Archive for July, 2007

“Widget” is officially one of the buzzwords of the year. Congratulations widget!

However, buzzwords, like folklore, stem from roots that are planted in reality. This is certainly true when it comes to the concept of widgets.  Ironically, widgets are far from new; they have been around for years. The Web2.0 elements of  ‘collective experience’ have made widgets more popular than ever among both consumers and marketers, and for good reason.

Widgets essentially are web-based, desktop or mobile applications that provide digital mobility – an extension of an existing experience to one or more other digital environments. To date the most successful widgets provide consumers with a level of frequently accessed content and utility. Stock tickers, count down clocks, horoscopes, local weather or news updates are prime examples. Merriam-Webster defines a widget as “an unnamed article considered for purposes of hypothetical example”. So the application of the term within the context of digital marketing really means that widgets can be anything.

Widgets can be branded or not. Marketers are still trying to figure out how to offer content or utility value to customers and prospects, while wrapping the widgetized experience in their brand. There is only room for so many widgets in a consumer’s life, and widgets are not a silver bullet. (More on branding widgets in another post.)

If I can take a moment to simplify a concept that I’ve been talking about for years …The future of marketing is, in its simplest form, essentially databases of various content assets and tools that can be delivered [matched] to consumers based on self selected and/or behavioral criteria, across the entire palette of digital channels. 

Generally, widgets fall into three categories – web widgets, desktop widgets and mobile widgets.

Web widgets pull content and/or tools to other websites through a small chunk of easily embedded code. Most widgets are powered by RSS, however there are javascript and alternative language widgets as well.

Desktop widgets are downloadable applications that sit passively on a consumer’s desktop, or integrates into other applications such as your browser.

So in the spirit of a buzzwordy approach, I’ve developed the “three M’s” of widgets. Stay tuned to my next MediaPost piece for the remainder on this topic… 

Here’s a sneak preview of an upcoming Media Post column… 

 I LOVE THE LEVEL OF innovation in our industry these days. One of the side effects of the continued consolidation among large media and technology companies, is a level of innovation on the other side of the spectrum. While the media giants are firming the infrastructure of the industry, much of the quick-to-market innovation in marketing technologies will be coming from the smaller companies — the kind of small, nimble and innovative companies who once made up the backbone of the industry. These firms are developing tools that provide for streamlined and controlled, yet flexible creation and/or distribution of professional and consumer generated content across all digital channels.

The “current round” of innovation is spawning an era of collective consumer experience and technology interoperability. As marketers, we can leverage these applications and trends to deepen consumer relationships by driving increased engagement, utility and value. However — the methods of applying these new tools and technologies will be subjective, and important choices that marketers and agencies must become accustomed to making.

And that’s a good thing by the way…

Take Twitter for example. In the last few months I’ve received a lot of inquiries about how to apply Twitter within the context of a variety of digital marketing strategies. Not coincidentally, there has been a lot of chatter about Twitter over the last several months. If you go to the Twitter homepage, your will be welcomed by a barrage of unrelated posts from “less than 5 seconds ago”. Traditional digital logic can confuse and even dumbfound the marketer as to what Twitter means to both the consumer as well as the marketer’s business.

Marketers and publishers are finally incorporating the last round of emerging technologies like Podcasts, RSS feeds, and SMS, all of which already have somewhat significant consumer and industry adoption. Development needs to be fluid and ever-evolving to capitalize on the innovation. There is no box this stuff fits into (which is another good thing).

Now, for the record, I look at a lot of the emerging marketing technologies as the proverbial icing on the cake — at times, merely the sprinkles on the icing. As for Twitter and others, they’re not for everyone. However, there are relevant and interesting applications of technologies that at-a-glance are seemingly of limited use or confusing. Part of that disparity stems from the fact that many of the new technologies are being adopted by the younger markets, which we all know outpace the learning and adoption curve of the marketing industry itself.

Experimentation and an open mind will facilitate the proper implementation of these tools. We’ll most likely witness many silent failures, and a number of boisterous successes. But everyone will try to tap into the trends (yet another good thing). In an era where collaboration is becoming a competitive advantage, innovative applications of new technologies can come from anywhere.

However, beware of square pegs in round holes!

One of the first IM Buddies (remember those?) was for Cheez Its, as if anyone wanted to chat with Cheez Its! Budweiser launched BudTV earlier this year, and it flopped. Recently Sprite launched a mobile social network. Do you think that consumers are flocking in droves to add another commitment to participate in a social network with a lymon twist? Doubtful.

There is a place for branded content within new channels and tools — but branded content as a destination doesn’t seem to work as well as simply making it part of the digital journey. Adapting strategies-of-old in the brave new world of digital media just doesn’t work. Today’s consumers expect authenticity, transparency, utility and entertainment from their media experiences. Consumers have their digital cake, and they want to eat it too.

As you develop plans to integrate new media and marketing technologies, tools, widgets or otherwise into your marketing bag-o-tricks, keep your sights set firmly on providing relevant experiences of value, a concept that will ring true and stand the test of time.