THE PARTICIPATION GAME

As published in: The Business Strategy Insider

The John Caples ad above is probably one of the greatest long copy ads ever written…and it was 90 years ago. If you read it in full, it reminds you of the benefits of hard work and dutiful practice to master a craft.

Isn’t this what we need to do to become masters of digital communications?

Personally, I never want to be the only one in the room who doesn’t know what’s new and different in our industry. And admittedly, I’m working at it all the time.

At this point, I can call myself a veteran of the industry – but I’m willing to re-invent every day.

Our industry doesn’t really like seniors. We’re great with freshmen. Even juniors. But once you get to senior status – there’s an obvious bias. But with new innovation occurring daily – no matter where you are at this moment, acquired knowledge is definitely the long game. And you have to start somewhere.

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell makes the point that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything. So this won’t happen overnight.

With the birth of I-phone X, now just 10 years since the smart phone revolution, we all have a lot to learn every day.

Not just the latest ad tech – but conceptual trends that are influencing delivery and brand adoption.

So the race is on – and it’s invigorating.

The marketing business is not a chore – there are so many fascinating aspects to it – don’t let any of it slip by you. Find the niche you love and dig in.

Personally, we’ve done a lot of work to understand the mindset of the millennial generation. We assumed they were the early adopters – starting with high school students. Their intuitiveness remains the benchmark for functionality.

Starting in 2013, we began surveying a baseline of 1,000 millennial consumers every year – and have recently published our five year Top 100 favorite brands report.

Along with way we asked lots of questions to better understand “how and why consumers adopt brands.” It was the basis of our research and the set up for the book, “The Participation Game”.

The recalibration of mindset that came along with this journey taught us a lot about how as marketers, we have to be ready for a generation of consumers who market themselves.

The challenge for many marketers – and this includes a broad segment, now anywhere from mid-30’s and older – is that they may not have rushed to embrace the advancements in intuitive connectivity.

Most now realize their mistake of letting the “youngest” member of their team be in charge of enlisting Facebook starting around 2005. As agencies, we saw the people “who get it” become younger and younger.

Personal interactivity has flat out redefined delivery. The pragmatic logic that allows even the smallest brands to win by micro targeting and harnessing the power of their target’s target, is now the new way of working.

Harvard Business School professor and consultant, Thales Teixeira, called for the immediate cessation of “spray and pray” media dissemination in a recent Google think blog. He says the industry is broken – and earning attention is the true mastery of our craft.

Publicis Chief Strategist Rishad Tobacowola says “Learn something new every day.” Whether it be a book or a new subject – he reads an hour every morning.

A few years ago, I saw Howard Tullman, who runs 1871 – Chicago’s massive start up collaboration – more than 300 businesses percolating at the Merchandise Mart. He coined the phrase, “Attention is the new currency.” Yes, we’ve truly lost four seconds since 2,000, falling behind goldfish, who have a nine second attention span. Humans have eight seconds.

So everything we believe about messaging and delivery needs care and feeding every day.

Thoughtful care. We need to be wary of Google-induced knowledge. Difference making concepts are probably not in Siri’s repertoire.

This takes a commitment to stop. Think. Sort it all out and apply the learning to consumer behavior and brand building opportunities. Give it more than eight seconds.

There’s so much user experience logic to absorb that many senior marketers want to revert and communicate the way they always have. Talk about TV and one way communication and the board is happy. Everyone gets it.

Well not for long. We asked 5,000 consumers how often they watch live TV and it was 33% of the time. So – the waste is there – because everyone can hit skip. Messaging cannot be a bitter pill to take before getting to the content you came for.

How much work is needed? What’s the baseline?

I would start with a must read set of books that bring you up to speed. By must read, I am equating it to your toughest college course. Don’t do it and you will fail.

Ultimately, your career choices are somewhere between understanding the complexities of media delivery or getting fitted for an orange vest and checking receipts at a big box retailer.

Keep in mind that new stuff is published every day. One way I keep up is by letting Flipboard curate articles for me on all kinds of subjects from UX to PR to Digital Design.

It’s a challenge to do it regularly – but so is going to the gym. I believe we can all learn new tricks –whether you’re a card carrying senior or a newbie.

Will the digestion of all of this material make marketers more valuable? If you apply it to what you know about business and making things happen – yes. We can still have Professor Emeritus and it can be you someday.

Here are a few the books I recommend starting on:

If you have other recommendations, please add them in the comment section below.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by Norty Cohen, CEO of Moosylvania and the author of The Participation Game.

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