Tag Archives: Management

If All Screens Are TVs, What Then?

TVolution Last week, the Television Academy of Arts and Sciences announced that they would be awarding prestigious Emmy Awards in an expansion of the short-form series category. The deeper explanation of categories and requirements is:

The Emmys has expanded the short-form series awards to four categories: comedy or drama; variety; reality/non-fiction; and animation. Series must have a minimum of six episodes with an average length of 15 minutes or less, and be shown on traditional TV or via the Internet. Awards have also been added for short-form actor and actress as well.

What struck me is the inclusion of something that was not traditionally television within a “traditional” television environment. While not completely out of line with what the academy has done in the past – they have a membership group that focuses on digital content and they already expanded the meaning of Primetime when they included cable shows that could effectively be consumed at any time (a la HBO, Showtime, BBC) nearly two decades ago, before even DVRs and time shifting came around – it certainly seemed a bit of a land grab for an organization to stay relevant in the shifting of landscapes to an unknown future.

Then, there’s a lot of noise about Facebook making a play for the streaming rights to NFL games over the past day or so that really brings to question:

What do we consider a TV moving forward?
If all screens are TVs, how are people going to interact with them and content?
When will we start gaining from data insights in making it a better experience?

Just looking at Facebook and their want for live sports content, they’ve already driven video views on the platform to 100MM per day. The opportunity to completely do away with second screen environments – where your friend’s comments appear adjacent to the video, effectively making it a huge virtual sofa – is an evolutionary game changer. And, the predictive opportunity for delivering content based specifically on what you’ve been interested in that day or even that hour is mind-numbing.

One challenge in all of this is how closely tied to the past TV – of any form -remains. Though the rising interactivity allows for lean forward video consumption, there are far more viewers sticking to the lean back model. They still might make a selection off their DVR, VOD, or even that time-worn event of choosing a channel, but why can’t we start moving toward content delivered in linear fashion based on what you would probably be interested in right now?

Why do we see a huge amount of content highlighted based on what we watched in the middle of the night on Netflix when I’m logging in with my kids mid-day on a weekend? How come I do an incredible amount of searching on Google, yet their owned YouTube only prompts videos that I’ve already showed my kids on my computer a month prior? When will Facebook come forward with a “You’ll Also Like” product based on what video I’ve consumed and not what my friends post? (To give Facebook credit, they’ve done something like this, but it comes across as being more advertising than value-add.)

I do see a time when we will be able to turn on a stream of content – both short and long-form – and predictive technologies will line up the content and you can choose to watch or skip. The reality is that there is so much data there, it’s sort of silly not to use it. Whether it is Google or Facebook that have people exploring on a daily basis – and they also deliver content – or Cable/Satellite providers who might have relationships with data providers, there should be an ability to curate in real-time what the viewer might want right now. The use of data right now is usually only good for showing me what I was interested in then. Imagine the possibilities if we could have what is top-of-mind now delivered to us.

Perhaps this thinking isn’t even breaking enough from the TV norms as we know them. As much of content is evolutionary, perhaps this will just be a step to opening our minds and experiences to enable an content distribution/consumption cycle we can’t even yet conceive of.

For those reasons, I’m excited about the question of “What Then?”

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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 Space Between Idea and Verb

There have been many companies that have launched and succeeded (or failed) who would have dreamed of their company name or product becoming a commonly used noun, or even better, a verb.  People refer to facial tissues as Kleenex, soda pop as Coke and, within the past decade, taken on Google as a verb meaning “to search.”  Google can have a hard time coming to grips with the use of their product as a verb – as shown in this Google blog entry from 2006 – but becoming the next verb is the Taj Mahal and driving force within many start-ups.  The problem is, most don’t realize the factors necessary to make the transition from Idea to Verb a reality.

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In the case of Google, they came to be when there were numerous search engines and within a few years, the others had fallen by the wayside due to Google’s solid product.  Bing is now the only one close and a lot of the reasons for their still being around is marketing and integration with the operating system that is most prevalent around the world.  As seen in the blog entry, Google itself was not so keen on becoming a verb unless it was specifically about the use of the product itself. Either way, pre-verb, the seemingly most important thing to Google was to become the single best service available and that is the thing that most people who strive to be a verb overlook.

Striving to be included in Websters or some other dictionary means that you’re missing the point.  Certainly, such an inclusion would mean you’ve done something right, but it shouldn’t be the goal. Whenever a client asks for this, I have the same response as we’ve all had when asked by someone to create something viral.  In both cases, the importance should be placed on creating the best product possible and hoping that the winds blow the right way to create the perfect storm that allows your creation to become viral – or a verb. If the expectation that largess and notoriety will come from a strong marketing or publicity campaign, then there must be consideration for the fact that audiences have changed over the years. The main change in the audience is that they expect delivery on promise.  If they don’t get it, they will run. If a company pushes to become anything more than a solid product, people will run.

Much of the navigation between the time of the idea and the possibility of becoming a verb requires a lot of smart, strategic thinking and damn fine product development. Without those actions, you’re destined to be lost in space.

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.

Lessons From SXSW About Authenticity

At the SXSW Tech Conference, downtown Austin was flush with participants pitching their products and more people clamoring for and chasing insights into those products and more. Steve Smith points to the search for Authenticity in his MediaPost blog – Chasing Authenticity At SXSW.  While he was talking about Authenticity in relation to products and their intended users, the same lessons hold true for communication.

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Essentially, Smith captured statements from Walgreens and HBO executives about the development of their companies’ Apps.  In the case of Walgreens, they found that people didn’t care about games – they just wanted to do core activities like simple filling of prescriptions. At HBO, consumers wanted to view original content on the HBO Go App.  In both instances, the companies were able to build user-base solely on the core features and then they were able to expand to other functionality. They realized that they couldn’t hide their “authentic” product to build excitement for something that didn’t make sense for their intended audience right off the bat.

Too often in marketing, we see messaging that is spun too far from the truth.  Or, we see products from publishers, companies and organizations that just don’t ring true to what we believe them to be. We’ve all been there – where we might be too heavily immersed in a product to take a step back and ask the right questions. The right question is not always “Will anyone care/buy?”, but “Does this product make sense coming from us?”

We’ve referenced the common occurrence of utilizing campaign products that are the shiny-object-du-jour and how marketers should really analyze whether that makes sense.  Sometimes, you’ve got to bite the bullet to present what management asks for.  But, we should all be striving to present the authentic core of what our companies represent. The litmus test for any product development or campaign is whether people will immediately understand why you’re releasing/communicating this.  If its not immediately clear to the end user, then you might need to reconsider.

The business world is awash with terms like “optimize” and “leverage” and that’s for a reason.  Sadly, many don’t follow through with the core elements of each. Subsequent campaigns and communications are that much easier when they are derivative of the core values or message.  Through that authentic development and communication, you’ll make bring the right products and campaigns to market with the strongest economic benefit and upside.

Lacking Vision and Strategy, Everyone Witnessed the Hemmorhaging While Waiting For Others To Act

On the heels of Advertising Week and all of the feel-good excitement it generates, the feeling intensified that there’s too much mis-directed emphasis in digital media.  The reasons for this could be due to digital media’s “youth,” but I’m worried it’s based more on lack of vision or creativity. Far too often, the take-aways from large events or provider presentations are mired in technical/representational capabilities.  The buzz analysis emphasizes media’s reach via platforms, pushes, networks and the like. But reach and placement opportunity is only part of the equation – the thing that’s too often left out of the mix is how they could fit with a brand’s strategy.  No matter how cool the technology is or how many eyeballs are reached, if there’s not a clear plan for how the story connects with the eyeballs emotionally or what the end-user will do with this new-found information, all that advertisers are doing is filling pipeline just because it is there.

Image from Advertising Week 2012
(Courtesy of Hunt Mobile)

While we can focus on any part of the media environment to illustrate this, we can look at mobile. Yesterday I came across two pieces online to help convey the concern – CMO Council’s report on companies’ relationship with Mobile and David Gwozdz’ (CEO of Mojiva – a major global player in mobile advertising) recap of Advertising Week in the Huffington Post.

First off, I really like Mojiva and what they are able to do in the mobile space in many global markets via great targeting and interesting ad formats.  As such, I was interested in Gwozdz’ take on the conference.  Near the top of his recap, he astutely conveys the conference’s permeating message that “technology has to work collaboratively with creative,” but then numbers his top things heard/learned at the conference and all of them relate to mechanics.  They are definitely important, but what is missing are the opportunities to connect creatively and what needs to happen strategically to be able to count mobile as a success.  He does end on the note that what he listed (and the conference in general) was just a first step and I agree.

The concern is that judgements are being made by CMOs and other C-Level executives relating to mobile based on the possibilities, platforms and metrics, but those don’t always relate to any true strategies or even opportunities to genuinely connect in ways that are right for the medium. As with any new medium, it is a challenge to shift people to do things in ways they had not previously. The thing is, we should have learned from our growing pains with the advent of “New Media” years ago.  Everything was mentioned about the mechanics of reaching consumers but it was all in the jargon of other forms of media. Nobody was formulating campaigns to leverage the platform and its capabilities.  In mobile, there is a lot to be learned, but that learning curve will be longer as we try to just fill the hole with something that worked for other platforms.  Again, as we’ve learned with online advertising — not only do the same rules not apply, they keep evolving.

The one thing that can remain consistent regardless of platform is clear and cohesive strategy – which brings us to the report published by the CMO Council.

The survey of  250 companies’ chief marketer found that there is a general struggle with mobile.  Only 8% felt that they had advanced capabilities in the mobile channel.  The thing that struck me is — 26% of the respondents are currently building mobile apps and an extra 17% stated that they have a “good level” of competence in mobile marketing — yet only 16% currently have a mobile strategy in place. Of the 43% delving in mobile, only 16% bothered to devise a strategy first?

Once that caveat was established, it didn’t really matter that 43% of the respondents were unimpressed with their results in mobile or the fact that 69% are most interested in social media ads with 54% hot on paid media in mobile. It’s all irrelevant when there is no real strategy to base it on – it reverts back to the shiny object factor and executives’ chase after the hottest new thing.

This obviously doesn’t just relate to mobile media – it relates to every facet of the marketing puzzle. If companies skimp on the foundation of establishing a strategy and just pay for marketing based on what sounds cool or what is the shiny object du jour, there will certainly be a lot of money wasted.

For the sake of all media – publishers, technology firms, brands, planners and agencies need to step up and fully increase their chops in the strategy and storytelling departments.  It needs to be a collaborative process.  Planners can’t absolve themselves of all creative responsibility. Brands can’t leave it to agencies to fully develop product strategies. Technology firms and publishers can’t figure that clients will easily connect the dots between the ways the shiny object could connect correctly with the consumer. A clear and consistent strategy enables all the parties to up their game and create successful campaigns. That strong strategy also allows others to gain insight into the original vision.

For all players, if you’re not going to formulate a dynamic strategy that energizes the brand, enables those working on it and allows for format flexibility, all you’ll be left with is a bunch of data that doesn’t mean much and even more opportunity (costs/revenue) flowing out the door.

While it sort of makes sense for publishers and technologists to emphasize mechanics, the lack of marketing vision creates an obstacle that doesn’t need to be there. It places too much burden on the clients to figure out how the platform helps them. Conversely, marketers need to build the marketing and media strategy that provide the vision to immediately determine whether a technology or platform works or not.  If they don’t fit your strategy, there’s no easier way to move along until you find just the right platform for connecting with your consumers.

Until the emphasis on strategy and the vision it helps to convey becomes commonplace within companies of all kinds, resources will continue to be hemmorhaged with diminishing chances for ROI.

Systems Are Imperative For Consistently Reaching The Goal

This last weekend of the NFL regular season – and even the entire season – revealed a lot about systems and the teams of people you put together to be successful.  If anything, companies can learn a great deal about the importance of entire teams and not just individuals to bring about success and growth.  In some ways, it showed that if you rely too much on an individual their loss of productivity can hurt everyone and on the flip side, that if you have a strong system in place with talented people, you won’t miss a beat when an individual stumbles or leaves. Shooting from the hip might help once in a while, but proper planning and systems set your company up for a long time to come.

A lot of buzz has been made in the past year about Steve Jobs and whether Apple can move on without him.  We also see a lot of importance placed on CEOs and senior management when they succeed or fail and what effect it will have on the business.   I won’t be so naive to suggest that leadership is not important, but I will use a couple of storylines from the last weekend and the full season of the NFL to point out how a well established environment and system can allow both individuals and the entire organization to flourish.  I’ll also delve into how incredible talent can mask the wounds that are festering.

The first side of this is the feel good story of Matt Flynn – a seventh round draft pick making only his second start on Sunday – who had a record-breaking day of 480 yards passing and 6 touchdowns for the Green Bay Packers.  It’s hard not to cheer for the guy, but even he recognized that a lot of his success was due to the system.  The team is coasting into the postseason and might have been fine with average play from their back-up quarterback (so that superstar QB Aaron Rodgers can get some rest and get healthy) so it was brilliant that got such amazing play instead.  The system helped them to not miss a beat.  Green Bay Head Coach Mike McCarthy could get much of the credit, but there’s a lot of front office people who have a part in that credit – not to mention the other players on offense surrounding Flynn.

The Packers run a system that allows personnel to clearly know their part in the machine and excel.  A few other teams like the Patriots and Steelers have the same storied types of systems that allow them to compete year in and year out.  But, when players from those systems – especially quarterbacks – go on the free market (like Matt Flynn will be doing this offseason) too much credence is placed on the individual and not on the team.  One player of recent memory to benefit from a stint in a strong systems is Matt Cassel.  Cassel filled in for the injured Tom Brady and performed really well.  He was subsequently picked up by the Kansas City Chiefs as their franchise QB and he has been average since.  The Chiefs are again ending the season with a losing record – though Cassel has been injured for many of those.  Three years with the Chiefs and Chiefs management are now talking about bringing in more staff that are familiar with the Patriots system. Sort of shows the value of a good system, huh?

On the other side of the coin is a player like Peyton Manning.  The Indianapolis Colt’s abysmal season with Manning on the sideline throughout proves how phenomenal a talent he is and how management depended too much on him.  With talent like Manning’s, it was easy to make everyone around him look good.  Even when he wasn’t on the field, the defense was in better position because they felt that Manning could get them out of any hole.  Over the years, Manning broke a lot of opposing fan’s hearts with late-game magic.  Having received neck surgery prior to the season and sitting it out, the team dabbled with the possibility of going winless.  They did win two games and the fact the team didn’t implode is a testament to the players and the coaching staff, but it was clear that Manning was able to hide (or at least enable you  to forget) the team’s faults for too long.  If they had a system, it seems that it was to rely on a superstar quarterback and hope that the defense can hold on in enough games to get deep into the post-season. This season proved that it’s not a good system – if it is truly one at all.

Upon the ending of the season, The Colts have fired the progenitor of the existing system – General Manager, Bill Polian – with NFL.com reporting:

» By removing Bill Polian as vice chairman, the Colts really are embarking in an entirely new direction in terms of how they procure talent and build a roster. Under Polian, the Colts favored quickness over size, having young players on defense and putting their salary-cap resources into offensive skill players. That likely will all change with a new GM, who will have to come in with a comprehensive organizational plan that includes finding players who fit the team’s new philosophy. It also will take some time to turn over the roster.

Neither of these situations are as clear as they are made out to be, but they do provide a strong argument for management setting up clear and logical systems that enable teams to excel whether made up of  passable or phenomenal talent.

You absolutely need to bring on the best talent possible, but setting up the best system for all employees to flourish might be the best work senior management might achieve.  With a strong system or foundation in place, the strong talent can go above and beyond rather than spending too much time and energy on bringing their realm into a level they are comfortable with.  Without a system, that level or realm might not work well with the other components of the business, causing further breakdowns. 

With a strong system, there is no guesswork and there is a clear illustration of how things fit together.  It allows the proactive “players” to see how what they do affects others and allows them to take positive steps while also allowing for them to be managed in productive ways.  Of course, the best systems are the ones that can conform somewhat to new strategies and initiatives or even available talent.  In the least, it provides a clearer understanding of what type of talent you really need to run well.

In the end, this post could go on forever about the benefits of strong systems, but I’m not looking to create a record-breaking post – just one that can help you win the proverbial foot race to the goal.