Wednesday, January 09, 2008

What next for advertising and marketing?

The following is an excerpt from a white paper. I thought I'd share this summing-up to see what you think and perhaps entice you to read the full version (Marketing and Advertising Models for a Networked World, see left-hand navigation).

All contributions to the conversation actively encouraged.

Understanding how the world has changed and looks set to continue to change – how we are rejecting interruption and embracing participation, how we are moving away from control from the centre to the dominance of communities, what should we do?

I see three immediate routes and believe each is worth pursuing. Each represents a significant shift from traditional, interruptive advertising. Each represents something other than business as usual.

1. Widget Marketing: Make use of the current advertising space and populate it with ads which follow the best practice of virals and widgets.
2. Engagement Marketing: Involve communities in the building of the brands they use – connect them to your authentic voice.
3. No Marketing: Instead, apply the new mode of production the web enables. Communities as producers of that which they desire. No ‘marketing’ required.

Widget Marketing:

Widget Marketing is the easiest to achieve right now.
It fits with the how advertising is currently done – creatives can be done, space booked and paid for.
But we will need new measures of success – not necessarily how many times your ad is seen, or how many clicks it generates (though these will still be important). A further key measure will be engagement – how many people use the tool you provide and to what effect, how many people play with it, shape it as their own, and as a consequence forward it, or display it on their own webspace? While the url remains a significant element of web architecture, route 1 will retain strong economic value.

What should we do?
Create widgets instead of standard display adverts – no matter how in-context and related you can make them. (I appreciate you’ll need a period of both, I’m not suggesting you ditch all that in-context stuff over night).

These widgets must speak in the authentic voice of the people who make the products you are selling. That means involve those people in the ‘creative’. Don’t interrupt the conversation with your own spin. They make the pots, let them sell them.

Each widget should allow a personal outcome. That is, offer tools so the user can personalise, add to, subvert, so that it becomes something they actively want to pass on.
Example: The Pampers campaign in the US at the end of 07.

Because your ad is a widget, the user can place it where-ever they wish – on their own profile page on social networks, for example. In doing this they offer their own endorsement and share it with their network of trust – the people they connect with who share their passions and interests.

It is trust which makes recommended-by-a-friend work – not simply discovery (and it is perhaps the trust element that was missing in the friendspam of facebook’s initial poke at SocialAds).

Engagement Marketing:

This can be harder. It’s certainly harder than selling or creating for display space.

First, sort your head.
Start listening. Let the community take control.
Er, and that’s it really. Everything flows from this change in mindset.

Your brand is not your own. It is ours.

Cornflakes are a breakfast cereal not because that’s what Dr Kellogg ‘made’. Kellogg was in fact out to create a food which would suppress your sex drive.
That’s not what the community of users have decided it is!
Lucky for Kelloggs that they chose to allow that development of the brand!

Engagement marketers work on the assumption that they are dealing with converged individuals – people who are rather more than simple passive consumers – of product or message.

An engagement marketing approach would open up the creation of our widget marketing to the community in the first place. A competition with rewards for the person who makes the most-engaged-with widget promoting a brand, for example.

Further, an engagement marketer would be sitting down around the campfire with the community to help decide whether a widget competition was the right thing in the first place.

Simple rules:
1. Put the community first
2. Listen
3. Change

No Marketing:

In this model there is no ‘advertising’ or ‘marketing’ as we have understood it during the mass industrial interruption.
It has nothing to do with supply chains, value chains, or chains of any kind. It is about webs – of supply and value.
It takes advantage of the match between the way in which both the economy and the web work to create extraordinary efficiencies and ultimately greater value.
To take advantage you must create platforms which bring together co-creating communities who share a purpose and offer them the tools of collaboration.

We're getting better and better (and will get better still) at delivering the right commercial messages at the right time and to the right people, by focusing on communities and making use of social data analytics. And perfecting this has big wins for ad agencies, marketeers, commercial enterprizes and media... and this is a fantastic leap forward compared to the interruptive advertising that has gone before.

But the ultimate wins are about people taking control of the creation of the product they want to own.

If a community is involved in the co-creation of the products and services it has decided it needs to call into existence, this has two key impacts.

1. It has the potential to be a perfect fit. The people who’ve been involved in the co-creation of the product or service that results will love it and 'buy' it (that which we create we embrace, as Alan Moore likes to say). They will also rave about it – recommending it to other like-minded people, attracting more with the same passion/purpose to join their niche global community of collaborators.
2. Doesn’t co-creation of this kind imply a perfect fit between supply and demand? What's the need for traditional ads. The community does its own marketing - and it's powerfully peer-to-peer and with all the ramped-up trust that implies.

What is required to make this function?
1. Communities (what makes great communities?).
2. Tools which allow communities to self-form into groups of their choosing around purposes of their selection.
3. Tools which allow them to share and collaborate to produce.

White paper now available here.

The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?