Agile Marketing: Float Like a Butterfly

At a recent meeting, a speaker quoted Mike Tyson as saying “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”. As the market and our brand’s customers move at ever-increasing rates of speed, marketers must be able to quickly move and adapt their plans to avoid (and hopefully not in reaction to) getting punched in the mouth. Perhaps we should take a lesson from “the Greatest” Muhammed Ali: “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”.

Many companies operate using an annual planning cycle, and that’s not likely to change overnight. Boards of Directors and executive leaders need to have confidence that their marketers are not randomly chasing every bright shiny object, and are investing resources wisely. But consumers don’t operate on an annual plan: they are making new choices every day, and are always developing different ways of making those decisions. An annual plan can’t adapt to a new tool like Pinterest, which took off in a 3-6 month period and became an important new source of information for consumers.

By adopting a culture of agile marketing, marketing organizations can respond to market changes in real-time, and increase return for shareholders. Yes, you will plan for the year, but will be always evaluating what is working, what is not, and what new tools and channels are available, so that you can reallocate resources toward the most effective efforts and maintain relevance with your consumer.

How can marketers become more agile?

1. Gain alignment with top management on the high-level objectives and metrics for the year, and only develop detailed plans on a six-week or two-month basis.

2. Focus on what you are doing NOW – not last week or next week. Is it working? How are consumers responding? If you don’t know the answers to these questions, build the systems you need to get you those real-time answers.

3. Hour-long meetings become the exception, not the rule. Change your rhythm: meet more frequently, for shorter periods of time. Many agile marketers use a “daily scrum”: 15 minutes every day or every other day. Longer meetings only happen at the beginning of the project when the team is establishing the goals, and at the end when the team is distilling what they have learned.

4. Most of the marketing budget will go to what you already is working, but set aside a small but specific percentage of the budget for experiments. Be razor-sharp in defining what you are seeking to learn, and establish the success metrics before you begin implementation.

5. Test, test, test. Fail (and learn) fast. Maintain a “backlog” list of ideas that you want to test. Give team members the opportunity to “make a pitch” for funding for a small test of an idea they are passionate about.

Here are links to additional articles about agile marketing:

Digital Advertising Effectiveness: How do I know if it’s working?

As brand managers are spending ever-larger shares of their advertising budgets on digital display advertising, they are asking more and more questions about whether these investments are acheiving the desired results. There are many ways to measure digital campaign results – and in real time and while the campaign is underway. By paying attention to how everything is working, a campaign can be optimized while it is underway, trading out poorly performing creative units and media placements for better performing ones. Here is a checklist to help brand managers work with their media and creative partners to plan and evaluate a digital campaign. (And by the way, it is important to have this conversation while a campaign is being planned; the media and creative agencies need to put tracking tags in place, and establish check-in dates, before the campaign starts to be able to provide the results during and after the campaign.)

There are 3 basic questions a brand manager wants to answer with any digital campaign: (1) how are the media choices I’ve made working, (2) how are the creative units working, and (3) is the campaign acheiving my business objectives?

1. Media effectiveness. Your media agency works with each site on which your advertising is running to understand the results of the buy. These interim results can alert you to changes needed, and will allow you to shift dollars to the sites that are performing best, and to heavy-up on creative units that are proving to be most effective.  Interim reports should include:

  • Impressions delivered to date – is each site delivering as expected, and at a rate that will acheive the desired reach and frequency?
  • Engagement / click-through rates – are site visitors responding as expected? Is the plan delivering the consumer actions (video views, clicks, in-ad engagement) at the rate anticipated in the plan?
  • Conversion rates – are consumers engaging in the action the brand is seeking, such as registering with the brand, making a purchase, downloading a document? How do the conversion rates vary between sites; does it makes sense to reallocate any parts of the media investment?

2. Creative effectiveness: by tagging each ad, the creative agency can determine if some creative executions are performing better than others, and can suggest changes to the ad rotations or to the units themselves to improve performance. Questions that could be evaluated include:

  • Which images and copy lines are more likely to drive click through and / or conversions?
  • If using video, which units result in the highest percentage of completed views?
  • Do certain creative versions work better on certain sites?
  • If there were different offers in the ad rotation, which offer is driving the largest reaction from the target?
  • If the campaign includes social sites, what units are providing the best rate of earned social impressions?

3. Campaign effectiveness: by using a third-party research partner (such as Dynamic Logic or Research Now), you can compare the effect your campaign has on exposed consumers with a control group. This sort of study can help to determine:

  • rates of ad recall
  • consumer measures: shifts in awareness, intent, purchase rates
  • brand measures: shifts in attitudes and usage
  • how the target consumer reacted vs. other consumers in the exposed group
  • changes in these measures over time (to assess the optimum frequency level)

Woody Allen was talking about Your Brand

Woody Allen famously said: “80% of success is showing up”.  This is as true for brands as it is for people – the key to brand building in today’s environment is to be found by potential consumers when they are in a receptive situation. These days, each of us has an unprecendented level of control over the messages we receive. We can choose when and how to be entertained, get the news, or learn about what is happening with our friends. If we have a question, we can look up the answer. If we want to solve a problem, we can ask others who have faced the same challenge. As long as the source of the solution is credible, we usually don’t care much about where the solutions t comes from: it could be a person halfway around the world, or a brand that is in our kitchen pantry. Brand marketers need to find ways to “show up” in relevant places, with relevant content, to be successful in this evolving landscape.

We have all changed the way we consume media. Studies show that we actually consume more than ever, as the number of channels through which media is delivered has exploded in recent years. And because of this, brands are changing the way we market our products and services. Brand marketers can no longer choose the channels into which we place our messages and count on our messages being received. Brands must rely more on “being found”.  New phrases like “brands as publishers”, “content marketing”, “inbound” and “always on” are being added to our marketing lexicon to help us express these changing ways of marketing.

The premise behind these phrases is that marketers are moving away from an environment where the brand simply needed to create messages and deliver those messages to their consumers through a few mass market vehicles. Today the number of channels through which a message can be delivered has exploded to a size that makes it impossible for a brand to rely on placing its message in all the right places. We must make sure that the messages are compelling enough to be passed along to the channels we can’t afford to reach.

So how can brands be sure that they “show up”?

1. Understand your consumer’s decision journey and where they get information as they are considering and evaluating your brand and be sure that your content is in places s/he will be looking – at all stages along the decision journey, online and offline. Identify ways to “recognize” individual consumers as they interact with the brand at each stage and record each touch point.

2. Design content that will add value to the consumer’s life when they find it: make them smile, solve their problem, make their life easier. Provide consistent and relevant content at every stage in the journey, to increase the opportunity to be included in the consumer’s evaluation set and to reinforce a positive experience after purchase.

3. Identify the consumers that have entered the loyalty loop, and no longer go through the consideration and evaluation stages before they buy your brand. Develop strategies to help them advocate for your brand to others, in online and offline channels, and reward them in tangible and intangible ways for doing so. Seek to establish a relationship with them: listen to them, remember their birthday, let them get to know you – and I mean YOU, the real person(s) behind the brand, not some corporate entity. Help them to share their experience with and loyalty to your brand with others – in the thousands of channels a brand’s advertising dollars could never reach.

If Woody Allen is right, and 80% of success is just showing up, brands will be successful as they allocate their marketing resources to ensure that they “show up”.

Stop Targeting Your Consumers

Have you noticed how the language of marketing often sounds like we are in the military? In our marketing and media plans, we use words like “target” and “campaign” – it sounds like the brand is the aggressor and that the marketer’s job is to attack the consumer. I have a mental picture of a shooter in an arcade or a fair, firing at targets and knocking them down as quickly as they pop up.

As digital marketing allows brands to converse with their customers in increasingly direct ways, it is time to change our language – because words matter. What you call something influences your behavior towards it. As brand marketers, we have always sought to create an emotional relationship between the brand and the consume. Digital tools allow us to create content that is more personalized than ever before, and it is time to change our language to words that reflect a relationship.

In our personal lives, we meet strangers, who then may become interesting acquaintances, and some of those acquaintances become friends. Some folks say that strangers are just friends that they haven’t yet met. We often meet new friends through introductions by current friends. Brand marketers seeking to create relationships between the brand and the consumer should use the same kinds of language, recognizing that there are real people at both ends of the marketing communications – not “targets”, but potential friends of the brand.

A blog post by Jon Holden put it well: “Getting to truly know the people you are marketing for, and finding unique ways to tell their stories and connect on a personal level will go a long way to establishing trust and loyalty”.

So, how does thinking about our customers as friends and potential friends change our marketing plans? Here are a few ways:

  • Rather than defining messages the brand wants to send, we develop messages that our friends will want to receive: something that will be useful in their daily life, something that will make them smile or stimulate a new idea.
  • Rather than creating content for strict demographic or behavioral targets for our messages, we create content for the people who have told us they already have a relationship with the brand by signing up for email, subscribing to an RSS feed, and/or becoming a friend on Facebook or following us on Twitter.
  • Instead of creating a TV spot or video that is designed to be watched many times in one or two channels, we create a video that is designed to be talked about, passed along, changed, spoofed.
  • Our brand messages to our friends are designed with the understanding that they have a very brief shelf life, and we need many more messages. A relationship isn’t built by sending one present to a friend on a special occasion; it is built by small interactions every day, over time (and still remembering the special occasion with something special.)

Instead of “targeting our consumers”, brands need to “talk to our friends” and “invite our acquaintances” – and by creating valuable content for both our friends and acquaintances, we earn the right to be introduced to others. This allows the brand message to spread organically – to more channels, in a more credible way, than would be possible for a brand operating in the “targeting” model.

Don’t be shy. Go ahead, say “hello”.

Facebook Advertising: What Brand Managers Need to Know about the Latest Changes

Facebook recently announced additions to their advertising offerings, continuing their efforts to provide ways for brands to deliver brand stories to existing and potential brand fans. Because of the Facebook Edge Rank algorithm, most brand posts are seen by only a small percentage of their fan base, (an average of 16% according to Facebook). By purchasing advertising units, brands can target their own fans (and others) with advertising units to ensure the brand’s message is seen by the folks to whom it is directed. In addition to the ad formats discussed in earlier blog posts, Facebook has added some new advertising formats:

  • Mobile: advertisers may now deliver ads to Facebook’s mobile platform.
  • Newsfeed: along with the placement in the right rail, premium ads are “eligible” to be delivered to the newsfeed.
  • Social features: premium and marketplace ads will offer like, share and comment features,
  • Large format ads delivered on logout.
  • Reach Generator is a product that guarantees 75% monthly/50% weekly fan visibility for Page post activity.

Most premium ads are limited to 90 characters, and must originate as posts on the brand’s timeline.

Since ads originate as posts, brands have the opportunity to maximize ad effectiveness by using only those posts that have been most effective in generating fan likes, shares and comments.

These new units and the new Reach Generator product ensure that the content brands develop for Facebook is actually seen by their brand’s fans. Although these changes reinforce the fact that Facebook is NOT free, brands that make the investments in quality content and distribution mechanisms will be able to establish strong and ongoing relationships with the people that use their products, and expand their reach across their fans’ social graph.

For more thinking about the mix of investment for ads vs. apps, see this AdAge article:

Facebook Page Changes: What Brand Managers Need to Know

In support of Facebook’s goal of helping brands to tell their stories and engage consumers in those stories, Facebook has changed the layout for Brand Pages; these changes will take effect on  March 31 (or sooner if the brand chooses.) If you have an advertising campaign in market on March 31, all traffic will land on the new Timeline, rather than any custom tab or app that you might have created for your campaign, unless you adjust your media links to go directly to the URL for the application.

The new layout, called Timeline, will be the same for every page visitor: those who have already liked the brand and those who have not. A brand is not allowed to create any graphics for the page that are designed to emphasize “liking” the brand, encourage sharing, highlight any offers or prices, or provide contact information (i.e.: website or email address).

The Timeline is important, but the brand’s publishing strategy continues to be more important and deserves the most focus. Most consumers will experience the brand’s content through their own News Feed, not via the brand’s Timeline page or applications.

What you should do now (and what you shouldn’t):

  1. DON’T PANIC. Brands have the option of “publishing” the new Timeline anytime between now and March 31. Go to your page and choose “preview” to see how your brand page will look if you do nothing; you can make as many changes as you like before you publish the page (or it automatically publishes on March 31.)
  2. Pick a cover photo. Facebook has already selected one for you from your photo album; you may want to choose a new one.
  3. If you use apps, identify the 3 most important ones and move the thumbnail images for these apps into the tops spots below the cover page.
  4. If it is appropriate for your brand, identify four or five important milestones in the life of your brand, decide how you can illustrate those milestones, and develop associated text for each. You can add milestones to your brand’s timeline without posting the update to the news feed of your brand’s friends.

The Timeline’s important “above the fold” features:

  1. A large “cover photo” image
  2. Four buttons below the cover page image that link to brand tabs and/or applications; the brand can choose what shows up in 3 of 4 of these.  (The photos button is immovable.)
  3. Up to 8 additional applications can be made available to consumers via a drop-down button.

How these changes will affect the brand’s publishing strategy

In this new format, visual images will be much more important to a brand’s publishing strategy. Photos and videos are much larger in the new layout, so posts that are text only will get lost on the Timeline (but might still work very well in the News Feed of the brand’s friends, so don’t go overboard and  force the use of an image if you don’t have something appropriate.)

Despite its name, Timeline does not appear to be displaying posts in a strictly chronological order. Facebook has added a “pin” feature to allow you to pin a post to the top of the timeline for up to 7 days. You can also “star” a post to make the image double wide.

Helpful links for more information:

How to Measure Engagement using Facebook Insights

Facebook Insights for Brands provides a TON of information about what is happening on the brand’s page; to avoid wasting time looking at everything that’s available, a marketer  must pick and choose what matters. Many marketers use Facebook as a tool for generating consumer engagement with their brand, with the objective of building an emotional connection between the brand and the consumer. When the brand creates something that is meaningful to the brand’s fans, the fans are likely to share that content with others, which will expand the brand’s reach and deepen the impact of each interaction.

If your Facebook strategy focuses on consumer engagement, I recommend two levels of reporting: one is at the “page” level, and the second is at the “post” level.

For Page Level reporting, I suggest the following metrics. The report  should include columns for the current month and the prior month; the current version of Facebook Insights only goes back to July of 2011, so we are not yet able to add a third column for the same month in the previous year. Although daily and weekly numbers are available in the Insights reports, I focus on the “28 days” metrics to smooth out the daily fluctuations.

  • Lifetime total likes
  • New likes in the month (number and % growth)
  • New unlikes in the month (number and % change)
  • 28 day page engagement, which is the number of unique users who engaged with your page in any way during the past 28 days. This includes page “likes”, along with any clicks on content, any stories created through likes, comments, shares, and posts or recommendations created by users. I show this both as a number, and as a percentage of total lifetime likes.
  • 28 day total reach, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the number of unique users.
  • 28 day total impressions, with separate lines for organic, paid and viral. This is the total count, so may include multiple impressions for a given user.
    • I include a percentage for the viral reach and impressions number, so we can see if we are getting better at creating content that our fans want to share.

For Post Level reporting, the percentages are more important than the actual numbers, because we are trying to create posts that generate engagement. The Insights reports provided by Facebook don’t include percentages, so we download the file and add columns to get us to the data we need.  For each post, our spreadsheet includes the columns listed below, allowing us to sort the results in all sorts of ways. I’m not as interested in reach numbers here – the number of impressions and the interaction rates they generate is the focus.

  • Post date and time
  • Targeting used (if any)
  • Post copy
  • Category (we have several topic / content categories that we use in our editorial calendar; this column allows us to identify any variations in interactions by category)
  • Total impressions
  • % of viral impressions (as a percentage of total impressions, how many impressions were in a story generated by a friend)
  • % engaged users (as a percentage of total impressions, the number of people who click anywhere in the post)
  • % likes
  • % comments
  • % shares
  • % other clicks
  • % negative feedback

Analysis of these results over time can guide the development of individual posts. If I want to maximize the reach of a given post, I will focus on the sorts of posts that generate the most post likes or the highest number of engaged users. If my goal is to generate click-through to an app or other content, I will use these results to determine what tactics are best suited to encouraging click-through – and that is usually different from the tactics that will generate the highest number of likes.