Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Observations from a Curious Mind

Observations from a Curious Mind
Posted by Courtney Smith
As the Governor of the American Advertising Federation's District 14, I attend numerous events each year. This past June in Louisville, KY, the hours spent sitting at banquet rounds filled with half eaten salads listening to the illuminating thoughts of industry experts, needless to say, caused my mind to wander away from meeting agendas and how Roberts Rules of Order works like I was supposed to be doing as a District leader. I found myself unable to stop searching for connections between the nuggets of cutting-edge research, opinions from self-proclaimed industry thought leaders and intimate after-hours conversations inspired by open bars and the brief escape from "real life" back home. I filled many a quad pad page pondering the collective idea pool that was brewing amongst the creative constituency in attendance; it's these thoughts, observations and questions that I share with you here. For today, my first thought on the list.

1) As long as a product provides value, it will be rewarded with loyalty.One of the keynote speakers said this in his speech. It seemed like a no-brainer to me, but the more I thought about it the more I realized that sometimes clients don't get this. What it says to me is that marketing is not a rainmaker and can't make a bad product better - period. Consumers are smarter than you think, and will not be loyal to anything that doesn't give them something unexpected in return. I think it's true of services too; isn't it always about value? Value-add, value-driven, values-based - we need to be careful how we use this word, because it's a damn good one that will lose its meaning if the industry adopts it deeper into its buzz word virtual dictionary. In other words, don't devalue value.

Thought number two on my list of things to ponder I am sure will cause much debate. After all, it pits the creative world against the measured world of interactive and summons the core of what clients in my experience want to know about their marketing efforts - how do I know this is going to work?

2.) The moment the metrics become more important than the message, it spoils the gift to the user and becomes counterproductive. I heard this in a keynote given by David Verklin, founder of CaratUSA and wanted to put him on TIVO pause as soon as these words left his mouth. Finally, an industry professional that wasn't trying to crack the metrics nut and put a barcode on creative! As I thought about the meaning of his words, it made me reflect on my own habits as a consumer and put them into the context of how we build and market brands for our clients. After all, the thing I usually remember when I see an incredible piece of creative for the first time isn't the product or service's name or website address. . . it's the way it made me feel when I was tickled, saddened, outwitted or touched in some way by the magic of how a simple phrase, imagery and copy worked together in harmony to tell its story. This feeling has never been something that could be measured with unique urls or click-thru ratios, but it is what I want to experience when I come across this brand again. So how do clients know if what we're doing for them will really work, if brands live in our heads and names and url's are hard to remember? We have a saying in the office that for every great gift you've ever received in your life, you will never, ever forget who gave it to you. Think about it. If what you receive is something that personifies you, celebrates you, is unexpected and makes you take notice, the giver will live in infamy in your head forever. The same is true of great band marketing. When your approach is thoughtful, your audience is understood intimately and the delivery is just right. . . the same magic can be gifted to an audience. At the end of the day, if clients just had faith in what we as marketers with integrity are spending our precious brain cells strategically creating in this space, then the answer to their question will be paid back with long-term customer loyalty and increased profits. This takes time and considerable patience however - but I guarantee that the results will last a lifetime.

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