Yes, there are some industries that are going to have a very hard time (Adweek, 12/6/09) marketing through social media outlets. Pharmaceutical, alcohol, tobacco…the reality is that the regulatory concerns and realities that surround some industries put them in a position to not take advantage of social media’s power in the same way that a technology company might.

So be innovative. Find ways to use social media for your marketing campaign that not only adheres to the letter of the law but also sets new standards for meeting those guidelines. If there are really smart and creative people working on your online marketing and communications efforts they’ll figure out a way to do just that.

All sizzle

baconAdAge’s story (12/4/09) about not creating an iPhone app – or doing anything else, for that matter – just because you think it result in a lot of buzz and BusinessWeek’s story on “social media snake oil” are of the same genetic lineage.

The sort of experts and coaches in Stephen Baker’s (tragically last) BW story (12/3/09) may get you a lot of Twitter followers, but there’s very little chance any long-term benefits will be had. Same with the creation of an iPhone app, microsite or any other campaign element where the biggest goal to be reached is word-of-mouth.

WOM is important, no doubt, but all efforts should be focused around components likely to have other results that are longer-lasting such as consumer loyalty, increased sales or whatever other metric the project is being measured against.

Don’t get sucked into by people, whether internally or externally, who promise that what they’re proposing will make you really popular. Long term campaigns that are truly valuable make you important and trusted and that’s going to last much longer than fleeting popularity.

The API culture

Start-ups and some big brands are finding success by opening up APIs (AdAge, 11/30/09) to their online products that allow people to mix them up, build custom tools around them and otherwise share in unique and innovative ways.

Traditional media organizations are falling apart because they’ve gone on the attack against those who are mixing their stories up into custom versions that they then share in unique and innovative ways. I’m not talking about behavior that’s legitimately labeled as thievery, but the way those guardians think that a blog linking to them is the worst thing possible.

For news organizations, the stories they produce are their API. Open it up and encourage people to mix up, add to and otherwise customize their own products based on that API. It encourages loyalty and gets people not just involved with the product but also becoming an advocate on that organization’s behalf.

Priorities out of sync

If you want to know what the lynch pin in the ongoing cold (but increasingly heating up) war between studios and exhibitors (Variety, 11/28/09) it’s that their priorities, once more or less in alignment, are more and more competing against each other.

Movie theater seats

Studios want to make as much money as they can, whether it’s through domestic or international theatrical exhibition or through some form of home video platform. For the last decade home video – specifically DVDs – have made up a good chunk of each film’s profitability. But that’s slipping and they’re looking for ways to prop that market up. To cater to what they’ve found to be new consumer behavior and desires they’re taking a fresh look at things like the timing of those home video releases.

Exhibitors – in this case defined as theater owners – want to make as much money as they can and preserve the idea that going to the theater being a special event, the preferred way to see a movie. Movies, though, aren’t where they make much of their money. Sure, they do make money from the tickets they sell, but the percentage of each ticket they keep goes up every week the movie is there, with the studio taking the lion’s share up-front. To counter that imbalance the theaters charge you $4.00 for a bag of popcorn and join ad networks to run commercials before the film starts.

Studio’s desire to put the movie in the consumer’s hands in the consumer’s preferred way, no different than any other consumer packaged goods manufacturer.

Exhibitors want the consumer to come to their location in order to watch the movie, no different than any other consumer packaged goods retailer.

So if the motivations are the same as they are in other industries why are we seeing such a clash?

Because not many other consumer products are currently subjected to a tiered release pattern.

Because not many other consumer products can be delivered in a variety of ways. You can’t download bread or milk.

In addition to that fundamental difference you have – and this is something that frequently gets overlooked when discussing this problem – the fact that the massive (sometimes) marketing campaigns studios mount are focused on driving behavior within a very limited time period. Part of the move by studios to shorten the theatrical-to-DVD window of time is to bring that home video release closer to the marketing campaign in order to make the money laid out for that campaign go, at least hypothetically, farther. As budgets tighten at studios, they need to increase the ROI for every dollar spent and re-thinking release patterns is certainly part of that.