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Proven principles can take new media to a higher level

  • Published Thursday, Nov. 24, 2011, at 7:56 a.m.

People frequently ask whether Facebook can solve their marketing challenges.

That’s a bit like the TV commercial that invites you to ponder: “Could switching to GEICO really save you 15 percent or more on car insurance?” The answer may be “yes,” but it’s probably more of a “depends.”

Marketing is more than getting a higher search-engine ranking or a greater number of Twitter followers.

Don’t get me wrong. We love where new media is taking our agency and our clients. But once we’ve reached a bigger audience, through whatever media, we still have to make an impression, persuade, inform and engage.

And we’re finding that proven principles can take new media to a higher level. How high still depends on the quality of your message.

Put in your marketing earbuds

Whether you sell billboards or Bundt cakes, you’ve gotten an earful of advice from everybody from consultants to bloggers to your 13-year-old niece on where you “need to be” digitally. And, frankly, at our agency we’re taking a lot of it seriously.

When I asked one of my 20-something colleagues what he’d be interested in reading about in the business section, he said, “I’m obsessed with my smartphone.” And I thought, “OK. Do I need to repeat the question?”

But I was the one not listening. It’s not always what you want to talk about anymore. It’s what the market wants to talk about – having a conversation. And isn’t this what we’ve been asking for as marketers for decades? To know what our consumer wants to hear about, so that we can really nail the advertising message?

Today they can tell us. We can set up simple (and often free) listening tools to hear it. And then address our audience on their terms, not ours.

Where have we seen this before?

Apple introduced the Macintosh with the “1984” TV commercial, in which a population of mindless drones were blasted into a brave new world by a hammer-slinging digital rebel.

What a crazy idea. What a novel approach. Well, actually a 35-year-old novel approach because George Orwell wrote it in 1949.

Still, the 1984 concept had the power to startle. And did I mention, sell? Because a good idea is a good idea.

Think about it. Don’t you enjoy some of the same commercials your kids do? I love Old Spice’s “Smell Like a Man, Man” and Audi’s “Green Police.” As an increasingly digital business, we’ll never throw out what’s always worked. Writers will stop you with compelling headlines. Art directors will grab you with stand-out visuals. A big idea rocks in any medium.

You show me your tweets, I’ll sell you mine

Just because you have a guy who can fix your email doesn’t mean you’re making a “digital commitment.”

Instead, make a serious investment to lead your customers using new media. If you don’t, someone else will. You sure don’t want your clients leading you.

I’m not talking just to people in the ad business. We’re all digital marketers now. And you’ll soon come to the point where you’ll have to decide whether you’re going to hire a digital expert or a creative person or an accountant or a salesperson.

Well, have your digital cake and eat it, too. Insist on digital literacy from every candidate and every employee. Everybody in our agency works to be digitally literate. Start building a combination of traditional and digital talent. Embrace the new, but don’t forget the basics.

Next topic. Smartphones, anybody?

Sonia Greteman is president and creative director of the Greteman Group. Contact her at sgreteman@gretemangroup.com.

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