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June 25, 2013
A Complex Digital Equation for Brands. And a Simple Solution.
 
Noise + Distraction ÷ Time = X
 
We’re connected to technology almost two-thirds of our hours awake. Surprised? Maybe you shouldn’t be. After all, the number of mobile Internet devices will outnumber humans by the end of the year, according to Cisco.
 
For digital marketers, simply keeping up with continuously evolving technologies, apps, platforms, et al., is extraordinarily difficult. And we seem hell-bent on adding even more—and completely unnecessary—complexity by insisting we need a new language that mirrors the new technologies. Do we really need “key vectors across current trends and the long-tail prospects related to Digital Transformation…” Really?
 
Here’s the issue in plain English, folks: There’s more noise, more distraction, and less time to make our point. So clear, concise, consistent communication is critical. My hyper-alliteration aside, perhaps even more critical is hyper-personalization.
 
In a 2012 Econsultancy study, companies reported measurable impact as high as 80% when personalizing messages using social graphs, purchase history, and even time spent. When we speak directly to someone that person is more likely to respond. Simple.
 
But marketers are simply not taking advantage of the proven power of personalization (alliteration 2.0!) Only 19% of brands offer personalized web experiences in real time, according to a 2013 survey by Neolane. This despite 54% of those marketers reporting a positive ROI within months of implementing personalization programs (allit. 2.1!).
 
We need to start now. Right now. Because media-consumption habits of 8–18-year-olds (no, not Generation M2) tell us that one-third of them are doing homework and “most of the time” also watching TV, texting, or using some other technology. They are learning to distract themselves.
 
(And can we please accept this simple truth: People cannot “multi-task.” It is a physical impossibility. It amazes me when companies include multi-tasking as a “requirement” in job postings on sites like—yes—Talent Zoo. They “require” candidates to do something that’s impossible. Whew.)
 
Let’s forget the acronyms. And the self-important jargon. Let’s simplify. Is it really “Big” Data? Does it really need to be capitalized? Let’s agree: It’s just lots of lower case data. And e-marketing? How about “marketing”?
 
While it’s great that we’re focused on “content,” let’s remember this: It’s always been about content. And simplicity. And other concepts that are not as new as we think they are. Want proof?
 
The purpose of his VW ad campaigns was not to attract the customers who had already decided they were uninterested in buying Volkswagen, but to turn the existing clients into brand ambassadors.

The fact that in 1960, the German motor company’s budget for advertising was a mere $800,000 meant that DDB’s creative director Helmut Krone was required to pioneer the idea of simplicity in print media advertising — going very much against the grain of advertising at the time.  (The bold italics are mine, for emphasis.)
 
From the terrific An Irishman Abroad blog, this posting about Bill Bernbach’s 1950s–1960s campaign for Volkswagen makes it clear that our digital and social “gurus” may not have developed breakthrough marketing concepts like brand advocacy…and may not be advocating simplicity as strongly as they could be. Or should be.
 
If you’ve ever said “stop beating around the bush, just say it,” then you get it. You probably just forgot that you get it. But somewhere deep down you actually do understand that simple is better. Simple sells better. And I’m sure you agree that it’s not creative unless it sells. If you don’t, please see Ogilvy, David for more insight.
 
We don’t need to be first. Or revolutionary. Or convince ourselves we’re so cutting edge that no one has ever had a thought like ours. It’s not rocket science, guys. Heck, it’s not even algebra. It’s just an equation, one that already has a solution. A very “simple” solution.
 
And that, friends, is the bottom line. Literally. (allit. 2.2!!).

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Robert Calvanico is Client Services Director for Living Group, a London-based integrated digital and branding agency. He leads the Living team's New York office. Robert has held management positions at agencies such as Euro RSCG, Cossette Post and Blue Fountain. He is a passionate sports fan and music lover, and lives in Tribeca, New York City.
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