Simplifying Online Marketing

If you’re like me and spend most of your time and money developing marketing campaigns centred around TV advertising, you’ve probably been trying to make sense of the whole Internet / Online Marketing thing.

Josh Bernoff’s excellent graphic on consumer trust got me thinking about how online marketing is similar to TV advertising and other traditional marketing channels, and equally important, how it’s not.

1. TV advertising is one-way communication. The Internet is interactive, so a common fallacy is that it’s two-way. Actually it’s more likely to be either one-way (Audience gets your message, does nothing), occasionally two-way (Audience tells you what she thinks) and sometimes many-way (Audience tells others what she thinks about your product / message). Now the last one may be through a blog or a social network website, and these are quite the trendy buzzwords among PR firms these days, but Josh’s chart above together with HP Lab’s paper on social networks shows that the valuable part of people’s networks is (a) smaller than it appears and (b) mostly to do with e-mail. Consider: would you have more faith in something that a friend actively e-mailed to you or something that a stranger wrote on his blog, no matter how well-written or entertaining. So the task is to develop communication or content that people can share with their friends and perhaps modify or personalize, ideally via e-mail.

2. There are hundreds of channels and thousands (millions?) of programs on TV and we use data (ratings) about what consumers are watching to decide where to place our spots to achieve our GRP/TRP goal of reaching x% of our target audience with a certain frequency (usually a single digit number). The same approach should work online. With a little bit of research, we can find out (a) what the most popular search engine is in a given market (hint: it’s not always Google) and (b) what keywords our audience uses when they are searching for information on our product category. I imagine that someone who plans to buy a camcorder in an English-speaking market would probably google “Camcorder reviews”. (I did.)  This behaviour coupled with the right information actually makes it easier to develop highly effective online “media plans”, quite probably at a very low cost (yet) and at a very high frequency.

3. The data in the chart above suggests that online customer reviews are the most effective form of PR. Using the Google keyword approach above should help identify the websites where our audience most often finds these reviews. (I went to The chart makes it clear that getting honest favourable reviews onto these websites is far more effective than giving free samples to a large number of bloggers. Beware of unethical competitors who may be using “professional reviewers” to considerable effect. Don’t discount the value of traditional PR in print newspapers and magazines which still rank very highly on consumer trust. Even TV is trusted more than personal blogs, although it’s not clear if this refers to advertising (unlikely) or TV news and talk shows (more likely).

4. Yellow pages (not online) is a bit of a surprise in this chart. Depending on the context, a careful review of what the audience does on a typical day and where they look for information on our category or when they are most receptive to that information might reveal some unexpected channels or touchpoints – very likely in the real (not online) world. Like the hunt for a great advertising insight, this is one of the things that makes marketeer’s jobs interesting!

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