Start-up mania is back, after a long hiatus from the dot-com days (where small companies were wildly over-valuated until it became cool to question how those companies would ever monetize).
And today, much like it was then, marketers and agencies are caught up in it, looking at where communities and audiences are building in order to play a part in these new and exciting experiences.
But as we figure out our place inside the connected world, it makes me wonder if we are becoming better adept at assessing tools and taking our eye off of solutions for our clients. Again.
One night, a few years back, an interesting discussion on NPR caught my attention. It was focused on the pharma industry, and more specifically on the tribulations of GSK in the UK. BBC’s Peter Day put together an interesting show on how research and development costs have skyrocketed with diminishing returns for the industry.
GSK UK CEO Andrew Witty spoke very openly about how the industry has a vast number of tools at their disposal, but that these tools are being seen as solutions to situations. And that there is opportunity if you can look beyond the tools that exist in order to solve the issues that they are facing.
An example of this came up as I recalled an Edelman PR effort for Levi’s, that needed some repair post-launch. I worked on a crowdsourced brief a year ago to fix an experience, which was at shapewhatstocome.com (a women’s community / forum). During that journey I saw a site and brand experience that was built on tools. A map view to explore user created profiles was one instance of a tool that didn’t even functionally work, nor was a great way to explore the large numbers of profiles that have been developed. The footer also included a war chest of social channels that Levi’s was using as part of the campaign/program. It was obvious that the brand and agency felt in order to reach a splintered audience they needed to use the social tools available to them to get in front a bunch of people.
It turns out the issue for the brand wasn’t a fractured audience it was that they were not engaging enough people on their site, due to a poor experience and weak expectation proposition that was offered.
Successful campaigns and programs are built on the understanding of how each communication channel works in conjunction with others. Not on the breadth of tools available to you to use and employ.
Therefore, don’t pick a tool because it is what you think will work or where you think you need to be.
Understand your audience, their needs and what you are hoping to accomplish. And define the problem you and your client are hoping to solve. That way, solutions come to the forefront, and you can avoid chasing shiny gold balls that are always there as a distraction to the job we really have as brand stewards in the digital arena.