Thursday, July 27, 2006

Making Accountability sexy

One of the favorite discussion topics between Marketers today is the dichotomy and tension between Creativity and Accountability. Most marketers belong to one of the two camps. Only a minority tries to seriously combine both sides, even fewer have figured out how to let both areas live not just peacefully but also productively together. I believe that one underestimated force to create a more productive intersection between both disciplines is the effort to make Accountability sexy.

What does this mean? I believe Stephen Lewitt's and Malcolm Gladwell's biggest impact on the marketing community is their success in making numbers sexy. Now, it’s time to make Accountability sexy. How? Let me propose the following actions that every marketer should pursue:

  • Demystify ROI by explaining how ROI can be translated into a meaningful metric (= positive ROI of 10% means that we drove 3,234 incremental shopping trips within a particular week with an average basket size of $64).
  • Visualize metrics by replacing excel with meaningful interactive visuals (= an interactive dashboard with taps and selection options gets more attention than any number of excel files)
  • Tell a story of insights and conclusions not a story of numbers (= simplification and story telling is not a symptom of laziness but the result of intellectual rigor of describing a complex problem in a very simple manner)
  • Don’t overload the audience with an enormous quantity of metrics but focus on the top 5 or 10 metrics (= any accountability presentation should fit onto one ppt page)

Why is this so important? Because Creative minds are absolutely willing to be accountable but hate to be lectured to in numb minding details about meaningless numbers. We Marketers need to present and communicate Accountability in a compelling and interesting manner, instead of boring everyone with thousands of font size 4 numbers. This effort can be the first step in creating a positive outcome of marrying Creativity and Accountability. Then, one day Accountability might become sexy.

Friday, July 21, 2006

The Seven Day Paradigm

How do consumers organize nowadays their lives? If you read most recent publications, it seems that consumers become totally unpredictable and don’t seem to have a structure to their lives. My observation of consumer behavior and insights from recent research work points me to a very different conclusion. It seems that more and more consumers organize their life around a seven day time block and only rarely deviate from it, independent of their age, income or geographic location.

This seven day organizational principle is definitely different from segment to segment but people love having time structure to their lives. This even applies to the 22 year college student who goes out until 4am on a Friday night. His or her behavior is still a consistent pattern until he or she moves to another life stage. I call this phenomenon the “ Seven day paradigm”. Most marketers neglect to understand it.

Interestingly enough, while TV networks have a tougher and tougher time to own a particular week day or time slot for a significant large cluster of individuals, it becomes more and more critical for any retailer to own a “slot” within this seven day paradigm of their target consumers. Most retailers still try to push individual products instead of solutions that can generate an “ownable” time slot within a weekly consumer structure.

While TV networks will slowly give up the goal of owning Thursday evening, retailers need to focus on

  • Understanding their consumer’s seven day paradigm and where they best fit in. This can be done by either utilizing a proprietary consumer study around seven day patterns or by analyzing the available data set from the US Time Use Survey
  • Analyzing competitive forces that currently own this particular time slot. Retailers have to understand that they not only compete with other retailers but with providers and activities that currently own the targeted or desired spot within the seven day paradigm
  • Developing an unique value proposition that persuades the target customer to strongly establish time with the particular as a “habitual” element within the time paradigm. It’s about transforming one off activities into regular habits.

Only retailers who incorporate a marketing strategy that understands and target a persistent slot within the consumer’s seven day paradigm will be able to grow their business. Everyone else might have one-off product centric or non relationship based price driven success but it will be very difficult to build a long-term sustainable advantage.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Who disrupts here?

So many people talk about disruption, so few are really driving disruption. The original term was probably created by Clayton Christensen in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma” in 1997. Jean-Marie Dru with his two books “Disruption” and “Beyond Disruption” is probably the best known Advertising guy, owning the term in the marketing community. Both use this term quite differently, Christensen to describe major forces that change a significant part of human life, Dru to describe successful marketing programs that intersect strongly with individuals

Independent of how expansive one uses the term “Disruption”, the more interesting question is who is really creating the disruptions. Christensen talks more about individual innovators or societal forces that create disruptions; Dru attempts to put the creative marketer into the center of generating disruptive interactions. Christensen really describes large disruptive forces, whereas Dru talks about singular disruptive moments. I would like to ask the question if the marketing industry is really able to create disruptive forces, not just singular disruptive moments.

Let’s look at the latest real disruptive force within the marketing space: The “Searchanization” of most marketing interactions. The Web model of “Search”, where the Consumer sifts guided and in control through massive amount of potential information is being expanded to most marketing interactions, far beyond the pure Online experience. This channel agnostic “Search” ends when the Consumer sees/meets/smells something interesting, exciting, or unique that is relevant for him or herself. I do believe that this is the biggest disruptive force in today’s marketing universe. Who created it? It’s not really one individual but a combination of the first Search companies (Overture before most other players), to Google, to other interaction pioneers like Tivo who have transferred the personalized Search model to other media.

Why don’t we see a lot of marketing firms in this arena of creating disruptive forces that change significantly the rules and the context of marketing interactions? It comes back to the difference between Christensen and Dru: one focuses on big major transformations, whereas most marketers are satisfied with one successful disruptive moment that captures the attention of millions of consumers. It’s much shorter and evasive but always based on a disruptive interaction between brand and individual.

Still, the first marketing services team, which tries not to only understand the bigger disruptive forces but be an energetic driver of larger disruptive forces, will be a true innovator and a leader changing the marketing landscape. Well designed disruptive moments are good, instigated disruptive movements are even more exciting.