Saturday, June 26, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Impulse vs. Considered Purchase Strategy

Much of Internet marketing is intended to sell products. As a matter of fact I think I can safely make the case that all Internet marketing is, in one-way or another, about selling products. What’s most interesting are the differences between selling products that are primarily an impulse buy vs. those that are a considered purchase, and the implications that can have on your chosen marketing strategy.

The strategy behind pushing an impulse buy differs from a considered purchase. An impulse buy is typically a desire, not a need. It’s something that’s not a crucial component of a consumer’s life, but tends to make things either easier or more enjoyable. They’re also typically lower cost items, where the impact on the consumer’s bank account are minimal (which may depend slightly on the size of the consumer’s bank account in the first place). A considered purchase is higher on the hierarchy of needs, and tends to be more of a necessity. A considered purchase requires research, it requires analysis and it typically requires a larger investment. They also tend to cost more.

In both cases the marketer is trying to drive engagement, but the depth of engagement is deeper on a considered purchase. For an impulse buy, the engagement is intended to push the consumer to a purchase page as quickly as possible. This can be done through the development of remote storefronts, affiliate marketing and banners distributed into contextually relevant environments where the user is in a similar mindset, and may be thinking of making a purchase already. Rich media works very well in these kinds of instances, driving immediate interaction and sales.

In the case of a considered purchase, you are more than likely looking at creating a higher touch engagement, with as many as 20 different points of interaction along the path to a sale and not all of these interaction points will be ones that you can control. Also, a considered purchase almost inevitably requires online and offline activity to generate a sale, so the marketing must be more deeply integrated. Many brand marketers fit into this category because they recognize that the power of a brand lies in the positive associations and the deeper value of the brand they’re building. They may lie in a cluttered category or a high priced category and the brand value is what lends them credibility and puts them over the top, driving the sale. Mini-sites, remote content syndication and more integrated solutions tend to work very well for considered purchases, where the goal is information more than immediate clicks.

Search is crucial to both the impulse and considered buys. In the case of the impulse, the messaging needs to be focused on “buy now” and the targeting is far more tactically placed, meaning the terms that are purchased are going to be very action-oriented and deep. This translates to a high volume of terms, many of which are phrases and the top position may not always be required. The goal of search for impulse buys is reach; as many people, in the mindset to buy, as possible. In the case of a considered purchase, a marketer will likely focus their terms more tightly, aligning with research and information gathering for the consumer and the message will be more focused on educating the consumer and differentiating the brand.

Display is also not to be overlooked, with technology playing a very key role. Behavioral targeting is extremely important for both, and the recency factor that can be integrated into the targeting is where the differentiation occurs. An impulse buy is going to deliver a message as close to the search and decision-making points as possible, whereas a more considered purchase needs to be introduced and engaged with throughout the entire process, ensuring that the brand is always staying top of mind during the consumer’s path to a purchase.

In both cases, measurement and understanding the decision making path for the consumer is of the utmost importance. Before you launch a campaign, you need to understand the strategy that will work best for you and measure your tactical efforts consistently throughout. If you do your homework in advance, and lay out the correct tactical plan, you should be able to achieve your objectives.

How are you differentiating your campaigns based on these goals?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 7: Special Comic Book Issue

Have any of you noticed that the biggest, baddest (and for the most part, most successful) movies of the last few years are all comic book-related? From such icons as Batman, Spiderman and Iron Man to more indie-minded films like Wanted, Kick-Ass, Sin City or the upcoming The Last Airbender, the level of quality for comic-book films has risen significantly over the years. On TV, it’s the same thing; even though Heroes was cancelled it still was a dramatic improvement over such past creations as The Greatest American Hero (

Creativity and imagery are what drive this content to be so successful, and that same inspiration of innovation can be seen in the online universe (not just the Marvel and DC universes, respectively). The development of the iPad has provided a new experience for comic books, making it even easier to access this content no matter where you are. To that end, this issue of the Digital Influentials column is dedicated to the sites and applications that feed the need of the comic book fan!

If you want to know the news behind the comic book business, including previews and insights into new characters and new story lines, check out NEWSARAMA ( The site is the CNN of comic book information and a wealth of interesting tidbits.

If you’re a collector, you probably already know about COMIXOLOGY ( Comixology is a site, and also an app, that gives you insider previews and allows you to create a “pull list” of titles to review and check out that week. You never miss an issue, or a plot twist.

A number of comic book companies are getting into the iPad heavily as a new tool for distributing their stories without having to play the distribution game (too many people don’t know where to buy these books anymore). Leading the path is certainly Marvel ( and their MARVEL COMICS iPad app. Joining the fray are companies like IVERSE ( and PANELFLY ( All of these companies have created apps that allow you to buy and manage comic selections from their warehouse as well as new releases, creating a new audience for an age-old publishing experience.

If you left the comic book world back when you were just a kid, then maybe you just need a quick refresher on your favorite characters (trust me – a LOT has changed). The best place to get up to speed, believe it or not, is WIKIPEDIA ( Type in the characters you want to know about, and read their history! The maturity of these titles and the art-work alone may draw you back in.

For other apps that you can check out and use to get re-engaged with the comic book trend, check out COMICZEAL4, COMIC VIEWER and ARCREADER. All have their plusses and minuses, but all provide you with an iPad experience of page turning excitement.

Comic books aren’t just for kids anymore, just ask Hollywood and check out the budgets attached to the upcoming Thor and Captain America films. Disney even bought Marvel, which goes to tell you something right? Who can argue with the mouse!

And just for those of you who will recognize the reference; ‘Nuff Said!

Friday, June 18, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Strategy vs. Tactics; An Issue Of Compensation

Does your agency focus their attention on tactics, rather than strategy?

Many people talk about the agency model being “broken”, and the primary reason is that most agencies are compensated by their clients based on tactics, not strategy. When you compensate your agency partners for the tactical side of the business (the media plans and the banners or websites they create) rather than the strategic side of the business, you get what you pay for.

The marketing landscape is littered with agency reviews that stem from the age-old bait and switch phenomenon where the agency pitched the business with “the a-team” and the client ended up being serviced by “the b-team”. This happens because the pitch is when agencies put their best foot forward and they show strategy to demonstrate their approach to business and provide an example of the work they’re capable of providing. Unfortunately after the pitch, when the agency wins the business and it comes down to the day-to-day, the budgets go tactical, the work gets less strategic and the team changes. Of course, both sides are at fault when this happens. The agency is at fault because they should never even have a “b-team” that gets assigned to business and they should always be strategic in nature. The client is at fault because 9 out of 10 times their fees are being paid to the project management team (also called “account management”) and the tactical team, with very little being applied to the senior, strategic team that should be driving the business. A quick calculation of the fees that most clients pay their agencies will show that, on average, about 10% of fees go to strategic work while around 90% go to tactical execution. In that equation, how come everyone is so surprised that they get the ”b-team” and lose the strategy they fell in love with?

This is why client/agency relationships last about 4-5 years now, vs. the 15-20 they used to last. The business has gotten more efficient, but the fees aren’t recognizing this fact.

To make matters worse, the structure that sets up agencies to focus their efforts on tactical needs vs. strategic needs also creates a situation where most agency employees aren’t even trained to be strategic. The majority of staff within major agencies are less experienced and woefully under-trained in the art of marketing. Some agencies have training programs in place, but most of these take a back seat to client business (as well they should since that’s where the revenue comes from). Of course this creates a self-fulfilling prophecy because if your team isn’t trained in the art of strategy (and yes – it is indeed an art), then you won’t retain the business in the long run. Too many agencies are focusing their efforts on owning the client’s data in order to make them reliant rather than adding strategic value. Data can be a very important tool, but data can be aggregated from almost anywhere these days and just owning the data is not a strategic benefit.

So what can be done about this, other than complaining about it?

If you’re an agency, you need to charge for strategy. You have to find ways to monetize the senior team that can lead your client’s business and you need to maintain a focus on strategy if you ever hope to retain your clients. Agencies are hired because of people and approach, and the right people with the right approach can be a very difficult relationship to unseat. If you lead with strategy, and your client recognizes and pays for that work, then your relationships will last longer.

If you’re a client, you need to buck up and start paying for strategy. Agencies are full of smart, ambitious people who want nothing more than to help you build your business. They are creative and strategic thinkers, even if they don’t all know it yet. Of course, if you’re going to pay them for their strategy, they should be willing to risk part of their fees on performance and “put their money where their mouth is”. We do it in our shop and many other agencies have started to follow suit, but strategy is an art, and in some cases it can be a gamble, but it’s an educated gamble.

I’m something of an idealist when it comes to the agency business, so that’s why I’m sharing these thoughts in this column. I want the business to succeed for everyone, and strategically I think sharing the solution will make everyone better. Don’t you agree?

Friday, June 11, 2010

MEDIAPOST: Upfronts? We’re Talking About Upfronts?

If you read that header and it reminded you a little bit of the infamous Allen Iverson rant from many years past, then I did my job as a writer. If you read that line and thought I was going to go on a mild tirade about a somewhat frustrating topic, you might also be just a little bit correct.

The last few weeks have witnessed the typical media coverage over the Television Upfronts with the usual happenings where one network is selling faster than the others and everyone plays games behind closed doors, promising delivery, bonus delivery, negotiating on costs and hoping that things go as “well as the year before”. The Upfronts are a unique experience in my eyes. They’re a tool created by the networks to artificially create demand and increase pricing and they work really well. They’re a chance for marketers to get a sneak peek behind the scenes of the upcoming television season and bet their budgets on which shows will garner an audience. This Upfront season is especially risky with such powerhouses as Lost, 24, Law & Order and numerous other shows getting cancelled (R.I.P. Heroes and Flash Forward) so the risk feels a little bit higher than last year, yet rates are still going up. How is that possible?

The Upfront only works because of finite inventory mixed with a little bit of hype, but addressable TV and the potential of the new Google TV and updated Apple TV platforms may signal the beginning of the end (finally) for the Upfronts. What happens when TV inventory is no longer a gamble? What happens when we no longer need to guess on the audience for new shows when the platforms will tell us what the actual audience is and we’ll be able to deliver a targeted TV message, in close to a “real-time” model? What happened when marketers demand the same accountability in TV that they do from digital and Tv truly morphs into a digital platform? When that happens, and it will happen, the Upfronts lose their luster and all that’s left is hype.

The Upfronts are as much ego as efficiency. I understand the desire to get locked in early to programming for a show that’ll be a hit and securing better rates than you would’ve (probably) gotten in the scatter market. I also understand the issue of leverage, but media is becoming a commodity and TV is not going to be able to withstand that fact for long. Auction models and real-time marketplaces make leverage a dated component of media buying. Replacing leverage is performance and the ability for marketers to gauge actual response as a result of their ads.

Of course there are Internet companies now doing Upfronts and I think in some cases, for some key, finite inventory such as homepages and high profile ecommerce inventory, these can make sense. My issue is not with the concept of the Upfront itself, but with the irrational exuberance that surrounds them in the TV arena. Upfronts should exist to satisfy the needs of the marketers as much as the needs of the publishers, but these feel especially one sided. They’re not the end all of a marketers budget and in many cases they can be the least strategic effort if you lock your entire budget into them, at a higher rate than the previous year, and aren’t afforded flexibility later in the year. Upfronts have a place in the business, but the expectations needs to be reigned in a bit and more in-line with the other trends in the marketplace.

Of course, maybe it is like “practice” in Allen Iverson’s eyes. Maybe we should just stop talking about it and focus on the game itself; the performance of our marketing and how it relates to driving growth. Maybe we should just stop talking about the Upfronts altogether, and the exuberance will naturally fade away?

Yeah, well – here we are years later and I’m still referencing Allen Iverson, so what do I know?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Brand Promise Vs. The Brand Experience

As usual, we love to overcomplicate things in this business. Social media is no different, and if anything it’s the most overcomplicated category of all because everyone is out there, searching for a silver bullet that just doesn’t exist.

Social media is media, pure and simple, but (as I mentioned a few weeks back in one of my articles) the message is of utmost importance, as it is what drives action in the social environment. The way the media is used is really no different than the way generations of consumers have used media and interacted with messaging in the past, with the exception that the viral nature of the format is easier to ignite than other formats. Sharing is at the heart of social media, but the sharing of information is an extension of word-of-mouth. It’s word-of-mouth on steroids.

I bring this up because last week I had a re-epiphany in conversation with a colleague. A re-epiphany is an epiphany that I had in the past but forgot about, and when you remember that epiphany things tend to fall into place. The epiphany was that no matter what messaging you attempt to put into the marketplace to try and convert the audience into customers, the promise of the experience has to match the actual experience of the brand, product or service. Simply put, if you say one thing and do another, then you’ll fail.

Social media, and the strategy behind it, isn’t worth a hill of beans if you don’t first analyze the consumer experience of your brand and make sure you know what the consumer thinks of you. Any brand that is going to make the investment into social media must first know what the consumer thinks about them. This goes much deeper than just listening in social media, it extends to true customer research while you’re developing your messaging. Old world focus groups, or even just directional consumer surveys can accomplish this quickly and easily and allow you to sit one-on-one with your audience to see what they really think. I feel as though generations of companies are skipping right past these influential, and truly necessary, steps in developing their brands and it’s a shame.

Let’s take Facebook as an example. Facebook continues to make mis-steps, albeit revising and retracting quickly, because they do what they want without engaging in true research with their customers. Facebook keeps gambling that privacy is not the issue but when they make changes to the platform they keep getting consumer-slapped with feedback and are forced to revisit their changes. The fact of the matter is that Facebook is just “doing”, not listening, and not properly thinking about the consumer’s desires. If the experience of Facebook doesn’t match the promise (social conversation between friends), then they fail. Opening the privacy gates up to the web at large is a core violation of what most consumers feel is the experience of Facebook.

No matter what kind of brand, product or service you might be, you need to be clear on what the consumer considers to be the experience of your brand before you make changes and certainly before you message out to the world. If you say one thing and do another, you get in trouble.

What kinds of brands have you run into that suffer from these kinds of issues?