strategy+business Winter 2013 : Page 79

B E S T B U S I N E S S B O O K S 2 0 13 / M A R K E T I N G consultancy, has little regard for traditional marketing and the quest for awareness, particularly as mass media continues its decline. “Whether it relies on old media or new,” writes Baer in Youtility: Why Smart Marketing Is about Help Not Hype, “top-of-mind awareness is less ef-fective than ever as a marketing strategy for two reasons: You can’t promote to people you can’t find, and distrust of business erodes its foundation.” Instead, Baer thinks that marketers should be deliv-ering marketing that is “truly, inherently useful” to its To Siegel and Etzkorn, if your cheeky ads are followed up with an awful website experience or a contract dripping with legalese, you’ve blown it. intended audiences—marketing that has, as his would-be catchphrase puts it, youtility. Examples of youtility include Procter & Gamble’s Charmin Sit or Squat app, which features Yelp-like reviews of public bathrooms; Scotts Miracle-Gro newsletters, which offer customized advice on lawn care based on where readers live and the type of lawn they have; and the Holiday World amuse-ment park website, which posts every detail a roller coaster fanatic could want about each of its coasters, including track length, top speed, and the height of the lift hill. Although I wouldn’t classify these examples as earthshaking, they are worth considering in light of the real-world underpinnings of Baer’s argument. First, as marketers try to employ social media, they are compet-ing for attention against the very people they are court-ing. Thus, says Baer, “your prospective customers must consider you to be a friend. And if, like their friends, you provide them real value, if you practice youtility rather than simply offer a series of coupons and come-ons, they will reward your company with loyalty and advocacy, the same ways we reward our friends.” You-tility is not getting customers to like your Facebook page; it is using that and other platforms to be helpful to them. Second, the consumer penchant for doing research before buying has increased exponentially in the Digi-tal Age. Baer cites a 2010 Google study that found that people referred to 5.3 information sources before a pur-chase decision; a year later, they referred to 10.4 sources. This yen for information isn’t limited to big-ticket purchases. These days, people tap 5.8 sources of infor-mation before deciding which quick-serve restaurant to go to. “If the fact that Americans need almost six data inputs before pulling the trigger on a chicken sandwich decision doesn’t convince you of the need to win the war of information, I give up,” writes Baer. He argues that these days, the key to a marketer’s success is becoming part of that pool of information sources. Witness the Clorox myStain mobile app, which offers stain-fighting advice on the fly. A great way to market Clorox’s products? Sure, but a crucial part of the app’s success is the com-pany’s willingness to help even when that help doesn’t include its products. As the book makes clear, the array of tools in the youtility toolbox is vast. Baer draws not just on CPG brands, but also on hospitals, hotels, and even taxi-cab drivers, one of whom publishes a newsletter, “Taxi Mike’s Dining Guide: Where to Eat in Banff.” Dis-tributed free all over town, the guide has nothing to do with cab rides, but who are you going to call for a ride back to your hotel after you’ve had a great meal at a res-taurant recommended by Taxi Mike? We’ve heard the youtility thesis before, but it says something about the timing of this book and its practi-cal, universally applicable advice that as I write this, it is on the New York Times hardcover bestseller list. Delivering Experience best books 2013 marketing 79 If experience is becoming the essence of marketing, ex-perience delivery is becoming a more high-tech endeav-or. These days, marketers must also be technologists. Converge: Transforming Business at the Intersection of Marketing and Technology dives deep into the rami-fications of technology-infused marketing. Written by ex-CEO Bob Lord and CTO Ray Velez of the digital marketing agency Razorfish (for which I have worked), the book covers topics including data-driven experienc-es, the cloud, open source software framework Hadoop, and agile methodology (an innovative, iteration-based software development practice) with a facility that can boggle the reader’s mind. And if you don’t know what words such as ubicomp mean, be prepared to use

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