The Economic Downturn Is Accelerating Digital

Under Pressure
Last week the Center for Media Research (account required) posted a study by Epsilon that revealed some insight as to what 175 CMOs and marketing executives are doing in a rough economy.  While nearly all CMOs and marketing executives in the study agreed that “a tough economic period is precisely the time when marketing plays a key role,” a majority (65%) said that spend on advertising as a whole will decrease.  A key insight, however, is that 63% of the folks surveyed also see an increase in spend on digital/interactive marketing.  Nearly a third of those surveyed work at companies with greater than $10 Billion in annual revenues last year.  Wow.
Key Factors
Key factors in the shift, according to the study, are accountability and data-driven, measurable results.  59% of those surveyed indicated a decrease in traditional marketing spend.  The beauty of online and interactive marketing efforts is the amount of data you can capture.  Half of the group already uses data-driven marketing techniques, and a third use “sophisticated modeling tools to analyze existing customer behavioral, preference and demographic data.” 
Step on the Gas
Many pundits have forecasted shifts from traditional to new media.  Forrester Research also surveyed 235 marketers in Q3 2007 and the major result was an expectation of new media (social media, SEM, mobile, online video, interactive ads, and even email) to increase in effectiveness over the next three years*.   That study was before recent market conditions, which have put an increased burden on marketers to get the biggest bang for the buck.  If you can’t measure it, can you really show ROI?  The market conditions right now are accelerating the “burden of proof” on the investment dollars.
Now What?
For those interested in social media and why so many companies are paying attention, here are some more statistics from the survey: 
  • Social computing (including word of mouth, social networking sites, viral advertising, etc.) was the most popular emerging channel with 42% of marketing executives expressing interest in adding it to their marketing mix
  • Blogs were the second most popular emerging channel: 35% of marketing executives want to pursue blogs and 19% already use blogs
  • Almost one-third of CMOs mentioned Podcasting as an area of interest: 31% are interested in adding Podcasting to their marketing mix and 18% already have.
  • Mobile devices also elicited interest: 29% are interested in Mobile Devices (Phones/PDAs) and 22% have added them to their marketing mix
For those of us looking to help companies with their efforts in interactive and social media, there should be many opportunities to lend a hand.
* Source: Forrester Research Q3 2007 US Interactive Marketer Online Survey
Photo credit: benmcleod via Flickr

Gearing up for Forrester Consumer Forum 2008

The last week of October will see some great content in the social media sphere around getting ahead of tomorrow’s customer.  In April of this year I attended Forrester’s Marketing Forum in LA, and enjoyed “live twitter” and blogging related to the event.  Knowing an onslaught of content is coming, I decided to reach out to Alexis Karlin, Forrester’s community manager for Forrester’s Consumer Forum in Dallas on October 28-29.  She was gracious enough to share some good info for “where the content will live” for the event.  Rosetta is a Forrester client and as a marketing agency we get a lot of relevant industry content out of these events – but lots more will be shared through social media.

Going to Dallas? Please reach out on twitter @adamcohen or contact Alexis @akarlin – there will be a gathering planned.  Whether you will be there or are just interested in the content, here are some other guidelines from Alexis:

I’m looking forward to some great content and expect to have follow-up posts in the next several weeks around some of the more provocative topics.  Take a look at the agenda if you have a few moments – what topics interest you?

Photo credit: bitmapr via Flickr

The Brand Factor: Do Established Brands Have It Easier?

Social MediaDo big, well-known brands have it easier or harder than start-ups trying to make an impact and leveraging social media?  Jeremiah Owyang, the well known social media analyst from Forrester Research, recently wrote a very thoughtful post on the current challenges in social media.  I also recently attended Social Media Camp Boston, which had a number of enterpreneurs presenting on tactics they take to leverage social media platforms.  This got me thinking – what types of companies lend themselves to social media?  I see three major factors that can help to answer this question, among others:

1.  "Traditional" Marketing and PR
2.  Budget for Social Media Efforts
3.  Community Leverage

Traditional Marketing and PR

Many large companies and established brands have yet to embrace and understand some of the tenets of social media.  They are unwilling to relinquish control of the message.  They struggle with fears of engaging customers directly and giving them a voice – looking to avoid negative PR instead of embracing customers and engaging customers.  They term "audience" is still used prevalently because of the one-way communication mindset, where "community," "listening" and "conversation" are not words some of these companies would associate with marketing. 

In some ways, this parallels a presentation I attended at Forrester's Marketing Forum called "The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model."  Shar Van Boskirk did an excellent job capturing four levels of maturity in embracing interactive marketing, which I believe also applies to leveraging social media:

  • "Skeptics," characterized by little or no interactive experience and assessing if interactive has value for them
  • "Mavericks," organizations that have a few isolated team members that appreciate interactive and run stand-alone programs but lack support to improve current efforts
  • "Practitioners," companies who have several years of experience and are piloting emerging media, and
  • "Optimizers," who have company-wide support for interactive efforts and are working to optimize multi-channel (including offline) efforts.1

With very few "optimizers" out there in the big corporations, it can be difficult for those companies to bridge the gap and trully leverage social media.  They need to retain talent in the industry, like Ford's recent hire of Scott Monty and Nationwide's recent hiring of Shawn Morton.

On the flip side, smaller startup organizations can be more nimble and have few constraints around controlling the brand message.  A great example of this is Freshbooks, led by chief "magic maker" Saul Colt.  Their entire marketing approach is to build a community of passionate users and embrace their customers with open and earnestly helpful dialog.

Budget for Social Media Efforts

More traditional organizations will ask the ROI question.  As Jeremiah points out, it's difficult to measure ROI on "engagement" and no industry standard exists.  Larger established brands may be less willing to take risks – where startups practically need to take a risk to differentiate themselves.  An untapped, unproven landscape in social media is ripe for startups (even though they may be spending funding rather than profits).  Albert Maruggi of the Marketing Edge, thinks companies need to get past the ROI question, using magazines' spending $14 million to buy a baby picture of Brangelina's kids as an example.

I think it should be easier for larger companies to allocate budget (including resources) to focus on social media due to their scale and the relatively low barrier to entry of leveraging many of these tools.  Sometimes process and a lack of executive sponsorship get in the way.

Community Leverage

Another factor in determining whether big brands have it easier is whether they already have a community to tap into.  Nike's Jordan division is a well known and loved brand – leveraging social media platforms and tools should be easy since there are passionate fans out there who would willingly participate.  For crying out loud, people fight and even risk lives in getting a hold of the latest shoe design. 

Smaller startups need to build communities, one person at a time.  Melanie Notkin has done a terrific job at building a community over months leading up to the launch of, using her blog, Facebook, and Twitter.  It can be arguably harder to build a community than to engage one that exists, but I'd be interested to hear from folks who have more expertise on each before I decide on that one.

So which is it?

Do big brands have it easier or harder leveraging social media?  Are there other factors to consider?  Please take the poll and let me know what you think.

1 Source: The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model, Shar Van Boskirk, Forrester Research, April 9, 2008.
Photo credit: mrwilleeumm via Flickr

Finding Your Social Media Centerpoint

Img00058 While I was reading Groundswell (the new book from Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research) on the plane last night, I had an epiphany.  I need to find my own "centerpoint" on social media.  What’s a centerpoint?  Great question, I’ll get back to that.  Here’s the paragraph that hit home for me from Groundswell, along with a picture of my signed copy from the Forrester Marketing Forum:

"…these people [IT strategists and CIOs asking about blogs, Facebook, etc] know they need to get involved, but they’re nervous about moving forward.  To us, they seem to have developed a sort of low-grade fever.  In fact, this problem is so common, we have a name for it: groundswell approach-avoidance syndrome.  Look for these symptoms in yourself or your co-workers:

  • Strong, and in some cases obsessive, interest in the blogosphere and in online doings at sites like Facebook and YouTube.  Repeated forwarding of articles on said topics to fellow sufferers.
  • Excessive salivation upon hearing much-repeated stories of corporations that have developed partnerships with social networking sites, started online communities, or otherwise managed to get held up as winners in news reports and at marketing conferences
  • Anxiety at the thought of actually participating in social technologies, balanced by similar anxiety at the thought of missing out."

In the words of Lt. Frank Drebbin, Police Squad:  "Bingo."  My firm is abuzz right now with "figuring out" social media, and we have started a social media breakfast group internally to talk about client opportunities, strategy, lessons learned, trends, etc.  I’ve been using twitter for several months, started using Google reader, started this blog, joined Facebook…all in the interest of learning about community and interaction.  My CEO regular forwards press releases and articles about social media, and our internal interest group points out cool case studies to each other all the time.  What became clear after reading this chapter in Groundswell: I need my own centerpoint for social media.

Blue_4 A few years ago an an internal community meeting, my old firm hired John Foley to present about how high performing teams work together.  Foley is a former pilot with the Blue Angels, and tours doing speaking engagements.  A "CenterPoint" is what the Blue Angels would use to set up their amazing runs – a focal point or object on the ground that would be the absolute center for their flying demonstrations.  One flight pattern in particular uses it – having two F/A-18s fly directly at each other and pass just inches apart right over the centerpoint.  In Foley’s speaking arrangements, he uses the analogy of a centerpoint to be a common purpose to align people and resources, that "all pursue with conviction and clarity."  It can change over time, but defining a purpose is a first step.  (Foley, by the way, is an amazing speaker about how to energize high performing teams – his presentation is very engaging, with some amazing video. I’d highly recommend considering him for doing something different in those "offsite team building" dreary meetings.)

My social media centerpoint, for starters, is to educate, empower and connect people within my firm.  We can’t start preaching to clients about the merits of connecting the community if we can’t eat our own dog food first and learn from our own mistakes trying. 

What is your social media centerpoint?

Forrester Marketing Forum: Tie Customer Engagement to Company Performance

EngagementWhen I was with one of the Big Four consulting firms (rhymes with Indenture – just kidding, I loved my time there), I spent a small amount of time on a task force focusing on making the firm a "Great Place to Work" in our market unit in North America.  This committee was filled with passionate people in the organization who understood clearly that people were our #1 asset.  The committee’s charter was to go beyond happy hours and newsletters to come up with game-changing initiatives to improve engagement.  In 2005 the group began to get a lot of attention from senior executives in the firm due to some studies tying employee engagement to outperforming stock prices.  The studies measure how individuals responded in surveys to the "Three Ss": Say, Stay and Strive (developed by Hewitt Associates), measuring how effective an employee would talk about the firm, have a desire to stay with the firm for the next couple years, and optimally thrive in their careers while with the firm.  After an annual employee satisfaction survey was done, we received an "Engagement Index" score and were compared to 1500 other companies who had asked their employees the same questions.

The result: While one could debate the "chicken and the egg," there was a direct correlation between the increase in employee engagement and the increase in stock price across 1500 companies surveyed.  High performing companies had high levels of employee engagement.  This was eye opening and got senior leadership to pay immediate attention and "get in the game" on programs that improved engagement. 

After all the talk at Forrester’s Marketing Forum 2008 about customer engagement, I got to thinking.  There were great presentations from Forrester, retailers and software vendors about how we need to measure or quantify customer engagement.  High performing companies like Dell, Nike and FedEx presented on strategies that have helped them increase customer engagement.

What I’d like to see:  A study that ties a measurement of customer engagement to stock price over time. 

Take some of the key brands represented.  Jordan Brands, part of Nike, Inc., has seemingly a brand that can do no wrong.  They are undertaking innovative ways to engage customers in the same ethos of Michael Jordan himself – launching a breakfast club to motivate young athletes and track or suggest training programs, launching an exclusive "Flight Club" with premium offers, etc.  What has happened to Nike’s stock price in the last few years, and what are analysts saying now, despite a weak economy looming?

Nike_4There are many factors around operating a company that impact the stock price, no doubt, and this is only one example pulled from a list of companies doing great things with customer engagement.  I know this can’t be the only factor, but I am still wondering if any similar correlation can be drawn.

One of the breakout sessions I attended at the Forrester Marketing Forum was The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model presented by Shar VanBoskirk, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research.  In her presentation she explained how few companies have interactive marketing efforts that are optimized, and there is a disparity between the high level of belief in interactive marketing and a low level of actual investment or support to execute.  If this correlation plays out to support a positive association, I suspect it would lend credence to the army of interactive marketers who sense or are trying to prove value but have trouble convincing executives to invest in their campaigns.  I also suspect it would open corporate executives to new ways to engage the customer, making a better case for why interactive marketing, social media and engaging customers are imperatives and not optional.

Have you seen any research out there like this?  What do you think would help legitimize interactive marketing and social media campaigns that impact customer engagement?

The Future Will Be Televised…With Social Media

Mf08_webForrester Marketing Forum 2008

How fitting that engagement is the theme.  For my first time at Forrester’s Marketing Forum, I’ve decided to take a different tact on my own personal engagement if nothing else than for the learning experience. 

Ever go to a large conference and just sit at the back, taking those 8 second vacations, checking your email, paying attention only to the most dynamic speakers and humorous presentations?  That was me.  Sometimes I’d wonder why I was even at the conference that was what I was going to get out of it.  Here is a great tip on how to avoid that – use Twitter to take notes.  Jeremiah Owyang, one of Forrester’s well known analysts covering social media, mentioned over Twitter that he would be live blogging during the keynote presentations and offered to have folks sit up front.  Forrester went beyond that with a meebo chat room on the Forrester blog site and ustreaming the keynote with live video.  I decided to take him up on the offer and spent much of the first day of the conference laptop open on Twitter (Twhirl to be precise).  A very interesting thing happened – I paid attention more than I had before, looking for the key points in each speaker’s presentation.  Another side effect happened – I was able to quickly share that knowledge and interact with many who were not at the conference.  To be honest, I was in this to be better engaged, but glad to hear (via twitter responses) a few people got something out of it.

There is a group of folks doing the same here – some experienced social media folks and others relatively new like yours truly.  Here is a list – all talented folks who are deep into marketing in various ways.  I’d recommend following each of them:

@jowyang – Jeremiah Owyang, Senior Analyst for Social Computing
@jspepper – Jeremy Pepper, PR manager for Boingo
@worleygirl – Amy Worley, Director of Digital Marketing for H&R Block
@Rumford – Rodney Rumford, CEO of Gravitational Media and
@MichelleBB – Michelle Boockoff-Bajdek, VP of Marketing for Harte-Hanks (also fellow member of Forrester’s Technology Marketing Council)
@weave – Eric Weaver, VP, Edelman Digital

I’m sure there are others out there I haven’t met yet who were doing the same.  I had an enjoyable day today keeping up with the speakers and ‘tweeting’ along the way even through the smaller track sessions.  You can find all of our tweets at

Sessions I attended and covered on Twitter during the day today:

  • Engagement: A New Approach to Understanding Your Customers – Brian Haven, Sr. Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Tapping Agencies’ Evolving Marketing Capabilities – Casey C. Jones, VP, Global Marketing, Dell
  • Moving Beyond Marketing to Engagement – Gary Skidmore, President, Harte-Hanks
  • Creating Brand Advocates at Nike’s Jordan Brand – Emmanuel Brown, Director of Digital and Content, Nike’s Jordan Brand
  • The Interactive Marketing Maturity Model – Shar VanBoskirk, Principal Analyst, Forrester Research
  • Making Word of Mouth Work – Peter Kim, Senior Analyst, Forrester Research; Janet Eden-Harris, CEO, Umbria; Dave Balter, Founder/CEO, BzzAgent
  • Community: Engaging 130 Million Customers – Cathy Halligan, CMO,
  • The Four Pleasures: A Framework For Customer Engagement – Dr. Patrick Jordan, CEO, Patrick W. Jordan, Ltd.

My day 2 includes conducting a usability test for Forrester’s new website (a project led by a former Accenture colleague), meeting 1:1 with Forrester analysts, following a host of what looks like more great content, and an awful flight home.  Did I miss anything?  I have lots of notes to share back with team Brulant and have some great content for future posts… Thank you Forrester.