The [Ad]vantage: Reducing the Fear Factor

Welcome to the [Ad]vantage, an ongoing discussion of what's new, what's next, and how to take of advantage of it all. We'll explore topics such as emerging media, future trends and technologies, and the role of innovation in advertising and media.

As we ease into 2007, many in the industry wonder what this year will hold. If last year was any indication, marketers will continue to see explosive growth in emerging media options and platform technologies, and ongoing complexity in the requirements needed to engage today's empowered audiences.

One of the major challenges facing marketers today is the catch-22 scenario of being innovative and creative, and leveraging new technologies, while also being risk averse. In times like these, the winners will be those who can overcome their fear and embrace new opportunities. Certainly courage isn't the only quality necessary to achieve success. Creativity, organization, adaptability, and open-mindedness are equally important. But fear tends to be the paralyzing factor.

Here's how you can balance your risk with reward:

>> Stay within the range and relevance of your brand. Although it may initially seem like a limitation, understanding your audience's limits of acceptance (as they relate to their perception of and relationship with your brand) is key when evaluating new opportunities.

Wal-Mart's failed attempt at a MySpace-like environment (known as The Hub) is a good example of crossing the line of brand acceptance. Although social networks continue to be a strong area of interest, and many brands would be wise to take action in this area, those exploring this emerging opportunity should have a clear purpose for doing so. In Wal-Mart's case, the retailer has often been perceived as a community destroyer rather than a community builder.

The aim is to consistently reach forward - but in line with your brand's core values, goals, and relationships.

>> Have an organizing idea and a reason. Leveraging a new technology or opportunity should be a means to an end, not the end itself. Though I often tell my clients that the method is part of the message, it's only part of the story.

When I look at the trend toward converged devices, I see new engagement and experience opportunities. But simply delivering something on this upcoming platform won't guarantee success. In fact, it may result in failure.

Underutilizing a new platform is worse than not using it at all. Audiences engaged through emerging media and technologies are often early adopters. They know whether you've done your homework. Brands that do can gain instant street cred. Those that don't can be written off for years.

>> Organize your efforts. When exploring emerging opportunities, it's important to maintain balance and organization in your efforts. Consider staging your findings into categories such as perceived risk, technology dependency, and consumer interest. This way you can distribute your efforts, organize your findings, and identify more than one opportunity at a time.

I tend to organize my research and discovery in several ways, including a collection of self-defined verticals and a range of initial interest and potential. Developments such as DVR-to-Internet connectivity go into a "consumer empowerment" vertical, while also categorized as a "near-term interest."

>> Be equally as innovative on how you measure your efforts. New forms of emerging media and technology offer the ability to gather data about their use. However, common evaluation methods and data points often miss the full impact of innovative efforts.

Take the opportunity early on to look beyond your standard forms of data gathering and analysis and let the experience dictate the plan. Also, consider redefining what determines a "failure." It's often the early attempts that lay the foundation for future success.

Finally, just like a good golf swing, it's your follow-through that ultimately makes all the difference. Don't be afraid to explore, try new things, and learn equally from your failures and your successes. Turn that knowledge into new opportunities, and try again! Leading brands see exploration as a critical component in staying competitive. Their willingness to dive into the unknown is often instrumental in helping them reach their icon status.

See? It's not so scary after all.

Kirk Drummond is the vice president of creative and innovation for T3. (

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