July 20, 2010 § Leave a comment
It’s time to draw the distinction between audience and loyal audience. We are awash in conversation about audience online, but say very little about loyal audience.
It is equal to the difference between customer and loyal customer. For instance, occasionally I am required to shop for groceries at a supermarket other than my usual and preferred choices. On those occasions it is as close to smash and grab as I can make it: someone needs to stay behind and circle the parking lot in the car. Someone needs to make a beeline to the poultry section and grab a chicken. Someone grabs potatoes. Someone grabs frozen peas from the frozen foods section. Then, through the express check-out line and into the circling car to make a fast escape from the parking lot and away from the supermarket.
Such is a customer experience.
Under more favorable circumstances I would be at the butcher shop where I am on a first name basis with people behind the counter. They know what I like. I trust what they say. In fact, I trust everything in the store including the displays of gourmet food stuffs, interesting jams and jellies, olive oils and vinegars. It’s a satisfying experience and I am never in a hurry to leave. I pay-up for the privilege. Uncharacteristically, I urge people to go ahead of me in line. I am a regular, after all. I’m practically staff. The (other) customers must come first.
Such is a loyal customer experience.
In the first case I am not motivated by any desire to be there. I need to feed the family. I will take no chances, grab what I must, and exit the arrangement. In the second case, I am delighted to be there. I cook. I take all of my risks with new food products on the implied recommendation of the establishment: if it’s good enough to be displayed on their shelves, it’s good enough for me.
I care about food. So does everyone else that shops regularly at the same butcher and feels they can afford it, because if you care that much it will cost you – it will cost you weekends away if you’re on any kind of budget. And I care enough to make that sacrifice and the family still seems to love me.
The parallels to media and advertising are obvious, or they should be. I am not the same person establishment to establishment, nor am I the same user one media outlet to another. Sometimes I am engaged. Many times I am not. Always, I am influenced by the surroundings, which are invariably influenced by who I am.
Under those circumstances, when I am less than interested, and at a place by necessity or chance – as a member of the audience, but not a loyal one – as a customer, but not as a loyal customer – the only way to take rational advantage of my presence if you are an advertiser is to pay less for the privilege.
Appropriately enough, this characterizes a substantial proportion of online advertising today. It is audience driven; therefore, the price is less.
It proves the system works according to how we sell it. Unfortunately, how we sell it is leaving substantial value on the table for brands which, themselves, depend on a value system that depends on customer loyalty. Online media needs to align better with that requirement by asserting its audience loyalty credentials: not just people in a place, but people in a place that matters to them.
This is an easy story for the internet to tell because it is almost exclusively an interest-driven media. Most media is somewhat interest-driven, but no other media can afford to serve-up interests in such well-proportioned slices so as to effectively do away with the uninterested. Such purity is called 100% audience composition.
Online was going to rescue audience composition, but it was shanghaied by the notion that 100% composition can add 100% of its value divorced from the circumstances of its creation. It cannot. You may know me as a cook from my observed media behaviors, but sometimes I am in the mood to cook and sometimes I just need to feed the family.
Dealing with this terribly small distinction wouldn’t matter if the fate of the brand marketing universe wasn’t utterly dependent on it. Brands, themselves, rely on even smaller distinctions. Soap is soap. I should reach for the generic brands if I weren’t so inexplicably attached to Dial. Perhaps it is only the color, or maybe the shape? It’s not the cost. I have no idea what the cost is. Dial works like other soaps work, but other soaps are not the same, don’t ask me why.
Such can be the nature of loyalty. Happily, I am much clearer about the reasons for my media choices, which conveys an instant advantage to the small distinctions of brands – and separates the value of an audience from the value of a loyal audience.
Don’t waste audience.
November 11, 2009 § Leave a comment
The high-level disconnect in our conversation about online media and advertising – now in its 14th or 15th year – remains the notion that positioning matters to consumer brands but not consumer media.
Eric Picard’s thoughtful piece in iMedia today puts this on display again in his recounting of a panel discussion titled, “The Rise of the Audience Marketplace,” at ad:tech in New York a week ago. During the panel, participant Quentin George, Chief Digital Officer at Mediabrands, reportedly observed:
“In a world with such massive overcapacity, the only way for companies to differentiate and capture a disproportionate share of dollars is through building a brand.”
This was a very sensible assertion. Hold that thought.
The panel discussion then veered into talk about media planning and buying online with a great deal said about the rise of new buying solutions such as IPG’s Cadreon and Publicis Groupe’s VivaKi. These fall under the heading of demand-side buying systems, discussed in a recent post to this space.
Demand-side buying systems are energizing media buying companies with a renewed sense of empowerment. There is no harm in this. It represents a transfer of power from certain horizontal networks that have been conducting business this way online for a few years, and keeping the money. Now, the media agencies get to keep the money. The industry needs media agencies (all ad agencies) to feel energized and empowered, so to the extent that certain amounts of planning and buying can be conducted through demand-side agencies, there is no harm in this. Perhaps it will serve as a catalyst to help fix agency comp so that life can continue on a transparent basis ultimately favorable and necessary to marketers.
In the midst of the panel’s enthusiasm it sounds like Bill Demas of Turn got up the nerve to suggest that most of the inventory wafting through the demand-side buying systems is non-premium inventory (much as it has always been through the horizontal networks) and that premium inventory is still making it to market thanks to human sales forces and their interactions with human media planners and buyers.
From Eric Picard’s recounting it then sounds like Bill Demas’s observations disappeared quickly under a pile of demand-side enthusiasts. Fellow panelists pointed-out that the idea of premium inventory is a relative concept. Brands care about quality content, but the quality of the audience is not measured by this alone. Basically, quality does not depend upon context.
This is the important question of our day: is the quality of an audience shaped by the context of its media environment.
Back to Quentin George who was on the panel. As he did, marketers will insist – with every justification – that brands matter, and the more complex the environment, the more imperative the need for brand. Brands differentiate.
What does that mean? It means context. Context is the differentiating agent. Context determines meaning. It is everything to brands. It says so clearly in the dictionary (from Answers.com):
[Middle English, composition, from Latin contextus, from past participle of contexere, to join together : com-, com- + texere, to weave.]
- The part of a text or statement that surrounds a particular word or passage and determines its meaning.
- The circumstances in which an event occurs; a setting.
Brands are about meaning and circumstance. If they are not, then soap is soap. A car need only be black, as Mr. Ford would have had it, and get a traveler from point A to point B. One smoke would be as good as another. Brands need positioning.
Yes, brands can certainly exist out of context for periods of time, like I can swim under water or a fish can flap on the ground. I use brands all the time unconsciously. But there are no unconscious brand champions and brand loyalists and there are no automated brands. In my house you will get one kind of vodka, which is an otherwise orderless, tasteless, neutral spirit with one purpose that can be met by any run-of-network vodka that will be (fall-down-drunk, for fall-down-drunk) cheaper. Yet, I am loyal to one brand. Go figure.
Let’s be frank: really, the question is about money. The world is trying to impose cheap on marketing and context is not cheap. Neither are brands. Our world is hung-up on this problem and we know it. It is a dis-connect if ever there were one.
Truthfully, if there were enough great advertising creative in the world brands might be able to survive out of context. If every ad were brilliant, touching, funny, compelling – even simply polite – advertising could, perhaps, live and breath outside of a naturally supportive, media environment. We are not so fortunate. Advertising is hard. Great advertising is really hard.
As we continue to bang around the miriad opportunities with which the Internet presents us in order to target our best customers let’s remember the obvious one, present from the beginning, the one that aligns us most with consumers, the one that made Google particularly rich: context. I don’t notice anyone else getting as rich as Google (or Google as rich from anything else).
May 20, 2009 § Leave a comment
As reported in Media Post today, there was good news for a sensible approach to the issue of online privacy courtesy of the Technology Policy Institute, which released a study that says nothing much can be gained for consumers or companies by increasing the amount of privacy regulation online. As quoted in Media Post the study, “In Defense of Data”, said:
“Regulation should be undertaken only if a market is not functioning properly and if the benefits of new measures outweigh their costs…Our analysis suggests that proposals to restrict the amount of information available would not yield net benefits for consumers.”
Right. And besides all that, the argument has been made before in this space that the conversation about online privacy seems totally detached from the presence of far more intrusive forms of data-driven marketing offline. Really, how many online ads are intruding on dinner hour at home at night? In comparison to some offline tactics, behavior targeting online is thoroughly benign. Thus, apart from the benefits that may exist, the dangers of anonymous data online should be measured againsts the dangers of more extreme data uses offline – and there don’t appear to be many. Offline data use is frequently a nuisance to consumers, but not typically a danger. Online data use is neither.