Content Marketing: Learn from the old Michelin Guide

article illustration by @akallevigToday, when we speak of content marketing, many think of it as something new and Internet related. It’s not, and here’s what we can learn from and old and surprisingly lean star.

Say content marketing, and most thoughts go straight to company blogs or social media marketing of web content. But if we look up the term content marketing in Wikipedia it’s defined as “any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers”. Not only is that a lot more than web postings, it has existed as mass marketing since the 19th century.

The Michelin-guide showed the way

For example, have you thought about what an early and extremely successful example of content marketing the Michelin-guide is? It’s also a brilliant example of how to build content on something exciting outside the actual product to market it – completely without talking about the less exciting product. The Michelin guide was so successful that it grew from a company brochure to become a commercial success product in it’s own right, where the restaurants in today’s edition are hardly roadside fast food, and the competition to get in there is fierce. Foodies from all over the world plan entire road trips by the guide, and will probably arrive om Michelin tires since the tire manufacturer has grown to be one of the worlds top two and has become an international megabrand. Today the guide has long since gone viral with apps, interactive maps and other spin-off products. But what can the Michelin Guide in its most fundamental form teach us about digital content marketing? Here are three things:

  1. Always start with your target group, their needs and wishes. 
    Cars need tires, but cars don’t buy them – people do. For the majority of people, car tires are a low interest product. Most of us don’t think about them until we need new ones, and hope it’s not soon. We don’t like to have to buy them. The car enthusiasts are the exception, but they’re a tiny group compared to the total of car owners. So what if you instead look at a target group that goes for long drives and thereby wears out tires more frequently – what do that have in common? Sooner or later they have to stop for food! This you can know without asking (which was good for Michelin, since market research was a bit more cumbersome in those days). It addresses a primary need, universal to all humans who own a car. Thereby the guide solved a real problem for the target group long before McDonalds or the GPS could help you on your way. What is it you target group really needs or wants that indirectly sells your products?
  2. Writing about your product is not always the best way to sell it. 
    Users who drive a lot wear out their tires and need new ones more often. If your brand name is top-of-mind when they do, they’ll definitely consider or even chose you. Therefore the goal of the marketing was to make the target group want to drive more and longer – maybe even a detour. So why not write about restaurants so fabulous they are worth extra mileage? Not only does this give many more exciting things to write about, it is more interesting for the user on a continued basis. If you don’t care about the tires until you need new ones, how often would you want to read about them, really? I don’t know about you, but good food in great travel destinations I could read about every day, travelling or not. The competitors were probably all still only writing about the fabulous attributes of their tires while Michelin could soon laugh all the way to the restaurant.
    So challenge yourself and step out of the brand you work for a moment. See if you have an equally unique perspective that is relevant to your product and marketing goals without talking about the product itself. Chances are, it will separate you from the rest – in a relevant way. And creating content will become much easier and more fun as well.
  3. Adjust the development continually based on response/ action. 
    The Michelin Guide started as a simple guide for roadside food in France but has developed into an international icon of the good life – and a status symbol. A promo from a tire producer – who would have thought? Many advertisers have trouble trusting the actions and advice from target group enough to act upon it. Having the target group change on you doesn’t make it easier (from mainstream to gourmet and broader again, in this case). Many things indicate that the Michelin brothers were visionary here as well – they kept track. On the company webpage we can read how André Michelin in 1920 found the then free guide from Michelin used to prop up an unsteady workbench in an auto shop and concluded that people only respect what they pay for. From there the guide went from being financed by advertising to becoming a purchase product without ads. To be worth the money the guide needed to be upgraded, and the rest is an historic evolution of a brand. Remind you of any Internett-startups you know? This shows a bold, user-centric approach, way ahead of it’s time.  It’s also remarkably lean long before lean management and much less lean marketing was even thought of. To this day many advertisers refuse to trust the customer this much in spite of the fact that good, valid data is now right at their fingertips. Both gathering the data and using them in a meaningful, analytical whole is so much easier and safer today, so use it for all its worth.

 Content Marketing is just so much easier now

With today’s Internet you have easy access to greater and more secure data, better and cheaper distribution channels and simpler follow-up and development. You also have a short way to many more customers in many more channels at once. So the next time you feel content marketing is just too much work, think of the Michelin Brothers going from auto shop to auto shop to see how their brochure is doing. You don’t have to visit a single customer to find out how your marketing works – you can reach out to all of them in seconds – even the ones you don’t have yet, across the globe.

All you have to remember is that still it’s all about generating valuable content that your target group will both need and share. All to keep you top of mind the next time they need what you have to offer.

Don’t let them fool you: Lean creative is also brilliant creative

main illustration lean creativity

Trapped creativity, or just a felt moose on a speaker in a bird cage?

Back in the day when I was an Advertising Art Director we believed that the initial creative process was best kept to the Art Director and Copy Writer in a tight-lipped little team. Creativity was our magic, and we pulled it out of magical brainstorming processes alone. Sure there was a brief, but the creative process went greatly unchecked by other than subjective opinions along the way until released. Since marketing effect couldn’t really be measured properly, each campaign was a fresh start to do something new, often with little learning from the previous campaign. Ah, the carefree fun we had!

data driven creativity is the future, like it or not

Surprisingly many still think this way, even with all the new measuring and testing possibilities we have today. They cling tightly to the idea that true creative marketing is a magical secret process that will only be corrupted by data and testing. Some fear the consumer won’t understand the idea before the campaign is finished, others argue that competitors will steal it if it’s out there. So they spend insane amounts of money producing fancy TV-campaigns with no idea wether they will fly or crash until production is done and media is spent. Meanwhile, lean marketers like Google are laughing all the way to the bank. Creatively, too.

So what is the flaw here?

1. The fancy ideas that win aren’t necessarily the creative ones. Nor are they the ones the customer wants. They tend to be what the team want to produce or what the client wants. In a lean process where you test early, you’ll often see that the best ideas will shine already in their roughest form because the idea stays in focus rather than the execution.

2. The advertiser puts all their eggs in one basket – with no proof of success. In a lean creative process you could test a lot of ideas at an early stage. Even the crazy ones you thought too wild. This can stir up some great creative processes. And sometimes,  your customer will be ready for more than you think, and an idea that would never make it past the client will win the market over. Creatively.

3. They miss a great opportunity to be creative with their customers rather than against them. In todays social climate your ambassadors are the true gold. Involving your customers not only secures that the advertising speaks to them, it builds ownership and loyalty to the finished campaign. I am frequently surprised how eager consumers are to share great campaigns, especially the ones that involve real user input and involvement of all sorts. They don’t have to be as involved as the Old Spice 2010 campaign, but lean or not this shows the power of user involvement from an agency that dared. Would these commercials be as funny or viral if they had been invented by a professional team alone? I have my doubts.

A lean love story

Not surprisingly, Google took to Lean Marketing early. I remember when the Google concept Search On appeared on YouTube. A few full blown executions there later it was clear that one idea separated itself from the rest in terms of viewer engagement. The winner was Parisian Love, and it went on to become Google’s acclaimed first Superbowl ad ever. A low cost production with a huge following before it even aired. Now that’s fool proof creative and ad spending.

Let the data give creative freedom

Wether it’s previously gathered data on user behavior or it’s what you learn when you test your fresh ideas, it’s how you use it that determines weather it makes or breaks creativity. Used wisely it gives great opportunity to experiment and explore to create brilliant creative without wasting money. So

  • Get to know your data (including the quirky details that inspire)
  • test lots of ideas early, even the wild ones
  • test often on real segments users
  • Use what they say and do to refine your work

and you will have memorable campaigns and sustainable marketing at a low risk that your target group will love before they’ve even seen it.

Lean Marketing in 8 minutes

In December I introduced Lean Marketing at 8 Minutes of Digital Marketing here in Oslo. As most of my short presentations the PowerPoint contained hardly a word. Now I’ve added a few and translated it all to English to share it with you.

Minimum viable Marketing presentation?

Lean Marketing has not caught on here in Norway yet. Some will blame our lack of real financial crisis in this country. Although that may be true, It’s a dangerous and very short-sighted excuse that can put us at a disadvantage in the future. We all need to strive for sustainable business models for a better tomorrow, regardless of financial situation right now. So how to convince people here it’s time to change when they don’t have the pressing incentive of no choice but go lean to survive? Where to start? In the spirit of lean the answer is obvious: Start simple and build.

LEAN AND 8 MINUTES OF DIGITAL – THE PERFECT MATCH

Well, I checked out many Lean Marketing presentations and processes around the web and it struck me how complicated most of them are. Convoluted models of fremeworks with so many bricks you need the place before you can start I wouldn’t know where to begin. In short, It doesn’t look or feel lean nor agile, so why would anyone believe it is? No, If I’m going to market lean marketing, then lean is what everything needs to be. It has to be boiled down, simple. How better then, to make it lean than to challenge yourself to squeeze it into the strict 8-minute timed presentation format of 8 Minutes of Digital Marketing? That’s what i did, and what you see above is the result, more or less. It was challenging, enlightning and lots of fun, too. And I clocked in at 8 minutes blank – on the nose :)
So if the show is a bit skinny for your taste, the timing is the reason. If it’s cryptic, but makes you curious to know more, then get in touch – I’d love to discuss, explain and learn. This is all a work in progress – a first sprint, if you will.

Go lean through mobile – an agile idea

Measuring ribbonYesterday, while I was gathering inspiration and new digital marketing trend tidbits at the Ad:Tech New York conference, a great idea was presented that triggered another idea in my head, and I want to share it with you while it’s fresh. I think this can not only make us all better mobile marketers, but leaner marketers and communicators as well.

Tomorrow is mobile

One of the most inspiring sessions at todays ad:tech was Tomorrows Digital Landscape, an informal conversational interview between Dave Morgan of Simulmedia and  Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures. The latter is not only the source of great digital insight over decades, but has an extraordinary skill for drawing the big picture in such clear lines and plain language that you wonder why you hadn’t thought of it yourself. It was filmed and I highly recommend watching the full version. There were lots of tidbits throughout, but one particularly clear suggestion from Wilson caught my inspiration and triggered my imagination. One of the less surprising major trends throughout the conference is the importance of mobile, but Wilson has an interesting fresh approach to what to do: “Make a mobile app and make it the core of your web presence.” Instead of the usual gruelling stripping of the website to make it mobile friendly, this suggests starting with the simple and building on it for the web site. This boldly suggests that it’s better to scale up than down, and isn’t that so true for most situations in life really?

starting to smell like great lean

What if you combined this with lean principles? What if you started with a minimum viable truly mobile product (MVTMP?) based on a hypothesis of what it should do for your target group. The product doesn’t have to be an app – a responsive design mobile page may actually even better for our more scalable purpose. The important thing is to start as simple as possible. What can we give that our customers on the go needs? Although you start with mobile needs it’s highly unlikely that these needs are completely irrelevant to your web clients – you’ll ad more for them later.

Short and long term benefits

Based on that you test and explore as you build your site in small iterations. While the obvious bonus is the increasingly important mobile presence, there are many other benefits:

  • Clear and concise communication
  • Optimal user experience for every device
  • User-centric from the onset
  • new, controlled environment that’s testable piece by piece
  • a sustainable, flexible solution that can grow and change as your business goals and the market requires
  • and last but not least, a great way to get started with lean marketing

So how about making mobile digital presence you know you need your stepping stone to leaner marketing?

Coach OR advisor OR mentor? No, it’s not the same.

Pile of hatsAre there too many coaches in the kitchen? Definitely! When coaching became popular in business a few years back many consultants and advisors jumped on the trendy bandwagon, eager to call themselves coaches without checking the implications. The resulting mishmash not only devalues the field of coaching, it makes for messy work processes. There’s a right time for coaching, advice, teaching, process leadership, consulting and mentoring, just not all at once. Here’s why and how.

The Coach

Defined: The main (and most often misunderstood) thing that separates coaching from the others titles is that the coach does not give any answers. A true coach uses tested techniques to lead the coachee to find their own answers. The questions should be open and guiding, no pushing or coaxing allowed.

Marketing use: Strategic. I use coaching in the initial phase of a project to discover, together with the client, the core of what they really need and want. It’s ideal for establishing values and goals. I get pure and valuable insight and understanding before I start advising, while the client gains clarity, ownership and ultimately a better integrated solution.

If you’re interested in learning more about coaching or finding a coach, check out The International Coach Federation . They hold the standard for the field and certify coaches as well as coaching educations accordingly, including CTI, where I have my training.

The advisor

Defined: The Advisor does just that: she advises. The advise is usually based on her experience as it relates to a speciality, and her interpretation of what the client needs in that area. Of these three roles this one is the broadest, and can be used in a variety of roles – teaching, consulting, team or process leadership, etc. This is the area where you get to bring something new to the table and to show your special skills. Most of us are eager to get to this, so unfortunately many spend too little time really listening to the clients needs before they start solving the perceived assignment. Not infrequently they come up with clever, but not necessarily fitting or lasting solutions without the proper groundwork. An advisory role can easily be combined with hands-on implementation.

Marketing use: Since I am a marketing professional, this is the role I am most often called upon to have. Most people hire me to use my advertising experience to improve theirs. I often start workshops with teaching about the possibilities before the collaborative sessions start. Then I switch roles to process leader. I advise when I work as a consultant, and also when I follow by giving advice and making suggestions based on web analytics.

the Mentor

Defined: The mentor is called upon primarily for her experience. She is a guiding star, most likely with a success the mentee identifies with and would like to replicate. She shares of her success formula to help others, but is rarely directly involved in the work of the mentee. On the contrary – the distance is part of the value, so she can maintain and contribute with a bird’s eye view.

Marketing use: For clients who choose to handle marketing themselves, a mentor gives them a useful external perspective. After all, marketing is all about connecting with people on the outside. When you are on the inside it’s easy to loose sight because you are too close to the product. You can fall into the traps of talking to yourself in tribal formulations, product codes, or irrelevant marketing. That’s when it’s good to have a mentor with a different angle. My mentoring has usually  been for workshop clients where I know their products as their goals, so I am able to efficiently dive into their situation and give my advice while keeping a keen eye on the broad strokes. As a mentor I work to make you better.

So you see, each role has its distinct merits and advantages. They also have their own “language” of communication. Many of us are required to wear more than one of these hats in our jobs, and it makes our lives interesting. But wear them all at once and you’re likely to become a confused, marketing schizophrenic.

How to spot a mixer

So if your coach comes to you and start telling you what to do, she’s not coaching, but advising. If she starts asking you leading questions, such as “Have you considered using social media marketing?” she’s not coaching, but might be mentoring. But if she asks you, upon your offering an interest in social media marketing “How do you see that fulfilling your marketing goals?” you might be looking at a coach. Follow along, and you’re probably about to find out that you have a lot more resources to draw upon than you thought you did.

Whichever you are or have, make sure working together inspires!

Annette

How can anyone be against marketing ROI?

When I was starting my little agency and the name Webroi first came up, I met some skepticism. A lot of people aren’t marketing to make more money, was one of the arguments. This shocked me a bit, for to me ROI in marketing should be a no brainer. Here’s how.

In pinball, ROI is measured in time

What ROI should mean in marketing

ROI means return on investment. Positive ROI means getting back a value grater than what you put in. Negative ROI means the opposite – getting back less than you invested. So far so good. The misconception begins when you limit this value to money. Especially when you assume that by value in return it means a dollar amount in return. This may work for the financial industry, where this acronym apparently originated, but for marketing ROI or ROMI(Return of Marketing Investment) this definition short-changes the potential.

ROMI is more than money

Your marketing investment includes money, time (which we all know is money) and possibly some other assets (reputation etc). Your return, however, is interdependent on your goal for the marketing activity. If your goal is sales, then this can be measured in  money. If, however, your goal is to raise awareness for a public cause, this can be completely different. It may be volunteers, petition signatures, followers, advocates or sponsors. It can even be press coverage or politicial awareness for lobbying, for all I know. The point is, if you get more of whatever your value is than you invested, then you have positive ROI. If not, It’s negative.

A ROI example

If you have $5 000 dollars to get you 100 new members by 2013 and your Google Analytics account pr 31.12.2012 shows 1000 new members that track to these advertising spendings, then thats a great ROI. Instead of each member costing you $50 dollars they cost you $5. Money saved may not be money earned in this case, but it’s an opportunity to get more for your money. Who doesn’t want that? Wether you’re spending tax payers money or that of your sponsors, investors or your own hard earned cash, I sure hope this is your goal.

The nature of the marketing beast

Now think about the nature of marketing in general: Hasn’t the whole point of marketing always been to get more back than you invested? Although it’s harder to measure in most traditional media than it is on the Internet, the goal has always been positive ROI. Why else bother?

3 simple steps to web marketing ROI:

  1. Set SMART goals. Smart stands for Specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and time-bound. Without this you can’t measure to find out the ROI. Remember, It’s better to start with a goal you have to adjust than no goal at all – intelligent  “guestimation” is allowed until the numbers are in.
  2. Get ready to measure right from the start. Make sure your website is  hooked up to an Analytics tool like Google Analytics (free) and that it is set up to measure on what your goals are. It’s no point in counting visitors when what you need to know is how many signed the membership form, for example. Even if you have others doing the work for you I strongly recommend to learn to understand your own data. The ad agency and your IT department are not looking for the same things as you are in the data.
  3. Optimize your optimizations. Do more of what works, less of what does not. If someone else is doing the marketing for you, make sure they do this. Ask questions based on the data in your analytics. Good web marketing for ROI isn’t just a campaign effort but a continuing process. That’s what gives the great opportunities for continual improvement, just getting better and better.

So, what gives you marketing ROI?