Marketers Take Note: Instant Gratification Matters

A Reporter's Notebook From AMA's MPlanet Conference

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ORLANDO, Fla. (AdAge.com) -- The futuristic decor, exotic Disney locale and eclectic mix of youthful and senior panelists at this year's first MPlanet were all fitting signs of the two-day conference's overlying theme: You can't keep doing the same old thing.
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Craig Coffey, VP-mobile marketing at Nokia: 'The key is not waiting for the most senior marketing person to develop an idea.'

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MPlanet paved the way to marketing's innovative future with a high-tech conference full of big names (Wired's Chris Anderson, Sony Electronic's Michael Fasulo, Yahoo's Cammie Dunaway), major researchers (McKinsey & Company, GfK NOP, Forrester), and smaller, more targeted sessions ( "Unlocking the Value of Customer Data," "World-Class Pricing," "Social Computing").

An affirmation
"Most of the people here are fairly aware of the latest trends. This conference was an affirmation of what we have been doing," said one marketer.

MPlanet offered a wide variety of panels that allowed marketers to show how they were putting their new tools to use on all three screens -- TV, computer and mobile phones.

Twenty-five-year-old marketers should not be behind computer screens working on spreadsheets, said Craig Coffey, VP-mobile marketing at Nokia and a panelist on "Succeeding in a New World of Media."

"They live these products. They are technologically oriented people," he said. "The key is not waiting for the most senior marketing person to develop an idea. You want to find folks who will create the greatest ripple effect [for your brand]." He said instant gratification matters: "Sending in box tops and waiting 6 to 8 weeks to get something back is dead," he said.

Ingenuity vs. invasiveness
There's a fine line between ingenuity and invasiveness in viral marketing campaigns. During the same panel, George Harrison, senior VP-marketing and communications at Nintendo, admitted he toed that line with a recent online campaign for the Nintendo DS that teamed up with the websites for Comedy Central's "Daily Show" and "Insomniac" to boldface every "D" and "S" in a web page's text. "It got some good awareness out, but whether it was something that was a little overbearing was a little hard to tell," he said.

Innovation is no longer something that can be discussed on a yearly basis. General Electric Co., the company that invented the light bulb, is constantly holding innovation labs, marketing summits and imagination breakthrough sessions to generate new ideas. "We have a three-year plan called the long-range forecast. We hold innovation last," said Dan Denson, VP-CMO. "The product life cycles have compressed. We don't have the benefit of taking years to work on the next innovation."

Making one of many stops in his ongoing "Long Tail" tour, Wired editor Chris Anderson swung by MPlanet to present many of the same statistics from his hit book. However, as his theory has been picked up by a growing number of business sources, a few misconceptions have arisen. "Anytime someone sees a curve, they think there's a long-tail," he said. "That's just the shape of any marketplace. [The long-tail is] when the demand starts shifting from the head down to the tail and the variety of tools to search through is longer."

Talk to consumers
Mr. Anderson and co-panelist Jason Zajac, general manager-social media at Yahoo, later laid out the merits of participating in brand discussions with your consumers. Mr. Anderson, for example, has a Technorati feed that sends him streaming updates of any blog mentions of his book or Wired, giving him many opportunities to clear his publications' good name personally. Yahoo, for its part, has even had a team member actively field questions on message boards for its Super Bowl ad contest with Dorito's, reclaiming some of the control that is sacrificed in a large-scale consumer-generated campaign.

While the sheer number of media choices consumers have today goes without saying, the number of sources they actually choose in each medium remains the same: three to four. "And getting into that consideration mindset is everything," said Jennifer Dorian, TBS and TNT's senior VP-branding and network strategy. "People will believe what marketers tell them. People believe in brands. What story are we telling with our brands?"

Some psychographics
Ms. Dorian's panel was a surprising exercise in psychographics, with nods to the slogans of Crest and FedEx as effective ways of allowing consumers to associate a single service with a product, despite many competing brands. The question to ask about your brand is, "Are you easy to categorize?"

MPlanet saved its most startling statistics for its closing sessions. More than 45 million people access Yahoo on a daily basis, a good 20 million more than those who watch "Desperate Housewives" every Sunday. "It kind of raises the question as to why more advertising dollars haven't flowed online," said Gian Fulgoni, chairman and co-founder of ComScore Networks. Why? Because consumers are still citing TV as the most effective way to reach them with advertising messages, he said, a sure sign that the subjects discussed at the next MPlanet -- scheduled for April 2008 -- will be remarkably advanced from this year.
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