Sometimes I mourn the simple things – the things that I miss from the old days. For example, I mourn that your kids may never enter a record store. Ever.
My boys will – I’ll make sure of that. Music has been an enormous part of my life from when I was just a baby, and one of my favorite things to do was to browse the aisles of a record store for hours, discovering artists and inspiration from the most unusual of sources. I used to buy records based on the recommendations of friends, or articles and reviews I read or, on occasion, just because I liked the cover art. For better or for worse, that kind of intimate, personal experience is long forgotten because of digital (at the very least it is rarely a personal experience and more for the mass of bloggers who proclaim to be experts in new music). You can still get reviews, but the tangible quality of a record store is almost forever lost.
Of course I feel like a hypocrite because I also love digital music. Its easier to get, easier to store, and easier to share. I discover music these days in an even easier fashion, from the comfort of my living room, but it’s still not the same as the smell of vinyl and paper that washes over you when you walk into Amoeba Records in San Francisco or Generation Records in New York. I used to spend hours each week just trolling the new releases and the historicals to unearth some treasured artifact that would give my ears a taste of something they were missing. When I was a kid, I used to sit for hours reading the liner notes of albums that my parents had collected. I still remember three of the most influential albums in that collection; Sgt. Pepper, Zeppelin II and Sticky Fingers, by the Stones. Those are three examples of records as art, not just the music, but the 100% delivery from cover all the way through. They were the kinds of albums you’ll never see again. You may hear them, but you’ll never see them.
If Steve Jobs were still with us, I think he would be plotting a way to bring the album back. He may have pioneered the wave of digital music with the iPod, but I bet he still would have loved to find a way to recreate the physical record store at some point. In some future day he would have mourned that experience like I do, and found a way to give it back to us.
If not Steve, then maybe one of you will figure it out. Maybe you can find a way to revolutionize the delivery of the music in the digital age. Artists like Radiohead keep trying; by delivering the digital at one stage, followed by the collectible closely behind. The buzzword of the day is “Deluxe Edition”, which translates to overpriced, over-stuffed packages of extras that either add or detract from the music. These packages are for the collectors and the die-hards. The true fans. What about the casual observer? How are bands going to attract the new fan? The one who would have taken a flyer on them because the cover art spoke to them or because they “sound like” someone they know and appreciate? Maybe digital does deliver that audience, but maybe it doesn’t. Maybe the tangible experience of music is gone from the album, and has settled in the live show. Maybe what Prince does is right; give your albums away to ticket buyers, or even newspaper buyers. Flood the market with free albums, in hopes that your live shows will become the preferred experience. That may work, but not for everyone. I love live music more than the next guy, but I can’t go to every show anymore – there’s simply not enough time in the week!
I don’t know what the answer is, and after reading this you may not even be certain of the question, but what I know is that when my boys are old enough, they will be going with me to a record store. They may not know why, and they may not know what to do when we get there, but they’ll figure it out. I’ll be sure to show them.
The debate rages on regarding which is more important for online marketers, content or targeting. Well, I have the answer…content will always win!
I’ve come at this question from a couple different angles and the winning argument is quite simple; content can survive, and thrive, without data targeting, but data targeting cannot live without content. Simply put; if you build good content people will find it, but if you have crappy content no amount of data or targeting can save you because your audience, no matter how targeted, simply won’t engage!
Its similar to an age-old truism in marketing, that great advertising cannot sell a poor product. You can’t make a consumer purchase a product that simply doesn’t work for them. In online marketing you can’t push an ad lacking a fair value exchange for the customer, regardless of how many data points you use to deliver that ad. A fair value exchange, or at the very least something that grabs their attention, is what good advertising is all about.
Good creative and good products always win, and so does good content! A site that is witty, provides a value, is unique, or is simply done well will generate an audience. A piece of great content will drive eyeballs. No matter how you say it, content is king and data has quickly become a commodity. I can buy data from any hundreds of sources, many of which have sprouted up in just the last two years. I can find purchase data, social graph data, network data, connection data and I can find recency information that qualifies all of the above to help me develop a true analysis of my potential customer, but if the message doesn’t resonate then all that targeting is for nothing.
On the flipside, a general ad buy with excellent creative that breaks through the clutter will create awareness. With the web, awareness can easily go viral and your audience will start to talk about you to one another. Creative has not been commoditized because creative cannot be commoditized. Production of that creative certainly can be, but the development of an idea, and the application of that idea to your campaign will always be something special. To quote another age-old discussion, it’s the art behind the science. Science is certainly important, but science without art is useless.
I know that many of you with your pumped up valuations and your millions of dollars in revenue are going to argue with me, but it doesn’t matter, because if you argue this point then you’re simply missing the point. I didn’t say data isn’t valuable; I said its secondary to creative and content. That concept is irrefutable. There’s really no argument you can make! How many times have you seen a campaign tank because the creative was poor? Trust me – I know you’ve used that excuse.
Of course, you can’t talk about content and creative online without making the simple observation that most of it sucks. Most creative messaging online is just bad, and that’s why performance is so low. Online marketing, regardless of how much money gets put into it, will never surpass TV as the primary vehicle until the creative gets better, and that depends on two things happening; the placements need to become more impactful, and the people creating those messages need to get better. Of course, that could be an article for another day entirely, right?
Do you agree with my analysis? Let me know on the Spin Board!
Are you a mature marketer?
I ask the question because over the last few weeks I‘ve come into contact with two different kinds of marketers; the mature marketers and the immature marketers. These two marketers are dramatically different and their approach can have an effect on the culture of a company, as well as the results of the marketing for that company.
The mature marketers are the marketers who have a plan. They are the ones that sit down at the beginning of an engagement, they write out a marketing strategy, and they use that strategy as a filter or a guideline for the coming months ahead. These folks create a culture of efficiency, effectiveness and calm. These are who most of us aspire to be.
The immature marketers react to everything that comes their way, and they are unable to prioritize the initiatives that come across their desk. These folks are sometimes frantic, they are commonly very high anxiety, and they are effective only to a point, sacrificing the longer-term effectiveness of their strategy for the short-term benefits of their tactics. These are the kinds of people who have an 18 month tenure with an organization, and these are the kinds of people who many of us would hate to work for.
A mature marketer is what we all want to be, but it can be difficult in our quarterly-driven world where Wall Street and Venture Capitalists are constantly applying the pressure to succeed now. It’s the “what have you done for me lately” school of marketing, and its killing business today.
To be a smart marketer, there are some things you can do, and I want to help you to achieve this aspirational goal, because I know just how difficult it can be! If you follow these little nuggets of advice you can truly become a mature marketer:
§ Make A Plan: Before you begin an engagement, or before you begin a new year, sit down and write out your goals for the coming 12 months. Write a list of marketing objectives, a marketing strategy, a set of business goals and a basic plan for how to get there.
§ Establish A Filter: Understand that your plan of attack is a filter that allows you to review and refine any new opportunities that come your way. When someone asks you to take a meeting, immediately evaluate them in terms of your filter and see if the meeting makes sense. If it doesn’t, politely decline. If it does, then make sure you are setting expectations for the goals of that meeting.
§ Prioritize Your Day: You cannot be everything to everyone, so prioritize what you can and can’t do in any single day. Without priorities, your day can get away from you and you won’t accomplish anything that you really need to have done.
§ Share Your Plan: Your team is an extension of you, and you need to have them all running in lock-step with you. They need to know the plan, they need to know the priorities and they need to know the end goal.
§ Make Time For Your Team: Your job, as a marketing lead, is to educate your team, delegate the work, and make sure it all levels up to the same set of goals. You can’t close your day and avoid your team. They need you to lead them, not do their work for them.
If you ignore this simple advice, you will feel unorganized, chaotic and out of control. Your email will run your day and you won’t achieve your potential on the job. That is the outcome of the immature marketer.
When you enter into a room, you can just sense the mature marketer. They have a peace and intelligence and an organizational quality about them. That is what you should strive for. Don’t you agree?