Archive for April, 2008|Monthly archive page

Episode 1 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast – An introduction

I just posted episode 1 of the Marketing 4 Change podcast. It is a short introductory episode. However, I do pose the question, “What do you think about sustainability in marketing and public relations?” I would love your thoughts. You can leave them as comments or email me at

To download the episode, right click and “save as” this link.

Entertainment and Marketing….where does PR fit?

In a recent entry entitled Big Media & Entertainment vs.The Marketing Services Industry…who will triumph? on Edelman Digital’s Authenticities blog, Jared Hendler discussed the changing landscape that faces both the marketing services industry and the entertainment industry when it comes to who will be able to help brands reach their audiences in this new, media fragmented world.

In the entry, Hendler states “The brands that connect in the future will be those that can do more than just get involved in the conversation with their audience, but those that produce something of value for them. Whether that be in the form of information, education, software, games, social networking or via entertainment properties.” In my opinion, this is a huge, positive shift from traditional marketing techniques that, in my opinion, reduce the quality of my life.

A great example of this is the billboard advertisement vs. a podcast about gadgets. As I drive down the freeway, I am under constant visual attack by billboards advertising products and services that I have little to no interest in or need for. What this ends up doing, at least in my case, is encouraging me to develop mental filters against such ads as they simultaneously reduce my enjoyment of the natural world. Conversely, when I subscribe to a podcast about gadgets, I feel that, even though I am consuming information about products that companies want me to purchase, value is being added to my day. This is because I enjoy the content and I am actually pursuing the content. Furthermore, I think my personal engagement with the content leads me to be much more likely to purchase a gadget featured on the podcast than I am to pay for the laser hair removal that I frequently see advertised on billboards along the freeway.

Hendler ends the entry by saying “Amidst all of this PR is in a unique position as a perfect hybrid between the two models.” I think Hendler is right. Those people and firms who understand truly how to relate to the public will be perfectly positioned to help brands tell their stories authentically and effectively.

PR Giant Edelman gears up for “Authentic Communications”

On March 4, 2008, PR giant Edelman announced the consolidation of its Edelman Interactive Solutions, me2revolution, and Edelman Mobile into one entity named Edelman Digital. According to the press release on Edelman’s website, the mission of Edelman digital will be “to create authentic communications programs that enable conversation and collaboration between companies, brands and their audiences across an increasingly complex digital landscape.”

While I applaud the forward-thinking nature of the mission in seeking to create “authentic communications,” some questions do come to mind. What makes a conversation “authentic?” Is Edelman selective about what firms and organizations they represent? Is it feasible, or even possible, for all firms to have “authentic communications” without ruining themselves (i.e. the many corporations who provide inferior service or products with the sole intention of increasing profits)?

I must admit that I am a bit skeptical at what the outcome of such “authentic communications” will be. This skepticism comes from the language in Edelman’s own press release. Edelman Digital COO David Dunne was quoted in the release as saying “We plan to capitalize on the strength and momentum of our core EIS business to create a world-class digital ‘agency within an agency,’ expanding our digital strategy and production work into new markets.” While I understand that growth is important to Edelman’s profitability, language of capitalization and growth feels as if “authentic communication” is being used as yet another marketing scheme. This is what leads me to ask “how ‘authentic’ will it really be?”

Is this socially responsible marketing?

I was recently walking around downtown Seattle and happened upon an ad that I have seen before.  This time, I happened to have a camera.

 Naked people sell clothing!

I know very well that sex sells and that the image that is being transmitted is probably very effective for Abercrombie. However, is it socially responsible to market clothing by using a naked man?

I am not implying that Abercrombie ever intended the ad to be socially responsible–and they probably didn’t. What I am implying is that, while many corporations don’t feel that they have any responsibility to the world other than making a profit for themselves, we as consumers must hold them more accountable to their responsibilities to society as the global citizens that corporations truly are.

Companies are starting to get it….New Media Marketing

I just finished listening to C.C. Chapman’s latest episode of Managing the Gray podcast. This episode featured Kristen and Erin from the Manic Mommies podcast. They talked a lot about the event put on by the Manic Mommies called Mommy Escape and the way that General Motors stepped up and provided great sponsorship for the event.

Why is it that businesses seem to be the first to “get it” when it comes to new media? Are there non-profits and social change organizations embracing new ways to reach people with their message? Can non-profits even do similar things as GM did with the Mommy Escape or are there barriers there that I don’t see?

Socially Responsible Marketing vs. Purveyors of Unhappiness

On pages 31 and 32 of Bill McKibben’s Deep Economy, there is a great example of what I am struggling with in my senior study on socially responsible marketing. On those pages he lays out a scenario that most all of us encounter on a regular basis–irrational desire provoked by advertising. After describing a situation where you lie awake at night thinking about a Ginsu knife or you purchase an SUV which you will never take off road, McKibben says, “Such thoughts are not rational; in fact, they set us up for as much unhappiness as pleasure.”

I realize that in the world of traditional marketing, marketers do not feel responsibility to anything more than selling the product. However, for those of us who wish to do business in a socially responsible way, how do we avoid being “purveyors of unhappiness?” How do we successfully and responsibly present our products or organizations so as to improve the lives of the people who encounter our message? Finally, should those involved in marketing and public relations for organizations that are seeking to create social change in the world be any more responsible to the consumer than someone creating ads for Paris Hilton’s new perfume?

What does “sustainability” mean in marketing?

So, I’m still reading The Ecology of Commerce. In it, Paul Hawken gives a triad of issues that businesses must face in order to be ecologically sustainable. They are, “what it takes, what it makes, and what it wastes.” In short, businesses must consider their actions or production in terms of the resources they consume, the impact the product has, and the resources wasted by the production/product. This may be a stretch, but I see these same concerns as ones that should be faced by marketers as they seek to become more socially responsible.

First, I want to look at “what it takes.” In terms of ecological sustainability, “what it takes” refers to the resources that are depleted in order to produce a product. An example of this would be the necessity of wood-grain trim in automobiles. In order to provide a sense of luxury, valuable trees must be cut down. So, what is “taken” by marketing? If we look at time and attention as a resource, marketing definitely consumes great quantities of these things. How many ads are do see on a daily basis?

Second, what is the relevancy of “what it makes” to marketing? In the ecological sense, “what it makes” refers to the energy and toxins that the products being manufactured require. When I think about this in terms of marketing, I can’t help but think about the uni-directional nature of traditional marketing and the toxic impact that has on consumers. By this I mean that traditional marketing seems to create passive consumers that look to Madison Avenue for their next “need.” To me, this is a lot like turning a grassland that has the ability to produce important things like oxygen and food into a landfill where things are dumped.

Finally, how does “what it wastes” relate to marketing? In terms of the environment, “what it wastes” refers to the tremendous amounts of wasted energy and resources that go into producing products. How much money and human energy goes into producing the giant ad campaigns of major corporations? What if a major automobile manufacturer that spent millions and millions of dollars to advertise during the Super Bowl took those funds and resources and used them to take everyone who purchased one of their cars in the last year out to lunch to discuss the customer’s experience with the car? Which would be a more effective way of creating new customers and maintaining old customers. After all, isn’t word-of-mouth still a powerful marketing tool? Wouldn’t the highly skilled and intelligent women and men in marketing departments around the world be better utilized discovering new ways to connect with customers on a deeper, more conversational level?

An example of what I would consider to be “sustainable” marketing would be Wine Library TV. For those of you unfamiliar with this podcast, Wine Library TV is a show that entertains while it educates about wine. It is hosted by the uber-passionate Gary Vaynerchuk who is the Director of Operations at Wine Library in Springfield, NJ, a wine and spirits merchant site and store. While Gary’s show may not be for everyone, it is hard to argue with its success. I do not pretend to know exactly how much Wine Library’s business has been boosted by Wine Library TV, but I can’t help but imagine that the numbers are impressive. What’s more is that this marketing technique is, in essence, a commercial that people actually want to watch. According to the website, Wine Library TV has about 60,000 viewers per day. As well as being entertaining, Wine Library TV adds value to people’s lives as it educates them on wine and wine tasting. Finally, it is conversational. Gary Vaynerchuk reponds to emails and provides a forum for viewers to discuss the shows and wine. To me, this seems be a great model for sustainable marketing.

Time to change? When will the marketing world embrace a new model??

I am currently reading Paul Hawken’s The Ecology of Commerce. The first few pages of the book paint a stark picture of the future of society if we allow free-market capitalism and the idea that growth will fix everything to continue dominating our lives. While, so far, Hawken is speaking of sustainability in the context of the environmental crisis, I feel that those same forces and ideas have application in the world of marketing and PR.

Does traditional advertising and media have an impact on people like carbon emissions have on the environment? Is there a more sustainable way to conduct marketing and PR? I believe there is and that the future lies in new media and social media marketing. The challenge, however, will be to get organizations to abandon the old definitions of success. On page 6 of the book, Hawken poses the question, “When will the business world look honestly at itself and ask whether it isn’t time to change?” I believe that marketers have to ask themselves the same question.

In a post yesterday on his blog Marketing In The Public Sector, Jim Mintz quoted some statistics about the rise of new media. The post was entitled Social Media Marketing …the Next Wave for Public Sector and Nonprofit Marketers. While the post posed a lot of interesting points, what struck me when I read it was the way media is “fanning out” and what this ultimately means to marketers. If everyone has the ability to be a media producer, marketing and PR will most definitely become a two-way street.

It seems to me that the days of being able to “throw money” at marketing and buy a successful campaign are nearing an end. What seems to be emerging is the need for organizations to tell authentic stories in ways that add value to peoples lives. Furthermore, organizations will have to be open to honest conversation with consumers. I think it will be hard, but necessary, for organizations to let go of the idea that they must control the message. Instead, they will need to be open, honest, and responsive.

So where does new media and social media fit in? While I am excited about the ways that new media like blogging and podcasting can be used by organizations to tell their stories in ways that are conversational and add value to people’s lives, I do realize that they can be manipulated as tools to become just as impact-heavy as television and print ad campaigns. It is my hope that marketers, particularly in the realm of value-driven organizations, will embrace the idea that it is not how many people they reach, but who they reach and how they reach them that truly matters.

Congress addresses Second Life

This is great. Second Life has made it to the U.S. Congress. Jon Stewart’s job is made so much easier by our voting habits.

The consumer’s role in the future of media and advertising.

The consumer is the power player of the future in the world of media and advertising. With production capability at the fingertips of anyone who can afford a computer and obtain internet access, organizations can no longer dictate their message in a unidirectional fashion. According to Marketing Daily‘s Matt Semansky, Digitas CEO David Kenny discussed this while addressing the Canadian Media Directors’ Council’s conference in Toronto earlier today. According to Semansky, Kenny stated “While media campaigns have traditionally begun with creative briefs from clients, that model is becoming increasingly outdated, he said. Today, campaigns must be sparked by consumer insight, with the selection of media channels as critical as message development.” Kenny went on to say, “Above all, professionals in media, advertising and marketing must understand the central role that consumers are playing in the changing media universe. “It’s not that complex if you let the consumer be your guide.” To read the entire article, click here.