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Posts Tagged ‘brands’

Today we are beginning a new ‘semi-frequent’ feature on the Propelling Brands blog.  In addition to the regular features and ‘who’s propelling’ profiles of individuals and companies, we will periodically feature Q&As with individuals that are true forward thinkers on brands, marketing, innovation and technology.

  

Wisconsin School of Business

Source: Wisconsin School of Business

Professor Aric Rindfleisch is just such a forward thinker and marketing researcher, who works to fuse insights from the front lines of business and marketing with cutting-edge academic research.  In addition to his extensive academic background, he has worked for both ad agency J. Walter Thompson in Japan and marketing research firm Millward Brown.  Rindfleisch is currently the Associate Dean for Research & PhD Programs and a Professor of Marketing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  He teaches graduate-level courses for the Wisconsin School of Business on new product development and marketing strategy; his academic research focuses on understanding inter-organizational relationships, consumption values, and new product development; and he is developing a new blog for the school, titled WisconsInnovation which seeks to bring together the ‘co-created’ insights of both faculty and students on innovation in business.

Rindfleisch has recently authored a groundbreaking paper, titled “Customer Co-creation:  A Typology and Research Agenda,” which we are fortunate to be able to share on this blog.  His co-author is Matthew S. O’Hern, a lecturer and doctoral student in marketing at Wisconsin.  The paper is slated to be published in an upcoming volume of the academic journal Review of Marketing Research.  And it is the focus of our Q&A here.

So what does co-creation really mean?  What is the impact of co-creation research on businesses, and how can marketers embrace co-creation as a strategy for improving the customer-brand relationship?

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This the second in a two-part series of posts.  This past Friday I discussed the five key characteristics (‘pillars’) I believe will mark successful, integrated marketing services agencies in the future, I also cited some current barriers to firms succeeding in this ‘next-generation’ context.  Click here to view the first post, “Next Generation of Marketing Services Agencies 1 of 2: Pillars and Barriers.”

Today’s post will complete the picture by presenting snapshots of several, specific firms I’m watching and that I believe are representative, forward-thinking leaders in the emerging, next-generation marketing services agency world.

  

Are there any firms out there, today, that exemplify the vision of a next-generation marketing services agency?

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

The truth is that no single agency, today, is at the stage of sophistication previously described (i.e., no firms are embracing all five pillars) … yet.  But there are quite a few that are moving in the right direction and that have embraced different combinations of these pillars.  Not surprisingly many are smaller, more-nimble (or at least holding-company-independent) firms that do not have scale investments in the old-school models and that are experimenting with new approaches; thus, it is easier for them to break the mold. 

Who are these firms, and what are they doing differently?

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Over the past few months I’ve checked in with a number of current and past colleagues and acquaintances who work at a variety of marketing services agencies — PR, ad agencies, social-media firms, brand consultancies, etc.  In addition to the usual pleasantries, our discussions could not help but touch on the state of the industry.  I’ve also seen and commented on a growing critical mass of news articles and blog posts on the future of advertising and PR  firms.

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

What has been interesting about all of this dialogue, both online and off, is one consistent theme:  The business environment for ‘traditional’ agencies is changing … radically … and overnight. 

“I hear death is imminent for your business model, in fact I’ve heard the industry itself might be beyond repair,” commented Kyle Flaherty, a former PR agency professional and current tech-industry marketing director (now on the ‘client side’), in a December post on his Engage in PR blog.

What is causing this ‘plague’ of Biblical proportions throughout the agency world, and how can agencies overcome this situation by preparing for the next-generation of client expectations?

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The last year has brought a groundswell of mainstream marketers integrating social media considerations into their marketing-communication planning.  My last post talked about the potential for achieving marketing ‘co-creation’ as one outcome and as a way to improve marketing personalization.  In fact, venues such as blogs and Twitter have become indispensable tools for PR functionaries, and forums such as Facebook and LinkedIn are presenting new opportunities for ‘micro-targeting’ of advertisements and offers based on social graphs.

The next frontier is leveraging social media to innovate the process of new product/service development (NPSD) — supporting co-creation in this arena.  The fact that social media is interactive, honest, transparent and potentially highly targeted presents tremendous opportunities for garnering incredibly-valuable insights into customers’ wants and needs.  In fact, at a time when marketing researchers are questioning structured surveys and they are pushing for more observational, behavioral and ethnographic research, social media represents a way to evolve the process of insight-based marketing to the next level.

“In the age of social media, I would argue that this is becoming easier, not harder,” commented Liz Moise with Boston-area marketing firm BluePoint Venture Marketing in a recent post on the firm’s blog.  “… [Y]ou can get online and find your customers.  You can listen in on their conversations, or grievances. You can speak to them directly.”

Social media is also an important tool to help brand-companies respond to the fundamental power shift in NPSD — from ‘brand push’ to ‘customer pull.’  Customers are at the center of their universe more than ever.  Brand-companies must contend with a highly-sophisticated customer with many options and choices in the marketplace.  Understanding the nuances of a customer’s needs is critical — especially when it comes to the aspects of a customer’s existence you are not servicing today.

“As a business, you ought to be watching how people — especially your customers — are expressing themselves outside the context of being your customers,” commented social media marketing guru Amber Naslund on her Altitude Branding blog earlier this month.  “They’re multi-dimensional people … .”

But what is the best way to approach social media as a tool for marketing research and for NPSD innovation?  What is a framework we can use to better match social-media platforms with our objectives for garnering customer insights?

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I wrote in a recent piece on this blog, titled “Marketing Personalization 2.0,” about how companies are increasingly applying techniques from mass customization, using ideas such as personas and embracing what Patricia Seybold refers to as ‘customer scenarios’ to improve personalization of marketing efforts.  I also cited a range of technologies that can manage execution of this type of marketing.

Yet, even as this evolution represents an advancement over Marketing Personalization 1.0 (i.e., demographic and lifestyle channel targeting), there is much to be desired.  We are still at a point as marketers where we are guessing at personalization.  It is still possible to make costly mistakes, particularly if we misjudge customer persona or the channels for interacting with a given persona.

Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

Source: Adam Needles, Propelling Brands (original)

“If you think backward from the audience you’re trying to reach and the channels and methods you’ve used to try to reach them, it all argues for taking a much more integrated approach to the work of marketing and communications,” argues Jon Iwata, SVP of Marketing and Communications for IBM, quoted in a recent piece by Paul Dunay on the MarketingProfs Daily Fix blog.

Fortunately, waiting in the wings is a new wave of technologies that promise to rapidly leapfrog the current state and to take us to what I believe is a very tenable basis for structuring and ‘propelling’ forward to Marketing Personalization 3.0 (see diagram).  These technologies, which include semantic analysis and social graphs, offer the potential not only to get closer to customers than ever before, but they also approach enabling what I believe is true ‘co-creation‘ of the marketing experience.

What do I mean by this?  Customers, who increasingly have power and leverage over brand-companies, will not only specify what they want but will also shape the boundaries and expectations of their communication with, recommendations regarding and the ultimate delivery of products and services from vendors. 

The entire experience will become a partnership, but why is this important?

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Over the last month or two, I’ve had numerous conversations with marketers in traditional (i.e., non-technology) industries about their Web-based and social-media strategies.  In fact, I talked about the challenges of so-called ‘buzz campaigns’ and Web micro sites in a recent blog post on Internet marketing sustainability.  Let me sum up the challenge that has surfaced in all of those conversations:  Many marketing leaders are excited about new marketing communication channels; however, they are approaching these new mediums with the same advertising/one-way-communication mindset that seems to pervade too much of the marketing communication world.

That’s why I was impressed with a very engaging Opinion-page piece by Silicon Valley marketing executive Tom Hayes and ABC News “Silicon Insider” columnist Michael S. Malone, titled “Marketing in the World of the Web,” in The Wall Street Journal this past Saturday.  Hayes and Malone argue that marketing participation on the modern Web and in social media platforms requires a new marketing mindset.  “A very different set of tools, concepts and practices is needed,” noted the two.  “Call it Marketing 3.0.”

What do they mean by this?

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In my recent Marketing Personalization 2.0 blog piece, I spent some time talking about what I referred to as ‘cross-channel marketing execution management platforms.’  This is a technology segment that is of particular interest to me for two reasons.

First, as someone who has run integrated marketing communication campaigns that have included elements as diverse as PR, live events, direct e-mail, salesforce materials and blogs, I recognize that managing a consistent marketing campaign across mediums is tough.  This is particularly the case when it comes to ensuring outbound continuity of brand presentation, while also personalizing content to the customer, and achieving comparable metrics for campaign effectiveness analysis across mediums.  Getting a normalized sense of ROI remains the Holy Grail.  So I think that every marketing leader has a vested interest in the advancement of the ‘state of the art’ in this technology area. 

Cross-channel Marketing Execution ManagementSecond, related to the first point and complicating matters a bit, as marketers we are only being asked to handle and operate across more mediums over time, not less.  Platform provider Eloqua claims on its Web site, “According to industry surveys, 34% of marketers cannot execute a coordinated, integrated, multichannel marketing campaign.”  I hope this isn’t true, because it is a sad state for marketing if it is.  Operating diversified, integrated marketing communication campaigns are a way of life, not an option.  And with the explosion of social media and social networking technologies and platforms, our lives are only more complicated and fragmented.  So we not only have a vested interest in this technology area, it will rapidly become the keystone for execution.

So I wanted to devote some time in this post to:

  1. better identifying the state of this technology segment,
  2. building out a ‘definitive list’ of the major providers, and
  3. presenting insights into their strengths and weaknesses.

But I’m hoping to do this is a collaborative fashion, and this is where I invite your assistance.  Please help review my initial entries on the list and provide suggestions on who else should be included.

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