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swood

Dear Ad Agency and In-House Agency Creative Leaders:

By | News

How To Deal With Seven Universal Gripes And Other Sticky Issues

You will read this article as a blatant pitch for a new way of organizing flexible work structures in the agency world. Independent shops and in-house agencies are battling traditional creative challenges, sampled in the sticky notes above. As always. Fortunately, for those willing to shed the inertia of old structures and explore new ones, today there are non-traditional resources to engage — without giving up control or giving in to someone else’s ego/agenda.

Boom Ideanet represents a new kind of work model; a nimble resource designed to adjust to the ever-changing demands on a creative department. Open your mind and we’ll show you how the model adapts to address many of the challenges indicated in that array of sticky notes above. (Of course, there are other options for external talent strategies which we’ll also mention as a nod to journalistic integrity. Feel free to download a creative resources infographic here.)

The header visual above is lifted from a Digiday article by Yuyu Chen, published Oct 26, 2017. The article was ostensibly about the gripes agencies have with Facebook. But in the body of the article, the image represented above is featured, capturing sticky notes agency teams jotted down confessing to more general challenges they are facing today. (In spite of the article’s title, Facebook has nothing to do with addressing them!)

 

Problem: “Breaking with tradition - willingness to try new things.”

Solution: Even though the audience for both Digiday and anyone likely to see this article in LinkedIn is deeply rooted in the creative world, we tend to resist experimentation.

We get protective of our organizational structure. We feel like any outreach will reflect poorly on our own capacity to originate ideas and solutions. We believe only familiar resources are trustworthy when we finally do admit to needing a boost. We tend to think we'll lose control the minute we invite outside thinking. You are henceforth invited to overthrow those ingrained ways of thinking. Boom.

Problem: “Agency Ops are a mess. Clients don't want to pay for our inefficiency and it gets in the way of doing best work.”

Solution: Staff smartly. Reward properly. Set up work flow and resource management tools. Know who has capacity. (Try a tool like Bric.) And have a flex model poised to engage -- say with Boom (or Boss or Aquent or Creative Circle or your favorite freelancers). You'll be more efficient, more resilient, more nimble, more productive. Your clients will be getting more than they pay for and you'll have the time and the energy and the leadership to do your best work.

Problem: “Smaller budgets, faster timelines and having to think/work more strategically even faster as the landscape changes.”

Solution: Like so many of these perfectly reasonable “gripes,” change is the landscape. Run a tighter, leaner in-house team and set up an external SWAT team with an endless supply of quick response talent through Boom. It's designed for change.

Problem: “Creative burn-out through inefficient client relationships & pitches.”

Solution: Almost every creative department pushes its staff to the limit. Late nights. Long weekends. Clients (even while your reason for being) can change deliverables, briefs, timelines, not to mention change their minds; they can demand fresh takes on recycled projects ... and much more. No wonder exhaustion comes with the territory. A model like Boom's offers teams instant relief. Engage its vetted, disciplined network for an injection of fresh thinking to reinvigorate projects, disrupt group think, or just stir things up.

Problem: “Hiring open-form skill sets to help future-proof our work force.”

Solution: Dip into an on-demand network like that of Boom Ideanet to access skill sets and specialized channel or category experience to generate concepts and even execute elements, while you assess on-going need or recruit the particular talent required.

Problem: “Time and resources combined with expertise.”

Solution: This one gets at the fundamental problem, doesn't it? Agencies and in-house teams like the staffing model. You learn the business. You bring a discipline or set of experiences to bear. But even that has limits when workload exceeds on-hand resources. A vetted network like that of Boom offers an off-line alternative. There when you need it. Not adding to overhead when you don't. PetSmart cultivated a ready pool of on-brand thinkers ready to leap into action whenever needed via Boom. See next gripe.

Problem: “Organizing an agency workforce to meet the demands of continually changing campaign structures.”

Solution: Flex with changing demand by trying a network model like Boom Ideanet. Easier than freelancers, way more firepower for slightly more cost.

PetSmart's in-house agency did it for campaigns and production; tripling creative output on the same budget. All it took was a forward-thinking leaders (like you!) CMO (John Alpaugh) and ECD (Shane McCall).

Too much selling? Yeah. But breaking with tradition sometimes requires breaking the rules. Boom. #boomyouragency #boomyourbrand

Signed Swood

PS: Again, to download a free infographic on six creative resource options, go here.

Boom RSS Feed: WSJ Article On New Apps for Freelancers

By | News

NOTE: We have literally copied and pasted this article from the Wall Street Journal because it’s describing some truly useful tools for freelancers. (Links rarely work without a subscription, but here it is: https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-hottest-new-apps-for-freelancers-1511752080 )

Freelancers of all stripes are becoming a huge part of the workforce. And software companies are scrambling to help them do their job.

They’re taking tech products once designed for small companies and reworking them to serve the needs of solo operators. In many cases, this software targets corners of the freelance world—like health care and taxes—that work very differently than they do for other small businesses and that freelancers have long had to figure out on their own.

“The more prevalent this way of working becomes, the more we’ll see apps or companies emerging to make it easier,” says Diane Mulcahy, author of “The Gig Economy” and a professor on the topic at Babson College. “If you’re in the gig economy, you’re not just doing your primary job, you’re also doing back-office work, invoicing, paying quarterly taxes, managing social media, doing marketing, business development, figuring out your own health-care and retirement benefits.”

The potential market is huge. Depending on which report you read, people working in the gig economy—alternatively called freelancers, flex workers, consultants or independent workers—will comprise 30% to 50% of the U.S. labor force by 2020. Although often described as a monolith, gig workers are as diverse as the traditional workforce.

Some take on lower-paid on-demand tasks for companies like Uber, TaskRabbit or Postmates. Others are highly paid, specialized consultants who use niche skills on complex projects for large clients with big budgets. Still others work in creative fields, doing everything from commodity jobs such as churning out content for a website to higher-paid contracts like designing a new brand.

Here’s a look at some of the new software on offer and what it can do for freelancers.

Untangling taxes: Tax rules for solo workers are quite different than those for a limited-liability company or other type of small business. Expenses are tracked differently, for instance, and different write-offs are permitted. Now established makers of tax software—as well as new entrants—are reworking existing products or devising new ones to handle those specialized regulations.

One of the biggest names getting involved is Intuit . The financial-software giant beta-tested QuickBooks Self-Employed in 2014 and formally launched it in 2015. The program provides information and forms that gig workers need to manage their finances and comply with various tax requirements. It is also specifically designed primarily for smartphones to accommodate gig workers, especially drivers and delivery people, who are frequently on the go.

In its August earnings, Intuit said there are now 390,000 subscribers, quadrupling over the past year. It expects that growth to continue.

Handling the books: As with taxes, freelancers face different challenges handling accounting and billing than startups do.

Wave, an app and traditional software offering, has run marketing campaigns targeted at industries where freelancers tend to work, such as photography and web design. When people sign on to the service, which also covers smaller startups, they see information specific to their industry when they’re getting set up, and get suggestions about what various forms should include. For example, a photographer might see usage-rights offerings as a feature to add to their invoice.

Treating health care: With health-care coverage, small businesses have an advantage over solo workers: They can get group insurance, which carries a discount over policies for individuals and covers all employees. Freelancers don’t have access to those policies, and must go to insurance providers and see what they offer—typically policies with higher premiums and no discounts.

Stride Health raised $13 million in 2015 to build a platform targeted specifically at gig workers who don’t get health insurance. The software sifts through available offerings to recommend the plan that gives freelancers the most bang for the buck, and then walks them through the process in much the same way that a human-resources staffer at an employer might do for an employee.

For some solo entrepreneurs, the software delivers some of the benefits of working at a traditional business. The company has joined with some of the largest names in the gig economy, including Uber, Postmates and TaskRabbit, to aggregate their gig workers to get group discounts from insurance providers.

Organizing projects: Scheduling can become a big headache for solo workers, who frequently take on multiple jobs at the same time and don’t have the option to spread them among employees.

Completo, a to-do app originally aimed at corporate executives, helps those juggling different projects maximize productivity and minimize stress.

For instance, the company lets gig workers break a large project into smaller steps to help them organize many assignments at once, and offers the ability to set progressive reminders (such as reminding them five days before something is due, and then the day before). The company has also updated its marketing to specifically target freelancers, with language about juggling multiple “side hustles” and working with a variety of teams on different projects. The company says downloads are 10 times higher—from 100 downloads a week to more than 1,000 a week—since making these changes.

Ms. Westervelt is a writer in Oakland, Calif. Email reports@wsj.com.

Diversity: Your Surprise Button

By | News

Disruption. Reinvention. Transformation. Those are the buzz words that have shaped much of the editorial in the ad agency biz over the last few years. Rightfully so. A curious force that goes by the name Digital has been reshaping every facet of the trade for more than a decade. And continues to do so. But it was at a big trade conference hosted in the name of transformation (4A’s 2016) that another buzz word got a grip on the conversation: DIVERSITY. And it’s still buzzy months later.

The issue of diversity surfaced in the wake of too many Mad Men scenarios in too many upper management circles in too many geographies, typically expressed in gender inequality and sexual harassment, ethnic tensions and lookalike cultures (rather than lookalike audiences).

Let’s agree: it is ironic that an industry so shaped by culture, so reflective of culture, so immersed in culture, lags so far behind culture in erasing boundaries, shattering stereotypes and rising above exploitation.

Ali Merifield has wise words regarding diversity in her May 11, 2017, column in Campaign US:

“Diverse teams mean people coming together from different backgrounds, experiences, cultures and educational baselines.” – Ali Merifield

Notice she doesn’t even mention gender or ethnicity, which are the diversity hot buttons. Perhaps that’s by design. Ms. Merifield’s wisdom is in going beyond the headlines to get at the real values that make diversity worth seeking:

• celebrating individual perspective,

• stimulating remixes of culture and cultures,

• dissolving echo chambers,

• welcoming discomfort.

Of course, agencies can pursue diversity in staffing and even approach the mix of thinking it’s meant to deliver. But the aim of diversity will be scuttled if clients do not also accept or demand diverse thinking themselves. Clients have been known to train agencies to turn over strategies and ideas that fall into a comfort zone, in the name of branding. But even brands languish that seek stasis rather than dynamism. Clients, like their agencies, are subject to their own echo chambers, even as they often do lip service to seeking an expansive world of ideas.

To borrow from David Krakauer of Santa Fe Institute, we need to be open to SURPRISE. In this algorithm-driven digital world, we are growing accustomed to being served up films, songs, books and products that match our preferences. In social platforms we immerse ourselves in virtual gatherings of like-minded “friends.” Adjacency is efficient and comforting and can even be interesting. For a while. But finally, it grows boring.

“The tools we now possess, which are so incredible, should be allowing us to have freedoms that are unprecedented.” – David Krakauer

Algorithms end up narrowing our field of view when in fact, they should be instruments of surprise. And frankly, for the foreseeable future, it is the “human algorithm” that promises to be the most creative force we can imagine. As it always has been. We can all benefit from a surprise button as we surf through experiences, both virtual and real, all the while becoming more creative rather than more silo’d. Frankly diversity is not merely the just goal of enterprises and organizations, it makes the world a far more interesting – surprising – place!

Diversity Is That Surprise Button

We may achieve diversity by staffing diverse talents. But we should be doing everything we can to elicit additional points of view. Even ideas that are off-center can lead to a fresh place. Clients should revel in surprise, step out of the comfort zone, see where discomfort takes them. Agencies should engineer themselves to generate surprise. Diversity will deliver, assuming we have the will to pursue it.

“Championing diversity won’t be easy, but it will take you into new directions you didn’t expect.” – Ali Merifield

Boom Ideanet is one of those new directions: An on demand diversity resource that delivers creative thinking from trusted outsiders in a model you’d never expect to generate so much value. In-house agencies, agencies, brands can press the surprise button by engaging Boom. Diversity by design. Boom connects a network of talented people from across the geographic and cultural spectrum. Members hail from 25 U.S. states and 17 countries. While the network is vetted and members sign non-disclosure agreements, they are never asked to identify their gender or ethnicity. When they accept creative challenges they are asked to respect brand guidelines, but more importantly, they are expected to dig into their individual orientations, leverage their cultural experiences — and differences — to create original answers and offer up unexpected solutions. It’s a plug-and-play creative model predicated entirely on diversity.

Diversity, finally, becomes a kind of disruption. Which takes us full circle.

Boom.

Welcome to Anywhere

By | Blog

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“Good Ideas Can Come From Anywhere.”

Yeah, you’ve heard that one before. The claim has champions and detractors. Consider the LinkedIn posting by Jeremy Feldman in the Creative Directors Group, referring to Bob Hoffman’s essay on the “Devaluation of Creativity.” And, as I shared in Mr. Feldman’s comment stream, this argument is an endless loop. Both sides will endure, which is as it should be. But I’ll still weigh in.

Creative Directors get defensive about the source of ideas. Understandable, perhaps. Traditionally, agencies have had the corner on creativity, owning the conception and execution of great ideas. That may once have been the state of affairs. I dare say, no longer.

Believe me, there are great CDs and great creative agencies; agencies who have built hugely successful careers and businesses on the backs of great ideas. But great ideas are rare, even at those shops. Index the curve of idea quality for even the most notable agencies, and I’m confident you’ll see peaks and valleys, if not outright rises and falls. Not even the most renowned and disciplined creative talent can pull off a category-defining or brand-shaping bit of brilliance at will.

That’s why, perhaps even secretly, creative directors would love to have an endless source of ideas: A trustable source of fresh thinking to sift through, to finesse, to riff on. A resource that starts off being close-in, while also stretching the boundaries, manages to be both fresh and disciplined, as well as honoring a brief and respecting the brand.

Imagine: An “anywhere” that CDs can tap into any time.

Thanks to technology and idle creative capacity, anywhere is everywhere; as a network of vetted talent, distributed across the States and around the globe, designed to work with agencies and CDs. Not against them.

  • CDs don’t have to give up control.
  • CDs don’t have to abandon the brand or embrace user-generated content.
  • CDs don’t have to exploit the talent or break the bank.
  • CDs do get to do what they do: identify, refine, extend, enhance … direct.

Good ideas are out there. On occasion rare ideas. Especially when triggered by inspired and inspiring briefs. CDs can now focus a world of idea energy on a challenge. CDs can apply their genius to spotting a promising idea AND nurturing it into greatness. Just as CDs have always done. Boom.

-Swood

How To Avoid Falling Victim To Sameness And Stale Marketing

By | News

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It’s likely that Mr. Tom Nowak of BestBuy, is presenting some invigorating ideas for stimulating creativity among in-house teams at the AdAge Brand Summit, Chicago, May 5, 2016. He certainly justified in reinforcing the importance of  “staying true to brand values.” It’s tricky for even highly familiar teams to meet that standard. But there can be a price to be paid in doing so: routinized thinking. Or as described in the agenda, “Sameness and Stale Marketing.” These are real issues. With some traditional and some not so traditional ways to address them.

It does makes sense for agencies (in-house or independent) to staff a creative department. Not just because that’s “the way we’ve always done it;” but because there’s a learning curve on a client’s business. Full-time creative teams earn the advantage of learning the brand personality, corporate mandatories and preferences, as well as audience mindsets and behaviors and category issues. That’s what it means to “stay true.”

However there are risks — when staying true also puts teams in a rut:

  1. One risk is that there is always the challenge to stay fresh, to side-step routine thinking. There is a tendency to narrow the boundaries or rehash old territory when the brand calendar cycles around to the same promotion or media strategy year after year.
  2. A second is that the left-field thinking that often comes from “newbies” — even while going out of brand bounds — can indeed lead to unexpected and positive outcomes.
  3. A third might just be that many agencies, especially in the current employment climate, simply tend to overload their creative staff; too many late nights, too many weekends — just when a new business pitch shows up and all hands are needed on deck.

The comfort-zone answer in these cases tends to be to bring in freelancers. Most CDs have a few go-to free agents he or she counts on to step in and save the day. But what if those folks are booked? What if they don’t have experience in the category or the channel required for this RFP? What if what you really need is a volume of thinking, more than one or two freelancers can generate?

There is an entirely novel option:

  • What if the creative department leadership could call on a vetted network of disciplined creative talent who can step in almost instantly with background in a channel or experience in a category? You’d have a ready pool of specialists to bridge the gap as needed.
  • What if you could call on experience in digital? Direct mail? Campaign concepts? You’d have an abundance of thinking that by its nature pushes the boundaries, explores new avenues of thought, reveals new ways of unraveling old problems.
  • What if the ECD could tap a dynamic network of creatives capable of honoring brand guidelines, respecting a brief. YOu’d have a resource that could turn around original ideas in short order?
  • What if you could engage this creative talent confidentially? You’d have an expansive pool of thinking without going public with your activity; ideal for pitches and campaign development.

This is not about user-generated content or ideas (ala Doritos Crash The SuperBowl). This is not about multitudes of hand-raisers who’ll do almost anything once — for $5. This is about a connected, distributed, vetted network of NDA’d creative experience. At your fingertips. It’s a way to bolster your creative resources and generate original ideas not just on demand, but on brand. More conveniently than wrangling freelancers. More affordably than one might think.

It’s not crowdsourcing. It’s ideasourcing. It’s about as far as agencies can get from stilted, stale sameness.

Want to know about the varieties of creative crowdsourcing and how Boom Ideanet is different? Find out more when you download our free eBook here: http://boomideanet.com/transformation/

No obligation! And no drip email follow-up campaigns. (Another novelty of Boom.)

How Agencies & Brands Can Tap The Sharing Economy Without Sharing Plans In The Process

By | News

FOR YOUR EYES ONLY

More and more categories of work are being addressed in crowd-based platforms, here in the “maturing” days (to borrow from Jeremiah Owyang) of the sharing or gig economy. The willingness of free agents makes it possible. Digital connectivity makes it practical.

Platforms are proliferating. What began as easily parseable tasks, such as coding and data entry, has now moved up the complexity spectrum to include creative challenges: design, video, campaign concepts and more.

However, most platforms are open to public view and merely request a social media account to log in. That may be fine on some projects. But how many brands or agencies want to open their books on crucial marketing strategies and executions? Who wants to expose those plans not only to anybody with a Facebook account, but to every competitor out there?

Doritos might – ala The Crash The Super Bowl Contest. But most marketers would prefer to keep plans confidential until launched. At the same time, gaining access to the deep creative resources of a crowd is inviting.

Finally: Firepower With A Firewall.

Fortunately, there is a creative crowdsourcing platform that offers both the creative energy teams need and the confidentiality they want: Boom Ideanet.

  • Boom offers clients creativity AND confidentiality.
  • All members of Boom have signed non-disclosure agreements.
  • They’ve shared examples of their work and identified brand and channel experience.
  • They know how to honor brand guidelines and respect mandatories.

So marketers can tap the idle creativity capacity of a crowd, without exposing product launches or unveiling campaigns — until the time is right.

The approach is perfect for meeting peak demand when the creative team is loaded up or the team just needs an abundant supply of fresh thinking.

On the QT.

Learn more here. Also download free eBook.

How The Creative Department Of The Future Saves Time & Money Now: Three Examples.

By | News

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Over the first four years of Boom’s existence many of challenges revolved around the conception and production of broadcast advertising. Today, more and more brands and agencies are waking up to the deep creative capacity available through Boom for campaign concepts. It’s an expectedly easy way to handle the ebb and flow of work load without staffing up or sacrificing quality. Boom offers an approach that pleases CFOs and satisfies ECDs. No easy task! Here are three examples:

East Coast Agency – New Business Pitch

An agency engaged Boom to help develop creative for a new business pitch in the specialized pharma category. The firm often handles peaks in demand via freelance. But it can be a challenge to identify freelancers with the right experience, either in a category or a channel — as well as a challenge to procure more than a few ideas for review. In just six days, Boom generated more than three dozen concepts. The client was rewarded with a volume of expansive, original thinking that also honored the narrow boundaries of the brief. The agency fine-tuned six of those ideas to present to its client. Boom offered them a no hassle, disciplined creative scenario that worked fast and affordably.

Chicago Ad Agency – Working with Agency Planner & Creative Director

Boom can literally serve as an agency’s creative department. We just generated a wealth of campaign thinking for a financial services brand, under the creative direction of a Chicago shop. The planner & creative director handed off the base brief, including target audience research and brand guidelines. Boom generated a first round of loose campaign concepts. The agency reviewed the ideas just as they would have had the work been produced in-house. With additional input, we went back to assigned teams with over-arching themes, and further input to develop campaign concepts. The agency used those Boom concepts to prepare its own final presentation. You can learn more about this project here.

New York Marketing Consultancy – Working as Creative Department

A marketing firm in up-state New York generally works with a set of creative freelancers, but chose to engage Boom for fresh thinking. We collaborated on a brief, assigned the challenge to five Boom Ideanet members who each delivered “adcepts.” These rough ideas were shared with their client. They chose favorites, shared input; finalists were refined, reviewed again and a “winning” idea was chosen. We then worked with the consultancy to bring the “adcepts” into alignment with branding. It’s a novel approach that still delivers the kind of quality thinking brands expect from more traditional agency models. Find out more here.

SUBMIT: Why Crowdsourcing Invites Controversy. ENTER The Alternative.

By | News

New_Submit_Button sLanguage matters. Words have meaning.

Consider the creative crowdsourcing world. Talented people conceive a campaign concept,  produce a video, conjure up a name or slogan, or design a logo; load their creation — their intellectual property — into a web application; then press that little SUBMIT button and wait for the payout.

Seems harmless enough. But is it?

In fact, that button is far from harmless. The term “submit” may be a rather innocuous verb, but it literally does signal submission. Creators by the thousands submit themselves to the rules and stipulations and the will of platforms and clients. Often without any compensation whatsoever. In almost every crowdsourcing platform, the crowd member is a submitter. Should they choose to read the fine print, they’ll typically discover language like this:

“The Member agrees and acknowledges that all title, interest, and rights to the Works submitted for the applicable project shall be assigned in full to the Sponsor of the Project.” – Other crowdsourcing platform

Not cool. And in many cases, they’ve already been expected to supply ideas that could shape an entire business!

At Boom Ideanet – in our quest to operate an ethical crowdsourcing platform – the crowd member retains his or her intellectual property until purchased by the client or, to use the euphemistic legal term above, sponsor.

It’s part of our zeal to give the client an advantage over traditional models without taking advantage of the creator. You know, the talented, inspired, hard-working human beings who are contributing their work. That’s why we are careful about the terms we use. Enter rather than submit. Entry rather than submission. Contributor rather than submitter.

Boom shows respect from the outset:

“Entry of your ideas constitutes your agreement with these terms of entry. You will retain intellectual property rights to any ideas you suggest … unless you win.”Boom

Yes, there is competition in the Boom model. There are winners. And even losers. But we insist that the model seek a balance between competition and compensation. Otherwise, the crowd-driven platform is just a churn model that uses up talent and creates trash piles of intellectual property that benefit no one, least of all the creator! Long term, nobody wins in that scenario. Not even the sponsor.

We recognize that creative people are contributing their ideas and their thinking. But we believe they need not sign over all their rights to that idea in the simple act of clicking a button.

We accept that there will continue to be controversy around crowdsourcing. But if we start to care about even little matters like the language employed in these models, we may begin to establish sustainable crowdsourcing models that benefit all parties, including the creators.

Boom.

The NFL Draws A Different Kind Of Crowd

By | News

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“Goodell said the competitions received more than 1,000 total submissions. Not all of the ideas were brilliant, though that was sort of the point. ‘Out of what we think might be crazy, you might find a gold mine [for safety],’ he said.”

That remark was made by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, regarding the league’s exercise in crowdsourcing solutions to the concussion problem. They just declared the winners of its second “Head Health Challenge,” in an “open contest for devices or ideas that can make the game safer. The program, a joint effort among the NFL, Under Armour and General Electric, produced three winners.” (Quotes from the December 3, 2015, issue of The Wall Street Journal.)

So … even the stodgy old NFL is doing things a new way!

His position is exactly one that ad agencies, brands, and start-ups can take as well. Shake things up. Break through routine approaches and engage Boom Ideanet for a wealth of original thinking around marketing challenges.

Your “gold mine” idea could come from the most unexpected place. Boom is here to help you find it.

If you want to put some heads together, ping us. Brainstorm with our idea directors about any marketing challenge. First hour is free.

Back To School On Content @CMOCollective

By | News

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Big Data, Metrics & Analytics may be the most popular subjects in the hard knocks school of marketing right now. But CONTENT is still the topic putting many CMOs to the test. September 9 through 11, Boom participated in the “Back To School” Conference in Austin, TX, put on by The Digital Collective, Chicago. As might be expected, attendees were exposed to pleasing numbers, revealing graphs and illuminating pie charts. But content proved to be the source of, well, discontent.

Lesson One: In spite of all the buzz and purported experts, most brands are just fending for themselves when it comes to content. Many are daring to dive in and work through the how-to’s via trial and error. Some are standing eagerly on the sidelines, awaiting that moment when it all becomes clear or the imperative too pressing. Whatever the current stance, the executives responsible for figuring out this content “thing” are asking a lot of questions!

  • What constitutes content?
  • What content is meaningful to my customers?
  • Who creates content?
  • How does a brand brand content?
  • Where does content strategy come from?
  • How is content distributed?
  • If I host it on my own web properties, how do I drive traffic to my content?
  • How do I staff to handle content?
  • How do I go outside for content?
  • How do I budget for content creation, distribution, tracking?
  • How do I track interaction and engagement and, daresay, conversion?
  • Who’s doing content right?
  • How do they know if and when a content strategy is successful?
  • And perhaps one of the most challenging questions of all (addressed by Bryan Jones, VP North America & Commercial Marketing, Dell): Am I willing to invest in content when 80% of it may have everything to do with relationship-building and connecting personally, while only 20% has to do with selling!?

Lesson Two:  One hurdle is that the term “content” itself may be too unwieldy. Almost every conceivable kind of marketing communication has been tossed into the content bucket; from old-fashioned tv spots to text-links. That doesn’t make things any easier. Even for brands who’ve chosen to focus on one area versus another, it’s safe to say the trade is still in the pioneering days of content creation, distribution and evaluation.

Lesson Three: The carrot of measureability is being held out before us in the age of big data. The fact that content is such a conundrum is evidence enough that we still don’t know how to do it. We don’t yet know how to leverage the data we already have, learn from it and then apply that knowledge in ways that have utility for the customer and drive value for the brand. The brands who are succeeding have struck the “relevance” chord. Some are acting on the “fail fast” principle, operating on the promise that one day they’ll discover what works.

Lesson Four: There is evidence that brands are successfully “doing content.” Consider Whole Foods Market. Attendees enjoyed a Q&A with Digital Activation Leader, Nicole Lindstrom and their content partner OneSpot. Her content strategy goes beyond recipes to blog posts and guides to culinary topics and information that validates brand values, as well as the values of its passionate core customer. Their “north start” is personalization — which is likely the secret ingredient in a successful content strategy for almost any brand. After all, what is all this data for if it doesn’t ultimately lead to targeted, branded content that is meaningful to each customer?

Lesson Five: @CMOCollective indeed featured inspiring teachers:

  • Julian Aldridge, VP, Brand Evangelism & Activation, Schwab, roused our courage to create marketing with a venture capital mindset. (#killfear)
  • Bryan Jones, of Dell, illuminated us about the principles of “social selling.”
  • Philip Rather, Head of Partnership, Facebook, drove home the age-old direct marketing mantra of “right person, right message, right time,” but stirred the group with surprisingly convincing data about how FB delivers on that rubric in the new-world.
  • Stephen Webster, VP, Global Brand & Design, Mary Kay Global, shared how to be “nimble control freaks” to help a brand stay consistent, while also being adaptable enough to stay relevant to cultures and customers around the world.

Lesson Six:  Don’t give up hope. The CMO Collective introduced us to three Austin-based companies focused on addressing “content” questions like those above: Invodo, Spredfast and Umbel. Tony Weber of Time, Inc. hosted the conversation.

As for technology, Techstars offered up four start-ups who are wrangling new tools, data and metrics to shape marketing and customer experiences in the digital age: Experiment Engine, FashionMetric, MetricStory and Written.

Our Test: Here at Boom, we are applying what we learned.  Our lesson plan is to explore new and efficient ways to harness our vetted crowd’s energy to produce relevant, branded content on-demand. Stay tuned for contentment. Boom.