2011
12.01

I’ve stopped posting here and instead over the past year devoted all my energy to writing and producing Do Or Die, the world’s first full-length interactive business book published exclusively to the iPad.

If you’d like to learn more, you can see the video demo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6zo-BBPs3DI

If that gets your interest, you can join the conversation on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/DoOrDieBook

And if you’re really into it, you can order Do or Die in the App Store: http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/do-or-die/id482641624?mt=8&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

Or you can just follow me on Twitter: @clarkkokich

2011
06.07

I’ve decided to discontinue this blog.  Is it because it takes more than 30 seconds to generate a few thoughtful, grammatically correct sentences?  Or is it because I think technology has brought us a better way to share information?

It’s definitely the latter.

For those of us trying to make sense of the best ways to market in a world where the media and consumer landscape shifts daily, we’re more driven than ever to read, study, and get smart about marketing and technology.  That  leads to this undeniable equation: more information + less time available = please keep it short.

So keeping it short is what I’m going to do.  From here on out, I’ll keep my thoughts to 140 characters (you can see where this is going).  If I have an idea worth sharing, I’ll give you the headline version and you can decide if the included link is worth checking out.

I’ll try to avoid telling you what I had for breakfast, how gorgeous the sunset is, or that I’m currently poolside a the Beverly Hills Hotel.  I’ll stay true to the topic that marketers in a digitally-enabled world should spend their time doing things for their customers, not just saying things to them.

You can follow me on Twitter at @clarkkokich.

See you there.

2010
11.08

We just posted videos from the Razorfish client summit.  You can find them here:

http://www.razorfish.com/clientsummit10/

As always, these presentations are full of ideas, inspiration, and insight.

My favorite, however, has to be the talk given by Best Buy c.e.o. Brian Dunn.  People in our industry are fond of saying the corner office “doesn’t get it.”  Here’s one c.e.o. who does.

My favorite quote from Brian’s talk: “Allow your employees to change the course of the company.”  Now that’s food for thought.

2010
07.29

Imagine you’re a physicist, and one day you wake up to discover all of the laws of physics have changed overnight.  Everything is new and undiscovered.  You need to start over.

Or maybe you’re an English professor, and suddenly a decree is issued: the rules of grammar have been changed completely.  There’s a new set of rules, but unfortunately nobody knows what they are.

Or perhaps you’re a doctor who spent a lifetime learning how to perform brain surgery, and one day you’re told the old methods simply don’t work anymore.  The brain has changed.  If you want to keep your job, you need to figure out exactly how the brain has changed, and in quick order develop an entirely new protocol.  And there’s one more problem.  Not only has the brain changed, it’s continuing to change, and nobody really knows how, when, or if it will ever stop changing.

Sounds ridiculous, right?

It’s not.  For those who have been practicing marketing all their lives, this is exactly what is happening right now.  Not only have all of the rules changed, they’re still changing.  Nobody knows when the change will stop, or what the world will look like when it’s done.  Fact is, we’ve entered a world where change may be the only thing we can count on to stay the same.

Marketing is a trillion dollar global business, and it’s in total disarray.  Customers have taken control.  Traditional media vehicles are evaporating.  Agencies are in flux.  And clients are struggling to understand how to succeed in a slippery and confusing world.

If you like to follow rules, you’re probably not having much fun right now.  But if you’re the kind of person who likes to make rules, this is about as good as it gets.

There aren’t any marketing experts anymore.  We’re all just fellow explorers.

2010
06.15

There’s a new generation gap brewing.

Today there are over 77-million baby boomers, the largest demographic cohort in the U.S. (now age 45-65).  Not far behind comes Generation-Y, the echo boomers, with more than 60-million members (now age 17-32).

Here’s what’s happening:

The baby boomers have been driving the economy since the eighties.  Now we’re all getting old.  We’re retiring, or we’re planning to retire, so we’re finally getting smart and starting to save more than we spend.  In either case, we’re leaving our peak spending years behind (hopefully to be replaced by our peak fun years).

Over the next decade, Generation-Y will take over as the big economic engine in the U.S.  Soon they’ll be giving up their carefree lifestyle to start buying houses, cars, furniture, travel, etc..  Plus of course all the stuff it takes to raise their children.  Despite the lessons they should have learned over the past 24-months, they’ll probably be spending more than they earn, just to keep up.

Here’s why this is a big problem for brands:

Baby boomers run the agencies, the media, and the client organizations.  We’ve all spent the last twenty-five years getting really good at marketing to ourselves.  Those skills are becoming less useful.  In ten years, they’ll be completely irrelevant.  The only brands that survive will be the ones who are successful marketing to Generation-Y.

And Generation-Y doesn’t look anything like us boomers.  They’re digital natives who have grown up in a world of non-stop connectivity, hyper-social behavior, user-generated content, and extreme multi-tasking.  They’re smart, idealistic, and passionate about technology.  They don’t trust our institutions (including your brand), and believe very little of what we tell them in advertising.  All they want is the truth, and they expect to get it from their peers, not from you.

Have we responded appropriately?  No.  There’s too much hand-wringing.  Too much nay-saying.  And too much argument about whether these changes are “real” (not an un-typical reaction of an older generation that’s clinging to the past).  There’s also too much fear.  After all, who can be comfortable when they realize their future will soon be in the hands of their children?

If you’re a baby-boomer, here’s what you need to do right now:

First; accept that while you may still run the show, the future of your brand depends on adapting to sweeping change.  You need to throw out a good chunk of the expertise it took you a lifetime to accumulate.  Second; dig in and start listening.  Stop complaining, and instead start paying attention to what’s really going on (starting with your own kids).  Third; start experimenting, trying and failing as you learn what really works with this emerging consumer.  And fourth; do it with a sense of joy.  You won’t be successful if they have to drag you kicking and screaming into the future.

It’s ironic, isn’t it?  When we boomers we’re young, we complained our parents didn’t “understand our generation.”  Now we’re all complaining that we “don’t understand our children’s generation.”  Our kids complain that we “just don’t get it.”

We better get it soon, or our businesses will suffer.  Or as some have learned, will cease to exist.

2010
06.04

I spent the last three days reading Nimble, a new Razorfish report on publishing in the digital age.  It’s a must-read for anyone struggling to deal with the dissolution of traditional media business models.

There was one section that really struck a nerve.  It’s great advice for publishers, but it’s also relevant to brands and agencies.  The point: In the future, editors will become curators for managing digital content.  Not only will the editor be responsible for the content itself, but he or she will also have to keep an eye on user comments, partnerships, dynamic content, and integrated services.

So it won’t be about exercising authority (editor). Instead it will be about managing a complex ecosystem of content and information, delivered whenever and wherever it is relevant (curator).  Big change for the media industry.

The same principle applies to the rest of us as well.  Brands and agencies are all about authority.  In effect, we’re all editors — filtering through reams of data to identify the information we wish to present to our customers.  We say exactly what we want to say, where we want to say it, and how we want to say it.

Now we need to become curators – dynamically collecting, organizing and presenting content from diverse sources across multiple platforms, in a way that is 100% relevant to the user.

It sounds kind of trite: We used to be editors.  Now we need to be curators.  But the implications are dramatic, and will transform your company, your job, and ultimately your brand.

In order to get thinking about this issue, you should download a copy of Nimble here:

http://nimble.razorfish.com

2010
04.28

From time to time I’ll find the opportunity to chat with leaders of competing digital agencies.  We do the things you’d expect: tell stories, exaggerate our successes, and commiserate over the challenges of the business.  Lately I’ve been hearing a constant refrain in the “commiserate” section of the conversation.

We’ve all heard some version of the following complaint from our clients:  ”We have a problem.  Our digital agency fees have been growing faster than our digital media spend.  Something is wrong and it has to stop.”

The reality:  Nothing is wrong and it would be a disaster to attempt to reverse this trend.

The marketing mix is changing.  Clients are increasing their investments in owned and earned media.  Owned media are the things we build and own — mobile applications, web experiences, digital-out-of-home, etc.  There’s no media cost — only agency fees.  Earned media are the things our customers are saying to each other — social experiences that must be built, monitored, and managed.  Again, no media cost — only agency fees.

It’s simple math.  The better we get at exploiting the power of owned and earned media, the faster agency fees will rise relative to media costs.  I must admit I have a hard time seeing the problem.  If a $500k social influence marketing program (all agency fees) performs as well as a $10-million paid media program (10% agency fees), who really is being penalized?  Answer: the media, not the client.  Instead of being challenged, agencies should be applauded for building and managing  owned media that delivers results at a fraction of the cost of paid media.

In the coming years some of our clients will experience years where their digital media spend declines and their digital agency fees increase.  That’s probably going to take some explaining.

2010
04.06

Every day you read about another company that’s managed to transform itself or its industry through the power of the digital channel.  Watch this video and learn about a U.K.-based non-profit that’s managed to do the same:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWChU3JxGvo

In a world of advertising, all we can do is talk.  In the digital world, now we can listen too.   Marketing for Childline used to be focused on generating calls to a toll-free number.  Now it’s about deepening the connection to society’s invisible victims.

If the only thing we’re doing with our new set of digital tools is to promote an existing product or service, we’re really missing the boat.  The Childline story should inspire us to think bigger.

2010
03.19

Recently people have been asking me for career advice.  I guess that’s what happens when you get old.

The one piece of advice I give everyone who asks is something I learned from reading Peter Drucker.  Drucker suggested people will enjoy long, productive careers if they focus more on their contributions than their achievements.

It’s a simple but radical notion.  It’s also true.

As I reflect over the past decade in our company, I can think of scores of people who have made terrific career progress — multiple promotions, increased responsibility, excellent compensation.  They all share one trait: never once did I think they were overtly concerned with their personal achievement.  Rather, they truly seemed to be consumed by the desire to contribute to the growth and well-being of their clients, of the company, and of the people around them.  They wanted to contribute.  And because they were contributors, they became high achievers.

Now I’m not naive enough to believe people don’t aspire to personal achievement.  They do.  But if you let that desire drive you, your odds of actually succeeding will be impaired by your narrow, internal focus. 

So this year spend every hour of every day figuring out how you can contribute.  And stop chasing achievement.  Let it come to you.

2010
02.26

Everyone should read the recent Razorfish report, Five Technologies That will Change Your Business, to be found here:

http://razorfish5.razorfish.com

The two most important sections, in my mind, are the chapters on cloud computing and agile development.  Both address one of the fundamental issues we face as digital marketers: In many instances, many great ideas die simply because it’s just too hard.

It’s too hard to find the resources within internal IT teams.

It’s too hard to adapt complicated enterprise systems to embrace emerging technologies.

It’s too hard to get alignment between marketing and IT teams.

It’s too hard to get agreement on scope and budget.

Everything is just too hard, and because it’s too hard, important initiatives often fail to get off the ground because of an overwhelming sense the obstacles to success are simply too overwhelming.

The cloud and agile development make it easier.