Thursday, December 31, 2009

Social Media is the New Super Bowl: Pepsi Refresh and What It Means to Marketers

[I just posted my second blog post since joining Forrester, this time on the Marketing Leadership Blog.  You'll find this same blog post cross-posted at]

If you track Social Media news, I'm sure you saw the eye-catching headline: "Pepsi's Big Gamble: Ditching Super Bowl for Social Media".  For the first time in 23 years--23 years!--the brand will not be purchasing a Super Bowl spot.  Instead, it is sinking $20M into a Social Media program called Pepsi Refresh. The Pepsi Refresh site will allow people to vote for worthwhile community projects, and Pepsi expects to sponsor thousands of local efforts via this program. 

What does this news mean to marketers?  Some potential ramifications (and non-ramifications) include:
  • No, this doesn't mean TV is going away, but it will be fighting for marketing dollars on an increasingly level playing field with Social and Interactive tactics.  Despite the meltdown in traditional media, TV advertising will continue to be a big line item in the marketing budget for top consumer brands, but expect it to continue to shrink as a portion of the overall marketing budget.  Shar VanBoskirk said it well:  "Advertising budgets will decline. But marketing investments won't."  Moreover, as Lisa Bradner points out in her report, Adaptive Brand Marketing, the era of annual TV budgets is ending.  Expect more iterative budget setting based on "test and learn" cycles where the best and most successful ideas can quickly command more funding regardless of channel.

  • Social Media programs don't begin and end with Social Media:  There can be a mistaken assumption that Social Media Marketing means brands being on Twitter and Facebook.  As the Pepsi program demonstrates, Social Media is the means to an end, and not the end itself. 

    It doesn't matter that you have followers, fans, or a community; those are assets, not return.  It is how you use those assets that matters.  In Pepsi's case, they've clearly found a way to gain new followers and fans, but that's not the objective of the program; instead, the brand is putting Social Media to work for a higher goal--making the world a better place and associating the brand with that vision. 

  • Social Media measurement = brand measurement:  Do you think Pepsi is going to measure the effectiveness of this program merely by how many fans or page views they get?  They may count retweets, but what are the chances the $20M investment will be evaluated based upon 140-character pass-alongs? 

    The success of this program won't be measured primarily with Social Media metrics (fans, followers, RTs, votes, etc.) but on traditional brand and marketing metrics.  How much PR does Pepsi earn from the program and the funding of thousands of community projects?  How many people hear about the program, and how does it affect their purchase intent for the brand?  How many points increase does Pepsi see when it asks questions such as, "Pepsi is a brand that cares about me and my community?" and "Pepsi is a brand I'd recommend to friends?"  Does the brand see a lift in sales?  Those are the types of metrics that matter in this (or most every other) marketing program.  My peer Nate Elliot points out that you must "choose metrics based on objectives rather than technologies."

  • Another nail in the coffin of merely likable advertising.  Super Bowl advertising has become its own kind of sport.  Shortly after the big game, the scoreboard goes up (USA Today's Ad Meter) and the winning team does an end zone victory dance (agency press releases bragging about the results).  All this hullabaloo implies that ads are entertainment and likability is all that matters, but it is just one element--and hardly the most important--in effective advertising. 

    Pepsi's actions demonstrate a commitment to something deeper than jokey ads.  Pepsi is betting the brand can win by making a deeper connection (consumer involvement versus seeing an ad) for a greater purpose (making the world a better place versus a laugh at the end of a 30-second spot.)   As my online friend Brandon Sutton recently wrote on his blog, "Instead of trying to get clever with your messaging, why not try thinking smarter by understanding how humans think and behave and how your brand fits into the bigger picture of this dynamic?"

  • Social Media changes everything.  Social Media alters the playing field for everyone within the enterprise; formerly successful strategies and tactics are being challenged, while old and tired methodologies are getting new legs.  For example, Best Buy is using Social Media to improve its customer support in new ways;  Starbucks is embracing consumers' ideas and driving innovation and loyalty; and, as we see, Pepsi is using Social Media to give new energy to cause marketing.

    Cause marketing is hardly new, but Social Media gives brands the ability to power it in new ways.  Previously, cause marketing tended to be about a company making a donation and leveraging that for PR, advertising and in-bound links. Today, cause marketing can be about embracing customers' values and ideas about how to spend charitable dollars and then energizing consumers and employees to get involved and make a difference.  Social Media offers us new ways to breathe life into this old marketing idea!
Early next year we'll find out how Pepsi's decision to trade the Super Bowl for Social Media plays out, but it's already earned the brand enormous visibility. Articles about their decision can be found on ABC, CNN, NPRReutersAP, Wall Street Journal, and others.  Of course, the first brand to dump Super Bowl advertising in place of Social Media marketing will earn headlines; the fifth brand to do so will not. 

So, how are you going to use Social Media to give old tactics and strategies new life in 2010?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010: The Year Marketing Dies...

poor ned better off deadImage by yewenyi via Flickr
...(Subtitled) Or at Least Marketing as We Know It!

[Please note this blog article was posted simultaneously with my new Forrester blog at

It is that time of year when every blogger, reporter and analyst is publishing their 2010 Social Media and marketing predictions.  (It's a rather odd phenomenon--aren't we interested in what's happening in the next twelve months other than in December?)  Forrester's own Social Media prediction report will soon be released, but I'd like to make my own big prediction:  2010 will be the year marketing--as we know it--dies.  Let's explore the trends and what they mean to marketers.

Marketing's been under attack for some time, but in 2009 we witnessed the most profound evolution the marketing world has seen in fifty years or more.  The pace of change is not going to lessen in 2010.  Core elements that have driven marketing practices for decades--such as messaging strategy, mass media, PR, advertising, and others--will continue to change rapidly.

The latest news from the print world is unsurprising:  Average weekday circulation at 379 U.S. newspapers fell 10.6% during the six months ending in September--the steepest decline ever recorded by the Audit Bureau of Circulations.  And although a recent study found that consumer spending on subscription media increased 7% in the past year, that didn't mean subscriptions in the traditional sense--the number of households subscribing to magazines dropped two percentage points while subscriptions for home video and smartphone services were both up.

On the television front, households with DVRs tripled in just three years, more consumers are avoiding ads, and a majority feels there is "too much advertising."  One cannot help but feel sorry for networks and media companies worried about matching ad revenue to expenses, but their response is a bit hard to swallow. TiVo is showing ads to viewers as they are trying to skip other ads, and TNS Media Intelligence tells us that "marketing content represents 43 percent of a prime-time hour"--11:46 minutes per hour of in-show Brand Appearances (a 31% increase from a year ago) and 14:07 of network commercial messages.

Certainly, someone has to pay for Fringe, Glee, and The Office to be produced, but chasing down consumers and bludgeoning them with more advertising messages hardly feels like an effective strategy. (By the way, I selected those three shows for a reason: according to the latest Entertainment Weekly, almost one in five people viewing those programs is time shifting, and you can guess what that means for advertisers.)

The story on the Internet isn't much better.  Hulu is striving mightily to avoid being forced to go the way of TV and load their content with more ads.  Social Media sites like Facebook are so loaded with ads that a consumer spending ten minutes on the site might be exposed to as many as 90 easy-to-ignore ads.  To improve low attention and meager clickthrough rates, advertisers hope to enhance their targeting of consumers based on their online behavior, but the long-threatened intervention of the government may be at hand.  This year could finally be the year that the Feds change the way online advertising works; said  FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz recently, "We're at another watershed moment in privacy, and the time is right for the commission ... to take a broader look at privacy."

Marketers have, of course, taken note of the power of Social Media, but they continue to struggle with what to do and how to measure it.  In a recent study, 64% of CMOs said they plan to increase their social media budgets next year, but "at least half of respondents expressed uncertainty about ROI."  It strikes me as quite concerning that the top metrics being utilized--mentioned by more than 80% of the CMOs--aren't deep measures of influence or attitude but shallow measures of presence, such as number of fans and page views.

Meanwhile, it's possible (although not likely) that the Social Media landscape could change yet again if Facebook stumbles in 2010. (Don't think it could happen?  Remember that 13 months ago MySpace was drawing more visitors than Facebook;  today Facebook draws 150% more than MySpace.)  Facebook is facing potentially serious challenges.  Some are predicting that young people could soon stream off the site to avoid status updates from mom and dad; by one report, just 50% of the 15-24 crowd is checking Facebook regularly, compared to 55% last year.  More people are complaining (and suing) about being caught in scams from third-party developers on Facebook.  And faced with the growing privacy concerns of its users, how did Facebook react?  By implementing changes that many feel make it not just more difficult to protect their privacy, but actually remove privacy protections from some sorts of data.

Facebook seems unlikely to go the way of Friendster (if for no other reason than a serious competitor has yet to emerge), but even if Facebook finds itself being MySpaced in 2010, Social Media is here to stay.  The influence of the masses will only continue to grow as Social Media tools improve and more and older consumers climb the Social Technographics Ladder, moving from Inactives, Spectators, and Joiners to Collectors, Critics, and Creators.

Social Media has just begun to change the way marketing and business operates. The coming year will see advertising put under the microscope by a connected, savvy, and critical consumer (just ask Motrin and Unilever).  Consumers will use Social Media to exert more influence over marketing and business decisions (see Tropicana and EA).  The best practices for brands in Social Media will continue to evolve (and woe be to brands caught violating consumer trust, as demonstrated by recent missteps by individuals at Honda and Belkin).  And some multi-million-dollar marketing budgets will be challenged and undermined by simple consumer-generated videos (see the Domino's employee video--or better yet, don't!)

As we enter 2010, consumers have new partners that will help to expand the reach of Social Media dialog even further--the big three search sites.  Bing, Yahoo and Google recently made changes to the way their search engines index the real-time web, and status updates and tweets are rapidly finding their way into top search results.  This means that consumers searching for brands and campaigns are increasingly likely to see results that include blogged and tweeted criticisms as they are links to official brand sites.

The search engine changes mean that 2010 will be the year when brands can run but they cannot hide.  Gone are the days when marketers could carefully craft messaging and then broadcast that message in a few channels to huge portions of their audiences.  Oh, you can still spend money that way if you want to but in our transparent world, no marketing budget can possibly overcome the actual experience consumers have (and share with friends, followers and Google) with the product, service, or organization.  It no longer matters what you say;  in 2010, your brand will be more defined by what you do and who you are!

Of course, if marketing burns to the ground in 2010, a new and more powerful marketing will rise from the ashes.  The role of the new marketer:
  • Won't be simply to focus on outbound messaging but to consult with sales, customer service, and human resources on how the brand must be communicated in every consumer interaction, every tweet, and every touchpoint,
  • Won't be merely to imagine creative messages but to fashion programs that are seamless with the actual product and service experience,
  • Won't be to plan bursts of communication on a yearlong calendar but to respond to and be part of the ever-changing dialog with consumers, 
  • Won't be to count friends, page visits, eyeballs, readers, or viewers but to measure changes in consumer attitude and intent,
  • Won't be merely to talk at consumers but to listen and engage one to one,
  • Won't be to build campaigns but relationships,
  • Won't be to create impressions but experiences, and
  • Won't be buy media but to earn it.
To some of you, these changes sound easy, but they represent painful transitions for marketing organizations.  In 2010 and the years that follow, everything will change:  job expectations, skills, metrics, structure, budgets, agency demands and compensation, and the role of the marketing function within the organization.  While the changes will be difficult, they will also be extraordinarily exciting.  In the end, the marketing organization will be integral partners in everything the enterprise does, living up to Peter Drucker's famous quote:
"Business has only two basic functions -- marketing and innovation."

Marketing is dead.  Long live marketing!

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