Giant Leaps Across-Channel Marketing

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By Susan Whitehurst, Publisher, Website Magazine

Change is in the air. And for many Web-centric businesses, it means a fresh look at traditional marketing. In fact, recent developments with Google and Microsoft suggest the big key to success is to reach customers wherever they choose to be, and where they have already been for decades.

This fall, Microsoft launched television advertising that had Tivo’s ad-skippers pushing the stop-button to watch their commercial. Microsoft’s “I’m a PC” campaign is a series of clips showing real-world Windows users, designed to combat the stuffy image created by Apple in their televised Mac vs. PC ads. Each person appears for mere seconds, captured against a colorful real-world life. The “Windows without Walls” message is integrated into the scenery and in stark contrast to the sterile, clean-white backgrounds in Apple’s ads. These new ads are prompting TV viewers to visit Microsoft’s website, too. Once there, they encounter the Web 2.0 element of the campaign — visitors can explore the array of PC users in their real world variety and then choose to send in their own photos for potential display in website ads. And the average length of stay on the site is up as well.

That’s a cross-channel win. Effective, traditional marketing with a 21st century twist reaches a larger audience, leading to more site visits and a higher level of engagement, both on and offline.

As Microsoft chief research and strategy officer Craig Mundie, told Knowledge@Wharton, “We operate in a high flux environment. There are very few businesses as big and as global as this one, whose technology base and products shift as fast as this one. It’s impossible to accurately predict the future and it’s certainly not possible to comfortably rest on the laurels of the product lines that you have and believe that 10 or 20 years from now you’re going to be relevant.”

On the Internet, innovation is endemic, or you might say, a tradition. In an article published in Harvard Business Review, Babson College Professors Bala Iyer and Thomas H. Davenport point to Google as the role model for corporations hungry to innovate. “Even among Internet companies, Google stands out as an enterprise designed with the explicit goal of succeeding at rapid, profuse innovation.”

Google, a company known for tossing tradition out the window, has even tried some old-school marketing in their continuous efforts to innovate. And there are signs they are changing their ways when it comes to advertising. Last year, Google was caught using billboards along rural roads to promote its local voice-search service. OK, billboards have been around for quite some time, and voice-search is so last-century. But for Google, using such a non-tech, traditional media outlet for advertising is a big change. So this warrants some attention. The formula combined a traditional, proven channel with an effort to expand use of its location sensitive, innovative Internet 411 service.

Having achieved such tremendous growth, Google’s challenge in this economic climate is to keep up the pace. That may well be prompting this new intersection with traditional advertising. In addition to billboards, Google has been sighted meeting with Manhattan ad agencies,  projecting big images on New York buildings, and using outdoor ads and online ads in Japan. Google Maps has been advertised on buses and trains. Greg Sterling of Sterling Market Intelligence tells The Wall Street Journal, “They’re definitely doing more things that look like traditional marketing.”

We haven’t seen splashy ads for the Google brand on TV or in print — yet. Advertising Google Maps and Gmail in Japan may have been the first, but it’s not the only effort to reach a broader audience of people across multiple channels and platforms.

We’re big fans of using both innovative and traditional approaches, when it means reaching the right people — their way. Now with an audience of more than 135,000 Web professionals (BPA June 2008), Website Magazine comes to you by postage mail, email, and in two different formats online. Given the choice — and we do offer the choice — more than 95 percent of our readers in the U.S. and Canada choose to receive this magazine on paper. We are providing high-tech, quality content and relevant advertising to a Web-savvy audience through a technology more than half a millennium old, confounding the expected business model. And it’s all because that’s the way you want it.

Channel does not define the community, we like to say; community chooses content across channels.

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