In today’s rapidly changing media landscape, marketers are struggling more than ever to keep abreast of the latest new types of media venues, coupled with all sorts of twists and turns in available technology. From learning new social media strategies to keeping pace with shifting consumer advertising behaviors and demands, the marketing world as we knew it has been rocked more the past two years than the last two decades combined. While all these profoundly new and exciting marketing developments are exciting, marine marketers – with limited budgets and manpower resources – must grapple with where to focus their attention, funds and energies.
To address the new opportunities amid this sea of fast emerging developments, Waypoints spoke with Thad Kubis, owner of NAK Integrated Marketing, an internationally known firm that addresses the highly sophisticated B2B and B2C customer. An acknowledged expert in converting analog marketing efforts into a highly effective, lower cost/higher profit digital based programs (print and online), Kubis has been at the forefront of turning emerging marketing technologies into sales and profit generating tools, often linking offline and online technologies into a seamless and powerful print based marketing initiative.
Kubis’ firm has done work for Air France, Delta, Heidelberg USA, KBA, The New York Knicks, Blue Cross and Blue Shield, New York Life, JP Morgan Chase and others. In December, he formed The Institute for Media Convergence, a non-profit group dedicated to the education, evaluation, and metrics of this new field of marketing support. This fall, he will begin teaching as an adjunct professor at The New York City College of Technology (CUNY), and will present courses on emerging marketing technologies and integrated online and offline media.
Thad speaks to numerous national groups and organizations, and also leads webinars on these topics. He is actively engaged in the marine industry and serves as the webinar chair for Marine Marketers of America.
Waypoints: What is “media convergence” and how relevant is this concept for today’s sailing industry marketers?”
Kubis: Sailing is the perfect sport to compare to media convergence. When you sail, you are fully linked or integrated with all the different components, or media of sailing: sailor, wind, boat, helm, sails, water, sun, current etc. When used correctly, you get into the groove, the perfect point of sail. When planning a marketing program to sell boats, or to get people to sign onto charters or attend a boat show, you need to make sure that your media can reach the proper people at the proper time by the proper (customer selected) media.
Media convergence is defined as the correct use of computer technology, content and communication, but I submit there is a fourth component, and that is the customer. More and more people are looking to get information, but not always by the method offered by the marketer or advertiser, but by the method they select. Some like mobile contact, SMS, email, direct mail, one screen, two screen or perhaps three screens. The ability to define the media and the desired message has moved from the advertiser to the consumer.
According to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association) you need to “touch” a customer up to eight times to make the sale, and as we all know that needs to be over multiple forms of media. The need can be simple but the chain of communication is complex. Linking a print ad (offline media) to a website (online media) and measuring that connection is critical to prove ROI (return of investment, or MROI, marketing return on investment).
As media convergence enters the next stage, metrics will be a key component of the tool kit to help you understand which media and at what level your media selection is turning a profit. I am a strong believer that media is a profit center, since media does drive leads to your sales force. Media convergence will close the loop and allow the advertiser to develop an interaction with the customer, providing customized and relevant information not about the generic offerings of a product but the specific, linked to the target or contacts needs.
Waypoints: Can you give us an example of media convergence, perhaps using your own sailing analogy?
Kubis: Sure. I spend about 35% of my time sailing in the Northeast, 20% in the Caribbean, and 20% in Europe, and the balance along the East Coast and the rest of the country. I hold U.S.C.G. Master license and am also an ASA certified keelboat and catamaran instructor. I sail with family, friends and occasionally race. Using a balanced combination of computing power, content and communication (media convergence), I should get a personalized email or direct mail effort that fits perfectly into my skill set, skill level, desires and needs … but I don’t. Will I read about things that I have little interest in? No, or at least not immediately. Using this example, I could be sent a catalog that is sail centric and includes knowledge-based data about me. This would be MY catalog that should be personalized, contain MY relevant information.
The advertiser, or in this case the sailing organization, needs to develop a dialogue with the consumer, not the standard monologue. Once established and supported, the information flows both ways more naturally.
Media convergence can also be looked at as a crew on a sailboat. If all the other media is working fine and crew is out of rhythm, you will lose the race and get to your destination at the incorrect time. However, if you are all in sync – crew, boat and the other components – then you are in the marketing groove.
Data driven, branded and select content are key tools for the future for marine industry marketers, linked to Relevance, Interaction, Integration and Measurement. With the full set of marketing sails, you now have the tools to make your business grow. Those that get on board first will be the winners. Unfortunately, too many have been – and still are – left on the dock.
Waypoints: How do you describe the changing media landscape?
Kubis: Very fluid. Social media in the B2B space is being tested and reviewed. Traditional media is being challenged by the new flexibility and the ability to travel with the client via the iPad or other tablets. The marketer is no longer marketing to a name, but to a very specific profile (note not demographic) that includes more than just an address and zip code. The new profile contains the very essence of that person and that makes the entire field of marketing very fluid indeed. This state of the market will also press marketers to move to a greater level of talking directly to the consumer, not offering a group conversation. I believe in the near future, consumers will start to reject general information and look to develop a higher level of targeted content that fits their lifestyles and their needs. Need proof? Look to the revolution in DVR’s and how people watch TV!
The need to capture screen vs. eyes is also going to impact the marketplace. I view my world via my iPhone, my laptop, my desktop, my home TV, which totals 4 screens. If I see a message from an advertiser on one screen, will the same message map be presented on the other screens? They should be at least related and linked, providing a chain of communication that may have different endings depending on the media used.
The ability to target consumers via branded and self-selected content is massive. It cuts the clutter down to a more then manageable amount and will start to impact the sales cycle.
Waypoints: In a recent webinar you conducted for Marine Marketers of America, you noted that despite significant ad revenue declines in regional and national newspapers, publishers expect 2011 to see improvement and actually plan to invest in improved production equipment. What is the basis for this surprising forecast?
Kubis: There are number of reasons. Some relate to the growth of automobile ads and others to the increase of classified advertising, both online and offline. Real Estate ads may have declined, but the rate of decline in 2011 will be much smaller. Cost controls, high productivity (new equipment, reduced staffing) and the introduction of niche publications (sailing is a niche) as well as custom publishing are all part of this potential growth. Also when you have a year like 2010 being called the “year of the bottom,” you have nowhere to go but up.
Industry data indicates that the prime 18 – 34 year old market reads magazines more than those over 35 years of age and nearly 300 million people spend money on magazine subscriptions. For now, based on the last few years, the bleeding has slowed and in some cases, has stopped. Is the bleeding over? No, change is continuing, but for the near future, the sun is shining.
Waypoints: How important is print media today, particularly in more vertical consumer enthusiast markets?
Kubis: Over the past few years, many print magazines have closed, but there are some surveys that indicate new niche market magazines and branded content publications have more then replaced those that shut their doors. There is a certain visceral feel to print that I think will keep the channel alive, perhaps not growing at the speeds experienced in the 60’s to the 90’s, but in certain markets, the growth will be even across print media. When you start to link the print and digital channels of all media, I believe it’s a nice future.
I believe linking on and offline media is the big deal. The ability for marketers to select, mix and match your media to match your market will force print media to change even more. Print in general needs to become a customer centric communication tool, a tool that supports other media, as other media will support print.
Magazines need to think about emerging technologies, QR codes, SMS, customized publishing and the subjects they offer. There are a number of thought leaders that look to print as an anomaly and who believe that print is restrictive to content and ownership. Print will need to change and challenge these arguments. Yes print can be restrictive, but so can the Internet, or better yet, the “splinter net,” a term that describes this new and divided, scattered world wide web.
To summarize, those that use or offer print need to think differently and understand that the service or product they offer must be focused on customer (consumer) centric communications. Print providers need to become enablers in the sales process, not just a medium to announce the sales process. Print publishers, printers and the like need to get buyers to buy, players to play and to show how they have achieved this and produced favorable ROI.
Waypoints: What studies address how consumers rank printed direct mail vs. digital e-mail advertising, and what is this specific finding?
Kubis: Multiple studies over the past few years have started to define printed direct mail vs. e-mail, and most have shown that email programs work better with a printed or offline component. Look to printinthemix.rit.edu, dma.org, theprintcouncil.org and delivermagazine.com for specific studies and statistics. The specific findings from many sources is that the need to “touch” a consumer or customer with relevant material is a cross media need. Programs that can be called Multi Channel Marketing or MCM are impacting the marketplace. These highly integrated and personalized programs use “choice” media, that is, media that research has shown would be requested by the consumer. Permission or surveyed based data provide all sorts of demographic information, but they also provide the essence of the person, likes, dislikes, wants, buying trends etc. This new data, when combined with an MCM program, will have better than normal response rates, higher conversion to sales rates and a more positive ROI. Think about how you buy, what you like to see and hear, you are a perfect subject for testing!
Linking offline to online media seems to be gaining popularity. Last year, a few industry magazines indicated more marketers and advertiser had been “going back” to print as a key element in their marketing spend. Why? Because it works! You can even look to iab.net to see the other side of the picture.
Waypoints: What trends are significant in terms of communication preferences among younger demographics, and what should sailing industry marketers learn from this?
Kubis: Complex question, since this market is more fluid than the overall market and rapidly changing as well. Email is too slow for younger demographics and programs like iChat, SMS and some other new messaging systems seem to have the grip on that market. QR codes or quick reading bar codes will get their attention, since these are immediate on demand response devices. When scanned with a smart phone, data can be stored for a more detailed review.
Augmented reality and emails that have embedded video are all-powerful tools. Geo-tracking is gaining steam, as are personalized online coupons. All sorts of motion tools such as YouTube and others are working well to target this segment.
The sailing industry needs to embrace a myriad of media to get the message out, not just media that is sport or vertical specific. Look to parallel, horizontal and vertical expansion of the market. What does that mean? Can you get to a potential sailor via a non-sailing media vehicle? Yes, the key is to know and fully understand your market. I don’t think the sailing industry as a whole has a great understanding of the younger market; they are a fickle bunch. Even in my demographics, the industry knows little of me. I still get powerboat mailings, multiple invites to the same seminar and event, none are personalized and none look to me as a person, just as the potential mark in the great game of three card media.
The younger market takes much offense since they have only known the age of personalization, bookmarks on WebPages, highly targeted groups on social networks, the splinter net vs. the internet and yes, they are living in a post digital world. The word digital does not do it for them, that is the norm. So the idea of having a digital option is cool, but what is the option? How will it work? What will you achieve? How you will achieve your goals while keeping the market interested, are all questions that this generation will want and need answered.
The younger generation is somewhat “TMZ” driven. Sailing just does not have that type of celebrity, not that type of hot news. Maybe we need to rethink sailing from the foundation. We may need to rebrand the brand of sailing.
Waypoints: You discussed several emerging marketing concepts in your webinar. First, please explain what you mean by ‘branded content’ and how this might be applied by the sailing industry?
Kubis: Branded content is content that relates to a specific brand and has been selected or customized for the reader based on the reader’s needs and the brand’s willingness to talk to that specific reader.
Sailboats are a perfect example. What is the overall percentage of the sailing market that can buy a 40 foot sail boat? Does a general ad work to “sell” the boat, or would a product specific, branded-to-the-reader and brand customized brochure move the sale closer to fulfillment? The general ad is the brand extender; the next contacts are based on interaction with the potential buyer; and finally, you need to get personal with them. THAT is branded content.
Waypoints: What about ‘personalized marketing’ … what is this, and what are these new associated terms: P/url, C/url and Rurl? How might these be applied to the sailing industry?
Kubis: The short answer is that the sailing industry is perfect for personalization; sailing is a very personal activity. Think about developing a targeted campaign using permission-based list with psychographic and demographic information. The integrated program (on and offline) can include the specific boat that is of interest to the consumer, include charts of the local or regions sailed, images of the actual boat with the consumer’s name or suggested boat name added to the mailing or email and web via a micro site component. The use of a P/url (personalized URL) can be as simple as ThadKubis.Myboat.com. A C/url can be used for a more customized microsite such as ThadKubisMy46ftboat.com, and finally the R/url (rules based program) can be ThadKubis.INSERTBOATBRANDANDMAKE.com.
The key to all these options is to use personalization marketing to its full capabilities. Personalization marketing is data driven, and yes its cost is slightly higher, but you need to calculate a Reverse ROI and understand the return of the program based on a valid ROI example. With a higher response rate (0.85 for regular direct mail and 3.5% for personalized direct mail), you can convert more leads to sales. More leads to sale mean high margins and a better ROI. If fact, in 2010 for every $1 spent on personalized direct mail, $13 were returned!
Waypoints: What do you foresee in the area of mobile messaging? How might sailing businesses take advantage of this new marketing technology, and when is this format most appropriate?
Kubis: Hot, very hot! If you listen to the mobile marketing gurus, everything is going mobile and much of the technology and techniques work very well. I see mobile, SMS and MSS being used with geo-tracking to get people to attend events while at trade shows, reminders to upgrade their life vest, register their COB device, send product alerts and increase sales as they drive past a marine store. Trade shows are a great venue that allows you to capture a person’s phone number, contact them until the opt out expires and send them messages about the events at the show and the booths they need to visit. Use geo tracking based on your location from your internal smart phone so that GPS can be activated as you pass an exhibit. Trade show management firms can use the data to track attendee flow, proving what areas are better to for you to exhibit.
I don’t think we have seen the end of this media. There are more and more innovations within this channel than almost all others involving new phones, new services, new tools, apps, apps and more apps! I designed a Sailing App for the iPhone, SAILING LOG; a day does not go by without someone asking about an update, an expansion or to add a certain component to the app. Once any app is established, adverting follows.
Waypoints: You also touched on the emergence of ‘customized publishing.’ How do you describe this development, and how might sailing industry marketers tap into this new opportunity?
Kubis: This relates somewhat to branded content but serves a more general scope. Recently, a major sailing magazine ran a story of chartering. It was a great story and contained great information. I wondered if a reader requested additional information if the story would be reprinted, personalized and sent to the reader. What’s more, perhaps it could be linked to a micro site that could ask the reader when and if they are preparing for a trip, what location, how many people, what qualifications are needed etc.
Custom publishing can also offer an insert from a boat manufacturer that features a make and a model of a sailboat, within a specific region, imaged within the specific confines of the publication’s ability to segment the run of press or ROP. Custom publishing has been around in many industries for a long time. The print industry has used this effectively to introduce new products. We should do the same, being sure to link the device to the internet. Why? Dialogue! Many publishers are now starting to offer marketing services and part of that offer is the development of custom publishing, e-brochures, SEO services and the list goes on.
Waypoints: With all of these new technologies and strategies now available, coupled with limited marketing budgets, how do you recommend sailing industry marketers analyze their mix to determine the best ROI?
Kubis: Target your markets and segments as much as possible using these technologies, along with traditional print and digital technologies. Measure response and results to track the sales cycle and then build a case as to which media or combination of media provides the best ROI, and go for it.
I provide a media mix analysis, which is an econometric review of market spend with results from across multiple media. From this, a plan can be developed. I can tell you that past reviews have ended up with a combined arms effort. It is just the percentage of what media gets what slice of the pie that tends to change. Yes, some media will be cut, others expanded, but if you look to the ROI function, you will be surprised to see that less can be more if the proper mix is used.
Waypoints: Final question – what is the next big thing you see on the horizon in terms of new marketing developments?
Kubis: More motion, interaction, perhaps a version of 3D for use on tablets. Video embedded emails, video centers and more motion. The introduction of micro screens that have a wifi network linked to the screen and when opened in a wifi hot spot, a video image is shown. More levels of personalization, based on an even deeper shared knowledge of the consumer or customer. Measurement devices that will alert a marketer to immediately understand if a program is working or not. Integrated Content Management systems that will allow marketers to run multiple programs to multiple databases from a single website and link these programs to the sales cycle. These CMS sites are running now. The future of these sites is the magic of lead generation, sales support and customer support all rolled into one.
For additional information: www.nakinc.com and www.tifmc.org
Wanda Kenton Smith is editor of Waypoints, president of Marine Marketers of America, national marketing columnist for Soundings Trade Only since 1997, and owner/president of Kenton Smith Marketing, www.kentonsmithmarketing.com For more information or to comment on this story, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org