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December 4, 2007
How Diverse Should You Be?

On a recent speaking trip to South America, I listened to a colleague discuss how there is almost stock-market like volatility in on-line media, as some tactics do well, some don’t and on occasion you get an runaway hit. In thinking about this, I postulated that in many ways, a brand/product marketing plan should read like an investment portfolio. I got more than a few blank stares. Let me explain.

A brand introduces a product. That product is targeted towards a broad or narrow group of people. Those people are complicated human beings who go through their daily routines with endless variety and not one of them does the exact same as another. Therefore, there is not one specific way to communicate with these people, although if you were to read many a marketing plan, you would think they are all taking the same strategy from a one page hand book — X percent in TV, Y percent Outdoor, Maybe some Print thrown in, and sure, a dollar or two in on-line. New product? Rinse and repeat.

As a brand, a large investment is being put into the marketing of said product, yet it often seems like that money is simply being planned to be spent while in my opinion, it needs to be invested for maximum return. A marketing plan should read like an investment portfolio in the stock market or your retirement account. It should be diverse and combined with conservative investment (meant to give a steady and known return), higher risk (not as safe as conservative but can payback dividends when you get a hit) and emerging media (newer media where the metrics are yet to be defined but generate excitement and innovation).

As your marketing financial planner, here is my recommendation for your investments in the future:

40-60% of your investment can be placed in safe and secure media. This is media that will yield a guaranteed return of impressions and cause broad brand awareness. Mass medias are the best harbor for these dollars—Television, Radio, Outdoor, On-line Banners, Magazines and Newspapers are the mainstays of this channel. Most of the time you will not make a huge splash, but you can have steady growth of awareness with some much smaller percentage of the target who may take an action and do something to find out who you are. Economically, there is no better way to get the brand message out to the broadest audience possible yet it is the most impersonal of the channels.

20-30% of your investment should be placed in higher risk media. Higher risk does not mean risky. It means media that carries a higher cost per touch, per experience than that of ‘safer’ media — Promotion, Guerrilla, WOM, Pop-up Stores, Branded Events & Entertainment, Viral Video, etc. These media will not necessarily get your message to millions of people watching during the Superbowl, but can move the needle in very positive ways. The cost per impression may be higher but these media get attention often beyond their spend. They get people talking, they often involve a longer interaction with the brand than the traditional media. They can turn people into brand evangelist, they can convert someone on the spot to your brand and they can put product into people’s hands in unique, live product demonstration. More and more, as there is disappointment with some of the returns on safer media, brands are turning to this channel with larger percentages of their investment.

The rest of your spend should be spent in the emerging marketing world. This may seem a bit antithetical to the conservative marketer. Why would I want to spend money on media that is still in its infancy and unproven? Well here is why. The marketing world is moving very fast. As technology enables us to do things that we have previously thought impossible, there are going to be some that make it very big and yes, a few that flop. But the worlds of Mobile, User Generated Content, Blogs, Vlogs, Social Networking, Virtual Worlds, etc. All came out of these emerging technologies. And many of the brands that got in early are reaping great rewards, while those late to the game can be locked out, marginalized or end up paying a much higher cost to enter. The more we experiment with new methods of communication with our target consumer, the better we will understand the changing nature of the conversation platform.

The challenge to us as marketers is to constantly think about how our brands need to evolve with the changing nature of our current world. Marketers need to start opening up their media ideas to include all of the above-mentioned tactics. The brands that will succeed are the ones that create interesting media experiences across multiple media, both new and old. Start breaking your plans into a variety of media segments and you should generate the returns that will separate your brand from the competition. Hopefully the plan that I have laid out for you will pay off in the long run and your marketing portfolio will grow year after year.

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Sam Travis Ewen is the 800 lb Guerrilla in the room. After a stint in the pioneering days of Internet marketing, Sam joined Eisnor Interactive, the first promotions and guerrilla agency for online brands. As President of Eisnor, he oversaw client strategy and campaign development.
In 2001, Mr. Ewen started his own agency, Interference Incorporated. Interference Inc. has since created many marketing firsts, from the largest stealth campaign, to the largest aerial billboard, to a certain light-up marketing technique in Boston that got international attention.
Mr. Ewen is a frequent speaker and writer on the topic of guerrilla, experiential and alternative marketing.


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