08 August 2007

Crafting marketing strategies in the Internet era

This is an article posted in China Daily by Li Jing on 05 April 2007.

When BMW put a selection of action movies featuring its cars on the Web six years ago, they became a big hit and boosted car sales. The auto giant might not have realized that the $10 million investment would lead to a brand new form of markting-digital marketing-with which companies can reach their target audience or manage their brands online.

Since then, digitization has typically been used a s driect medium in marketing.

People-or "users"-only log into a few key new portals for the latest news. Conversations about brands, products, or experiences are limited to newsgroups and mesage boards.

Search engine markeing meant adding a meta keyword tag to your homepage, submitting your site and hoping for the best. Knowing where target audiences congregated, what was being said, and how best to influence was, frankly, just easier.

But things have changed in the past few years. Today, the digital world has grown increasingly complex. While industry observers devote much attention to blogs, wikis, podcasts and other forms of personalized media, these trends merely symbolize the complexity of the digital landscape.

Digital challenges

In this new, complex digital environment, where anyone can be an influencer and we are all influenced in new ways, there are exponentially more users, there are more conversations and more places where users can congregate to converse.

"This environment allows for more opportunity to influence others and build brands, of course, but it also presents challenges," says John Bell, managing director and executive creative director of 360 Digital Influence at Ogilvy.

He says detecting that one rumor before it snowballs into a brand-damaging crisis is more difficult when there are 5,000 sites instead of five. Deciding where to seed a viral marketing campaign is harder when your target audience is dispersed across a larger number of channels online-or when those channels are in continuous change. As for bloggers, you can't control what they say and can't control what they do either.

To overcome these challenges and maximize benefits from the vast digital landscape, Bell suggests a company should first monitor what digital channels and websites are more effective at reaching target audiences, what is being said on these sites, and then develop a digitial marketing strategy.


The next step is for a company to craft an engagement strategy. "Engagement is where we take action," Bell says. The digital spectrum includes not only personal media such as blogs and wikis, but also search marketing, content syndication, website design, online contests and more.

"Sometimes the engagement is defensive, such as if someone says bad things about your product or brand, and sometimes proactive, such as building relationships with some bloggers because they know all about the technology that you sell, and getting involved in the conservation."

He says there are different levels of an engagement strategy. Buzz, or word-of-mouth publicity, can help raise awareness for a brand or idea but does not often engage very deeply. And it does not last.

But active discussion, which involves people on a deper level, has a long-term effect. Bell cites Lenovo, a client of Oglivy as an example. Lenovo launched a series of blogs by its leading designers for carrying on active discussions with customers, influencers and even fans.

"These are ongoing discussions. Participants get to know and trust the authors of those blogs. That trust transfers to the brand," Bell says.

The most exciting idea is co-creation, which is at the deep end of the engagement pool, Bell explains. "A brand can invite its customers to help create part of its services, such as a new mp3 design or a new coffee flavor. The same can be true in business decisions. Say, when you open a store, you can invite people to talk about it," Bell says.

"If you listent to their suggestions and incorporate them like Samuel Adams did with Longshot Homebrew Challenge or LEGO did with Mindstorms NXT, you can build loyalty."

Active discussion and co-creation are powerful in dealing with Web criticism, Bell says.

"You should demonstrate quickly that you listen to them and know what they say. You should find ways to get into the conversation or even hold the conversation, rather than hiding behind public relations and legal departments.

"The key is that you should demostrate that you are willing to take their comments to heart and change the ways you do things. Then, criticism can be turned into a great opportunity for growth."

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