Check out the latest Borenstein infographic, recently featured on The Hub. As the new year begins, we’ve come up with a list of the top ten actionable digital marketing strategies that will be absolutely crucial in 2014. It’s no surprise that video content is right at the top of the list, but we also include tips on how to utilize good old print marketing in the digital realm.
Let’s face it: No one wants to be that person – the one who uses a tired cliché that’s been overused in advertising, marketing, branding or public relations to the point of diminishing return. Yet, as 2013 comes to a close, it seems the only way to get our culture to evolve is to single out these buzzwords by name and kill them before they kill all creative thinking in the boardroom, management meetings and brand communications.
- “Hashtag”- Hash tagging has become one of the most rapidly overused social media terms heard on daily basis. One recent example is network television, desperately trying to compensate for lost market share by capitalizing on Twitter and Facebook followings. Networks leverage hashtagging via social media sites in an attempt to build their shows’ brands and increase engagement with teenagers and young adults by promoting series, characters and episodes. Oddly enough, most people didn’t know that the same hashtag symbol existed on their push button phones since the 1980’s!
- “It’s The New Normal” – Yes, the economy has sucked over the past two years, stunting growth and forcing people to reconsider spending. But it’s time to stop falling into ‘Learned Helplessness” behavior, (a psychological term that explains why people can’t get out of their depression). The only thing constant in business is change, be it in technology or the economy. Nothing is the ‘new normal’. Your ‘new normal’ should be ‘abnormal’ if you want your branding to succeed despite the odds. Accepting the mediocre isn’t an option.
- “Your company must be active in social media”— While social media certainly plays a strategic role in building and disseminating messaging for many brands, not every company culture is conducive or appropriately positioned to effectively utilize Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The social media peddlers who are pushing “must be active” must cease and decease.
- “Engagement Marketing”—The concept of total client engagement is very much alive and important. That being said, when everyone refers to their direct marketing and advertising efforts as part of their “engagement process,” it becomes something I want to divorce and declare 40 years of marketing celibacy. I would argue marketing will always be about “consummating the marriage” and not “being engaged.”
- “Print is dead” – Print publications have continuously declined to the point of oblivion but just the way HP didn’t usher in the era of the “paperless office” in the 90’s, newspapers are simply going digital and successfully building new paywalls. Next year you will see Amazon, who recently purchased the Washington Post, making a case for a future where books and newspapers will combine print and digital to produce a sustainable readership ecosphere.
- “How do we measure it? It Depends” – This year, I observed that more digital advertising platforms are moving away from Google’s traditional KPIs in an effort to convince clients that their metrics are more meaningful. So, instead of measuring Cost per Click (CPC) and Click-Through, they say, you should measure “Cost per Acquisition” and “Quality Scores”. But at the end of the day, they say, ‘it all depends what you want to measure’. I predict that in 2014, digital measurements will be recalibrated, since “it depends” isn’t an acceptable answer to accountable marketers.
- “Thought Leadership”- Descartes’ philosophical declaration of “I think, therefore I am,” has certainly been adopted in recent years in the marketing world. In the business of public relations and branding, we have created a monster. Everyone thinks they are a thought leader. The term is so overused to a point that diminishes the original intent, which is to generate new ideas, provoke discussions, and promote intellectual discourse. No, sir, publishing a white paper on an over-chewed topic doesn’t make you a thought leader. In fact, it is quite thoughtless to assume it.
- 8. “Using Big Data”- 2013 shall be remembered as the year where every technology marketer decided to overuse the term “Big Data” to describe the conglomeration of information in multiple formats across an enterprise. In reality, Big Data isn’t new. It’s been bottled up in the enterprise data center since the days of Disco Inferno. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope marketers will overcome their fear of getting specific and provide real business terms to educate consumers without resorting to “Big Data.”
- 9. “Let’s use a Word Cloud”- The intention was good but the execution has been horrible. The practice of using words in a visually compelling way to illustrate amplitude and effectiveness has overwhelmed us in the marketing world. In reality, the practice of going to Wordle.com and generating a meaningless graphic that simply confuses your audience should cause marketers pause and promptly discard it from their lexicon in 2014. At the very least, limit its usage.
- “It’s all about the User Interface”—2013 was the year were every presentation started and ended with the saying “…and remember it’s all about the user experience.” While there is no denying that marketing is about satisfying requirements in order to evoke a reaction or, more preferably, a transaction, User Interface doesn’t mean ignoring business fundamentals such as “back office operations” that fulfill the user experience. With more business analytics at hand, marketers should grasp why UI is a construct and not the end goal of business.
So how many cliché’s have I used in this article? More than I can count. Hence the most important lesson. As branding, marketing and PR professionals, we must be aware that one person’s cliché’s is another person’s innovative gift to the world. Never forget to contextualize your choices before killing a good cliché’. As I often quote an old friend of mine: “There is no dead horse that is too dead to beat; as it’s already dead.”
We all know that choosing the right domain name in the digital age comes with consequences. Your domain is the first step in building digital trust for your brand. Domains can provide a fantastic head start in branding your company with a name that evokes positive, social and viral influence ahead of sales or could work to effectively ‘kill’ your target audience and therefore sales with boredom. But in the past few years, a new trend has emerged, one that says “getting attention”, whether intentionally or subconsciously, is a great way to achieve prominence and get people talking about your brand. Introducing: Semantic Pornography.
For years, most professional marketers and advertisers have lived by the adage that ‘sex sells’. This strategy was and is commonly used when promoting entertainment brands such as Miley Cyrus, Madonna, and Lady Gaga. But these ‘blurred lines’ have crossed into e-commerce and Business-to-Business. What is interesting to note, is that it doesn’t seem to be hurting the brand reputation of those who choose to use this unique technique. Whatever your moral position may be, ‘semantic pornography’ (new term I hope will get hash-tagged) in digital brand naming seems to be effective.
As Marlon Brando, playing a Japanese translator, said in Teahouse of the August Moon, a 1956 American comedy film satirizing the Americanization of the island of Okinawa following the end of World War II, “Pornography (is a) matter of geography.” In other words, what was once considered unacceptable, is now a powerful technique in promoting serious, professional web sites that help infect, promote and get more bang for your advertising buck (had enough puns yet?).
Case Study 1: The Culturally-Blind Semantic Pornographer
Historically, I am not an avid shopper of products sold via spam e-mail, but how can one ignore an invitation to visit a legitimate e-commerce site that sells electronics products at a discount with the name “Bang Good”. No, I am not kidding. Visit the site for yourself. www.BangGood.com is not a pornography site, but a legitimate Chinese-based e-commerce company that either doesn’t care what American shoppers think when they buy technology goods – or maybe they do?
Case Study 2: The Accidental Semantic Pornographer
Imagine that your company is called Dickson (baby was born this way) and is a leading manufacturer of high-tech data records that measure and record critical temperature, humidity and pressure data. A respected name in its community of influence, did anyone think in the marketing department that it is a good idea to call the domain name ‘DICKS ON DATA’? Behold the power of accidental semantic pornography. It’s certainly getting it on here: http://www.dicksondata.com/
Case Study 3: The Strategic Semantic Pornographer
One of the best domain names in the digital branding world belong to a law firm that strategically and (allegedly) intentionally decided that their digital brand persona matches what some of us would consider outrageously inappropriate. OK, we know there are hundreds of lawyer jokes but would you like your brand to be considered a MOFO? Apparently, the answer is YES if you are the distinguished and successful law firm of Morrison & Foerster of Washington DC. http://www.mofo.com/. Since 1996, according to the site, they have served as a trusted advisor in providing complex transactional law and legal counsel to Fortune 500 companies Why make it hard for people to pronounce your name, which would sound as stodgy as every other law firm? Instead, they just shortened it to “MOFO”. I’m certain their parents are proud. Not to mention, given Washington DC’s insidious culture of politics, one would probably rather hire a MOFO to have your back than a gentler, kinder counsel. But wait, there is more – they even have the MOFO Foundation. http://www.mofo.com/
So, what lessons can we learn from these real and lively domain names?
– Test your digital brand domain name across multiple cultures. In today’s global economy, from New York to Dubai to Frankfurt to Mumbai to Johannesburg, certain brand names may not mean, sound or spell the way you intended.
– Don’t automatically assume that ‘offensive’ is bad for your brand without third party validation. A significant goal of good branding is to evoke emotion and expedite the sales cycle to a transactional behavior. If you are not offending your target audience, but instead are inspiring them, then it’s not a bad thing.
– Master your domain at all times. Understand the intricate connection between your off-line, brick and mortar brand and your online brand. As mobile branding continues to explode, they will become one and the same.
– As Google Search and Facebook Search continue to expand their reach to mobile, make sure your SEO doesn’t lead people to a wrong target market you’d wish you never penetrated.
As the ‘customer experience’ proliferates beyond a single silo into ‘anytime, anywhere and everywhere’ landscape, the fast and furious growth of cloud computing and big data distributed over Software and Infrastructure as Service (SaaS and IaaS) is resulting in a new era of strategic communication imperatives
The good news: With cloud-based services, you are freeing your enterprise from total dependence on legacy infrastructure, reducing much of the ‘Blame Your IT Guy’ infrastructure issues that cause costly operational stalls. Cloud-based services have also allowed for the ability to leverage data and information through secure mobility for anytime, anywhere access. This phenomenon has caused a paradigm shift in how corporate America evaluates IT services. If you can build it, now they say, put it on the cloud. An abundance of affordable, high-powered cloud-based software application solutions are currently available for your organization. Whether its enabling employees to securely access their work emails from any location through Virtual Email Exchange hosts such as Microsoft’s Outlook.com and Intermedia.Net or shortening your sales cycle with Salesforce.com, cloud-based software applications empower us to do things faster, cheaper, all while requiring very little technical knowledge.
But, you may ask, what happens when these services go down? Even though an outside provider promised you that ‘everything is backed up’, when you outsourced your entire email, sales database, proposal tracking and digital asset management to them, your business is completely at their mercy. The ‘friendly, happy cloud’ has now become the ‘ominous dark cloud’ and causes major business interruption.
When things go badly for SaaS and IaaS providers they go very bad. A breach in their strategic communications and reputation management can result in loss of trust, confidence and brand loyalty, even with a long-standing history as a quality service provider. In my personal experience, I have recently had the displeasure to observe two examples which illustrate how ‘dumb’ the smartest engineers can be when it comes to understanding human behavior. While these companies are undoubtedly not ‘dumb’, their inability to plan for ‘human disaster recovery’ proves to be incredibly lacking.
My two recent SaaS and IaaS disaster examples:
1. Our cable internet broadband provider, which covers the majority of the East Coast of the United States, is very reliable when it comes to network speed and reliability. However, when there is a network outage, resulting in internet and email being down, common sense would dictate that you would be informed of the outage through a call, text, or through an alternate email address. Instead, I found that most providers actually tell you ‘please log into our website’ to find out the latest status of your problem.
–“Ok, so my internet access is down. You want me to log in to your website to get information about my internet access, which is down?”
– “Yes, we keep our ‘online incident management’ up to date.”
2. Our NYC-based Hosted Exchange email provider, which normally offers Five-Nines of reliability, experienced a major outage. For over 12 hours, multiple files and email communications between clients and our firm went into the cyberspace vortex cloud, without our knowledge that our partners on the other end didn’t get them until later that evening, seemingly missing important deadlines and appearing unresponsive to client communications. A true customer service nightmare scenario when you’re on a deadline. How did we learn about the outage? The IaaS in question did send an email to tell us that the ‘system was down’ and that we were affected, but alas- we didn’t receive the notification as it was via email, which they host. So how on earth are customers supposed to know their email is down, if they aren’t notified via telephonic message, an alternate email, or social media? Ask the guys that designed a system that can withstand cyber-attacks but can’t communicate simple incident information.
In my opinion, the biggest challenge facing SaaS and IaaS growth is not operational but one of recognizing that service operations and client relationships don’t end when the sales contract is signed. In a world where communication occurs and is expected at the speed of light, it doesn’t matter how reliable you are most of the time. What does matter is whether you have the common sense to test your client persona, brand communications, and customer relationship management to ensure that their trust in the ‘cloud’ doesn’t dissipate into droplets of doubt.