As John Singer has mentioned “Marketing ecosystems are a new framework for strategy management. They shift the view of ‘brand’ as the primary unit for strategy-making to an aggregated view of competitive strategy and action at the system level. Advantage goes to those marketers that do the better job of designing ecosystems with mutually-reinforcing effects from internal and external assets, and managing the ecosystems for growth, innovation, and continual improvement.” (Singer, 2006)
We are at a stage where new technologies are becoming pervasive and marketers are changing their business models to leverage these new technologies. The challenge is for us to learn how to use these technologies as effectively as we have come to use the old ones.
This is the foundation of the marketing ecosystem. With a sound business strategy supported by a well thought out marketing strategy the digital strategy should unfold fairly obviously. The digital strategy is perhaps the smallest part of the strategic planning, but it is critical as it has the capacity to become the most capital intensive piece. The mix needs to be right from a business and customer perspective.
A key learning for me has been that unless each of these three are in place and interlinked effectively it can be hard to execute with success. It can also be hard to know how successful you have been without some metrics defined and monitored.
This diagram is familiar to most marketers, the extended marketing mix, which is based on various extensions of Borden’s original idea of the marketing mix (Borden, 1964). The question we need to address is how does digital technology change the way we approach marketing?
Some good definitions of internet marketing have been developed: “Internet marketing is achieving marketing objectives through applying digital technologies .” (Chaffey 2006) and “eMarketing is achieving marketing objectives through use of electronic communications technology .” (Chaffey 2006)
Based on this and experience of marketing campaigns using the internet, I would argue that the internet is simply another medium and should be treated accordingly. Although, it can also be a channel as well. Many marketers get confused when confronting internet as part of their marketing plans and get bamboozled by the technology. It is not about the technology. It all comes back to the business strategy and the marketing strategy that must be executed. Judicious selection of media is just part of normal marketing planning. Thus it is necessary to use familiar marketing planning tools:
A – Audit: An audit of internal strengths and weaknesses, an external opportunities and threats.
O – Objectives: SMART eMarketing objectives.
S – Strategy: eMarketing strategies.
T – Tactics: an eMarketing mix.
C – Controls: measuring the performance of our eMarketing plan.
But this has been all about us so far. What about our customers? Has the internet changed them and what they expect? Do our old ways of communication still hold true?
The real problem for us to address is the changing way our customers are using technology and the media. In the not too distant past we could just broadcast our messages and they would get through. This was because there were limited media channels competing for people’s attention. Now this is changing, Mark Pesce sums it up nicely “Attention is the limiting factor for the audience; we are cashed up but time-poor. Yet, even as we’ve become so time-poor, the number of options for how we can spend that time entertaining ourselves has grown so grotesquely large as to be almost unfathomable. This is the real lesson of YouTube, the one I want you to consider in your deliberations today. In just the past three years we have gone from an essential scarcity of filmic media – presented through limited and highly regulated distribution channels – to a hyperabundance of viewing options.” (Pesce, 2008)
It was reported in the UK’s Guardian that younger people are turning away from email as a means of communication – “Outside of work, SMS and instant messaging are fast becoming the writing tools of choice. Indeed, South Korea - that crystal ball of all our digital tomorrows - has even seen a report that many teenagers have stopped using it altogether. "It's for old people," they say.” (Fitzpatrick, Dec 2007) This phenomenon would horrify a number of older folk who are addicted to email as a communication channel. Not to mention the vast army of electronic direct marketers. However, this is in contrast to business where the supremacy of email continues unchallenged.
This is one small example of different B2C and B2B uses of the same technology. It is also an example of the niches growing up around particular generations and usage patterns. Again it means that our media landscape is becoming more fluid and more complex to navigate as a business.
The rules really are changing, companies can no longer control their own images and data. The proliferation of sites like You Tube and Flickr mean that the old ways of ruling, like ownership and copyright, are being challenged so fast that legislation cannot keep pace. New ways for ordinary people to co-opt your content and turn it into something else pop up daily. The music industry is a classic example of this phenomenon, they tried very hard to control online music, but their efforts have not put the genie back into the bottle.
Continued development of home based convergent technologies, such as personal DVRs like TiVo and IQ, have ensured that sampling of content by users will escalate. Also broadcast media strategies will, while still having specific application, no longer be broadly relevant to getting your message across.
Further, changes in the way we use mobile phones will drive what is possible for consumption. One of the key features we are seeing now in the way that younger people interact with media is that they are not always sitting at home. They will be consuming media while they are out and via their phones. This means we need to start to understand how to craft messages in this slightly different medium – you cannot just stick your existing web message on a mobile web page and expect to deliver a good customer experience.
Another key development is the growth of video as a medium for mobile delivery. This will require a rethink of traditional video delivery, this is because people on the go are likely to seek to consume ‘snack sized’ video content. For example, they are unlikely to want to watch Gone With the Wind on their phone.
There is a lot of talk these days about social networking and much jockeying for positions of ownership of those media (e.g. Murdoch’s acquisition of MySpace). But I think that this map – humorous though it is intent – sums up the nature of these social networking communities. The are multiplicitous, the are mutable, and they have mostly yet to be monetised effectively. In this we see the technology creating new ways of interacting and all of us trying to catch up and work out how to benefit from it.
What does all this mean from a marketing point of view? Again it all comes back to the strategy and understanding the medium. There are rules we follow for placement of advertisements in print media (e.g. where on a page, or where inside the publication) that have grown up over many years of experience. However, it is only relatively recent that studies of eye tracking and similar have measured how people read computer screens and web pages. We are still at a very primitive level of understanding how people consume information from the web on their PC. Now we are adding into the mix mobile technology as well. We have a lot of research yet to be done until we reach the same level of understanding as for traditional media channels.
The big thing now a lot of organisations are focusing on is building their own online communities. The success of this will relate directly to how relevant their offering is to the consumer.
All of these are just tools, there are experts who already understand them if you don’t. These all rely on different types of optimization strategies (e.g. multivariate testing, behavioural targeting). But the foundation is always the same – to listen to your customers and deliver content that is relevant to their interests. And it all comes back to the business and marketing strategies.
Australia continues to have an active magazine culture with Magazine Publishers Australia reporting recently:
“ In the 12 months to June 2007, gross copy sales of ABC-audited consumer magazines were around 223 million. The retail value of consumer magazine sales is estimated to be more than $1.06 billion. Twenty-three of Australia’s top 100 audited consumer magazines have net paid sales in excess of 100,000. Six of the top 10 weekly magazines have sales in excess of 200,000.”
“ Around 90% of magazine sales in Australia are via retail outlets, such as newsagencies, supermarkets, convenience stores and auto service stations. Approximately 10% are sold via subscriptions.”
But the fact is the way people access and use media is changing. A great example of this is a friend of mine how reported that his children do not know what radio is. Cameron Reilly, of The Podcast Network (http://gdayworld.thepodcastnetwork.com) blogged:
“ Rushing around this morning, driving my kids to piano practice. In a hurry, so the ubiquitous iPod wasn’t jacked into the car stereo. Instead I turned on the radio for the five minute trip to piano. After a minute, Hunter (age 7) asks me from the back seat “Hey Dad - where’s your iPod?” I explain it’s in my bag, I haven’t bothered to plug it in. “But where’s the music coming from?” he asks. “The radio,” I explain. “Is that like TV?” asks his brother Taylor (also age 7). I look at their faces in the rearview mirror and realize they have no idea what radio is. They have never heard me listen to radio. They are amazed that music is playing without the iPod plugged in. If you have any shares in Austereo - welcome to your future marketplace. It doesn’t even know you exist.” (Reilly, 2008)
There is much research showing how younger people are not reading newspapers like previous generations. That means we must use different channels. This is why we are all interested in the social networking phenomenon and are trying to find out how people read this.
Pew research from Jan 2008 reports that “48% of internet users said they had ever visited a video-sharing site such as YouTube. A year ago, in December 2006, 33% of internet users said they had ever visited such sites. That represents growth of more than 45% year-to-year.
15% of respondents said they had used a video-sharing site ‘yesterday’ -- the day before they were contacted for our survey. A year ago, 8% had visited such a site ‘yesterday.’ Thus, on an average day, the number of users of video sites nearly doubled from the end of 2006 to the end of 2007.” This represents a significant shift in internet usage patterns, and I suspect that this is only the beginning of the next evolution of the internet.
Past usage of the internet related to static sites that delivered information, but this growth of interactive sites, where even if users do not produce the material themselves they do distribute it to others, often with commentary and adaptation.
This list of top sites is very interesting, especially when you delve into precisely which websites are represented in these results. For example, Fox Interactive Media actually comprises the following websites:
According to TVNZ recently market shares for popular social networking sites declined:
“ Figures from Nielsen Online in the United Kingdom show a 5% drop in the number of Facebook users between December and January, with a similar fall for social networking websites MySpace and Bebo.”
“ MySpace experienced a similar fall with its share going from 23.14% to 22.58% in the same period.”
“ Hitwise Australia's social networking and forums subcategory shows Facebook's market share dropped from 18.36% in December to 17.95% in January.”
This type of reporting about fluctuations in numbers of users, while correct as a numerical statement, fails to grasp the essential changes that these websites have driven in the ways people consume media and interact with each other. The most important fact to realise in this story on TVNZ is that, anecdotally, kids are leaving Facebook because their parents are joining it. Also they do not take into account the switching costs. For example, a friend wanted to stop using Facebook (it was his New Year resolution) but I noticed him logged onto Facebook a few days later. Why? Because most of his contacts are stored in there. He has since decided to remain a judicious Facebook user so as to avoid trying to transfer all his contacts.
Thus mainstream media reports of the death of social networking are probably premature. What is more likely happening is that users have gotten over the honeymoon and are starting to assess how to best use these tools in their lives. Similarly the providers of these sites are working out how to successfully monetize them. This means we need to grapple with both sides of this equation to obtain value for our businesses.
The foundation in business strategy mentioned at the beginning of this session is critical, without this any success is merely accidental. Upon that foundation a sound marketing strategy and supporting processes. At the centre is the customer, from whose perspective all that we deliver must make sense. Then to enable our marketing activities capability in technology and to understand the possibilities and limitations inherent in it we need skilled people. Those people need to understand not only business, but also marketing, and also be skilled in understanding web technology.
What is really important is to establish trust with our customers, to listen to their needs and to understand the media we use to communicate with them so as to achieve maximum benefit. Don’t be afraid to ask experts to assist. The body of knowledge required to deliver effective marketing in the world of web 2.0 any beyond is a combination of business, marketing and technology. The 5 points to remember are:
Trust & listen to your customers - respect the messages you receive