Do marketers understand digital?

Over half of marketers lack confidence in digital ability, a recent study reported by Adobe concludes. To suggest that Adobe “would say this wouldn’t they”, runs counter-intuitive. Surely they want the world to believe that we are all worshippers at the digital alter. But in what looks like a professional survey of 1,000 marketers across the USA, the headlines are startling:

Only 48% of marketers feel proficient in digital marketing.

Few have any training, with 82% saying they learned the subject on the job.

Only 40% think their company’s marketing is effective.

And only nine percent strongly agree that their “digital marketing is working”.

Given that 41% of UK advertising is now digital, the highest proportion in the world, by some way (The Western European average is 25%) , somebody somewhere should be worried. Fortunately I’m not a shareholder in Toyota, Standard Life, P&G, Unilever et al.

No one doubts the incredible power of the internet to connect people.  But marketing, which is what most marketers do, is about a lot more than connection. It’s about engagement, persuasion, conversion and transaction.

Which is why companies such as Google, Microsoft, Dell, and others invest in display advertising in Newspapers and Television. Like Coke they know that the virtual world is a very good thing, but is hidden from the consumer’s horizon.

Within this situation lies a great opportunity for publishers, which is being reflected in the revenues of US publishers where growth in digital consulting and delivery services rose by over 90% in the last twelve months according to the NAA.

While I’ve never been sold on converged advertising sales, because it is important to realise that each medium serves a different purpose, it is the case that newspapers enjoy a strong respect from local traders, and can help traders overcome the concerns that are expressed above, by providing sophisticated solutions, that in particular local traders could not develop themselves. In addition the concept of a local network of local traders within one virtual mall, has enormous potential.

What is getting lost in all this digital hype (or not), is that marketing is a layered set of objectives, messages and channels. The marketing guru Philip Kotler defined the product at three levels: Its core proposition, the supporting benefits, and the ancillary elements such as distribution. One leading media buyer explained to me recently that his company now plans around sixteen different channels, each with a different objective. And each must reflect the overall brand concept, while demonstrating the (dreaded) ROI to the client. One of the attractions with digital is that is measurable, but one must ask (and this is part of the challenge being put up by the marketers) is that anything is measurable but are we measuring the right thing. Fantastic that 10% of users click through, but if the number of users is only 20% of those that could be reached through conventional means, does the math ad up?

I may be an old curmudgeon but it strikes me that too much of the advice that is going out to the marketers who confess to being out of there depth, is coming from a new generation of low grade media graduates, who can only talk digital speakish, but wouldn’t know what a newspaper is if it whacked them on the head, and whose only knowledge of TV is that it is something on which their parents watch Coronation Street.

I keep hearing people rejoicing that the UK has the most vibrant digital economy, but I can’t help wondering if this is reality or virtual reality.

Jim Chisholm has advised companies in 40 countries on their media strategy.;rel_id=2851


Readers as customers? Really.

Yet another piece questioning Jeff Bezos’ insistence that readers are customers:

My take (not yet published) is below:

Is the reader a customer, or vice versa?

It was the sculptor and typeface designer Eric Gill who said “The artist is not a different kind of person, but every person is a different kind of artist.”

I was reminded of this when I was reading about Amazon’s Jeff Bezos’ address to the staff at the Washington Post after he acquired the newspaper. “If you replace ‘customer’ with ‘reader,’ that approach, that point of view, can be successful at The Post too.”

This is one of the most defining lines I’ve heard in a long time. Which is why Bezos is rich, and I’m not.

The reader is not a different kind of consumer, but every consumer is a different kind of reader, digital absorber, social activist, parent, car buyer, pensioner, youth, and market target in terms of commercial opportunity.

In his initial observations Mr Bezos has laid bare our conundrum. As I’ve said so often before, we attract customers – readers, – online, but they don’t hang around. In the Bezos/Amazon/Kindle world one downloads a book, whether one reads it in full, or not. I would reckon that I’ve read fewer that one in twenty of the books I own from cover to cover. The average reader reads less that a quarter of their print content. In the digital environment the levels, to put statistically, are trivial!

In the news publishers’ world, customers pop in, stay for a few minutes and a few pages, and then nip off to a time competitor, by which I mean an alternative source of interest/entertainment/gratification. Our conundrum is the glue of engagement.

I recall, decades ago, one of the more egotistical editors, of the many I’ve endured and/or enjoyed, complaining that I shouldn’t call his newspaper a “product”. In an early meeting I proposed a research concept where we would ask 40 of his readers to read his competitors’ title and vice versa, and then measure their response and comparison. His view: “But I could lose 40 readers” (I’m not making this up). At the next meeting I mentioned the word “product”, and he told me to leave his office. Just imagine if I had called his readers customers or indeed users! So we’ve moved on from there (ish).

If I may indulge you further in academia, Philip Kotler – the Kellogg School guru of marketing strategy – defined the model of a “product” at three levels

  • The core benefit – in our case the delivery of news, influence, information.
  • The product features – branding, styling, packaging, imagery
  • Augmentation – such as delivery mechanisms, installation, pricing and charging

It’s instructive to look back at Kotler’s model, which he devised decades ago, and remains a staple business school teaching tool.

On the first point, I am sure we all remain committed. But how about points two and three?

  • Are our brands top of mind among our customers?
  • Does our delivery in print or digital reflect the very best?

With a few exceptions, newspapers continue to be woefully unwilling to promote their brands, their content in print, and create a real dialogue and interaction between print and online. The basics of Kotler are somehow being lost in space.

So let’s, as always, look to the lessons and accentuate the positives.  Newspapers continue to be the world’s most potent and influential medium. I was reminded of this recently when I had to appear on Scotland’s most respected BBC news and current affairs programme to defend an accusation that newspapers in Scotland are no longer fit for purpose in regard to a forthcoming referendum re independence (which won’t happen). The fact is that 75% of Scots read an average issue of a newspaper (over three million), where the typical audience of this BBC flagship is 75,000. If someone can find a more competitive and lively newspaper city on earth than Glasgow, where I am writing – sorry typing – this diatribe, and where 16 daily newspapers compete, I’d like to hear about it.

To return to Gill’s point every person is a different kind of reader, and every reader is a different kind of customer……. and that is our challenge and opportunity.

For better or worse the internet has liberated the news consumer. It’s not that they escaped from jail. It’s just that they’re free to get with their lives without us. To re-rehearse the KPI’s, globally digital news-media audiences show around 5% of the consumption intensity of those in print. According to Comscore, daily visitors equate to around 0.38 per average issue reader. Visits per month are around 8.4. Pages per visit are around six. Digital advertising revenues correlate more or less to the levels of digital engagement; five percent globally.

And the same principle can be applied to advertising. Basic mass online advertising generates trivial responses for advertisers, and pitiful cost-per-thousand revenues per inventory for most media owners, other than Google, who’ve got it sussed(ish), yet I’m seeing that the simplest of “Customer Relationship Management” tools can multiply revenues per inventory by not just ten fold, but in some cases one hundred fold. Bezos gets it better than anyone. His message is a simple one. Every consumer is a different kind of reader; and needs to be understood and treated as such.

Ó Jim CHISHOLM 130916

NYT’s Thompson supports print

Interesting that Mark Thompson CEO of the New York Times stated yesterday “It’s a platform which has shown it’s got resilience with consumers and it probably has significant longevity,”

As ex head of the BBC he will know that TV news coverage has experienced far greater challenges than print.

And he also highlighted another key to our future: “I think it’s important that we launch new products which have a character, which are a coherent proposition, which feel somewhat different from the existing product and which have their own appeal.”