someone is hired for their expertise, you can run them ragged on execution alone.  Even if it’s a matter of setting an environment that 30 minutes per week would be spent on research, it can only help the bottom line.  An example of what you can find in only a couple of minutes is exemplified in this post about why your mobile strategy might be failing.  The knowledge about these tidbits of information help the people who are actually executing and the executives who are questioning and approving.  It’s sad that I see teams who are so overburdened with deliverables that they can’t even spare 30 minutes and the executives don’t understand what they are doing, so getting anything approved is a challenge.
  • Appreciate that the team can execute the prettiest piece of marketing collateral ever, but if the distribution is not clearly thought out, you risk having an epic fail.  Too many executions in all forms of media have lacked proper distribution or placement and have produced zilch in the ROI column. Setting the expectation that distribution/placement plans are as integral to getting a green light as the actual creative will guide the company towards clearer ROI achievement.
  • Remove the silos in your ROI thinking. It is naive to figure you can spend x  on on-air, OOH, print, SEM, Social and mobile and think that none of them have an effect on the other or that they should all be considered individually.  Tools are being developed by numerous companies that start to look at all the pieces of a campaign and assigns value as each relate to reaching the determined goal.  MarketShare is one of those companies who have a product that is just being brought to the market that effectively removes the silo between platforms.  The product (which is not on their site yet) looks promising.

These barely scratch the surface, but its a good basis.  Effectively, don’t shortchange your company by building barriers between groups or barriers to constant learning and growth.  Welcome new ideas and platform opportunities and don’t discount all the exploration and learning that bring efficiencies to your company.  The pieces are all there – it’s just how you choose to put them together…