The New Marketing Challenge: Mastering Perpetual Beta

Picture 1Last week, a post on iMedia Connection with the incendiary headline “Why Twitter Will Soon Become Obsolete” , caused a bit of a stir. Jason Clark, a creative director at VIA Studio, made a rather compelling argument that despite the hype surrounding this platform, people shouldn’t consider it a final destination as a social network.  Referencing the constant stream of new platforms that have sprung up on the net these past twenty five years, Clark argues that all have been social networks of one form or another, from the late 70’s bulletin boards and usenet groups, to the rise of email in the 80’s and then the increasingly rapid iterations and adoption of blogging and AIM to the more contemporary platforms like Friendster which begat MySpace and eventually Facebook, along with all the recent graphic networks like Flickr, YouTube and Vimeo.  The only constant throughout has been change; as soon as one platform captures the attention of a large group, a technology and needs-driven iteration develops and if it proves useful, the herd quickly adopts it as well.  Or more depressingly, once the signal-to-noise ratio becomes unbearable with marketers spamming the platform and chooching up the interface, people look for something new.  He points to Google’s Wave as a potential next destination.

Despite the pugnacious headline, Clark’s argument makes fundamental sense, even as iMedia simultaneously posted a story on how Nielsen measured Twitter’s user base growth at an astounding 1444% this past year: as of May, 18.2 million accounts had registered on the service.  Marketers now must evolve their tactics to keep up with internet time, creating an uncomfortable cycle of constant reinvention to keep pace with engaged audiences.

Our business challenge now is to sustain a constant sprint, to keep tabs on critical consumer markets that migrate with quicksilver speed in a constant movable feast.  This is the phenomenon guest blogger Tim Mauery wrote about this past Tuesday: today, Fastest/Smartest wins.

The trick however, is keeping an eye on the one marketing goal that never changes: building client brands.  You can lose hours of the workday, surfing the web and social ‘NOTworking’ under the pretense of understanding the market.  But the business of brand building has also become more time consuming, particularly today when the participatory Web 2.0 has essentially provided consumer opinion with a mass distribution channel.

Brands are opinions, and we need to continually shape, steer and improve those opinions with clever, strategic engagement across more consumer touchpoints than ever.  Against our shrinking timeframes, picking which touchpoints to engage given finite marketing dollars will decide who soars and who stumbles.

If anyone has any tips on doing that successfully, the comment board is open.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

B-G-B (Bonus Guest Blog): Fastest. Smartest. Wins.

Guest Blogger: Tim Mauery

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Until a few weeks ago, Tim Mauery was a Senior Partner and Director of Planning at JWT Chicago, but his career in advertising has taken him through a number of shops and more remarkably, a broad variety of disciplines.  After graduating from Medill, he began his career at Backer & Spielvogel as a copywriter, creating spots 1-257 of the Dave Thomas campaign for Wendy’s. He then moved to the account side with Ammirati & Puris, helping craft the strategy that led to the “Priceless” campaign.  Eventually, he moved on into business development with JWT, over to integrated and digital development at Euro RSCG and then back to lead planning at JWT before ultimately helping shut off the lights at that legendary shop.  Currently between gigs, Tim’s active curiosity and deep knowledge and experience in advertising keeps him lecturing at Northwestern, Kansas and Oberlin College, not to mention coordinating his three daughters’ active calendars in Park Ridge.  Speaking from personal experience, Tim’s also simply a damn fine fellow.

Due to the bizarre closing of JWT Chicago (fodder for another guest entry someday), I have recently been pounding lots of pavement in these economically challenging times.

Let me state the obvious:  “wow, things are different out there.” 

It’s been five years since I interviewed for a job, and those five years have bred mucho change.  Some more obviousness (is that a word?): the economy is a mess, particularly for advertising folks.  And yes, the new world of media – and the confusion around who does what – has left agencies scratching their heads while scrambling.  But it’s quite apparent to me that the intersection of those two factors will change the agency business forever – even after the economy recovers, and new media (whatever that is this week) is no longer new.

Each and every agency I have chatted with– from lumbering behemoths to scrappy start-ups — is trying to figure out how to make money in the face of rising client demands and lower revenue.  Not only has the economy caused clients to cut fees, the explosion of new media outlets has introduced said clients to new kinds of agencies – agencies that charge less and work on faster timelines.  These client-types wonder why they pay so much, and wait so long, for the work being done by “traditional” shops.  As a result, they are either re-assigning work to “cheaper faster” shops, or lowering their fees for work done by mainline agencies.

Now, this isn’t fair.  Because we all know that the traditional shops do lots of heavy strategic and creative lifting – from brand positioning to broad creative platforms, and everything in-between.  Without that strategic and creative acuity, the other agencies wouldn’t be able to perform so quickly or cheaply.  But life isn’t fair; the world is changing and agencies need to change as well.

Speed To Smarts

It seems to me that what these agencies need can be summed up with the notion “speed to smarts.”  Mainline agencies cannot give up being the smartest; they just have to do it more quickly.  When they are smarter faster, they will realize a higher margin.  And each time they’re the smartest fastest, they’ll get another chance to make a high margin, since clients will reward them with more work.  How are agencies going to get smarter faster?  Who knows, but I do know that those who get there first will win.

What does this mean to agency folk?  The ones who succeed will adopt an “impact mentality.”  They’ll actively seek to make a quicker difference; to see results faster.  They won’t just “work on” an account or “work for” an agency –nor will they float from meeting to meeting or project to project.  They will channel their energy, their restlessness, and their passion into making things happen.  And they certainly won’t be bound by the walls of their job description or their department; they’ll have the ability to play wherever, and whenever needed.  And at the end of the day, each and every day, they will be able to say to themselves, “this is what I made happen today”.

Smarter/Faster – first one in, wins.

By Tim Mauery, Planning Business Develoment, Kantor Wassink   

PS:  As of July 20, Tim began working with KantorWassink.  Proof again that talent never stays on the sidelines for long.  Bully Tim and good move KantorWassink.