NEW RULES OF MARKETING & PR
The Old Rules of Marketing and PR Are Ineffective in an Online World
As I write this, I am considering buying a new car.
As it is for billions of other global consumers, the web is my primary source of information when I consider a purchase.
So I sat down at the computer and began poking around.
Figuring they were the natural place to begin my research,
I started with some major automaker sites.
That was a big mistake.
I was assaulted on the homepages with a barrage of TV-style broadcast advertising.
And most of the one-way messages focused on price.
For example, at the end of 2016 at Ford,1 the all-capital-letters headline screamed,
“YEAR END EVENT FINAL DAYS.
UP to $1,500 TOTAL CASH.”
Dodge2 announced a similar offer: “BIG FINISH 2016. GET 20% OFF MSRP.”
Other manufacturers touted similar flashy offers.
I'm not planning to buy a car in the next 100 hours, thank you.
I may not even buy one within 100 days! I'm just kicking the virtual tires.
These sites and most others assume that I'm ready to buy a car right now.
But I actually just wanted to learn something.
Sure, I got graphics and animation, TV commercials, pretty pictures,
and low financing offers on these sites, but little else.
I looked around for some personality on these sites and didn't find much,
because the automaker websites portray their organizations as nameless,
In fact, the sites I looked at are so similar that they're effectively interchangeable.
At each site, I felt as if I was being marketed to with a string of messages that had been developed in a lab or via focus groups. It just didn't feel authentic.
If I wanted to see car TV ads, I would have flipped on the TV.
I was struck with the odd feeling that all large automakers' sites were designed and built by the same Madison Avenue ad guy.
These sites were advertising to me, not building a relationship with me.
They were luring me in with one-way messages, not educating me about the companies' products.
Guess what ?
When I arrive at a site, you don't need to grab my attention;
you already have it !
Automakers have become addicted to the crack cocaine of marketing: big-budget TV commercials and other offline advertising.
Everywhere I turn, I see automobile ads that make me think,
“This has got to be really freakin' expensive.
” The television commercials, the “sponsored by” stuff, the sales “events,”
and other high-ticket Madison Avenue marketing might make you feel good,
but is it effective ? These days,
when people are thinking of buying a car (or any other product or service),
they usually go to the web first.
Even my 80-year-old mother does it! When people come to you online, they are not looking for TV commercials.
They are looking for information to help them make a decision.
Here's the good news: I did find some terrific places on the web to learn about cars.
Unfortunately, the places where I got authentic content and where I became educated and where I interacted with humans weren't part of the automakers' sites.
Edmunds Forums3 is a free, consumer-driven, social networking and personal pages site.
It features photo albums, user groups based on make and model of car,
and favorite links.
The site was excellent in helping me narrow down choices.
For example, in the forums, I could read hundreds of messages about each car
I was considering.
I could see pages where owners showed off their vehicles.
This is where I was making my decision, dozens of clicks removed from
the big automaker sites.
Since I first wrote about automaker sites on my blog, hundreds of people have jumped in to comment or email me with similar car-shopping experiences and frustrations with automaker websites.
And while I certainly recognize that the automakers have improved their sites since I first wrote about them, the focus is still on advertising.
Something is seriously broken in the automobile business if so many people tell me they are unable to find, directly on a company site,
the information they need to make a purchase decision.
But it's not just automakers.
Think about your own buying habits.
Do you make purchase decisions based on your independent research, via information you find with search engines like Google ?
Of course you do !
Do you contact your friends and colleagues via social media like Facebook
and ask them about products and services you're interested in ?
If so, you are not alone.
And yet many sellers fail to reach you in this process.
In the years before she headed to college, my daughter researched appropriate schools by searching online and connecting with her friends.
Over the course of her high school years, she carefully narrowed her choices down
to a handful of schools that were a good fit for her.
When applications were due, she was all set.
Yet in the months leading up to the application deadline, she received hundreds of very expensive direct-mail packages from universities around the world.
Many sent large, thick envelopes containing glossy brochures with hundreds of pages.
These efforts were completely wasted, because my daughter had already made up her mind by doing her own research on the web.
This huge investment in direct-mail advertising simply didn't work.
Before the web, organizations had only two significant options for attracting attention:
Buy expensive advertising or get third-party ink from the media.
But the web has changed the rules.
The web is not TV.
Organizations that understand the New Rules of Marketing and PR develop relationships directly with consumers like you and me.
I'd like to pause here a moment for a clarification.
When I talk about the new rules and compare them to the old rules,
I don't mean to suggest that all organizations should immediately drop their existing marketing and PR programs and use this book's ideas exclusively.
Moreover, I'm not of the belief that the only marketing worth doing is on the web.
If your newspaper advertisements, direct mail campaigns, telephone directory listings, media outreach, and other programs are working for you, that's great! Please keep going.
There is room in many marketing and PR programs for traditional techniques.
That being said, there's no doubt that today people solve problems
by turning to the web.
I'm sure you do too.
Just reflect on your own habits as you contemplate a purchase.
Consider another form of marketing, the art of finding a new job.
Several times per month,
I receive email or phone calls from people who are searching for work.
They usually send their resume (CV) to me and want to network with me to find a job.
What these people are doing is advertising a product (their labor) by sending me an unsolicited email message.
Like the auto companies and the universities, the typical job seeker is advertising a product. Yet the vast majority of these people are not positioning themselves to be found on the web, because they don't have a personal website,
they aren't blogging or creating online videos, and, except for maybe a Facebook or LinkedIn profile, they aren't active in social networking.
They are not creating the content that will help an employer to find them when a company needs new staff.
If you aren't present and engaged in the places and at the times that your buyers are, then you're losing out on potential business—no matter whether you're looking
for a job or marketing your company's product or your organization's service.
Worse, if you are trying to apply the game plan that works in your mainstream-media-based advertising and public relations (PR) programs to your online efforts,
you will not be successful.
So take a minute to ask yourself this simple question:
How are my existing advertising and media relations programs working ?
A Money Pit of Wasted Resources In the old days, traditional, nontargeted advertising via newspapers, magazines, radio, television,
and direct mail was the only way to go.
But these media make it very difficult to target specific buyers with individualized content.
Yes, advertising is still used for megabrands with broad reach and probably still works for some organizations and products (though not as well as before).
Guys watching football on TV drink a lot of beer,
so perhaps it makes sense for mass marketer Budweiser to advertise on NFL broadcasts (but not for small microbrews that appeal
to a small niche customer base to do so).
Advertising also works in many trade publications.
If your company makes deck sealant, then you probably want to advertise in Professional Deck Builder magazine to reach your buyers (but that won't allow you to reach the do-it-yourself market).
If you run a local real estate agency in a smaller community, it might make sense
to do a direct mailing to all of the homeowners there
(but that won't let you reach people who might be planning to move to your community from another location).
However, for millions of other organizations—for those of us who
are professionals, musicians,
artists, nonprofit organizations, churches, and niche product companies—traditional advertising is generally so wide and broad that it is ineffective.
A great strategy for Procter & Gamble, Paramount Pictures, and a U.S.
presidential candidate—reaching large numbers of people with a message of broad national appeal—just doesn't work for niche products,
local services, and specialized nonprofit organizations.
The web has opened a tremendous opportunity to reach niche buyers directly with targeted information that costs a fraction of what big-budget advertising costs.
One-Way Interruption Marketing Is Yesterday's Message A primary technique of what
Seth Godin calls the TV-industrial complex4 is interruption.
Under this system, advertising agency creative people sit in hip offices dreaming up ways to interrupt people so that they pay attention to a one-way message.
Think about it:
You're watching your favorite TV show, so the advertiser's job is to craft
a commercial to get you to pay attention,
when you'd really rather be doing something else,
like quickly grabbing some ice cream before the show resumes.
You're reading an interesting article in a magazine, so the ads need to jolt you into reading an ad instead of the article.
Or you're flying on American Airlines (which I do frequently),
and during the flight,
the airline deems it important to interrupt your nap with a loud advertisement announcing its credit card offer.
The goal in each of these examples is to get people to stop what they are doing and pay attention to a message.
Moreover, the messages in advertising are product-focused, one-way spin.
Advertisers can no longer break through with dumbed-down broadcasts
about their wonderful products.
The average person now sees hundreds of seller-spun commercial messages per day. People just don't trust them.
We turn them off in our minds, if we notice them at all.
The web is different. Instead of one-way interruption, web marketing is about delivering useful content at just the precise moment a buyer needs it.
It's about interaction, information, education, and choice.
Before the web, good advertising people were well versed in the tools and techniques of reaching broad markets with lowest-common-denominator messages
via interruption techniques.
Advertising was about great “creative work.” Unfortunately, many companies rooted in these old ways desperately want the web to be like TV, because they understand how TV advertising works.
Advertising agencies that excel in creative TV ads simply believe they can transfer
their skills to the web.
They are wrong.
They are following outdated rules.
The Old Rules of Marketing Marketing simply meant advertising (and branding).
Advertising needed to appeal to the masses.
Advertising relied on interrupting people to get them to pay attention to a message.
Advertising was one-way: company to consumer.
Advertising was exclusively about selling products.
Advertising was based on campaigns that had a limited life.
Creativity was deemed the most important component of advertising.
It was more important for the ad agency to win advertising awards than for the client
to win new customers.
Advertising and PR were separate disciplines run by different people with separate goals, strategies, and measurement criteria.
None of this is true anymore.
The web has transformed the rules, and you must transform your marketing to make the most of the web-enabled marketplace of ideas.
Public Relations Used to Be Exclusively about the Media For nearly a decade,
I was a contributing editor at EContent magazine.
I currently write for the Huffington Post, contribute guest articles to many other publications, and maintain a popular blog.
As a result, I receive hundreds of broadcast email press releases and pitches per month from well-meaning PR people who want me to write
about their products and services.
Guess what ?
In 10 years, I have never written about a company because of a nontargeted
broadcast press release or pitch that somebody sent me.
Think about that: tens of thousands of press releases and pitches; zero stories.