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Archive for January, 2009

Marketing via word-of-mouth, social networks and brand communities is not new.  Effectively leveraging social media technologies both in support of these marketing initiatives and as part of an ongoing, two-way customer-brand dialogue, however, has emerged as a burning issue on marketers’ minds. 

Social media technologies, themselves, certainly have their own learning curve, but the greater learning curve for marketers is contending with the fundamental power shift in the customer-brand relationship that social media technologies are enabling.  Thus, recognizing and responding to the new reality that individual customers and brand communities increasingly define (and have part ownership over) brands requires a fundamental shift in our approach to bringing products and services to market.

IBM Press

Source: IBM Press

IBM executive Sandy Carter is a forward thinker on this issue whose experiences and industry dialogue eventually led her to realize that marketers need a new set of tools if they are going to better contend with this power shift.  Her new book, The New Language of Marketing 2.O:  How to Use ANGELS to  Energize Your Market, delivers just such a ‘tool box’ for marketers — presenting a normative framework, together with numerous case examples from companies in a variety of B2B and B2C industries, to help marketers think through these challenges inside their own businesses.

Few are as well-equipped to tackle such a subject as Carter, who has had an impressive career in the enterprise software arena and who currently is IBM’s Vice President, SOA and WebSphere Marketing, Strategy and Channels.  In this role, she is responsible for IBM’s cross-company, worldwide SOA initiatives and is in charge of one of IBM’s premier brands, IBM WebSphere, which under her leadership has shown strong growth.  She also led her global marketing organization to garner 14 industry marketing awards in 2007.

What is Marketing 2.0, and what are Carter’s thoughts on how marketers can gain leverage in the dizzying world of social-media technologies to energize their marketing programs?

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One common theme on this blog over the past few months is the myriad challenges facing marketers as they attempt to deploy and manage integrated marketing communication programs in an increasingly disparate and complicated customer-communication environment.  Past posts have covered the challenges of:  achieving Marketing Personalization 2.0 and eventually 3.0; managing cross-channel marketing execution; and identifying agency partners with sophisticated people, processes and underlying Marketing Infrastructure that are truly equipped to help their clients make order out of chaos.

There’s no getting around it:  Customer-brand dialogue is becoming more complicated over time, and effective dialogue with customers requires 360-degree coordination of programs and touch points.  This means marketing organizations need their own, increasingly-sophisticated and fully-integrated Marketing Infrastructure. 

iStockphoto

Source: iStockphoto

Technology ‘saavy’ is not an option for marketers today; moreover, the level of integration of their technology systems is more important than ever — not only for online marketing activities but also for interactions between the online and offline world.  And it is critical not only for effective and coordinated brand presentation, but also for building closed-loop feedback mechanisms so that marketing efforts can be effectively measured, end-to-end — something that only a fraction of marketing organizations are actually achieving today, according to the folks at SiriusDecisions.

Enter ‘cloud services’ … an emerging IT architectural vision of seamless, Internet-based application and data integration — via common, Web-based service layers — that could get all of your marketing assets talking, in real time, within days. 

Except it’s not so much a vision as it is becoming a reality today — now trumpeted by some of the leading next-generation CRM vendors, such as SugarCRM and Salesforce.com (see below), and backed by next-generation integration services providers, such as Cast Iron Systems.  Want proof this is becoming mainstream? 

  • BusinessWeek recently headlined, “Cloud Computing Is No Pipe Dream,” in a piece by Jeffrey F. Rayport
  • IDC reported this past October that “… spending on IT cloud services [will] grow almost threefold in the next five years, reaching $42 billion by 2012,” according to Roger Smith in an InformationWeek article.  “The growth will in part be helped by the economic crisis that began in the United States, according to a statement by Frank Gens, senior VP and chief analyst at IDC. ‘The cloud model offers a much cheaper way for businesses to acquire and use IT — in an economic downturn, the appeal of that cost advantage will be greatly magnified.'”

So what are cloud services … really .. and how can they help marketers gain control over customer-brand dialogue and achieve a holistic view of their brands through intelligent integration of Marketing Infrastructure?

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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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