Clark Kokich doesn’t mince words when it comes to describing the changes that are gripping marketing departments. “A lot of companies give lip service — ‘We want innovation and risk-taking,’ but when somebody tries something and it doesn’t work they crucify them,” said Kokich, chairman and former CEO of Razorfish and author of “Do or Die,” which delves into the challenges marketers are facing now that traditional advertising channels are increasingly ignored. “The fundamental issue is people in senior leadership at these companies don’t fully grasp how things have changed and how much power their consumers have.” Kokich spoke with BMA Buzz about how marketers and advertising agencies cam embrace change.
BMA Buzz: In light of an ever-changing B2B marketplace what are the biggest challenges in terms of improving agency-client relations?
Clark Kokich: In this business environment, clients need business ideas and competitive ideas and agencies are still bringing them promotional ideas and advertising ideas. And, particularly with social and mobile, where clients have an opportunity to transform the relationships that they have with their customers, what you get instead from agencies is a lot of clever one-offs: they get some attention, they get some press, they are like comets streaking across the sky and then they’re gone, and rarely translate to increased market share and profits.
If I’m a B2B marketer I want to have a direct relationship with my customers. I’ve got these new tools in social and mobile and I should be thinking about how I use those tools to transform those relationships and my agency should be bringing me those ideas [about how to transform those relationships]. The challenge is an alignment in goals and missions. Agencies are still looking to do things to get attention and what clients are looking for are things that not just get attention but matter to their customers.
BMA Buzz: What should be the top priorities for B2B marketers who want to move more aggressively in adopting new media channels?
Kokich: Our industry is guilty of worshipping the shiny new object; there’s always this questions of what’s new or what should I be doing next. That distracts from the real question that a B2B marketer should be focused on, which is: How do I improve service for my product? Instead of asking the question, what can we say to our customers that will change the way they think of the product, [marketers] should ask the question, what do people hate about our category and about our brand and how can we use these new channels to fix it? That’s a very different question. And when you can ask that question, you end up with a completely different approach to mobile and social and one that I think is more fundamental and durable.
I don’t think most CEOs understand that no matter what you do, even if you’re manufacturing equipment and selling it to large corporations, you’re a digital business, you’re a media business, and the content and the information and the tools that you distribute through your distribution chain are a critically important way to differentiate your company.
BMA Buzz: “Do or Die” is the first full-length business book to be published as an iPad app. Can you talk to that marketing strategy and how you’ve been able to leverage digital technology to sell the book?
Kokich: Marketing for the book has been exclusively PR and social, and that is an extraordinarily powerful combination. On the launch date, we got some coverage from Fast Company, which was great in and of itself, but the real power was in the social amplification; that article was shared hundreds of times on Twitter and Facebook and eventually hundreds of thousands of people, who wouldn’t have seen [the article] otherwise.
That’s the basic formula for success in marketing today. If you do something worthwhile — and provide a piece of content, a video, an article — the real amplification comes when the customers tell their friends and/or business associates. A lot of B2B brands were built largely through word-of-mouth influence. Now, instead of reaching scores of people you can reach thousands.