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Five Questions with Julia Zauner

November 20, 2009

Brand New Blog is an exploration of branding and marketing in emerging technologies. I’m interested in the creative and innovative ways brands are harnessing the power of these new tools.

To further examine the issues and opportunities facing brands, I turned to Julia Zauner, a marketing and communications professional with over 25 years experience in the industry. Zauner’s impressive career spans multiple sectors including hospitality, healthcare, publishing, private foundation, non-profit and real estate. She provides leadership in strategic development, internal communications, traditional and online marketing, web development and media relations for clients.

Zauner has specialized experience in online marketing and media, as well as search engine optimization, having served as an independent consultant for over a decade to foundations and companies on related matters. I asked Zauner for her opinion on some of the most prevalent questions surrounding new media in marketing and communications.

Professionals in the marketing, advertising and public relations industry are still developing strategies to harness the power of new media tools. In your opinion, what role should new media like search engine marketing, mobile marketing, social networks, Twitter, blogs and other online tools play in the marketing mix?

I see new media tools serving different roles in the marketing mix.  SEM, Mobile Marketing and other new media tools with measurable response should be treated like any marketing channel – with defined budget, conversion and sales goals. Twitter, blogs and other social networking tools can also serve as a customer relations tools – providing a means of real time feedback on products and services. Another important role intertwined throughout new media is “community building” – creating a forum for brand loyalists to share their views, concerns and ideas. Finally, the buzz factor is key. Going viral through “word of mouse” can be a huge promotional tool for a company, or a public relations nightmare!

What criteria should marketers use when evaluating new media tools as part of an overall plan?

Of course ROI is an important criterion for evaluating any media tool, but the return may not always be measurable in dollars and cents.  Does the tool help to further other strategic objectives of the organization – increase customer satisfaction, increase awareness, build reputation, disseminate information?  Particularly in the non-profit world, social networking tools can provide the type of reach and constituent involvement that organizations could never have dreamed possible only a decade ago.  It is important when embarking on a new media effort to define up front, “what does success look like”.  What do you want to accomplish and how will you measure?  Make sure the tools are in place to measure with a feedback loop into the organization to adjust that campaign as needed if results fall short.

What is the most significant challenge you’ve encountered when employing new media in a marketing and communication plan?

Where to focus our efforts is one of the biggest challenges. With many emerging new media tools, it a challenge to know which is going to best the next big thing.  New media tools require constant monitoring and tweaking.  There is no “set ‘n play” option.  You need to continuously monitor, test, and adjust.

On a broader level, I am concerned that marketing and communication professionals are spending so much time focused on new media tools, that we may be losing that one-to-one connection with our customers. It is still critical to spend time talking to customers, observing their interactions with your sales forces, understanding their needs and motivations on a personal level. This is the key to effective marketing.

Do you think new media tools are valuable in supporting long term, core brand values or do these tools work better in advancing short term, tactical goals?

New media tools have value in supporting both brand building and tactical goals. The great thing about new media tools is the high degree of measurability, the immediacy of feedback and the speed at which things can change.  Because of this, it better serves the short term, tactical goals.

However, because consumers are becoming increasing dependent on new media tools (to the exclusion of offline methods) to educate themselves about products and services, to research purchase options, conduct purchases and manage their ongoing relationships with companies, new media tools must provide full integration and promotion of core brand values.  If not, companies risk a diffused brand message and image.

There is an ongoing question of how to measure the effectiveness of new media tools in driving offline behavior. Where do you see opportunity?

Healthcare provides one of the strongest examples of how new media tools influence offline behavior.  Patients often come to doctor appointments armed with print outs from the Internet – wanting to discuss symptoms, medications, diagnostic tests and treatment options.  This is a mixed blessing for the healthcare provider.  But it does demonstrate a critical role of new media tools as a source of information and self-education.  Companies and organizations can leverage the power of educating and informing their customers and constituents to drive offline behavior – be it to take action on an important social issue, to pull demand, or purchase a new product.

Convenience is the other area of opportunity – we all want fewer hassles. Some online retailers allow customers to order a product online, then go to the store to pick up the item.  This eliminates the hassle of wandering around the store looking for something and waiting in line at the register.  At the same time, the customer gets the product right away without having to wait for it to be shipped – instant gratification. Finding ways to make the offline experience more convenient, customer friendly and enjoyable is a way to leverage new media tools to drive offline behavior.  From online ticket purchasing, to printing out boarding passes (now with a multitude of upgrade options) to scheduling spa reservations for your next resort stay, the opportunities for influencing offline behavior and up selling are endless.

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