The Coming Chaos Scenario —Sherburne
HAVE YOU read "The Chaos Scenario" yet? It is written by Ad Age's Bob Garfield. If not, you should. Order it from Amazon, or download it to your Kindle like I did (the printed book became available August 1 for ordering on Amazon; it was available in the Kindle version quite some time before that).
Garfield states in the introduction to the book: "See, the thing is, 'The Digital Revolution' isn't just some news magazine cover headline. It's an actual revolution, yielding revolutionary changes, thousands or millions of victims and an entirely new way of life."
While some may think Garfield is a bit of a "Chicken Little, the Sky Is Falling" kind of guy, anyone remotely connected with the world of marketing and advertising (that's us, folks!) should read this book. It is surely no surprise that today's consumer is in control of pretty much everything: what and when they watch and read, or whether they even pay any attention at all to marketing messages (think TiVo).
Brand owners and marketers increasingly realize that they need to listen to consumers, creating an interactive dialog with them in order to better understand their wants and needs—what they are likely to buy and why. These days, a push effort that says, "Hey, my brand is cool. You should buy it" simply isn't working.
Coke Fans Unite
In an ad:tech San Francisco panel discussion, Carol Kruse, vice president of global interactive marketing for The Coca-Cola Co., talked about how her firm was increasingly turning to digital alternatives by leveraging social media to enter into a dialog with consumers and gain these essential customer insights, as well as beginning to depend more heavily on "Coke fans" to defend the brand on the Web.
A Forrester Research five-year interactive marketing forecast states that digital will represent about 12 percent of advertising spend in 2009, and is likely to grow to about 21 percent in five years.
Brown-Forman's Southern Comfort brand is leading the charge. Restricted to a narrow nightly advertising window on cable television like other spirit brands, the company spent $6 million on cable TV advertising and $1.5 million on magazine ads last year.
In 2009, both those numbers will drop to zero as the company focuses its efforts on online properties such as Facebook, Spin, Fader and Hulu. While not a huge advertising budget in the whole scheme of things, it is big enough to be a startling and dramatic move for a well-known brand.
According to Garfield, this "dialog with the customer" is the future of everything. In fact, if you wish to survive for long in media, marketing, politics or any other institution accustomed to managing its affairs from the top down, it is the right now of everything. Survival means institutionalizing dialog with all of your potential constituencies and sometimes total strangers for the purpose of market research, product development, customer relationships, corporate image and transactions themselves. The last of those benefits is especially important because, when you sell goods or services, you get money.
So what does that mean to us in the printing industry? I've written a great deal in this space about the transition from print service provider to marketing services provider, and the value of integrated, multichannel marketing campaigns that include both print and electronic media, with linkages such as personalized URLs or QR codes. Garfield's book reinforces that and fleshes it out.
Although I admit, as I write this, that I haven't finished reading the entire book, I did a search and found that the word "print" only shows up nine times in the whole book. "Direct mail" appears once. It is an example of how poorly we are representing ourselves as these changes occur. The thought leaders are simply not thinking about print.
Shift in Ad Dollars
At the same time, with the tremendous upheaval we are seeing and will continue to see in the traditional worlds of marketing and advertising, marketers are struggling to find their footing in this new landscape. Some, like Southern Comfort, are completely abandoning traditional advertising. Others, like General Motors, are moving huge dollars to "digital."
Yet we know that including print as part of the ongoing dialog with customers and prospects can add significant value—increasing response rates and ROI when compared to communications strategies that are print or electronic only.
Our job is to become the evangelists for this new role of print in the modern media mix. There are tons of real-world examples to draw from. PODi publishes best practices. The Australian Post has done a nice job of accumulating case studies and articles about transpromo (the blending of promotional messages into transactional documents, in print, electronically or both) successes around the globe.
The Print Council's Print in the Mix clearinghouse (www.printinthemix.rit.edu) has a terrific collection of facts, articles and stories that support print's role in this new world. These are just a few of the available resources.
Avail yourself of these resources and, most importantly, eat the dog food. Use multichannel campaigns to promote your own business. Track the results; write your own case study. When you use a unique approach in promoting your own business, you establish your credibility as a partner to marketing execs, and they are more likely to be intrigued by what you are doing.
It places you on an entirely different footing with these busy professionals. Then, as you begin to execute these campaigns for your customers, track and document the results. Even if you can't publish them due to confidentiality constraints, you can use those results in some fashion in your sales efforts to convince others to jump on board.
Perhaps the sky is falling…In writing this article, I am not trying to be the Chicken that whips the industry into a frenzy of mass hysteria. But, if we do nothing, we are likely to fall victim to the Fox in the Chicken Little fable who devours just about everyone, depending on which version you read.
Our "Fox" is alternative media and, with a little courage and a lot of work, we can outsmart him by inviting him into the fold. Start by reading "The Chaos Scenario." Use Garfield's thoughts and research as a jumping off point for your own business strategies.
Eat the dog food. Join the discussion with Garfield's "30 Days of Chaos" in October, a free national event dedicated to preparing for media and marketing's digital future (www.TheChaosScenario.net).
But, most importantly, do something. One of my favorite quotes from comedian Will Rogers says it best: "Even if you are on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there."PI
About the Author
Cary Sherburne is a well-known author, journalist and marketing consultant whose practice is focused on marketing communications strategies for the printing and publishing industries. She has written six books, including "Digital Paths to Profit," published by NAPL; and, most recently, "No-Nonsense Innovation: Practical Strategies for Success," written with Bill Lowe, the father of the IBM PC. She can be contacted at Cary@SherburneAssociates.com.