Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Digital solutions don't always solve your traditional problems

one of my main gripes is, people expecting a digital influence strategy to be the miracle pill to all your business woes.

the audience exists online right? so why not just reach out to them there? yeah, the proof is in the pudding, but i'm sure every marketer and advertiser has also seen the charts that indicate, the money simply isn't going into digital. markets in Singapore are still holding on very tightly into investing their marketing dollars into traditional media, a paradigm that is slowly losing its audience to a fragmented media landscape.(but constantly evolving, more on that next time)

so anyway, say you do intend to put your money where your mouth is, and invest into digital strategies. you've made the right first step, but digital isn't just a digital carbon copy of traditional strategies. if i may mention seth godin's analogy of the meatball sundae.

traditional marketing, advertising and PR is your meatball. it tastes great, it works well, it's been established that these are the best practices to approaching each discipline. However, using an un-thought digital strategy is like putting whipped cream, cherries, hot fudge and a waffle to your meatball. the toppings taste great, but they really don't make the product any more palatable.

what you want, is a digital strategy that works more like meatball sauce, or spagetti to go with your meatballs, or change your practices, products, organisational structures to become more like a vanilla ice-cream. that's when instead of just getting a single meatball or a single scoop of ice-cream, you get a much richer and fulfilling brand.

so that's all fine and dandy, yeah, great analogy Seth, but what next? (i havent read that far into his book yet, but i'm going to hazard my opinions and guess here.)

in my line of work, i can reach out to bloggers, i can talk on forums, i can get stuff onto facebook, i can do a lot of things that gets the word out to people who are influential and where certain niche audiences exist. but sometimes, we still have a certain old mass media mentality. we want EVERYTHING. and we end up cluttering the web, adding noise to signal, telling stories to people who don't want to hear it.

i suggest, targeting specifically the key influencers for any project, and be open and transparent with them. the advent of this digital age, is that we should no longer need to read between the lines of press releases, or the hidden agendas of media publications.

the blogger is unique, in the sense that, he/she is doing it for himself, whatever their motivations are. but its so deeply personal that hidden agendas can easily become the public scrutiny.

so hence this changes for PR, direct communication. listening to what people are actually saying after you tell them a problem. are we really listening to what people really want to say? i've always believed that by asking the right questions, you'll get the right answer. don't just ask generic things, ask what's really pressing in today's fragmented media. people are calling out for more transparency, more realism, more entertainment, more interactivity. and we've shortchanged them more than we have listened to them

in terms of advertising, was talking to a few creative people in my agency, we all know banner ads are dead. if your marketing dollars are simply going into banner ads, fire your media agency, they obviously are holding on to old-world vestiges.

we talked about interactive microsites, mini games, in-game advertising (think WOW, racing sims, sport sims, metauniverses) but above and beyond, Digital solutions don't always solve your traditional problems. the general evolution of advertising will somehow find its way to be more targeted, so that when you see an ad, it makes perfect sense to you, it doesn't piss you off. it's more like a personal assistant or friend that recommends you something you might have forgotten, or not known about. i guess it's sort of like having a girlfriend who buys you gifts, and if she understands you, she'll get stuff you like. (not she likes)

this evolution can come from the traditional sense, it doesn't always have to be digital. because the problem is not always about where the audience is, but how the audience is perceiving the media around them. HENCE, marketing, advertising and PR all have to meet this mindset change.

people are changing, mass media is probably going to give way to mass micro media. content providers have to deal with smaller audiences, but really serve their audiences, and prove that the audience they're reaching really pertains to what media buyers should be putting their money into. hence.. the conglomerate might be dying it, specialised units is the way of the future. it's easy really, as the market fragments, shouldnt our strategies as well?

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