April 13, 2010
 

Looking For the Next Big Thing, Part 2

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By Spyro Kourtis, president of The Hacker Group

I've been discussing how difficult it's going to be to replace the 30-ssecond commercial for advertisers and their agencies. And - as a side note - for some products, it really shouldn't be replaced. Anything you could envision half the population consuming requires mass marketing.

But most things have a more targeted appeal than that.

My premise is that the people who hire ad agencies want to sell stuff. But I'm not sure the most advertising agencies want to sell - or think that selling is even their job. They want to tell a story. Or entertain someone. Or create brand awareness. Or win an award.

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That's why I feel direct marketing - a numbers-driven discipline - is set to take over advertising's turf. Marketing isn't entertainment. It's about selling something. If it's not persuasive, we shouldn't bother doing it.

When advertising moves products, it almost seems like an accident. The Aflac duck gets you to remember the name - an important first step if your sales model requires your prospects to find you. But the advertising itself sells nothing - just the name. And what an expensive strategy. Only a very large company could afford to make the investment of millions of dollars that it took to make that duck so famous.

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Any sales increase attributed to advertising the duck came because the company spent those millions - regardless of the creative execution or the brilliance of the media plan. Back when everyone watched TV, if you saw any commercial running several times on a popular television show, it gave the company a certain amount of credibility, even if you hadn't heard their name before.

Marketing is the big idea you're looking for

Advertisers are already turning to seasoned direct marketers to make sales. Or, if not seasoned marketers, to the digital whizzes and search engine geeks who can show them measurable results.

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Advertising is about impressions. Marketing is about relationships. The move away from advertising over to marketing is a logical next step. Advertising is about reach. Marketing is about targeting, which is almost always more efficient and effective. Advertising is entertainment. Marketing sells.

More money than ever is being funneled into Internet advertising, which mixes both traditional advertising and traditional marketing. Even old fashioned direct marketing media - like the U.S. mail - are growing. These direct marketing outlets must grow because, at least for now, there's not enough room for advertising on the Internet to take up the slack for the loss of so much TV advertising budget.

Consumer control is just the tip of the iceberg.

During this week's upfront presentations, much will be said about how the consumer is now in control. They can watch programs as they air, TiVo them for viewing later or download TV episodes to their iPods and watch them on the go.

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Marketers have the opportunity to give the consumer even more control -- and, paradoxically, help guide them down the path we want them to take. If they're Googling our products, we need to make our products easy to find. If they're checking out their options, we need to make ours an attractive one. We need to prove our credibility. We need to sell.

Warning: All marketing is not created equal.

It's just as easy to do a sloppy job in marketing as in advertising – although in direct you're more likely to get caught. Marketing materials can be boring and full of jargon and often seem to be written by committee. At the other extreme, in an effort to sell hard, marketing messages can be shrill and full of hype. Targeting the right market is much harder than it sounds. Measuring results takes forethought, planning, focused attention to detail and a lot of work on the back end.

When your work gets graded by your target market on a daily basis, you realize pretty quickly that the world of direct marketing is not for the faint of heart.

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Professional marketing is on the upswing - not a fad, but a movement to common sense. And that's good news for the people who are trying to sell stuff. Finally, the math geeks are about to become the heroes.

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Spyro Kourtis, president of The Hacker Group, oversees his agency's strategic planning and relationships with a number of Fortune 500 clients including AAA, Expedia, Hilton Hotels, IBM, Intel, Microsoft, MSN, Oracle, VISA, Washington Mutual, WebEx and World Vision. He is publisher of High Performance Direct. He can be reached at skourtis@hackergroup.com.

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