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June 2010

It's a Big Internet and an even Bigger World

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...Image via CrunchBase

Great stats on the Fred Wilson blog today regarding the size of the internet.  According to Fred/Comscore 2010 there are 1.25 billion people on the internet. out of 6.7 billion people or 20% of the worlds' population.   This number grew 12% y to y.

Fred goes on to compare large web networks to governments that have rules, but no boundaries. This is an interesting notion with even more interesting implications as the "population" of these networks influences the rule of behavior etc.  The context for Fred's particular post is regarding "safe" vs. dangerous networks and how these need to be addressed.For context, the Facebook monthly user count equals 150% of the United States population.  Google's user base equals 70% of the population of China.

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What Do You Want From Me Part 2

As I was thinking about the Spencer Stuart CMO summit, what was equally telling was what wasn't discussed vs. what was.  Beyond the obsession with measurement of delivered value, we should have been discussing what in my eyes is the #1 job of the be the architect of a brand narrative which compels purchase, differentiates the brand and sets the brand on the right future course for growth.  This narrative needs to work across all communications channels, including those managed by the enterprise such as in-bound customer care, sales etc.

While this narrative was somewhat simpler during the pre-internet era, since it basically needed to be communicated via mass media and limited long form channels, today, long form dominates the media landscape. Yet, the science and art of brand narrative hasn't expanded to the degree required.

Brands are infinitely more complex in that today's consumer uses vastly more decision points in making brand decisions as they compromise their way through life.  When a brand's narrative isn't expanded, it begins to appear increasingly irrelevant to the core brand audience, the group that sustains and communicates brand value.  In essence, it's not that the :30 second television commercial that is meaningless, its' just that it cannot contain the required complexity needed to communicate and reinforce brand value.  While it can be a piece of the puzzle, it needs to work in concert with other strategic elements.

While this is nothing new per se, we tend to think about value in terms of the tactics used, vs. the strength of the narrative which support the communications strategy.  For example, we discuss social media as a tactic, without understanding the strategic role in the larger narrative.  We also need to develop the definition of narrative to go beyond the classic creative brief which contains benefit, reason to believe, background and some collection of supportive facts. How many advertisers are working with brief formats that resemble those used 20 years ago...I bet 80%+ to be conservative.

We also need to understand the role of new shorter form communication such as Twitter and the changing nature of narrative as it is assimilated and understood through any cultural or generational lens.  For example, does narrative have a beginning, end, is it continuous or represented in disconnected parts.

Glad to get that out of my system.  Who is the next David Aaker?

Marketers Ask What Do You Want From Me?

I attended the Spencer Stuart CMO Summit yesterday on the state of the marketing profession, aptly titled "What Do You Want From Me?, Understanding, managing and exceeding the expectations of the CMO.  The event featured a top notch panel including Andy Berndt, VP Google Creative Lab, Maureen McGuire CMO Bloomberg, Joseph Tripodi EVP Chief Marketing & Commercial Officer Coca-Cola.  The panel was moderated by Greg Welch, global practice leader for Spencer Stuart.

The panelists provided perspective on a marketing profession that was characterized as being "complicated" and misunderstood by other "C" suite executives.  After the opening slide show that highlighted all of the issues with the profession, I think most in the room were either depressed or ready to run away. 

Several suggestions were offered by panelists on how to succeed in a complex marketing environment. I'm purposely not attributing remarks to any one individual out of respect for  panelist confidentiality. 

Some of the more interesting takeaways are as follows:

- When presenting to individuals outside of marketing, particularly "c" suite execs, don't use marketing jargon.  Others don't understand it.  Instead a just point to some business issue or problem, and how marketing can influence that issue.  It's not to obscure or hide what is going on, but to make marketing understandable.

- Marketers are being hit by two sticks, the ROI stick and the Innovation stick.  When you focus on innovation, the ROI stick comes out.  When focused on ROI, the innovation stick comes out.

- Train your company to move away from an obsession with the :30 commercial, as this doesn't reflect the new reality of multi-channel marketing.

- The biggest difference between advertising agencies is the team of people working on your specific account, not the larger agency culture.  It's easier to change people than agencies.

- All panelists wished that they had spent more time developing financial skills, although one panelist noted that marketers are rarely successful when they rotate through other departments.

- Marketing has fallen to the third career path to the CEO office, after Finance and Operations.

- Marketing metrics can be divided into those that support the brand and those that support commerce or sales.  In terms of commerce, metrics should be reported within the context of dependent metrics
that often fall outside of the marketing organization.  For example, retail relationships, packaging, pricing strategies can all have a significant impact on share, yet communications is often blamed for a
sales slump.  By bundling together related metrics and their relative impact, the organization can gain greater insight into the relative role each has on the business outcome/sales.

- Marketing has become an incredibly complicated job as it requires a generalists understanding of multiple rapidly changing communications channels, the need to stay close to customers, and the need to continually enroll other executives within the organization.

- Company culture plays an important role in a marketers success.  Since marketing often involves trial and error execution, the organization needs to support this type of activity in order to nurture those that are continually experimenting with new marketing strategies.

- Marketers need to develop generalized knowledge of multiple channels and the skill to execute content across those channels.

In terms of my own observations, it seems as if "C" suite executives understand that they need marketing, they just appear to have no idea how to measure its value.  They hire marketers, and then torture them with metrics that always default to some type of lead to sales measurement, even when marketing works best when it is moving products into purchase consideration.

In terms of my own impression, as marketers, we are all becoming a bunch of apologists for our inability to measure our activities and impact to the degree that a CFO can present a budget or a sales manager can present leads to revenue information.  We need to stop apologizing that we  don't have the skills of a financial analyst or the tools to predict the future impact of a campaign that is yet to be executed, and focus on our abilities to conceptualize and implement new ideas that drive exponential growth. At the same time that marketing tools and channels are more accessible than ever (and even measurement/consumer behavior), we are retrenching, vs. causing the CFO to say, maybe I should learn something about marketing.

As outlined in the Al Ries book "War in the Boardroom", great marketers are highly developed right brain thinkers.  Most CEOs and CFOS are highly developed left-brain thinkers.  These are mutually exclusive talents.  Marketers believe in the ability of the corporation to achieve organic growth while left brain thinkers find it easier to buy share via acquisition.  Bot approaches have merit, but marketing needs to step it up.

Let's hope the title of the next Spencer Stuart forum will be "Great Marketers, Great Companies."