As much as some would have you believe that marketing can be formulized into a predictable certainty, it just isn’t so. The movie and music industries seem to be perpetually striving to boil-down human nature into some kind of algorithmic absolute, but the results have been, and will always be, less than promised. Each copycat iteration of movie or TV vampires and zombies seems to lose the essence of the particular combination of elements that made the original a success.
The advertising and broader marketing industries are guilty of the same lack of insight, constantly misinterpreting, or perhaps purposely distorting, the reasons for success of various marketing fads and phenomenon, and presenting their left-brain arithmetic contortions as somehow reassuring evidence of their ability to repeat someone else’s success. An audience’s reaction to a presentation is unpredictable; but what you can control is the emotional and psychological impact you deliver using structure, style, technique, and performance in service of a strategic point-of-view. It is important to look at movies and television because they are culturally relevant, potentially informative, and occasionally memorable, and because they are the communication platforms that are the closest comparable media venues to how the Web is evolving.
Web video is different in many ways from its big brother TV and movie relatives. Whereas TV and movies are communal experiences, Web video is intimate and personal; where TV generally takes a shotgun approach to audiences, Web video uses a laser; and where TV makes hard distinctions between programming content and advertising, successful Web video blends the two into a new form of informative, commercial content. That said, what we can learn is that form follows function, and the venue dictates the tools and presentation skills necessary to make it all work.
In the early days of silent pictures, actors needed to look the part but it didn’t matter how they sounded. Once talkies arrived actors had to sound the part as well as look it, and those who didn’t were out of work. Once radio arrived voice was the determining factor and what you looked like was irrelevant. The rotund William Conrad who had the voice of Zeus but the body of the Michelin Man played the tall, dark and handsome Marshal Matt Dillon in radio’s long-running “Gunsmoke.” Once television arrived you had to look as well as sound the part so the more eye-pleasing James Arness replaced the corpulent Conrad in the television adaptation. All very interesting you say but what has all this to do with me, and my online widget business?
These technological changes may have been seismic in their impact on the entertainment community, but the real need was and always will be to communicate effectively using all the advantages a particular platform has to offer. In a medium that relies on both sound and picture, a roly-poly Marshal Dillon just didn’t communicate the necessary culturally relevant, Gary Cooper, western hero prototype of the time.
Effectiveness has to be defined as delivering meaningful, memorable impact, and not by some artificial misconception of efficiency defined as 140 characters, or any such meaningless standard. The efficiency experts and technocrats have already screwed up the workplace; let’s not let them further pollute the Internet with the same kind of mind numbing stupidities.
Connecting The Dots
Business, every business, is ultimately not about how good your product is or isn’t, it’s about how well your organization communicates a meaningful, memorable message to an appropriate audience. The better you communicate, the more successful your business will be, therefore it is important to learn how various techniques and technologies effect how your message is received, interpreted, and understood.
The Web, like every technologically based communication innovation that preceded it, requires a special skill set and perspective in order to maximize impact especially for companies restricted by limited budgets. Smaller businesses can’t employ the same tactics as major corporations who have the budgets to experiment with every new marketing gimmick that comes along. Few SMEs have the wherewithal to supplement these fads with the print, broadcast, and public relations support that distorts the intrinsic value of how these schemes would fair on their own without the high cost collateral help.
Fear of Being Left Behind
The barrage of nonstop media bafflegab puts a lot of pressure on small business owners to lineup for each flavor-of-the-month wunderkind in search of a big IPO payoff, even if it makes no marketing sense. Yesterday’s Pinterest is today’s Instagram, and tomorrow’s AOL. The fear of being left behind seems just too strong for many to resist, but unlike the Borg, resistance is not futile, it’s necessary.
What many people don’t understand is that most of the highly touted marketing phenomenon we read about, including: SEO, Social Media, Facebook, Twitter, Groupon, and Pinterest, et al are tactics not strategies. And whether you believe in, and use these tactics or not, is really not the point. What matters is, do these tactics serve some higher value strategy? In short, before you can communicate a marketing message to an audience, and before you consider what tactics to use, you must first have a strategy, or in movie terms a “high concept,” because if you don’t have one, you are nothing more than yesterday’s me-to wannabe.
A Marketing Strategy Framework
A high concept is the basis of a successful marketing strategy by providing a decision-making framework for implementing tactics that have a chance to succeed. If a tactic like Facebook, or any other for that matter, doesn’t fit the high concept framework established by your marketing strategy then it should not be used no matter how much pressure is applied by trend-pushers and pundits without anything at stake other than their own self-interest.
Where to Begin?
In today’s highly charged media environment fuelled by kneejerk social media reaction, companies feel compelled to adopt tactics that do not serve a defined underlying strategy. In order to know what tactics work best for you, you first need to define your fundamental point-of-view that everything you do should serve.
We are all familiar with the quintessential television psychiatrist who asks, “How does that make you feel?” And perhaps that is a good place to start. How does your marketing communication make your audience feel; and are all your videos, display ads, and online activities in sync with that perspective? Advertising can only work if it presents a continuous consistent point-of-view that touches people in some visceral manner. If your audience isn’t effected emotionally by your presentation, your chances of making a sale are slim or none.