Marketing in the Digital Era

I have just finished reading a new book I’d like to recommend to those who want to increase their chances of success in today’s marketing world: Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era by Gini Dietrich and Geoff Livingston.

The book starts with the premise that companies must break down the silos that separate the key marketing disciplines—which the authors identify as advertising, public relations, corporate communication, Web/digital, search engine optimization, content, direct mail, social media, and search engine marketing. Only when these disciplines work together smoothly without the hindrance of silos, the authors say, can a company achieve its marketing and business goals and work toward achieving its vision.

This premise makes sense to me.

The authors recognize that breaking down the silos is difficult, and they offer some tips for doing it. From my experience, however, demolishing silos is much harder than Dietrich and Livingston seem to acknowledge in their book.

I’ve worked in companies where the marketing and communications silos were so high and thick they were like fortresses. Little coordination of activities or sharing of responsibilities occurred, but open warfare occasionally flared. Years later, I hear that the silos still remain; although, they’re weakening.

I doubt my experience is unique.

But while I may see the breaking down of these silos as a more difficult task than the authors see it, I strongly agree with them that it’s necessary for accomplishing more of the company’s goals, with greater efficiency and better results. That’s why I suggest the reader start this book by accepting at face value the authors’ belief that the silos somehow must come down—even if the CEO needs to proclaim an edict to make it happen.

Early in the book, Dietrich and Livingston explain “marketing in the round” as a hub-and-spoke concept in which the marketing function sits in the center of a round wheel and each of the nine disciplines radiate like a spoke out
the center. The idea, of course, is that all of these disciplines are tied together, and each must play its specific role—but  each must do so only in an integrated, closely coordinated effort with the others.

To help the reader understand what’s needed to set up his/her own marketing round and to get the disciplines synced and working together, the authors have divided the book into three sections focusing on specific aspects of the marketing round and its success. Each section comprises a number of chapters, and every chapter ends with one or more exercises to further assist the reader. The sections are:

  • Understanding the Marketing Round and Develop Your Strategy,
  • Four Marketing Round Approaches, and
  • Measurement, Refinement, and Improvement.

I found the second section to be the most informative and helpful, and to be the heart of the book.

At the beginning of this section, the authors state, “Marketing strategy can be compared to military strategy.” Then they refer throughout the section to the 17th century Japanese samurai Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings, showing how using his approach to war can help the marketing round communicate the company’s message and achieve victory in the marketplace.

Specifically, they present Musashi’s  “five primary approaches to strategic engagement” as four approaches that can be applied to marketing: direct (renamed from “middle”), top down (from “above”), groundswell (from “bottom up”) and flanking (a combination of Musashi’s “left” and “right”). Whether used independently or sequenced, the authors state, these directional “approaches form a baseline to approaching marketing strategies.”

In 65 pages or so, they go into detail about all four marketing round approaches. They provide details for determining when to implement each one and lay out its particular strengths and weaknesses.

In the authors’ opinion, the direct approach—interacting directly with primary stakeholders—is the best tactic. “Done well,” they say,” it’s one-to-one marketing at its best.”

The top-down approach—using media to inform the marketplace about new products is “deployed to reach stakeholders that direct marketing cannot [reach], or is launched to complement a direct marketing effort,” the authors say. They add that companies will want to use this approach as their primary tactic only if they dominate their markets or are unable to “engage directly with a large community.”

Groundswell is the bottom-up approach through which the marketing round encourages “word-of-mouth by seeding conversations.”  Through these conversations, the marketing round encourages influencers—among them, “customers, the media, bloggers, newsgroups, and ranking agencies—to share their unbiased opinions” about the company’s products and services.

The flanking approach is the fallback tactic, called upon when various obstacles prevent the use of a direct, top-down, or groundswell approach. Its primary methods are advertising, content marketing, and search engine optimization.

Dietrich and Livingston give an entire chapter to each approach, looking at its primary marketing methods and discussing the benefits and risks of each method.

For example, the direct approach has the following marketing methods: direct mail, email, social media, mobile, and events. Among social media’s benefits are that it bolsters brand loyalty through conversations and by fostering word-of-mouth marketing. Its risks, on the other hand, include (1) time investments—both manpower and long-term cultivation—that do not lend themselves to fast results, and (2) the concern that customers, through their conversations, might be distributing negative information about your brand that could have adverse affects on the company.

The marketing round will want to consider each of these directional approaches, determining whether to use one, two, three, or all of them. While keeping in mind that these tactics work best when integrated into a holistic campaign, the marketing round should choose to implement those that best meet the company’s needs and the marketing program’s degree of sophistication.

Marketing in the Round is an intense book, providing enough information to overwhelm those who are not already marketing experts and well into developing their own integrated marketing campaigns. It is, I assume, aimed at large companies that have many experienced people working in the nine disciplines that make up the marketing round, people who together can build a successful marketing round team and implement all of the great ideas laid out by the authors.

But for those who work in small- or medium-sized companies, the book also offers an array of ideas to be considered, scrutinized, and used as the jumping off point for learning how they, too, can successfully conduct marketing in the digital era.

Trillions of Dollars from Junk Mail and Spam

In a new, informative book—Marketing in the Round: How to Develop an Integrated Marketing Campaign in the Digital Era— Gina Dietrich and Geoff Livingston said 54.2 percent of all advertising expenditures in the United States in 2010 were for direct marketing. So that year, companies spent $153 billion sending you and me and everyone else in the country all the junk mail that overran our mailboxes six days a week and all the spam that filled our email boxes every night and day.

This was a shock to me.

But what really surprised me was another statement on the same page of this book: Direct marketing “is the most powerful form of marketing because it is the most likely to produce a sale. . . .”

Can this be right? I thought most people were like me and ignored (completely or after a slight scanning) all of this unwanted, unsolicited, paper- or pixel-wasting mail.

In the past few days alone, my email has been cluttered with at least two webcast invitations—trashed without reading; an invitation from Apple to buy the new iPhone 5—trashed (although reluctantly); requests for me to buy any number of professional guides (for hundreds of dollars each), usually covering professions that I’m not in, never wanted to be in, and don’t plan to ever be in—trashed, without opening; and more Groupon messages than I care to think about—trashed, usually without reading.

Likewise, our mailbox contained catalogs of women’s items from Duluth Trading Company and LL Bean; credit card applications from Citibank, Bank of America, and other forgettable financial institutions; flyers and brochures from local, state and national politicians seeking support and donations; and another piece, this time a Christmas catalog from Frontgate—just in case we want to shop for the holiday three months early. All trashed.

The only piece that caught our attention long enough to pause slightly as we threw it away was the card announcing a 30 percent discount on some goods at The Gap. Perhaps our daughter would be interested. No, not this time.

Certainly the poor success rate at our house would not bode well for making this form of marketing the most likely to produce a sale. We must not be representative of other homes across the country since the book also states that nearly $1.8 trillion (that’s trillion with a “t”) worth of incremental sales derived squarely from this direct marketing effort in 2010.

Can that many people be sitting at home waiting by the mailbox and inbox, just hoping some company will send them an opportunity to spend more of their money on yet another item they didn’t know they wanted until that brightly colored, badly designed, and poorly written junk mail or spam caught their eye?

It’s a miracle they knew we needed this, they’re thinking, as they reach, once again, for their credit card.

Not Cool Enough

Most people who follow high tech companies and their gadgets with even the slightest interest know that Apple has among the best branding in the industry—perhaps the best of any company in any industry. Everyone knows the Apple logo, and everyone knows that Apple makes the “i” products: Pod, Phone and Pad.

At any music festival or symphony hall, at any fast-food place or high-class restaurant, at any new, small start-up or well-established large enterprise, ask what music player, smartphone or tablet computer people are using and you will find that of all the individual brands, Apple is most popular.

Why? Because, in part, the Apple brand is identified with products that are desirable, well built, well designed, and, let’s face it, cool.

Being cool has, until this week, been a major beneficial attribute of the Apple brand. But a judge in the United Kingdom turned this positive characteristic on its head, when he announced a verdict against Apple because its competitor’s products are less cool.

Judge Colin Birss on Monday ruled against Apple in a lawsuit to stop Samsung from selling its new Galaxy Tab tablets on the grounds that it infringed on Apple’s iPad design. Although noting similarities between the two companies’ products, he ruled in favor of Samsung, stating that it did not infringe on Apple’s designs because the South Korean company’s products “do not have the same understated and extreme simplicity which is possessed by the Apple design.”

He added, “They are not as cool.”

While Samsung may be pleased to win the case, it’s unlikely it will soon be running any ad campaigns announcing its victory on the grounds that being cool is not among its products’ qualities.

Apple, though, may just feel the verdict is ad worthy. With its long history of off-beat advertising dating back at least to the 1984 Macintosh commercial, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OYecfV3ubP8, Apple may find a sense of pride in losing this case for such a silly, certainly legal-precedent-setting reason as being cooler than the defendant.

I can’t wait for the ad.

Quote from Mary Wells Lawrence

You can’t just be you. You have to double yourself. You have to read books on subjects you know nothing about. You have to travel to places you never thought of traveling. You have to meet every kind of person and endlessly stretch what you know.

Mary Wells Lawrence talking about how to become successful. Ms. Lawrence was an advertising woman, who in 1966 founded the agency Wells Rich Greene. She ran the agency for 20 years or so, creating campaigns for a number of companies, including Braniff International Airways, with the noteworthy campaign “The End of the Plain Plane” (view one TV commercial: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H3_aNtQFsLk); Alka-Seltzer; and Procter & Gamble. The quote comes from a New York Times June 10, 2012, article, “A Pioneer on a Mad Men’s World,” in which Ms. Lawrence is compared with women in the TV show “Mad Men” and identified as perhaps the inspiration for the show’s Peggy Olson character.