Archive for the ‘advertising’ Tag

Behind the Scenes with SAS’ Big Data Guy

The sun was barely over the horizon on a cold Saturday morning when a caravan of vehicles drove across the SAS campus.  The vehicles were full of camera equipment, lights, props, and the all-important catering supplies to keep everyone well fed.  Work was about to begin on shooting of a series of spots featuring Big Data Guy (BDG).  Before the day was done, equipment packed, and food exhausted, a crew from SAS’ Video Communications and New Media (VC&NM) team completed shooing three spots highlighting how SAS can help organizations take advantage of the massive amounts of data they collect.

Long before the last edit was made, before the first scene was shot, before the scripts were even written – there is the back story.  The project started as a challenge issued by Bill Marriott to his VC&NM team.  The challenge, each quarter come up with a unique idea for a project and drive it through to completion.  “We have a lot of highly creative people in our group, but the day-to-day work of the department often demands quick delivery on tight timelines.  This project was an opportunity to empower the team to do what they do best, create compelling content that delivers the SAS message.”

A Visit From Big Data

 As in most things, nothing happens until someone takes ownership.  Taking up Bill’s challenge, Brendan Bailey proposed creating a series of spots using the classic TV formula of Conflict & Resolution.  “Many commercials use this formula.  It provides an opportunity to pose a problem and offer a solution.  The issue of big data fits this model.  It’s a challenge, but also a great opportunity; with the answer being SAS.”

A series of brainstorming meetings followed which resulted in a dozen script treatments.  At that point the team ran into an impasse.  The outlines all treated the BDG character differently.  “We lacked a clear understanding of who we wanted this character to be,” explained Todd Johnson.  “So we spent some time debating the character and wrote a back story detailing who BDG is and how we want him portrayed.”

With a clearer understanding of the character, the question remained, how well would he work?  David Stephenson took the lead and drafted scripts for three initial spots.  “The character somewhat wrote himself.  As the scripts came together the creative team focused more on content and creating spots that were flexible enough to use in different ways.”

Big Data Knows That’s A Stolen Credit Card

 The team continued to debate how long to make each spot and if released to YouTube whether length mattered.  At the suggestion of Bill Marriott the team decided to work toward the length of standard broadcast commercials.  “Building standard length :15, :30, and :60 second spots added structure to the process.  The constraints of a blueprint can often help focus energies on the best way to make something happen.”

Scripts complete – check.  Locations secured – check.  Talent hired – check.  The day of shooting finally arrived.  It was time to see how well BDG would work in delivering the SAS message about big data.  From dawn to dusk the crew and on-camera talent wandered around the SAS campus collecting footage needed to create the spots.  Gary Peterson and Mark Lawrence managed the day-long shoot.  “It certainly wasn’t our usual day of shooting,” said Lawrence.  “Even though the final spots are short, they require a lot of material.  We had only the one day to get all the shots.  We knew we weren’t going to have the chance to grab extra shots later.  It had to be done right the first time.”

Now complete, the spots are posted to the SAS website and in use at customer events.  The response has encouraged the production team to begin work on another round of spots.  Given a blank canvas and creative freedom, it’s amazing what a creative team can deliver.


Whiteboard Videos in the Crosshairs

Walk the halls of any marketing department and you’re bound to hear someone planning a whiteboard video project. The success of UPS’ advertising campaign has spurred imitators at every turn. If asked to produce such a project, how do you respond? For me, I gather up all the wooden stakes and silver bullets I can find – it’s time to put these requests in the crosshairs

What appears simple in the UPS television commercials is anything but simple. What made these spots work? They were surprising, the operative word being were, past tense. It’s clear when a technique has peaked, just watch for the growing number of parodies. The UPS spots are short, not a 20 minute marketing promotion. The ads make one simple point rather than a bullet list of complex messages best covered in a written white paper. And finally the talent brings just the right combination of presentation and artistic skills to make the commercials interesting.

When one of these project requests crossed my desk, I met with the client and listened, nodded at the appropriate moments, and made all the motions as if taking detailed notes. The marketing prime was using whiteboards as the centerpiece for a series of interactive, small-group meetings. It’s a wonderful meeting format for those participating in person at one of the events. But creating a “whiteboard video” to promote the event series wasn’t going to work. I promised the client I would use some whiteboard techniques, but the promo spot would employ other techniques as well. The production team at SAS included graphic and animation support from Tim Cherry and post production editing was handled by Kevin Alexander. In the end, the client was happy with the results and is using the program to promote the event series.

There are times when a whiteboard video is a good way to approach a project. Our team at SAS has done many such projects. Most are for internal use rather than external marketing. Here are a few things to keep in mind about such projects.

1) Whiteboard or Smart Board – There is a difference. A whiteboard is just that, a flat drawing surface. A smart board offers the advantage of interactivity and the use of computer-generated content. This is one way to create animation which on-camera talent can interact.

2) Pre-Produced Content – With a smart board, content can be pre-produced. It can be graphic animation as in some of the UPS commercials, PowerPoint charts can be presented, or software can be shown and interacted with. Pre-planning content elements minimizes the need for talent to draw upon their inner artist – they can remain focused on the content.

3) Hire an Artist – When a client insists on creating “one of those clever whiteboard videos,” start looking for a graphics professional. Use the search terms: videoscribing or whiteboard animation. The animation does not need to be done on-camera, a voice over can work just as well. Animation can also be pushed to a smart board for the on-camera talent to interact.

4) All Things in Moderation – If one or two coffees, why not eight or ten? As in the example produced for SAS, a little whiteboard animation goes a long way. It takes a very clever production team to make the technique work over an extended project. A better approach is to use it sparingly and build out a program using other complementary techniques.

5) Bang for the Buck – If you use a professional artist for the project, consider making use of the animation separate from the original project. A shortened form of the animation could be used to promote the full-length program. The graphic sequences could be made into short clips that when pulled into PowerPoint can enhance other presentations while strengthening message continuity.

When asked about producing a whiteboard program, take ownership of the project. As a media professional you’re the one most qualified to make the decisions that will delight your client. You can save the wooden crosses and silver bullets for vampires and werewolves.

5 Tips for the Dreaded Corporate History Video

The request often brings shivers to any producer assigned the corporate history project. But these projects can be fun to work on and a great opportunity for creative expression. The “SAS Corporate Timeline: A History of the Analytics Leader” covers important company highlights in an entertaining way. Produced by Todd Johnson with animation done by Jeff McFall and the graphic and multimedia team at SAS, the program follows five solid design principles.

1) Keep it Short – In the age of on-line video keep the program short. That means prioritizing the most important information to go into the program. For organizations with a short history that might not be too much of a problem, but for organizations that have been around awhile it can be a challenge. Suggestion: When more information needs to be presented, propose a secondary project and build out a more complete timeline in multimedia format. Create a web deliverable to allow users to dig as deep as they like into the organization’s history. Develop a spin off project in print format that can be offered as a PDF download. Your client will appreciate the suggestions and it demonstrates the added value you bring to the project.

2) Select Interesting Content – This is fraught with as much political posturing and agendas as anything that goes on in the UN General Assembly. This is where having one client is so important. These projects will never please everyone, so be sure to please at least one client. The content should lend itself to development of interesting visuals. Text can be used in interesting ways to deliver specific messages while compelling visuals deliver the backstory. Suggestion: This format is ideal for creating multiple versions (i.e. new clients, additional projects, multiple billings!). For those parts of an organization that feel their content/message did not receive enough attention, sell them their own version!

3) Build New – Organizations with a long history are likely to have a storeroom of old photos, films, documents, awards… the list goes on and on. All of this stuff means something to someone. As the producer, it’s important to maintain creative control of the presentation and use, or not use, these materials. Nothing will drag down a timeline project faster than visual discontinuity. Without explanation they can be confusing or meaningless. You might be able to weave them into a background montage, but primary visuals should be constructed new. Suggestion: Historical assets can help bring to life web-based infographics and publication material where written information can detail their relevance.

4) MOS or Narrated – Why not both? Here is another opportunity to add value and build a stronger client relationship. Most clients requesting these projects will have a narrative in mind. However, in most cases these programs find their greatest value in environments where sound won’t work, such as at a trade show, within a demo center, or on a display wall. Build the program so the visuals can stand alone; accompanied by an optional mix track. Create a separate version with a narrative track for situations that are more presentation than environmental. Suggestion: A narrative track should not just drive text visuals. Allow any narrative to supplement the visual elements and add an additional layer of information.

5) Update/Change Flexibility – If an organization is successful the timeline project will need updates. If additional client departments want a modified version, that’s a change request – same with foreign language translations. A year or two after release there will be new history and most likely changes to the corporate message. The changes might be subtle, but changing any video project requires work. Changes need to be planned for ahead of time. Build the project in layers so selected elements can be more easily changed. And archive, archive, archive. Keep everything, label it well, and file it so future updates can be made simple and seamless. Suggestion: If the organization is global, text and language changes are likely requests resulting from a successful project. (Especially true if you market the program to others within the company.) If properly constructed, changes to these layers can be easily accommodated. Less obvious are changes to background imagery. Build into the original presentation the ethnic, gender, and geographic profile that best represents the company as a global organization.

For the corporate producer or the independent, these projects can provide visibility and showcase your abilities. They can be the springboard to additional projects and future opportunity.

News & Information in the Era of New Media

News, and the business of news, has changed.  Advances in technology, in parallel with changes affecting the business of broadcasting, have had a profound effect on how consumers receive news and information.  The June meeting of the Central Carolina Chapter of MCA-I explored these themes with a behind-the-scenes tour of WRAL and a look at how news and information is managed across multiple channels, technology platforms, and made available 24 hours a day.

Companies like Capital Broadcasting (parent company of WRAL) have long had multiple divisions and more than one way to reach an audience.  Station owners often had television and radio properties that ran as separate businesses.  Fast forward to the era of new media, and those lines have blurred.  The Internet and web-based media have given consumers new choices in how and when they receive information.  Accelerating this trend is the mobile web, with information available anytime and from almost anywhere.  To survive in this new environment, broadcasters like WRAL have made significant investments in on-line, web-based channels.  In today’s 24-hour information environment, content must be available from more than just static websites ‑ consumers also demand access from their choice of mobile platforms.

The changes affecting broadcast news are clearly visible when visiting the WRAL newsroom and touring the facility.  At every turn, traditional broadcast teams sit and work alongside the new media team.  Now undergoing a massive digital facility upgrade, WRAL is constructing a new master control room and streamlining the process of asset exchange between the TV and new media teams.

In the news room, news gathering and reporting producers sit side-by-side with their counterparts on the .Com side.  WRAL has 30 content producers assigned to the new media team.  Having both broadcast and new media channels available, breaking news is never embargoed.  Once verified, the station has the option of delivering the news through its website, on Facebook, or by Twitter.  “Our broadcast and new media teams work together in the newsroom every day,” said John Conway, Creative Services Director at WRAL.Com.  “We’ve created an environment for cooperation and sharing where WRAL-TV does the first line reporting and news gathering, which will then be used by the WRAL.Com Web Content Producers.”

From its website, WRAL.Com delivers over 40 hours of live video each day.  The website provides access to over 45,000 video clips in its archive and delivers over 60,000 video views per day.  For advertisers, WRAL.Com offers a highly targeted marketing opportunity.  Over 70% of the website users are within the local viewing area, putting ads in front of people who shop locally.  Traffic to the website peaked on the day of last presidential inauguration.  WRAL.Com supported up to 3,000 simultaneous connections and delivered over 890,000 video views.  That’s a lot of web traffic!

Thanks to the team at WRAL-TV and WRAL.Com for a fascinating inside look at how news and information is managed in the era of new media.  Great meeting!

Listening and the Art of Social Web Marketing

At the DMA 2010 Conference, Chris Brogan, President of New Marketing Labs, spoke about the importance of listening as an enabler of social web marketing.  Active listening is a critical skill in both life and business – just ask anyone who has a spouse or a boss.  [Fill in own joke here.]

What is active listening?  It’s a process that requires the listener to understand, interpret, and evaluate what they hear.  In the context of the social web, active listening is what enables a business to understand, measure, and take action.  It’s the foundation upon which are built the four Cs of social media: Connect, Content, Capture, and Capitalize.

During his presentation, Brogan gave a personal example of the social web and the wisdom of crowds.  An impulse shopper, he used the collective intelligence of his broad network of followers to research an electronics purchase.  His search started on Google, friends offered their suggestions, and a tweet from H&H Photo in New York closed the deal.  “The next thing you know, I’m shopping.  I’m shopping, when I was just kind of complaining.”

In this short video clip, Brogan offers some very practical advice on how people socialize and interact with each other across the Web.  Learn how business can engage in the conversation, better connect with consumers, and nurture relationships.

Social media veteran Chris Brogan is a prolific blogger and co-author of the best-selling book Trust Agents: Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation, and Earn Trust.

Social Media Meets Main Street

On Friday after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, stores open early and shoppers stay late.  For those not wanting to fight the crowds, Cyber Monday shoppers go online in search of bargains.  Now, enter a new retail holiday tradition.  The inaugural Small Business Saturday, organized by American Express, encouraged holiday shoppers to support small, independently owned local businesses.  In this, the season of miracles, a new tradition is born.

Small businesses fight year around for a share of consumer spending.  This is never truer than at the holidays.  Local merchants in the village of Southampton, NY have turned to social media to share some holiday cheer and remind area residents why they should shop locally.  On Facebook, Shop Southampton, NY, promotes shopping events, sales, and the village’s picturesque setting.  Looking for other ways to promote local business, a group of merchants helped with production of a promotional video featuring local kids dressed as elves frolicking through the village and its quaint shops.  Posted to YouTube, the video has been well received by area residents.

Here’s hoping your holidays are bright and as cheerful as that of the Southampton Elves.  Click through to YouTube and share the magic of where social media meets main street.


The Buzz on Viral Video

Working at a high technology company often requires me to provide very specific, technically-detailed answers.  This is particularly true when a technologist wants information about what they consider the soft field of marketing.  It’s important to answer in their language in order to get your point across.

In a recent meeting about an upcoming marketing campaign, several people asked me how to go about creating a viral video.  We talked about this for awhile but I sensed those in the meeting were looking for more.  Later, back in my office I thought about the elements of a successful viral video.  I thought of the 4 Ps of Marketing and then offered the team a formula for creating viral videos.  My suggestion was:  (.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.

There are all kinds of viral videos, but for purposes of brevity this post looks only at the creation of viral video for B2B and B2C companies.

Product ‑ Delving into the formula, 60% of the effort in creating a viral video should go into creating the Product.  That is the content as well as the production.  It’s critical to keep in mind that a viral video does more than deliver a singular message, it represents the company brand.  There are many creative ways to create viral content, but not all fit well within a brand framework.  Common themes for viral video content often include: humor, surprise, interactivity, and of course sex.

  • Humor:  Everyone enjoys a good laugh and comedy is a frequent component of many successful viral videos.  Of course humor is very subjective and requires a deft touch when used within a corporate brand strategy.  The Mac vs. PC ads went viral because of the passion Mac users have for their computers and the clever use of humor to drive home the message.  Including Brazilian model and actress Gisele Bündchen added to the effectiveness of the spot promoting iMovie capabilities on the Mac.
  • Surprise:  The wow-factor that makes viewers want to share a video with friends and colleagues.  In the interest of fair play, Microsoft scored on the viral video charts with their fake Greatest Slide Stunt Ever video developed for Microsoft Germany.  Who cares if the stunt was fake?  That’s not the point… it’s all about the buzz.
  • Interactivity:  Many sites offer users the ability to dynamically insert pictures or names into an animated presentation for sharing with others ‑ turning themselves into virtual brand ambassadors.  Think Jib-Jab and the famous Elf Yourself campaign.  Office Max’s 2008 holiday promotion proved amazingly popular and was the viral hit of winter 2008.
  • Sex:  It sells, but won’t work for all organizations.  The Carl’s Jr. ads featuring a scantily clad Paris Hilton washing cars while devouring a burger created a lot of buzz, drove million+ web views, and the scorn of many.  What it did for burger sales, I have no idea.

Price ‑ Coupled with Product is the element of Price.  Developing outstanding creative content most often comes with an associated cost.  Producing a viral video may involve an outside creative agency; will require crew, equipment, and other below-the-line costs; and could involve celebrity talent.  A forewarning, in discussing viral video, someone is sure to mention a video created in 10 minutes, without a budget, and using low end equipment.  They’re out there, usually involving animal or pet tricks, cute kids, or a “thank goodness it’s not me” video.  The question you must answer is, would such a video reflect well on the company brand?  In most cases the answer is no.  As the viral video market has matured, you can point to a growing number of successful viral videos that both deliver impact and support brand attributes.

  • Creative Concept:  Viral videos can be conceived internally, or may require hiring an outside agency.  The key is the big idea, something perceived as remarkable and that communicates your message.  Dove’s Self Esteem campaign is one of the most successful web-based viral campaigns.  Web video, combined with a comprehensive website, provides thought-provoking, confidence-building programs and messages that embrace all definitions of beauty.  For Dove, it’s not a product pitch, it’s about brand association.
  • Production Expenses:  Some believe that web video should have a decidedly low-cost look – inaccurately often referred to as a YouTube video.  My suggestion is to push back with reference to more traditional media.  A client would never permit their “official” product brochure to be written by a brilliant technologist from R&D, illustrated by someone’s kid known for drawing nice pictures, and printed on the copier down the hall.  The product brochure is viewed as a key sales tool, and production quality reflects on the product as well as the company brand.  The same holds true for a viral marketing vehicle.  Keep in mind the old adage, “Good, fast, or cheap – pick any two.”  How much time, effort, and money did T-Mobile spend in driving 20M+ web views of their highly choreographed dance number shot at Liverpool Street Station?
  • Celebrity Talent:  A viral video does not require celebrity talent, it’s a tactical decision.  But people are fascinated by celebrities.  There are countless websites devoted to following every aspect of a celebrity’s life and which will embed these videos and help extend the audience.  The cost of using a celebrity can be a major expense item, often beyond available budget.  And to prove that celebrities never go away, much as would like many of them to fade away, advertisers have turned to wrestling icon Rick Flair to WOOO state lottery players with jackpots of mega millions.

OK, it’s entertainment time.  The hottest viral campaign currently running is the Old Spice ads featuring a shirtless Isaiah Mustafa showing off his six pack abs.  The campaign is an excellent example of strong product and illustrates the issues of price as a component in delivering a viral video campaign.

Millions of views and major brand buzz

Placement – Viral videos appear in many places on the web.  Each media channel has unique attributes and publishing requirements.  The critical element of placement is less about the channel than it is about how you describe (tag) your video.  Tagging information is the metadata that search engines and viewers use to locate your video.

  • Title & Description:  Your video title and description should be both descriptive and engaging.  Review carefully the visible word count in the description field provided by each media channel.  Then limit the description to the visible information field.  Anything accessible only from the <More Info> section of the description will seldom be seen.
  • Tagging:  Add tags… lots of relevant tags.  The more keywords used to describe your video, the more likely your video will appear within search results and be found.
  • Single Posting:  If the video is part of a series of presentations, each should be posted to a single page with its own title, description, and tagging information.
  • Embedded Links:  These enable other content authors to link directly to your video.  The best example is the use of embed code from YouTube.  (As I did above in posting the Old Spice video.)  Many of the views of your video will be driven by blog posts, included in emails, circulated via Twitter, and on and on.

Promotion – Videos posted to the web with compelling title, interesting descriptions, and rich metadata tags have a head start in the battle for eyeballs.  Promotion takes work and is not an overnight process.  It involves multiple elements and communication tactics.

  • Thumbnail:  The major media channels all show a visual from within the video, along with the title and description.  Unfortunately, each media channel handles this in different and unique ways.  It’s well worth the investment in time to understand the unique way each video sharing site determines the thumbnail image deployed with your video.
  • Channels:  Of course there is YouTube…  and there are other channels as well, Google Video, Yahoo Video, Facebook Video, specific industry websites, and of course your company’s own website.  Publish to as many sites as are relevant and that you can support with follow-up communication.
  • Social Networking:  Create communities of interest for your content and share regularly.  As you befriend more people ask them to invite others to subscribe as well.  Reach out to bloggers and others of influence and allow them to help spread the news.  Send them the embed link along with some unique information (previously unpublished) and you may gain access to an audience you might otherwise not reach.  Promote your video project and keep the video front and center in as many communication opportunities as possible: blog, Tweet, post, comment, email, advertise… above all stay engaged.
  • Bubble Up Ratings: Videos that create a buzz (comments, ratings, views) will move to the top of the search listing.  Ask for comments and respond to those comments.  These actions not only drive views, but move your video higher in the results list.

So that’s my formula for a successful viral video.
(.60Product + .10Price) + .10Placement + .20Promotion = Opportunity.
I would like to hear your thoughts and comments.  What’s been your experience?  Comments welcome.

For more ideas check out the post Make Me a Viral Video and Super-Size It!

Cut the Bull: Avoid Idiot-Speak

The paradigm shift empowering leading-edge advantage towards world class leadership is building momentum for… cut the bull, plain English please.

We’ve all read endless streams of corporate-speak: jargon-filled, filtered, and antiseptic ‑ rendering real communication all but impossible.  For communicators it’s a slippery slope.  While every industry has a unique language, accepted acronyms, and technical vocabulary, the trap for communicators is when we yield to company-speak and avoid the battle for clear, concise, communication.

In the wonderful book, Why Business People Speak Like Idiots, authors, Brian Fugere, Chelsea Hardaway and Jon Warshawsky offer a compelling alternative.  For those of us working in the communication trenches, the book is a valuable reminder of the slow brainwashing that over time can influence the way we choose to communicate.

And yes, it’s a choice.  If your ambition is to serve as a mid-level bureaucrat using Mad-Libs fill-in-the-blank jargon for your next assignment, you will be well on your way to an all but invisible place on the org. chart.  While remaining hidden behind fact-free, mind-numbing bulls*it seems a safe place to remain unseen, in a difficult business environment it’s also a sure way to an unceremonial pink slip.  In a tough business climate, organizations need communicators who help strengthen the business, create compelling dialogues, and develop innovative ways to influence people.

The book exposes several common traps that can transform the unwary communicator into a boring business stiff:

1.      Businesses focus on themselves over their audience
Too often those creating business communications aim to impress, not to inform.  Rather than using plain, simple language everyone understands, business communicators fall back on the use of jargon or insider phrases.  The authors describe it as becoming “a kind of intellectual powerhouse, generating concepts that are too lofty to be expressed in something as mundane as English.”  We too often fear that straightforward language might make us look dumb.

2.      Business people fear concrete language
Avoiding commitment, and thereby liability, has evolved into something of an art form.  The problem with this approach is that through “vagary and verbosity,” the credibility of whatever follows is reduced.  In short, people recognize B.S. and give up looking for meaning.  Remember, for communicators the bottom line is to connect, convince, and help the organization move ahead.

3.      Business is boring
How can you not purchase a book with a chapter titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock ‘n’ Roll for Business People”?  The authors offer a hilarious look at why business-speak is so ridiculous.  They remind everyone in business that connecting with an audience, any audience, is about gaining their attention.  “Make it relevant.  Make it vivid.  Make it compelling.  Whether you like it or not, you’re in the entertainment business.”  This admonition applies to everyone within an organization, none more so than those responsible for crafting communication messages.

The authors offer this key take away, “bullshit eats away at your personal capital, while straight talk pays dividends.”  Make the wise investment, fight the bull and make clear, compelling communication the hallmark of your personal success.

Drive Click-Through Rates with Video

The numbers are almost meaningless… ≈ 170M unique web viewers/month, 14B streams/month, time per viewer up nearly 60%.  The bottom line is that the growth of online video has exploded and will continue to grow ‑ becoming as ubiquitous as text on the web.  Don’t believe this?  Ask any IT manager responsible for data storage and content delivery.

The explosion of video has been driven by user generated content; commercial content distribution; and web-based video/multimedia, much of it supporting promotional campaigns.  The naysayers point out that for promotional campaigns, overall advertising click-through rates are disappointingly low.  Point taken.  But, those websites and marketing campaigns that customize ads and multimedia content to fit individual customer interests have demonstrated markedly higher click-through rates.  Two of the most well know examples of successfully tailoring content to the interest of their users are Apple, with the iTunes Store, and

 As video has become an accepted part of the web experience, marketers are looking for ways to exploit the engaging qualities of video.  Video has the unique ability to convey a story through sound and motion – creating a more powerful emotional response among users.  Results of recent studies by DoubleClick show that when used for direct-response online advertising –the click-through rate– online video ads perform extremely well.  The data shows online video ads deliver click-through rates ranging from 0.4 to 0.74 percent depending on the online video format.  By comparison, click-through rates for plain GIF or JPG image ads ranges between 0.1 and 0.2 percent.  Given these data, it’s no wonder that in the troubled economic climate of the past year, marketers have rushed headlong to enrich their websites, direct mail campaigns, press releases, and corporate communications with various forms of digital multimedia.

 A recent industry report from StrongMail Systems highlights the trend.  As reported in BtoB Online, Kristin Hersant, StrongMail’s director of corporate marketing, the “2010 Marketing Trends” survey finds that online marketing spending will be up in the coming year, with video a key driver.  “We also think that marketers will be able to increase relevancy by using video in e-mail,” Hersant said.  “Video is going to make it a lot easier to promote the things that their customers are interested in, such as webinars, training, and product education.”

A report from the Interactive Advertising Bureau and PricewaterhouseCoopers LLC released US results for the first half of 2009, showing that online ad spending continues to experience robust growth, increasing 38% from the same period a year ago.  As online advertising continues to draw spending away from other forms of traditional advertising, spending for online video is projected to reach nearly $500M in the US during the first half of 2010.  In a similar report from Forrester Research, video advertising will grow to account for one-fifth of European online display ad spending – nearly €1 billion in 2012.  Forrester Research also issued their US Interactive Marketing Forecast 2009 – 2014, showing 60% of marketers plan to shift marketing dollars away from traditional channels in favor of interactive marketing initiatives.

This move to interactive multimedia-supported marketing is not the sole province of big companies.  In Chapel Hill, NC a local wine, coffee, and tea merchant is taking advantage of the click-through promotional power of video.  3CUPS is a business dedicated to bringing high quality products to their customers while stimulating them to learn more about what they sell… the really good stuff.  They recently began adding video promotions as an element to their email marketing and on their website home page.  “Using video allows us to show what it’s like to come into our store and learn about our business,” says Badi Bradley a partner at 3CUPS.  The first promotion to include a video element delivered 600 views in the first several days.  Following the success of the first video, 3CUPS has released three more videos and has five projects underway.  Lex Alexander, owner of 3CUPS, believes video offers a unique way to differentiate the business.  “Video allows us to entice customers with a story that demonstrates we are very knowledgeable about the items we sell.  People don’t read as much these days; they’ve become accustomed to TV.  It helps us personalize the business.”  The video was produced in HD by Jim Fink of New Century Digital Media and shot and directed by Ken Peterson, SilverLight Productions.  The HD Flash video is hosted by NCDM.  According to Fink, “We support the concept of a full television experience that people have become used to in their home.”  Fink provides clients with more than just production and hosting, he also provides access to stats on the performance of each video.  “Clients have direct access to a lot of data about their videos.  It allows them to better manage the use of video as part of their overall marketing activities.

 For a business like 3CUPS, customizing the content of promotional video as part of their direct mail advertising has proven effective.  The high engagement factor of video, combined with better customer targeting and improved Internet tracking capabilities, offers advertisers a highly accountable way to improve response rates and deliver bottom line results. 

Marketing to the C-Suite

Everyone in marketing and sales wants in to the C-Suite executive.  Marketing and selling at the executive level has long been a favored business strategy.  But as marketing communicators, how well do we assist sales with messaging that truly resonates at the C-level?

Marketing deliverables must support sales initiatives at multiple stages of the customer buying cycle.  That’s why we create ads, glossy brochures, webcasts, white papers, and all the tactical deliverables required to move a prospect over to the sold column.  But what about messaging for the C-level?

In the book, Selling to the C-Suite, co-authors Stephen Bistritz and Nicholas Read address the issue from the point of view of sales strategy.  For those of us in marketing, the book is a valuable guide on how to support sales in their efforts to sell at the highest levels.  The heart of the issue is that C-level executives have different priorities from others in their organization.  For any proposed spending, C-level executives have multiple options.  They can choose to buy your product or service; they could buy from your competitor; maybe they could achieve similar financial results by hiring more sales people or increasing staff training.  The C-level perspective is not about the widget or servicing the widget, it about how for a given investment, the organization can derive most benefit – and often in the shortest amount of time.

People who make a career in sales understand this.  As marketers, support for C-level engagements must be less about the widget, and more about return on investment.  Next time you are asked to develop marketing support for C-level engagement, stay focused on quantifiable business impact.  It’s the “elevator speech.”  Hold subject matter experts responsible for laser-like focus on the issue of bottom line business impact.  Far too often content-gathering conversations start here, but quickly devolve into performance details, technical specifications, and the standard Features & Benefits information that can be found on any organization’s website.

For a moment, think of yourself as having the big corner office – maybe it’s your favorite chair in a corner of the kitchen.  If you receive a profit-sharing bonus, a tax refund, or a Nigerian email scam actually sends you money (OK, the last item may be a stretch), as family CEO what do you do with the available funds?  You could pay bills, make some home improvements, put money down on a car, or buy a vacation… you get the idea.  Business leaders make similar decisions about projects to fund or activities to support.

Make it Effective:

  • Focus less on product/service and more on value
  • Don’t use jargon, messages should focus on outcome level
  • Enable sales to personalize the assets to individual C-level executives
  • Content must be relevant, engaging, and, focused on the industry sector
  • Create conversation starters: interesting data about industry trends, success stories, etc.

Such a strategy proved effective for business analytics software leader SAS.  Last year, a series of thought leader events was held in about a dozen cities across North America.  The events featured analytics consultant, author, and educator Tom Davenport, and focused on how companies can use analytics to drive business results.  Tactical marketing support included print, an online presence, advertising, and live event support.  All of the tactical deliverables focused on business outcome and value.  For the SAS sales staff, the events were a great way to engage prospects and customers while building stronger relationships.

Your marketing support activities may only get one chance to assist sales in making an impact at the C-level.  Keep the messaging focused on what your organization offers that can help a senior executive deliver results demanded by the board of directors.  This will help establish your sales team as trusted advisors to your customers and open new opportunities for your business.