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Talk with, not At

As consumer technology companies consider how marketing is evolving and the impact of the web 2.0, they know this: Must do Internet campaigns.
And so we see more banner ads being a check box in campaigns that an agency might come up with.
But for the most part these are simply derivatives of the printed media campaigns. Same visual element, same tag line and short copy. It wins marks for consistency, and brand management is done.
But is that the real implication of Web 2.0 on the way we talk to our customers??
Are Banner ads it? Is it about search word optimization?
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Perhaps in the near-term:

Advertising is defined as any paid form of product information that is delivered to potential customers in a nonpersonal way (such as through newspapers, magazines, television, radio, billboards, or the Internet).The amount of money spent on Internet advertising has grown tremendously in the past two years. There are now advertising agencies such as DoubleClick, Inc., which specialize in developing Internet advertising campaigns for Web publishers and Web advertisers.
Internet advertising is especially powerful in its ability to target specific, appropriate segments of customers. For example, enter the search word “beer” in the Yahoo! search engine, and notice the relevant advertisement (for Miller Genuine Draft) that appears on the top of the search results page. Similarly, entering the search word “beer” in the AltaVista search engine leads to a results page that contains an Amazon.com link to a list of recommended books about beer!

But is this a fundamental shift? Or is there more?

I think there’s way more ahead than banner ads and search word optimization when it comes to high-tech consumer marketing. I think that we will move from non-personal ways of advertising to customer engaged ways of connecting.

Remember that the “web” is more than a naming convenience. As much as the internet 1.0 was originally defined as “a network of networks,” the web 2.0 universe is becoming “a web of webs.” Meaning, there are now various mechanisms and vehicles for capturing, harnessing, and aggregating collective intelligence. Blogrolls lead to other content, which leads to new blogrolls. And the vendors who help Fortune 1000 companies do marketing are likely not going to be the ones to bring you this fundamental paradigm shift. Agencies still get paid based on 30-second ads, and media buys. The idea of it not being about a media buy seems outrageous.
So I wanted to point these statistics out to high-tech companies.
- 54% of online users today resist being exposed to or paying attention to marketing.
- 56% avoid buying products that overwhelm them with marketing content.
- 69% are interested in products that permit blocking, skipping or opting out of marketing.
(Yankelovich Marketing receptivity study, 2006)
Other research I’ve seen suggests that well over 70% of online US users block out the top banner and side banners because that is typically where ads are placed. There are some heat diagrams done on websites and what is read first, second and so on. Advertising and passive forms of communication are the losing item.
The fundamental paradigm consumer marketing folks must get is that the form of communications are shifting. I believe we are moving from being communicated at, to communicating with each other.
SOME EXAMPLES:
An example that Business 2.0 just wrote about in its April issue:
Digg. Digg.com is a news delivery service fully integrating the web’s culture of participation. Users submit stories, other users endorse that story as having value, and then with enough endorsements or ‘diggs’, that content (and writer) gets promoted to the home page. This month, Digg has over 200,000 registered users, and 6 million pages served up daily. Interestingly enough, Digg taps into a generational bias that sanitized news isn’t news at all. It’s the power of the peer group that makes Digg content valuable.
So I believe this. A fundamental paradigm of web 2.0 is that consumers believe in the power of groups to shape ideas, to shape content to effectively filter the world. The best Web 2.0 applications get better the more people use them. Since the internet masses are increasingly both the content creators and the content filters (the ones who rate, tag and otherwise filter content to make it easier for others to find good stuff), the more people who weigh in on something the better that becomes.
Examples would be:
- Ebay – Once everyone started using Ebay, you could find anything on Ebay. Also sellers and buyers get feedback which creates trust in the community.
- Wikipedia – The more people contribute and edit others’ work, the richer it becomes.
- MySpace – Whether you’re trying to meet a date or promote your band, the more people on MySpace, the better chance you have of making the right connection.
These sites illustrate the power of group-forming networks. This is the idea that the value of certain kinds of networks grows exponentially with the number of participants. The basic premise here is that pairwise or one-to-one networks like the telephone and one-to-many networks like broadcast television are significantly less valuable than online social networks like MySpace, in which groups form groups which form more groups.
SO WHAT DOES THIS MEAN:
Change communications and your web platform to be INTERACTIVE. This is a fundamental shift from software producer to channel to consumer. From a business and innovation angle, I’d like to argue to create ways to co-create with your customers. While it’s not yet perfect (people who vote on something may not necessarily buy that same something), it is going to become a powerful way of both designing and creating offers. I think it will also form our affinity and brand association. Not that everything must be or will be co-created in the future, but the fundamental direction of tapping into the collective experiences, skills and ingenuity of hundreds of millions of consumers around the world is a complete departure from producer-versus-consumer innovation model so common to most corporations. I remember reading an article about a Nike ad in Times square where customers could dial commands and change the footwear that appeared. This (over the top) moment is a small start to how we will be doing customer interactive, 2-way messaging between marketers and consumers.
Move from 1: many communications medium to enable a CONVERSATION. The Web has to become interactive. Business is changing when / how / ways we interact with customers, We’ve been treating customers like they need kid gloves. we wait till it’s all right, we package it all up, and we release. This new world is much more egalitarian. Software isn’t necessarily an 18-month cycle of development. With Yahoo, or Google or Amazon, software is updated as needed. Customers have a lot on the ball, a lot of feedback to give you. And with the advent of really easy to use development and communications tools, it is both relevant and interesting to talk with customers. Near-term, it will look like “Email to a friend”, but over time, people will be able to endorse the products that we like.
And just like a conversation, recognize that we don’t talk to people the same. The way I talk to my CEO group, is different than how I communicate with my staff. And the level of information my clients have about Rubicon and our business strategies is different than vendors who don’t know us. And just as I want to enable yet control and communicate to the sender according to the context and relationship with them, I believe our consumers expect us to have different “audience settings”. A web page that doesn’t recognize who the person is limiting the conversation. Users should be treated differently than non-users who should be treated differently than competitors. For different audiences, I want them to do different things. post comments, share tips, share information, add data. The company that figures how and when to do this is going to win, and win big.
Develop / sponsor /create / incubate INFLUENCERS as market advocates. Interestingly enough, in this new paradigm, vendors don’t matter as much as users. Having you say how great you are is one thing, but having real users say how great you are is incredibly powerful. With this tectonic shift towards users wanting peer references and the power to communicate anything to anybody. Endorsements, peer groups, affiliations will all matter much more in the future. And I pity the vendor who keeps trying to outspend one another on marketing campaigns that costs a lot but don’t understand how to build and deploy an influencer marketing strategy to shape their perception in the world.

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