Why a Good Case Study is So Compelling (It's the Brand, Stupid)

by , Apr 30, 2004, 12:00 AM
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I enjoyed Cory Treffiletti's Spin on Wednesday. I agree wholeheartedly with his premise. In fact, sales people who call me had better have their ducks in a row. I won't hang up on them; I'll tell them how they need to take their jobs more seriously. Half the time I get so fired up, I'll wonder if they'll hang up on me.

The same applies to PR flaks who call me without checking out my byline history first, or at least my bio. You might be surprised how often even a punk columnist like myself gets pitch calls from PR agencies. If there is a major interactive trade show upcoming, you can bet that's why the phone is ringing. ("Sorry, I doubt I'll find the time to stop by your company's booth...")

But, let's assume that someone calling with a pitch has taken the ten minutes required to research my byline history, and that they can speak to what I cover? Is there anything else that they can do to help their cause?

Let's call this PR 101, and believe me, for all the years I've been trying to help clients with their PR, I'm still amazed at how few get this. I've walked away from plenty of business based on the would-be client's lack of awareness that all news has to be empirical. I can even recall trying to tell one something along the lines of "facts have happened, dude. Product claims and soft launches lack that certain element of well, factuality that reporters look for."

And yes, I think I did say dude. How much respect can I be expected to have for someone who doesn't understand something so basic? On the other hand, a well-crafted case study will earn my respect on the quick.

One of the companies that has become very adept at making news from straightforward, branded case studies is Tacoda. Obviously, Tacoda has recently launched its Targeted Ad Network, so it was in the news a lot this week. But, I would assert that the reason it was in the news so much with this fairly soft launch - one that looks more like a leak than a launch - is that the company has built up such a font of credibility with its branded case studies.

Think about it. In all the articles about Tacoda this week, did you see anything about a client that has enjoyed great results on its network yet? You know why? They haven't sold it to one yet.

But, when you have issued case studies over the past quarter with compelling results that have featured clients like Sony, BMW, Marriott, and Macy's running campaigns on branded sites such as DallasNews.com, ChicagoTribune.com, and LATimes.com, you might say it helps your street cred.

Before I proceed, here is my disclaimer. I know Dave Morgan and worked for him at Real Media until the middle of 2002. But, this is more about how a company builds a case for itself than anything having to do with the kind of business they're in. And I'm not making any predictions about Tacoda's new products here. I just like it when a company sticks to the facts in its releases. As any reporter in this space knows, there is no shortage of cliché-ridden fluff.

I got in a lot of trouble last year, when one of my columns took a couple of the rich media vendors to task for their press releases with claims about larger rich media ad formats that failed to name any clients that had purchased them. I get frustrated when companies issue a release and assume that since it's something they "say," that it's something that the industry needs to hear. As a marketer and PR guy, I know better. As a columnist now for a year in this space, I find that view pretty condescending.

If you're going to try making news, try starting with facts. These would be the big four: who, what, where, and when. And let the client or third party say why. It's always going to give your release or case study a better chance of seeing the light of day.

As far as I, and most people who cover this space, am concerned, there is no such thing as a non-branded case study. All valid case studies must be branded, and must have supporting quotes. If they don't, they're called something else that I can't write here.

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