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Adapt or Die: What Marketers Need to Know About the New Age of Digital

Posted @ 6:08 pm by Alex Kaplinsky | Category: Digital Marketing, Strategy | 0 Comments

In case you needed any further proof that the days of a slick ad campaign being enough to secure a brand’s spot in the hearts of its customers are over, consider this: Nike, once one of the top advertising buyers in the country, has halved its ad budget over the past three years while dramatically increasing its interactive marketing budget.  The company now has a whole department working on cool apps (the Digital Sport division), and its Nike+ running app will arguably do more to sell Nike running shoes than any of the Just Do It ads ever did. Although Nike has refused to comment on the ROI of Nike+, industry analysts credit it with much of the brand’s 30 percent increase in sales of running gear from 2010 to 2011.

Today’s marketers don’t just need to come up with cool taglines and concepts, they need to develop digital tools and experiences that extend and enhance their brands. In effect, they need to be product managers.

There are plenty of off-the-shelf apps out there to help marketers build digital products and run online campaigns, but for companies looking to do something unique, using the same tools that everyone else is using simply doesn’t work.

7 Deadly Sins of Digital Marketing

As marketers find their roles shifting in today’s technology-driven marketplace, there are seven classic mistakes I see them making time and time again.

1. Laziness: Gravitating to “easy” options.

The pull of off-the-shelf apps and software is strong. They’re just a few hundred dollars, and they’ve already been built to do everything you want to do. Except that they typically haven’t. In the past, marketers would come up with a concept and then find someone to execute it—a printer, say, or a sweepstakes company. So it makes sense that the instinct today would be to approach building out digital tools in the same way. The problem is that any new idea is likely going to require a new tool.

2. Gullibility: Listening to the promises of software sales reps.

Software reps will tell you that their product is endlessly customizable. They don’t care that once you try to customize it you’ll realize how difficult it is, and they know that once you build your campaign or application using their software once, you won’t want to spend the money and time to switch it to another platform. They don’t care that their crack is laced with all kinds of stuff, they just want to get you hooked.

3. Ignorance: Not understanding the limitations of off-the-shelf software.

Every software package claims to be customizable, and to a certain extent they are, but companies often discover that it’s either impossible or extremely complicated (and expensive) to get an off-the-shelf product to perform like something they’ve custom-built from scratch. People will often try to cobble together two to five different apps and soon find that there are issues with integration, data, and getting everything to work right on web, mobile, and tablet.

4. Vanity: Producing a digital product just for the sake of it.

There are companies out there that will put out a mobile site just so they can then produce billboards and TV ads showcasing their mobile site as a way to emphasize that their brand is modern. That’s a bad move because even if you don’t think you have any mobile customers or that those you do have will care if your mobile site sucks, eventually putting out a bad version of something is going to haunt you.

5. Disorganization: Not having a single point of responsibility.

One of the biggest problems with cobbling together a solution via several software packages instead of customizing your own solution is that there is no single person or company responsible when your frankenproduct fails.

6. Superficiality: Letting branding agencies lead on design instead of integrating technology from the beginning.

The bigger brands tend to want to stand out more and so they turn to the big branding agencies to help them do it. The trouble is, those agencies still have all the great creative thinkers they had back when advertising was king, but their technology teams tend to be lacking. Moreover, because the agency process has traditionally revolved around creative, what tends to happen is that the bulk of the budget and schedule are spent on creative brainstorming only to find that the supercool idea that results can’t be implemented in a way that does it justice within the budget that’s left for technology. So what do they do? They turn to the off-the-shelf solutions and companies end up spending a fortune for a good idea that’s then scaled back and executed with the same features everyone else is using. I liken it to buying a designer watch that looks good instead of one from a real watchmaker—it’s a nice façade put onto a shoddy framework.

7. Short-Sightedness: Seeing the launch as the end-point.

Anyone who thinks their campaign ends the day their new tool launches is dead wrong. Marketers need to plan for upgrades as browsers are updated, bug fixes, and general maintenance and support to ensure that their cool new tool continues to deliver value, and not headaches, to customers.

The result is a lot of campaigns, tools, and experiences that just don’t work the way they should from either a marketer’s perspective or a consumer’s. Say, for example, a company wants to do a video contest with various options. They might string together Wildfire with a video host, which seems straightforward enough, but just adding that little bit of customization is actually enough to make the whole thing start to fall apart. All of a sudden it doesn’t work with touchscreen phones, or the log-ins customers have on one site don’t work for the contest site. Then companies try to do something really innovative and string together four or five of these apps and the problems multiply.  Companies can end up spending anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000 to customize a $300 software package and still not be happy with the end result.

Benefits of Better Platforms

The solution, of course, is to custom-build your own tools and to thoughtfully integrate 3rd party tools and technologists into the creative process from the beginning. Some companies are already starting to do this, building platforms that deliver multiple benefits, including:

Three Key Shifts in Marketing

So how to go from being a great marketer to being a great product manager? Integrate technologists into your process from the beginning, and follow a process that ensures successful execution.



For marketers to embrace a product management-style process, they need to shift their thinking in three key areas:


Author: Alex Kaplinsky is Executive Vice President and CTO of SolutionSet.

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