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A road map for selling soap on the information highway


By Kent Wertime and Ian Fenwick

John Wiley, 406 pages, $32.99

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One of the biggest "land- owners" in the Second Life virtual world is International Business Machines Corp., which has at least 24 "islands" on that Internet networking site to facilitate its real-world activities. Two years ago, chief executive officer Sam Palmisano logged on to Second Life and sent his avatar to attend a virtual IBM meeting where he was joined by staff from around the world.

As part of the Real Beauty campaign for Dove soap, Unilever PLC invited consumers to use their mobile phones to express their opinions in an interactive survey on beauty when they passed billboards. Its video Evolution, showing how a model is turned from a regular human being into a pinup fantasy, went "viral"- it was seen by 500 million people, after it was passed from person to person around the world. As well, the company drew more than 1,000 entries in a competition for consumers to make a Dove Cream Oil moisturizer ad to be screened on Oscar presentation night last year.

The two companies are among the pioneers immersing themselves in new media, looking for business applications. Soon, we all may be following them into a realm the authors call "digimarketing."

"All business people today need to be fully literate in the world of new media. Games, blogs and websites are not obscure destinations visited only by teenagers with a lot of free time on their hands. Instead, these channels have enormous audiences that include both genders, all age groups and (increasingly) rural populations," Kent Wertime, president of OgilvyOne Asia Pacific, and Ian Fenwick, a marketing consultant and management educator who was head of the MBA program at York University's Schulich School of Business, write in DigiMarketing.

They observe that, although revenue from traditional media now exceeds that of new media by more than 10 to 1, the growth of the latter's revenue is almost four times that of traditional media.

"No doubt traditional media will play an important role for years to come. However, the shift to new media is not a fad or a short-term trend; it is the inevitable result of a series of deep, long-term, structural changes," they say.

They offer a dozen tenets to help you dip your toes in this new virtual and non-virtual world.

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1Consumers and customers must be actively engaged as participants - creators, contributors and commentators - rather than treated as passive viewers or targets. In fact, the authors urge you to retire the word "target" from your marketing lexicon. It's an outdated term that doesn't reflect how people interact with the multiplicity of media around them. They want to be engaged, as passionate partners.

2Marketers must move beyond the traditional metrics of reach (the number of people who will see an ad) and frequency (how often they see it). Successful "digimarketing" engages people on a sustained basis. This requires better planning and a clear proposition of why you merit participants' time and attention. You need to develop a digital platform proposition that articulates why people should engage with you on a sustained basis.

3Marketers need to determine which mix of channels for reaching consumers is right for their marketing needs, from cellphones to online gambling to newspapers. That means determining the channel priorities of the people you are trying to reach.

4Content increasingly will be freed from specific delivery mechanisms, the limitations of media units, and physical boundaries. Companies must therefore become more proficient in developing content that customers truly want, since they can no longer count on a specific media buy to deliver a mass audience. Companies will need to innovate in their content creation, finding ways to satisfy and involve participants so they keep coming back.

5Consumers will initiate and direct more of the participant-marketer interchange. A large portion of content will come from consumers themselves. Marketers will play a role by encouraging and rewarding consumer content in a manner that is relevant to their brand, as with the Dove soap Oscar contest.

6Messages to participants must abide by an opt-in policy and be tailored to each participant's indicated preferences. Companies will increasingly seek the exponential payback that comes from having consumers share information that is positive about their product or firm through social networking sites and virally with each other. You will need to understand how to motivate consumers to spread the word about your company through the new digital channels.

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7Marketers will need to understand a wide variety of new-media options, many of which will have pay-for-performance metrics, unlike the traditional media, where impact was less clear-cut. Online search will play a key role in companies' "digimarketing" plans, since that is currently the most popular online advertising venue.

8It is impossible to manage news in a digital world where consumers are faster than companies. Instead, you will have to be a meaningful part of the public conversation, using all the digital tools available to influence - but not dictate - the debate. Power has shifted, the authors say, from an age of deference to an age of reference, where peer opinions determine whether brands succeed.

9The current approaches to integration of marketing communications are generally insufficient. You must shift from a concern with integrated brand images to a unification of each customer's experience, whether it be online or in your store or through a call centre.

10Data, and the knowledge derived from it, will be recognized as the lifeblood of marketing, helping to build customer relationships. You need to determine the most valuable information, and how to get it. A good data plan will be the centrepiece of "digimarketing," helping with detailed psychographic and behavioural profiling of consumers.

11The "rear-view" approach to marketing, which bases decisions primarily on historical information, is insufficient. The brand management process will become more dynamic, as marketers deploy real-time analysis of data to make quick, constant and fact-based modifications to their "digimarketing" activities.

12Addressable channels are those that have unique return addresses - cellphones, e-mail, MP3 players and eventually even television. Through these addressable channels, everything in the marketing mix will be measured and optimized to ensure continuous improvement in your efforts. "Digimarketing" is the future evolution of more accountable marketing, Mr. Wertime and Mr. Fenwick contend.

If you have been suspicious of new media, DigiMarketing is the book for you. It's an introduction, encyclopedia, and action plan all at the same time, a hefty but easy-to-read book that helps makes sense of the emerging digital world.

In Addition: In a world of interruptions, we spend much of our lives switching from task to task rather than completing what we are working on. Somebody comes into our office with a question, or the phone rings, or we compulsively check our e-mail, each interruption reducing our productivity according to various studies. In The Myth of Multitasking (Jossey-Bass, 138 pages, $21.95), business coach Dave Crenshaw presents a fable about entrepreneur Helen Whitman, who considers herself a superb multitasker but is floundering.

As the coach in the story helps her to improve, we get tips for our own lives, notably setting up regular meetings with people so they won't then interrupt us and cutting down on the times when we actively interrupt ourselves, such as checking e-mail. It's a quick read with some worthwhile ideas.

Just In: Women, Work and Autoimmune Disease (Demos- Health, 222 pages, $20.95) by executive coach Rosalind Joffe, who has lived with multiple sclerosis and ulcerative colitis, and Joan Freidlander, a coach with Crohn's disease, is designed to help women who live with chronic diseases by encouraging them to stay employed to preserve their independence and sense of self.

In the second edition of Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best (John Wiley, 219 pages, $49.99), Donna Childs uses her experiences as a senior executive at a large reinsurance company and then as a small business owner near Ground Zero on Sept. 11, 2001, to offer advice to small business on disaster preparedness.

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