Monday, November 16, 2009

Integrated Communications: The future of Conversation

A passion for integrated marketing is what drives me headlong into the business of Digital Signage / Media. As a young professional in the printing industry almost 20 years ago now, I was an integral part of a media production operation that was, in essence, silo’ed and completely unique in its processes and functions. The output or distribution channel was “traditional print.” Upon the birth of the Internet, many large Corporate organizations launched a parallel operation, often called the “dot com” team, to handle the media production to the distribution channel that is the Web. It was at this time that I spent several years advancing the cause for centralized Digital Content Management tools. The vision was to manage content agnostic to media distribution channel. At that time, channels like Digital Signage, Mobile and others were still a figment of our 21st Century imagination, but we knew they were coming as consumer electronics and personal communication technology was maturing before our eyes. It was my opinion that Digital Signage, gaining serious momentum as a bona-fide distribution channel, would be the landscape upon which Corporate organizations would decide that they couldn’t continue the madness of developing yet another content production silo that is only common in that they share a point of distribution. So, I jumped in head first into the industry with the hope that we could live out the potential of channel agnostic development, management and distribution of content…the “holy grail.”

Quickly, what I found was a problem similar to that of any other distribution channel that has been before. A lack of centralized content management, content tied up in and managed within one specific channel with processes designed only to encourage cross-purposing, a set of tools and software that are, yet again, designed to address a specific channel distribution requirement rather than tools that encourage a channel agnostic management and distribution of content. It is simply more of the same.

I have had the pleasure of working with both owner-operated, as well as ad-based Digital Signage networks. Although it makes sense that an advertising-based, third-party owned network be developed and managed in isolation of the larger Corporate network, Corporately-owned Digital Signage networks should be integrated into the larger Corporate network to support other business activities. In the case of a privately-owned, ad-based network, integration of Digital Signage/ Media isn’t necessary and could, in essence, present a security issue to the hosting organization. However, in the case of an owner-operated, there is justifiable argument that it is best to integrate the Digital Signage network into the larger Corporate network, maintaining that vision for integrated communication.

So, what is integrated communication? Integrated communication is:
-A content centric platform that can distribute the right message through the right channel to the right target market. It is a shift of emphasis away from channel of distribution toward an emphasis on target audience and content appropriateness.

-A strategy that takes into account easy distribution of content to all possible channels, including the more traditional channels, like print and broadcast, the newer channels that have emerged, like Web, Mobile, E-mail and Digital Signage, and those that have yet to be developed.

-A mindset shift that incorporates the best of database technology and production processes to automate and systematize the design, development, management and distribution of content to any channel of distribution.

-A technology strategy that will allow Corporate marketers to live out the promise of one-to-one communication between brands and their customers. One that encourages treating each customer as unique and as being at a different stage of brand validation as others within their peer group.

-The use of standards-based networking and communication technology to encourage centralized development, management and control of marketing and media assets as far into the production cycle as possible.

Check back next week when I talk about what is required of technology in support of Integrated Communications strategies!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Branding and Social Media

I have had the privilege over the last six weeks to get "under the hood" of the technology and the business processes associated with Social Media through a certification program through the Social Media Academy ( As someone who has spent over 15 years in marketing and technology, I have always been on top of this type of innovation. I have dedicated the last six plus years of my career alone to the emerging Digital Signage/ Media networking technology for marketing and business. What I have learned from this certification class is that I dramatically underestimated the value of Social Media as a communication platform.

You see, as someone who has focused much of her career time and attention on marketing technologies that provide an ROI (return-on-investment). For example, I worked in Retail Media to measure product lift associated with in-store digital messaging, I worked in print and direct mail measuring response rates to direct mail campaigns, and on and on. All of these marketing optimization efforts were always associated with "campaigns." They were essentially cause and effect measurements. Conversely, when we wanted to assess a brand's quality, visibility or impression, this was an exercise that required focus groups and surveys. This didn't always take into account the opinions of all customers, good, bad and otherwise. Most often these brand measurement exercises were subjective in nature, in other words, up to someone else's interpretation. I never anticipated that there would be a better solution for this type of assessment...until I learned about Social Media. All by itself, this new revelation will provide the business case any company or individual needs to justify investments in Social Media. The facts about Social Media today are that I can scour the social web and assess at any given point in time the mood or sentiment of the customers that are talking about my Brand online. I can access specific details of both satisfied and unsatisfied customers. I can understand who (as in demographic) is talking about my Brand. This is and should be amazingly valuable information to any company. And it is ALL real-time and is, most importantly, objective.

Many years back, I had the pleasure of working with a Brand manager from a large consumer product goods manufacturer about advertising on our retail media network. At that time, there was a high level of financial accountability for marketing budget, specifically an insistence that 25% of budget be dedicated toward measurable forms of marketing and communication. Additionally, this budget increased by 5% per year. If this is the case, then almost 50% of this Brand's marketing budget should be dedicated to measurable sources today. I would argue that, with Social Media, potentially as much as 90% of marketing budget can be measured. I never, ever would have thought it possible. Especially after hearing FOR YEARS, "50% of my marketing budget doesn't work, I just don't know which 50%." Here's to Social Media for doing what I thought could never be done!

Joyce Vogt
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