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Old-Skool Content Marketing

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Because content marketing is growing in importance and sophistication, it’s tempting to think of it as something new. But, just like Social Media Marketing is an extension of Word-of-Mouth marketing, content marketing has been around forever.

My favorite example is something people likely see every day as they’re commuting back and forth to work — the ubiquitous electronic sign, usually appearing at bank branches, that gives us the time, temperature, date, and, in our community, a listing of local events. That’s content marketing at its best, providing essential utility. We don’t even notice it as such anymore, we take it so much for granted. Yet it still serves its purpose of positioning the bank as a reliable and helpful pillar of the community.

I ran across another example of old-skool content marketing while going through my mother’s recipe box the other day. A realtor back in the day provided homemakers with recipes on index cards, with a watermark featuring the brand and the Better Homes and Gardens logo (was this the distribution method, maybe?). The individual realtor’s name and phone number (note no area code) appears on the back. Love it.

yeast-dinner-rolls-front

yeast-dinner-rolls-back

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On APIs & Marketing

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I’m in the process of editing a piece that’s focused on APIs — that’s application program interfaces, of course. Along the way, I thought I recalled having written something about APIs back in my ClickZ days.

Here’s what I uncovered…

Back in February of 2004 (more than 10 years ago, folks), I wrote a piece called Web Services: RSS On Steroids. At that point, I guess the term and acronym API hadn’t become popular, so I referred to them as Web Services:

Web services is really just a way of exchanging information over the Internet. Instead of using browsers, it allows applications to talk to one another directly using open standard technologies such as XML, SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI.

What can you do with this type of information exchange? The possibilities seem as infinite as your imagination.

And then, two years later, I patted myself on the back for my prescience with a follow-up piece called Attack of the APIs: (I am a complete dork, I know…)

Over the past few months, we’ve seen some compelling uses of these APIs for marketing-related mashups. ClickZ columnist Ian Schafer‘s agency put together a mash-up with Google Maps that let fans of HBO’s The Sopranos re-visit some of the places and events in the gangster show’s past seasons. Nike put together a Google Maps app to plot running routes for its Run London community. And more recently, General Mills’ Nature Valley granola bar brand asked nature-lovers “Where’s Yours?” on a site that uses a mapping interface similar to Google’s. I’m sure there are plenty more I’m failing to mention here. (Feel free to drop me a line if you have some great examples.)

These services have become popular because marketers and advertisers — in search of that elusive “engagement” — have figured out there are two paths to winning consumers’ attention. One is to entertain them. Hence the viral video, long-form advertisement-on-demand trend. The other is to give them something useful with a practical application. APIs can help marketers do both, but they probably lean toward the “useful” realm.

I think what I was talking about there would now be called “content marketing.”

What I totally failed to realize was the impact that APIs would have on marketing organizations operations, specifically allowing them to integrate data from disparate customer touchpoints to get a more holistic view of what’s happening. It’s a topic we are regularly exploring in Marketing Land.

Funny how interactive marketing seems to move so quickly, yet I’m looking back on this stuff — maybe a bit too “out there” for its time — and thinking I wouldn’t say things much differently today.

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Loren_Baker_Local_Social_20141

No, I’m not asleep. Just resting my eyes, I’m sure.

In preparation for speaking at the Local Social event in Dallas last month, I wrote up thoughts on a few emerging areas that I think will have a big impact on digital marketing, and marketing as a whole, in the coming years. In the spirit of “leveraging content” I’ll publish them here…

One of the most interesting areas we’ve been exploring — and this is a big area, admittedly — is the intersection between the real world and the digital world, sometimes called augmented reality.

When you think about it, we live in the real world and the digital world is just a reflection of that. Why should we have to be tethered to a certain screen at a desk at home to see that digital world, when it’s so much more useful when it’s integrated into our daily lives? We’ve gotten a little taste of that with smartphones, but we’re still mostly looking into a world that’s totally different than the world around us — watching videos, checking Facebook and email — which is one reason why smartphones are criticized as being harmful to society and human relationships.

The Physical Web

We recently published a piece on Marketing Land by Daniel Cristo looking at an open-source project initiated by Google called “The Physical Web.”

The gist of the Physical Web project is that, given there are so many real-world objects — refrigerators, slow cookers, thermostats, etc. — that are now connected and possess digital information, that there should be a way to search and find all of them, and they should be ranked by your personalized level of interest in that particular thing.

This is starting to happen now, where when I go near a Walgreens, a notification pops up on my phone with my loyalty card and a link to the week’s specials, and when I’m near my local grocery store, I get a notification from my Ibotta app reminding me to use their coupons. All of this, of course, is permission-based.

Imagine when we’re wearing Google Glass or Apple Watch, and we can pay for things by waving our devices. And of course, we’ll be wearing our heart-rate-tracking monitors,  pedometers and glucose monitors — sharing, or not sharing, the information they’re gathering. So maybe, as a marketer, you could learn whether someone’s heart starts racing when they come into contact with your products or your ads.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing an amazing proliferation of tracking devices, most of them using Bluetooth Low Energy and some using GPS and Wi-fi. The obvious use — already happening with Apple’s iBeacons — is messaging customers when they’re in proximity of your store. Or, in an even more granular application, marketers could virtually show people around a store, and passively observe what aisles are most popuar with different types of consumers — data which can then inform merchandising and future marketing campaigns.

According to ABI Research, indoor beacon installations could top 30,000 worldwide by the end of 2014. We’re already seeing things like an in store proximity based mobile ad exchange, where a brand could pop up a notification when you approach its product display at a retail outlet.

Maybe the next wave of content/experiential marketing is curating a real-world walking tour or sponsoring a complimentary entry into a museum exhibit for a valued prospect or customer.

And brick and mortar marketers aren’t the only ones deploying these trackers. You’ve probably seen consumer-focused Facebook ads or Kickstarter campaigns for the Tile, StickNFind, Duet, Chipolo, Gecko, Lapa and Guardian. The most common pitch here is that they’ll ensure you never lose your keys, your wallet, your pet or your child. Other variations like Flower Power and Plant Link check whether you need to water your plants and how much light they’re getting, and possibly even open a valve to get a sprinkler going.

Data Overload!

And you thought you were overwhelmed by the amount of data you’re dealing with now!

That leads me to another area where I’m seeing a lot of promise — tag management. It’s sort of outgrown that moniker but the idea is that you can have a central interface to all of those tags that live on your web site — analytics, ad networks, remarketing lists, a/b testing, etc. etc.

The beauty in this is that all of the data flows into one place, too, making it easier for you to change vendors perform tests, because you have access to all your customer and prospect data yourself. In addition, you can get a more cross-platform picture of your customer, when information about their interactions with email can be married to their location history and even an Apple Pay-enabled transaction record.

We’ve seen a lot of consolidation in the marketing technology business lately, partly by big companies set on building an end-to-end solution that uses and shares the same data in multiple marketing disciplines. But with tag management, theoretically, you could choose best of breed solutions in each of their respective categories, yet still control and integrate the data.

Seeking Marketing Technologists

Of course, I’m talking in a very blasé way about technology that’s going to take some serious smarts to deploy and use well, especially given the need to respect consumer privacy. And that’s not to mention the challenge of choosing the right technologies among so many competitors.

And that brings me to the third area, which is the important need in our industry of hiring and training marketing technologists — those rare birds that not only understand the needs of marketers and consumers, but also “get” technology at a bit of a deeper level.

This is going to be a huge challenge but also a big opportunity for those individuals who have the skills to really take advantage of the vast array of tools at our disposal — but in a clear-headed, and not starry-eyed way.

P.S. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that the event was a fundraiser for traumatic brain injury support charity Trymunity. Given the prevalence of TBI in all of our lives — concussions among football players, strokes, etc. (I’ve had two people close to me have strokes in the last month) — I believe it’s a critical issue that should be supported. 

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