Category Archives: Branding

iConsumer & the Golden Age of Marketing

The future of marketing like you’ve never seen it

Welcome to the Golden Age of advertising. Not the Mad Men of the 1960s Golden Age of advertising, the real Golden Age.

The way we see ourselves is about to shift, and the implications are hard to imagine. In the 21st Century, “Freedom” will be defined as much by the flow of information as it was defined by commerce in the 20th Century. For marketers, this new era will be marked by the rise of the iConsumer.Location-based Advertising

How this happened is important to understand, for the simple reason that it points to where we’re going. The most paramount factor is that nearly all information is now mobile. People can and are making decisions on the go — whether it’s about where to lunch or where to book an international vacation. A second crucial factor is that brands have the capacity to target consumers on a more personal scale than at anytime in human history. Up until now, marketing was conceived and executed on a mass scale. That worked because the public consumed advertising mediums, whether billboards, television networks, radio programs, or newspapers en mass.

But the arc of history bends toward fragmentation. It’s evident in streaming a-la-carte movie and TV viewing, in podcasts, blogs, and curated news sites. The trend is increasing and will continue, based on the ever-growing number of fingerprints that consumers leave archived in their email inboxes, cached in their online searches, and digitally mapped — thanks to smartphone geolocation.

Marketers will anticipate your needs

American’s spent more time on digital devices than watching television for the first time in 2014.

American’s spent more time on digital devices than watching television for the first time in 2014. Mobile ad sales in the U.S. outpaced newspapers, magazines, and radio ad sales for the first time in history. Only television and desktop/laptops exceeded them. Today, digital (mobile and desktops/laptops) comprises 30 percent of all U.S. ad sales.

Location Markeing

Infographic thanks to Marketing Land

It’s going to get bigger. It’s inevitable. Why? Because there are vast swaths of the U.S, let alone the developed and developing world, that are only beginning to realize the Internet’s mobile potential — and by that, I mean it’s reach and power to change what people know and what they want to know. In the new Golden Age, what we think of as “loyalty programs” will be ubiquitous and the default. Everywhere you shop will know you. As soon as you walk in — bing, your phone or Apple Watch will receive a coupon or tell you about the day’s special. You’ll receive alerts based on your location. Bing! “It’s 5:30 p.m., almost dinner time. The Indian food joint around the corner has a happy hour discount.” The anticipation will be done for you.

The demand for content, strategies, and deliverables to help businesses and brands reach the right audiences is compounding. It’s going to be huge because it’s going to become cheap. If you doubt me, just search “#marketing” on Twitter, the amount of free and near free information is exploding. Marketers I know, are uneasy. They sense a shift but aren’t sure what it is or what it means. And for old-school marketers, there is a growing sense of fear because the future is clearly digital, clearly targeted to individuals, and clearly about analytics. They are quickly becoming dinosaurs.

The end of marketing as we know it

But every Golden Age ends. And this one will too. It will follow a remarkably similar trajectory as the decline of the newspaper industry. Computers will do the jobs professional marketers once did. Except, they might do it better, if with a less personal touch — ironic, in a way, given the relentless focus on individual iConsumers’ wants and needs.

Is the end of marketing in sight? No more than the end of journalism was when people prophesied its demise 10 years ago. The good news is that marketing is going no where. But it has already driven off the cliff to its next destination. It’s in mid-air flight and we’re riding shotgun. People want to be marketed to. But we want to be marketed to smarter. You’ve heard of content curation? How about marketing curation? That’s what the Amazons, Facebooks, and Googles are building Titanic-sized data centers to support. For good or bad, the New Golden Age marks the end of consumers’ anonymity — what shreds there were remaining.

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.


Confessions of a Brand Journalist

Brand journalist or content marketer? Are they the same?

Are you a brand journalist? A content marketer? A brand marketer? Experts in the field have been busy deciding what you and I should be called. In recent weeks, an online debate simmered, nearly smoldered out, then rekindled. VIPs in the online marketing domain took off their logo-emblazoned gloves. Things got snarky. Challenges to duel were exchanged. Some had their name dragged through the mud.

brand-journalism-Trevor-McClintock-BelfastIt was entertaining, in an “inside baseball” kind of way, at least to online marketers. For everyone else, there was the kid-with-a-lightsaber-slicing-up-a-toy-aisle-at-Target video. They had a belly laugh, at least. I, on the other hand, have tried ever since to pinpoint why both sides’ arguments exasperated me. Why is there so much indignation about whether someone calls himself/herself a “brand journalist?” I wondered.

I concluded it’s because journalism has changed in America, and not for the better. Many of us feel it’s not living up to its name, or worse its purpose. As a former San Francisco journalist, I agree that’s a valuable debate — if 10 years too late.

But, if you want the truth, the debate about journalism’s flagging substance is a red herring. The debate we’re talking about is whether brand journalism is an oxymoron. It goes back to at least October, when Contently’s Sam Petulla sounded his barbaric yawp over the roofs of the blogosphere to demand that people stop using the term “brand journalism.”

I agree with the stance Contently has taken for a long time: There’s no such thing as brand journalism. The reason why is simple: If your purpose is to increase ROI for a business by obtaining more customers, you’re not in the journalism game. And calling your branded content “journalism” is detrimental because it may come across as deceptive to readers. Instead, you want to build trust by acknowledging your subjectivity and bias as a brand.”

More honesty

Shortly after Petulla published his piece, Jill Golden, a former journalist who’s now a content strategist with the NEA, weighed in along the same lines — but, I thought, with more honesty. “The word ‘journalism’ overstates, even misstates, what content marketing is, which is why ‘brand journalism’ is a disingenuous label,” Golden writes.

I understand Sam and Jill’s wish to draw a red line and their nostalgia for a better journalism. But theirs is a narrow interpretation of journalism, if they’re talking about independent, unbiased, no-advertising influenced or favoritism journalism. When we look around at journalism today, or, really, any day in the past for that matter, that’s a mighty tall pedestal. From its earliest days journalism has been a dog eat paperboy world and yellow was the color of its banner. Absolutely, we should hold public-service journalism in highest esteem, as the fourth estate. But as Nicole Jenet rightly wrote for ScribeWise, that’s just the tip of the spear.

You could argue that lifestyle journalism and sports journalism aren’t necessarily journalism … Don’t even get me started on “celebrity news.” But, readers are interested in those topics, they click on those articles and they regularly pick up the paper to read those sections. They help to fuel the business of journalism.

b2b-content-marketing-challenges-2011-300x241I want to be clear: Readers aren’t fooled by brand journalists, if we’re talking about writers who create stories for branded websites. With the word “brand” in their job description, assuming so insults readers, if anything. Readers know brand journalism doesn’t come from the Baltimore Sun or The New York Times (although, I believe branding in newspaper journalism isn’t as black and white as many of us like believe either). It comes from brands, whether that’s a multinational conglomerate, a public university, or a freelance graphic artist.

Lush Digital Media’s Sarah Mitchell agrees. In a recent post on Ragan’s PR Daily blog, she didn’t mince words when she wrote, “I believe what’s at the heart of this debate is a kind of elitist opinion that traditional media is better or more worthy than brand media … Quite frankly, brand journalism is saving traditional journalism.”

The question remains

And yet. And yet. Each of these arguments fail to get at what brand journalism is. We’re not even sure we’re debating the same term. No one defines it. Instead, we argue about whether the term “journalism” deserves some endangered species protection. Shouting “Free Willie!” and buying dolphin-free canned tuna sounds great, but it doesn’t lead us to common ground or even a common understanding. Before we get into that, let’s pause and review:

  • First, readers aren’t fooled by brand journalism
  • Second, journalism, at least the the vast majority of it, doesn’t deserve to be paraded on such a high pedestal, and
  • Third, brand journalism is a threat to traditional journalism (But that comes from unbranded brand journalism, such as that peddled by Chevron. (That’s a hybrid that’s not mentioned or recognized in any of the posts I referenced here or any of the related ones I read on this topic — so, of course, I plan to tackle that in a separate piece in the near future. Stay tuned.)

The question remains. Should we stop using the term “brand journalist.” Is “content marketer” the right term, as Contently proposes? All brand journalists are content marketers, after all. All content marketers are not brand journalists, however. Farmer’s Insurance’s “Must Have Apps For a Safe Road Trip” and Nike’s debut of its Lunar Vapor Trout cleat in Oregon Ducks’ colors just before the NCAA Championship are content marketing. But they aren’t brand journalism. Want an example of brand journalism? Look no farther than your alumni magazine.

Distilled to its purest form

Brand journalists rely on background reporting, multiple sources and interviews, vetting, genuine quotes, and a news structure — often the inverted pyramid. A brand journalist doesn’t rely on a team of marketers to polish the edges of a story until it glistens like Mr. Clean’s countertop. In fact, that undermines the brand journalism. Instead, a brand journalist depends on openness, trust, and honesty. I like to say that a brand journalist tells no lies, which some might argue is a generous interpretation — being that it is marketing. It’s not that brand journalists are independent and unbiased, but readers know where we come from and we are careful to distinguish what we do from the marketing we grew up with: the marketing that told us Camel Cigarettes made you a man and Dr. Pepper was healthy.

the storyBrand journalists depends on real people to tell personal stories about a brand, whether that’s a hospital, a haircare product, or a neighborhood farmers’ market. Distilled to its purest form, a good piece of brand journalism is a personal endorsement, infused with the tension and drama of good storytelling. I don’t know if “brand journalist” is the best term for what I do, but I know that “content marketer” doesn’t convey the proper techniques or expectations to patrons.

Where do I come down on the question of brand journalist vs. content marketer? You don’t have to guess. A brand journalist uses his/her journalistic training to develop and craft stories in a way that many, no most, content marketers don’t or can’t — simply because they don’t have the background. When I say I’m a brand journalist, you know right away that I bring a depth of experience and training to content marketing that allows me to visualize a story from a journalist’s perspective. That’s not the end all be all; it’s not even better, necessarily. What’s better depends on your product/service, your marketing strategy, and your relationship with your customers.

And yet. And yet. If we can agree those two things — brand journalist and content marketer — aren’t one and the same, then maybe we can begin to have a debate worthy of the respected names that have weighed in and that many of us look to in the industry for best practices.

by Ed Carpenter | »email WebContentInsider@gmail | Twitter @EdInOakland

Build Your Audience by Partnering With Active Content Creators

My advice? Work with those active posters to build a nexus between, say, the businesses district and area business, by cross posting events, images, and sales …

Do You Have Multiple Twitter Personalities?

Q: For you social media strategists: Do you separate your social media selves? e.g. marketing, hometown boostering, outdoor thrill seeking? I started my Twitter handle as a quasi personal-professional tool but I’m thinking about a divorce. What’s your experience?

Share your experience. Tweet me or leave a comment.

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

Curating With!

USF Scoop.ItI’m lucky to work with an innovative social media team. They’ve led the way in turning an anemic online social community of about 50 at the University of San Francisco into one with hundreds of contributors and an audience of more than 60,000. How great is that!?

What used to be a few campus faculty, media folks, and interested students is now open to almost anyone who publishes content on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other channels with the #USFCA hashtag. The university’s social media team track the #USFCA content and then choose the best to “scoop” — publishing what they find on the curated platform to be read and shared.

Be the #hashtag

So what is this newfangled curation platform? founder Guillaume Decugis visited campus to talk more about it. He praised #USFCA and highlight other brands like Ashoka Communty’s Change Making Today campaign. Check out Guillaume’s Slideshare and watch USF E-communications Director Thomas Listerman talk about the difference has made at USF.

Not only has improved the social community on campus, it has advanced USF’s brand and it’s only been in use for about six months. What do you think of

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

3 ways to love your blog and get others to love it too: branding, design, social


Building a better, stronger, faster Web Content Insider blog.

Welcome to Web Content Insider, my revamped blog about, you guessed it, web content best practices. It’s been overhauled for better branding and SEO, and easier sharing via social media. I first rolled out the blog seven months ago, making good on a promise to myself. It was an experiment.

Since then, I’ve connected with dozens of bloggers and industry experts. I hope that’s just the beginning. And every week I learn something new about content marketing, blogging, the use of images and design, and tactics for building readership. It’s exciting. It’s re-energizing. So, in that respect, the blog has been a success.

A blog by any other name

1. The new iteration improves on branding with a more memorable name and imagery carried across multiple platforms.

2. It takes advantage of a simple yet eye-catching and elegant design.

3. It directly links with Google + and Pinterest, expanding on previous connections with Twitter and LinkedIn, for better SEO. That’s in addition to better SEO from a new url and name.

All-in-all, some substantive improvements. Don’t you think? Next up, I plan to devote more energy to recruiting guest contributors from among my industry connections. Ideas include someone in public relations and branding, a graphic designer, a videographer, and, perhaps, a certified Mac expert. What web content topics do you want to know more about? Contact me via the form on the About page or just tweet me.

See you online—

by Ed Carpenter — He’s a bad mutha … shut yer mouth.

I was a leader…

While I was a leader that often led projects and teams, I wasn’t leading my own career. I was well compensated, and even though I wasn’t as consciously aware of it at the time, my need to constantly feel that I was moving forward in my career was being satisfied. It just wasn’t something I was personally driving. — David Kelley @LnDDave

From DK’s recent post

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