Internal Digital Spend, Plus Influencing the Influencers

Be the Alpha Wolf in your market...David Churbuck’s got a good piece up today commenting on an article that appearred in the Sunday Times (NY, not London…) noting that many key advertisers are moving good portions of their budgets out of regular media (newspapers, magazines, tv) and the web towards internally developed products:

Here’s the payoff from the piece. The shift is not from traditional to digital, it’s from public media to “internal” media. In essence, marketers, particularly consumer packaged goods, are plowing their dollars into themselves. BudTV. Nike’s exercise tools. Their own communities, their own social networks. Their SecondLife islands.

“Digital media spending is doubling every year at many big companies, industry data indicate. But the research firm Outsell found this year that 58 percent of marketers’ online spending went to their own Web sites, rather than to paid ads. More than two million people visited Nike-owned Web sites in July, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.”

I’ve been thinking for some time, how will Small Business make this hurdle, and for now, my answer is simple: they won’t or at least few of them will. The problem is that this is a key point where that brand strength will make a huge difference. Strong national brands can make the transition from product to life style, where as the average every day brand can not. Companies like Nike and Budweiser can engender that level of commitment from a customer, where as the small brand will not make the hurdle.

Of course never is a long time. And there are some very strong local brands that very well might make the reach on a local level. In fact, in some areas, and I am now thinking of the small town I live in, there is an opportunity for a local brand to literally become the media for the area…by providing a means of local networking for us that doesn’t currently exist. In this case, the business would not only be controlling their own message deliver, they’d control the medium as well. The brand would become the media…

Aside from that, I think we really need to consider how we find our customers. While we can run ads, and and flash banners at them, it’s becoming obvious the more important thing is to simply interact with them. This is the kind of thing that has worked very well for small business on my Reel-Time site, where some very prescient charter captains have learned to engage and captivate, and that has propelled them to nearly rock star stature in the niche industry (saltwater fly fishing). The guys who didn’t embrace it grumble and grit their teeth, but even they will admit the truth…when community members think about booking a charter, they contact the rock stars first – the guys that are posting reports with great pictures and videos, they guys that have become the community leaders.

That leads us into the post that Rob O’Regan posted this morning, “Embrace the Swarm“. He’s just back from the Association of National Advertisers meeting and had this:

This power, he added, “irrevocably changes” the roles of marketers. He compared the herd mentality of traditional marketing and advertising programs – communicating to people who passively sit in front of TVs and radios and read newspapers and magazines – to today’s far more active digital swarms: “The herd is passive. It lacks active intelligence. The swarm on the other hand is about actively sharing intelligence, and that is a huge distinction. While you can lead a herd, you cannot lead a swarm. You cannot issue instructions to a swarm. A swarm is not an audience in the traditional sense and it’s not looking to [marketers] for guidance.”

The implications of peer communication and localized information are significant, Brymer said. “Forget the idea that digital is the new media. The real new media is you and me.” As an example, he referenced Allconsuming.net, a site devoted to people “telling each other about the stuff they’re buying, eating, drinking, watching.”

He’s right on the money. We’re moving from a place where we could be marketed to and transitioning to a place where we must be influenced. I couldn’t help but think of the bit I wrote about in May talking about how companies are trying to tap into the tween girl market by influencing Alpha Girls. Then I honestly think I believed that they were unique, that this alpha girl marketing was something that only applied to the special qualities of the tween girl. It isn’t…we can market to the key influencer, and in doing so reasonably expect that the others will come along to the party. Again, I reflect on what I’ve seen at Reel-Time, and I also now think about what Cisco has done with the CIO Leadership Forum which I created for them working with their partner CXO Media (and yes, that’s another good example of a company putting money into developing an internal digital property that bypasses media, even though this was built in partnership with media).

So how do we grab our slice of the pie as small businesses? Participation – while we may not own the social networks on which we interact with our customers, we need to go where our customers are and when there, we need to show them the value. Answer questions and be the resource. They may not want to become a member of Al’s Septic World for networking, but by participating in the likely home improvement social channels, like a DIY Forum, we position ourselves as the experts, and when they need someone like us, they’ll think of us. Because we’ll be the rock stars…the people customers want to be with and the people competitors want to be.

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