Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Frito-Lay and GM Get Integrated Marketing and Leverage the Power of Consumers in a Big Way

GM and Frito-Lay and their agencies have recently figured out a great way of getting consumers more engaged with their brands, leveraging the new found power of the consumer. It's a great lesson in integrated marketing communications and engagement for all marketers.

Both brands are running contests for consumers to create homemade commercials (also referred to as consumer generated content) for their products, the winning entries will appear as commercials during this year's Super Bowl (XLI).

Now, of course, primarily hardcore brand advocates and video enthusiasts will enter these contests. But, the media attention and word of mouth these contests and the commercials will generate (and already are generating) for these brands is significant.

I am confident that, executed well, these campaigns will capture a great deal of consumer attention (and it should, as a spot on last years Super Bowl cost around $2,500,000 USD). With reality TV still hot and consumer generated media getting the public's attention, the timing is right.

Now, in and of themselves, the increased visits to each brand's websites won't make them any money. However, it does represent increased time consumers spend engaging with these brands in (mostly) very positive ways which these marketers hope and believe will eventually pay off in increased awareness and brand preference. But there's more to these campaigns.

Done well, these commercials can send a message to viewers that slick commercials with beautiful actors and models cannot: that real people love these brands. In a world where consumers increasingly distrust advertising messages, these messages can convey something that polished professional messages cannot do as well. Authenticity.

This is also a very good example of a marketing communications campaign that is not bound by functional silos of online and offline marketing communications that well, for most companies is a prevalent, and even outwardly obvious problem. Let's face it, today's standard for marketing communications integration is often not much deeper than slapping a web address into an offline ad with no value proposition for visiting the site -- not even a few words. If marketers can't think up a good reason for targets to visit our websites, why would we expect the consumers or business decision makers we are targeting to do so? Some companies/brands have done a great job of integrating offline and online and leveraging offline advertising and packaging to drive visitors online -- FedEx, Intel and IBM immediately come to mind. Now I'm adding GM and Frito-Lay to the list.

Kudos to GM and Frito-Lay and their agencies for the idea. Now go execute this as well as my expectations so I don't look back on this post with regret come February!

Friday, October 13, 2006

Marketing: The Art vs. Science Debate

I am amazed at how often we marketers debate over whether marketing is art or science.

I was recently at a marketing association fund raising event where a speaker proclaimed that marketers are true artists, as if being artists validates our work. I thought, hmmm...Maybe that's part of the reason why CEOs and other departments think of marketers as lacking process and accountability, because we can excuse those shortcomings as "art" -- just as branding has been far too often used as a black box to explain away campaigns and programs that lack accountability or perform poorly.

Consider an example that can appear more art then science. The marketing of Apple's iPod. It features beautiful design, beautiful packaging, a slick user experience. Hold an iPod in your hand. The product certainly delivers on some very slick, artsy, advertising that promises cool.

But should Apple manage its very artsy advertising as if it were art with little or no regard to brand and sales metrics? Of course not.

Should Apple forsake slick branding in favor of a series of hard sell, direct response commercials? Of course not.

Apple, like any marketer, needs to manage its marketing to deliver value to the brand and while the creative needs to be creative, the process determining what goes out the door and what does not needs to be more science than art, more left brain manages right brain than a battle.

We marketers aren't artists, we need to be highly creative thinkers who apply scientific principles to managing the art. Designers and copywriters (creatives) are the artists and marketers need to manage their artistic output to ensure it delivers on business objectives. We need to ensure effectiveness and accountability -- that we are meeting these objectives; that is our master, not art.

Too many marketers look at ads and websites as if they were bright shiny objects and throw logic and science out the window. Considering marketing's credibility battle and a short life span of CMOs (less than two years), I think a new model is in order. Brand marketers can learn a lot from direct marketers. Brand marketers often look at accountability as forsaking the brand, but done well, it's just the opposite.

Marketing should be scientifically managed art. At a handful of companies it is this, but it's certainly not the norm. Check every study on marketing accountability published in the last five years. We need to be raising the bar on marketing to earn organizational credibility and move the bar on marketing ethics. In an age where customers are no longer so dependent on marketers for information (they can now communicate with peers with ease), marketing must evolve, and part of that is becoming more scientific.