JUNE 2010

THE way in which companies market messages and pitch brands is shifting with the advent of digital media platforms and those that continue to deploy old school rhetoric will be left in the paper trail. Ditto to the marketing and public relations companies that are contracted to etch the message into the psyche of a captive audience.

Gone are the days when a business could rely solely on advertising or public relations to grandstand their goods and services. Now a more holistic approach is demanded of ad agencies and spin doctors as they scramble to find ways of better managing clients.

Smarter cohesion between media agencies is required. On the Gold Coast competition for the client dollar is rife. Recessionary ripples have altered consumer spending habits for the long haul and marketing experts say corporations must get more creative in the way they promote their services.

Australian Marketing Institute Queensland president Jason Greenhalgh, says two major factors have contributed to the need for ‘smarter and more creative marketing’ solutions.

The first is the increasing number of brands available to consumers and more importantly, the fragmentation of mass media. The second is the GFC.

“Historically you could spend more dollars on a television advert than your competitors and end up with very effective results – but those days are gone,” says Greenhalgh.

“The addition of online media in particular has made it possible for smaller companies to cut through the market in much more effective ways. The cost-effectiveness of online advertising means companies need to think outside the norms when engaging with their target consumers.

“John O’Hara (Sunny Queen Eggs CEO) will be the first to admit that an egg is a pretty boring product. But what he has proven is how to market a simple product with some creativity by finding a way to make people think about the brand of egg they are going to buy.”

Greenhalgh also points to the global phenomenon created by Tourism Queensland executive marketing director Steve McRoberts and his team with the ‘best job in the world’ campaign.

He does warn however that online advertising is not the be-all and end-all for modern marketing, with utilising various media platforms the key.

“That’s one thing that both campaigns did very well. It is not just a case of putting it on the internet because it’s cost effective,” he says.

“The really successful campaigns have used all forms of mass media to effectively market a product or service – it’s all about thinking outside the norms.”

Talking the talk

According to the founder and director of Louise Carroll Marketing, the bigger picture theory is now even more expansive.

“Clients need to have the bigger picture in front of them. There is an enormous amount of change happening,” says Carroll.

“Internal training has become a big thing in our organisation to learn social media platforms and how they can best benefit our clients. Our staff are always undergoing training and workshops so we can explore new avenues to reach clients’ target markets. We need to take time to understand the business and to identify where growth is coming from so that a marketing solution can be built around it.”

Creative agency Smart Queensland is quickly building market share with a raft of national clients seeking digital media solutions.

“Smart Queensland has become the digital arm of Smart National which focuses on web development, digital display and digital activation,” says managing director Joe Sands, whose clients include McDonalds, Royal Brunei and Gold Coast City Council.

“The roll out of digital for national clients has been our core focus. When social media was the buzz term, we had a lot of clients wanting to come on board.

“Clients come to us if they have digital needs and if you try to educate them on the entire spectrum, it can become confusing. I feel sorry for some clients trying to get their head around it all, but it all comes back to strategy and it’s a point that a lot of people miss.

“The key is that it has to be consumer-centric. A lot of people are running around in circles and not getting the traction they need. We have close ties with major PR firms that are good at positioning and messaging, but at the end of the day, it’s all about the consumer.”

Carroll agrees: “Today’s customer and consumer are more computer literate than ever and searching and getting information is much easier. Take YouTube for example, it only landed five years ago and it’s now a global language.”

People are going to talk about you, so become part of the conversation. A new vernacular has emerged attest the experts.

Pro Media is the longest running PR company on the Gold Coast. It too is fielding first hand enquiries by businesses seeking effective ways to embrace Twitter, Facebook, Blogs, You Tube and other online networking sites. Old dogs have to learn new tricks, concedes managing director Paul Wilson.

“Although they do not currently replace traditional forms of media such as press, radio and television, social media have certainly emerged as a powerful complement to mainstream media,” he says.

“The GFC has forced many businesses to look more closely than ever before at the most cost effective ways to deliver their message and to market their company or project.

“This has brought social media under close scrutiny and over the past 12 months we have seen a marked increase in clients requesting assistance and consultation with social media, including the development of tailored social media strategies.

“One of social media’s great benefits is its immediacy, which provides a real-time conversation between a company and its target audiences, allowing for a communications plan to be quickly adapted to suit changing circumstances.”

Don’t shield your business from customers

A lot of businesses make the irrefutable mistake of cutting back marketing budgets during a weaker economy - potentially de-branding the product or service.

“Gerry Harvey hit it on the head when we said that in tough times, businesses need to increase marketing and that includes integrating new systems,” says Carroll.

With 40 years media, public relations and marketing experience, Rod Spence recommends ‘care to executives’ who continue to slash promotional budgets as a survival strategy.

“There has been a massive reduction in media spending and marketing budgets either as a result of choice or necessity, but as the economy strengthens CEOs and marketing managers must now be giving thought to how to re-build business without putting lethal strain on cashflow,” says Spence, the managing director of Southport-based Spence Consulting.

“In boom times many companies can prosper without implementing sophisticated marketing, public relations and branding strategies, but this is not the case when markets continue to present very serious challenges.

“Marketing and public relations tasks successfully undertaken in-house during boom times, can prove wanting when times are tough, simply because those allocated with the responsibilities have never had to deal with such challenging business environments.”

Integrated solutions require clear communication

Perhaps now more than ever, greater cohesion must be forged between multimedia service companies. A united approach can only be of benefit to the client and the consumer. The idea that PR and advertising are ‘feeding from the same carcass’ in terms of revenue sources still rings true. They cannot work independently.

While the traditional modus operandi for PR companies was to get their clients into mass media streams by crafting clever and relevant angles that appeal to the readership, viewer or listener, the reality is that without the advertising to support the construct, those streams or platforms would cease to exist.

Carroll advises businesses to be more holistic, a street level approach that incorporates both advertising and PR strategies.

“It’s an important fundamental for our clients. It must fit together and it has to be strategically planned.

“Our job is to develop key messages but the positioning in the market place must translate across marketing and sales,” she says.

“Business is tough all ‘round. It doesn’t matter if the business is a small beauty salon, a restaurant, financial adviser or large property developer, more so than ever there has to be an integrated approach.”

Spence says consultants who have worked through cyclical market downturns in the past can help in-house personnel to enhance bottom-line results or ‘come to the rescue’ of CEOs who do not have high levels of marketing and public relations experience.

“Development of a positive team environment with consultants working effectively with business principles and their staff is the best way to deliver results,” he says.

“Identifiable bottom-line results must be the product of public relations, marketing and branding strategies, regardless of market dynamics.”

Carroll says the paradigm is continually shifting and diversification is paramount.

“The spectrum of what we’re used to doesn’t cut it anymore,” she says.

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