Pico-Branding: New Rules for Marketing

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Roger Warner

15. 01. 2008 | 4 min read

Pico-Branding: New Rules for Marketing

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I’ve been mulling on this one for a while: how does Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, blogging, and every other web 2.0 BlaBla service change what we need to be doing in marketing, and what are the concepts that matter?

Well, an aborted journey around the M25 in the rain today provided a little thinking time. Here’s my conclusion…

Firstly, a Disclaimer – Reports of Death are Usually Exaggerated

I’m not a doomsayer. The internet does not spell the end for traditional marketing. In fact, the best of it seems to be getting more and more engaging and creative. In fact it has to be by virtue of the environment I’m about to describe…

Fact: The Media/Marketing Environment has Changed for Good

Printing Press

We have all this new Facebook-ish stuff which didn’t exist yesterday – and most of it is great entertainment. Predominantly, it’s all ‘me-media’ – the services themselves don’t provide content, but their users do.

This in itself is exciting: as a publisher I can create whatever I want to, whatever my interest is; as a consumer I can read/view/access an infinitely richer set of content than I could a few years ago. I can also now connect with folks and share stuff in easy, fun and exciting new ways (Facebook, Flickr, etc).

An Introduction to Pico-Branding

Gorilla vs Guerilla

These new things are both a threat and an opportunity for marketers…

Threat: unless everyone’s playing hooky at work on Facebook, then we have fewer opportunities to engage with them in traditional ways because less and less time and attention is devoted to things like TV, newspapers, email or web sites. (Proof: yesterday I was really dedicated to being a couch potato; today – whilst a Sopranos binge on the couch will continue to be highly desirable – I also tend to devote a bit of time to reading blogs in the evenings.)

Opportunity: we have a mass of new ways of connecting with people.

So if you’re a marketing agency, you need to think about acquiring some new skill sets to compliment your standard work (and to safeguard your fees). And, if you have a brand to manage, it’s time to think about how to capitalize on all of these new-fangled destinations.

When thinking about how to engage with the market, we need to bring two different strategies into play:

Mega-branding: press, posters, big web sites, mass email campaigns, TV, etc.

Pico-branding: Facebook, YouTube, blogs, Google AdWords, Twitter, Flickr.

Mega-branding is an exercise in ‘gorilla marketing’ – it has a large footprint; it reaches many people; lives a long life; and it can be (hairily) expensive.

Pico-branding is an exercise in ‘guerilla marketing’ – it has a small footprint; it’s opportunistic and targeted; it’s fleeting; and it’s (relatively) cheap. Importantly, because it’s delivered via the web, Pico-branding is also extremely measurable in a way that Mega-branding can’t always be – and so ‘cheap’ can also be very cost-effective.

How to Get With the Pico-Program

Monopoly board game

Most importantly, Pico-branding requires us to think in new ways…

Pico-branding is not about building grand audience destinations (like the mega-bucks web site of yesteryear), because if you spend lots of time and money building it there’s no longer a guarantee that they’ll come (there’s every chance they’ll be polishing their Facebook profile instead).

No, Pico-branding is all about building smaller, more discrete stopping points across all of these new online outlets, with the aim of capturing your audience’s attention and either complimenting (and informing) what they’re doing or diverting their interest towards a destination that you do own (ie, something from your Mega-brand bucket of work).

A good analogy is with the board game Monopoly. Everyone knows it’s a bad strategy to invest in only one area of the board. Too random and not enough traffic. A better way to generate cash is to buy lots of smaller properties at all of the places that people visit regularly, as well as investing in the big stuff: so, collectively, a bunch of houses on Whitechapel and the Old Kent Road can add a great deal of strategic, money-making value to those expensive hotels on Park Lane.

In Pico-branding terms, this translates as:

Reaching out to the blogs that your audiences read and engaging in valuable discussions with them

Publishing your own blog in a focused way that adds value to (and interacts with) the discussions surrounding your marketplace

Using tools like Twitter to broadcast snippets of information that you own and other people care about

Posting engaging videos on YouTube that show you and your wares in a new light

Creating Facebook (et al) groups or applications that either provide users with content services that they couldn’t get elsewhere or add value to their experience of your brand by helping them connect with like-minded people

…and so on.

Conclusion: Go Small

Pico-branding is all about accepting that your audiences spend as much time on a varied bunch of web-based media, forums and services as they do in their armchair in front of their TV…. and making whole hearted attempts to engage with them in new ways that add value to these online experiences.

So here’s the new rules for marketing…

  1. Go ‘Pico.’ Build more small things than big things
  2. Do this in all the places that your audiences are to be found
  3. Don’t spend less or more – just spread budgets across a wider variety of stuff

Footnote: next up from Velocity….a ‘how to’ guide for finding your audiences online.

Published in:

  • advertising

  • branding

  • identity

  • marketing

  • social-media

  • web-marketing

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  1. Will McInnes

    January 18th, 2008

    Love it! This is a wonderful and useful concept, with the Monopoly metaphor being particularly useful.

    The challenge, however, from clients will be as follows:

    ‘Yeah right. We already run flat out to do the one big bang ‘gorilla’ footprint marketing campaign. We simply do not have the resources and time in the day to spread ourselves as thinly as your pico-branding strategy would require…’

    How do you answer that?

  2. Will McInnes

    January 18th, 2008

    PS. I personally suggest you don’t moderate comments. I want to see my comment immediately, that’s my reward for participating, you old-skool control freaks! 😉
    (Moderate this one if you want though).

  3. Roger Warner

    January 18th, 2008

    Hi Will,

    Responses would be as follows:

    1) Big Gorilla.
    Pay us a pittance (or nothing) and we’ll do a piece of consulting work that makes a ridiculously compelling business case for you to stop wasting cash in silly areas (whilst still getting you an uptick in awareness / conversions / whatever). ie, a proof of concept project where we bear ALL or A LOT OF the risk in terms of ££.

    2) Small Mammal.
    Pay us a pittance and we’ll do a piece of consulting work that makes a ridiculously compelling business case for you to stop wasting cash in silly areas (whilst still getting you an uptick in awareness / conversions / whatever). ie, a proof of concept project where we bear SOME of the risk in terms of ££.

    …and for Guerillas
    Hey – I like your style. Can I buy you lunch?

    You guys must come up against this all the time, right? What’s your view? How do you move clients onwards and upwards…?

    Meantime – I’m working on the comments sitch. Spam filtering appears to be the key here!

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