Joy Parks

Archive for February, 2010|Monthly archive page

And a child shall lead us …

In content communities on February 21, 2010 at 1:01 pm

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine bought her six-year-old daughter a Webkinz™ stuffed toy. Not knowing much about the Webkinz phenomenon and the amazing online content that Ganz™ has created as part of the Webkinz play experience, she didn’t notice that this particular toy was missing its online secret access code.

Her daughter certainly did. After all, she had access to the rich viral network of Webkinz info found on the grade one recess yard. The little girl patiently explained to her mother that without those magic numbers, the Webkinz was “just a stuffed animal.” Then she went next door to play with a friend who could unlock the site.

Eventually, the toy was paired up with its code and restored to its full play value to the delight of both the mother and the little girl. But what I found interesting was how fully this six-year-old understood that the online content was an essential part of the toy—that it wasn’t just an add-on, but intrinsic to the play experience.

It’s a fact that bodes well for the future of branded content and its creators.


Why Martha Rules

In What works on February 17, 2010 at 9:10 pm

I have to admit I am a shameless fan of Martha Stewart. But while I like smart-looking storage as much as anyone and if you need to kill an afternoon and have something beautiful and delicious to show for it, I recommend the carrot cake with cream cheese icing, the bulk of my admiration is due to the perfection of her branded content—it’s genius. And then there is the fact that when the boys in charge of the glass ceiling tried to break her, she bent beautifully and came back even stronger. It’s hard not to love that.

A few years ago, I found her guide to business-building, The Martha Rules on Amazon’s bargain book page (unfortunately paired with Christopher Byron’s mean-spirited Martha, Inc). It’s simple but terribly impressive. In fact, I think if it had been called Building a Business Through Strategically Integrated Branded Content, the book would have received a lot more notice (and plenty more respect).

The thing is, Martha gets it. She gets it so well that she’s managed to create a content empire and multiple delivery systems that draw revenue—and lots of it—while basically creating desire for her products. Think about it. If you need to buy a pan to make those cute cupcakes you watched Martha make on her television show, her brand of baking equipment is the first that comes to mind. When you read about a beautifully decorated bedroom in one of her publications or online, which brand of paint or sheets stick in your mind? Advertisers pay to have their products associated with the level of quality she represents. Consumers pay for her information—which in turns sells them on her products. Any marketing that you can get someone else to foot the bill for can’t help but offer an excellent return on investment.

I was leafing through Martha Stewart Living in the grocery checkout line the other day and realized that if you ripped out all the non-Martha ads, you’d have the perfect branded content print vehicle for housewares, decorating items and gardening products. Here was loyalty-inspiring credible information of value created to lead me to buy her products, register at her website and watch her television show. A thick package of perfectly integrated branded content designed to sell me on everything and anything Martha makes—and there I was, quite willing to pay the cover price to be sold.

That’s brilliant marketing.

You are not a pharmacy

In business development on February 15, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Have you ever noticed that pharmacies are one of the few types of businesses where customers will make the effort to buy something not displayed on a shelf in front of them? No one would ever ask a sales clerk in a shoe store if there are different styles of shoes hidden away in a back room or implore a grocery store employee to check the warehouse for a cereal that’s not on the shelf. But no one thinks twice about the fact that much of what pharmacies sell is locked up in drawers and cabinet and out of view. It’s available only if you (or more specifically, your doctor) make the effort to ask.

Web designers and developers—you are not a pharmacy. If you want to your clients to have written content on their site that works at the same level as your design—meaningful content that is as compelling as all the functionality you build into the site—then you have to let them know it’s available. Writing for online vehicles—websites, enewsletters, social media program or blogs—shouldn’t be an afterthought. It needs to be approached with the same degree of professionalism and skill as the visual and technical elements you worry over. It’s not enough to pull from your client’s print pieces and it’s not fair to ask them to provide content that works with what you’re creating unless they have specialists in-house who can do it. Chances are good they don’t.

Honestly, why wouldn’t you want to offer your clients branded content services? It gives your shop a competitive advantage and can mean a longer-term relationship with clients—and recurring revenues. Think integration, think overall impact, think value-added service. Then think about having a professional writer who can sell, plan and write the content at the very first meeting. Most clients won’t think to ask for the service—it’s something you’re going to have to put on display if you want it to sell.

How I lost a client

In retail on February 13, 2010 at 8:42 pm

About ten years ago, I was working with a boutique creative agency on an account for a retail client that specialized in household linens. At the time, their marketing program consisted of signage outside the store, an occasional sales flyer and a very creative ad (created by the client’s previous agency) that had pulled well in the beginning but had become less effective over time.  The chain couldn’t compete with discount or department stores on price, but it had built a good business built on selection and quality, and had plans to expand.

The client made it clear from the initial meeting that they were not interested in the web—back then, it was too new for them to see the value. In addition to a few more traditional vehicles like print ads and radio spots, I suggested a quarterly newsletter that could be slipped into shopping bags and displayed at the cash in each store. I positioned it as a way for the chain to stand out as a specialist and build loyalty. The initial issue, I explained, could contain features on bedroom decorating trends, a guide to thread count, tips on how to get a better night’s sleep and perhaps even a recipe for a warm milk and honey concoction that would knock out the worst insomniac.

Not only did the client not buy the idea, they called the agency a few days later to fire us. They felt we were too interested in spending their money on communications that would only “talk” to customers, not sell them something.

I drove past one of the stores recently and noticed that the same old price-screaming signs are in the window. And while they now have a website—and what they call a newsletter—it’s basically an online sales flyer, with shots of products and prices in big type.  It’s all about what they want to sell, not what their customers might need to know. They may have come online, but their thinking about their content hasn’t expanded at all.  And not surprisingly, neither has their business.