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Digital media offer challenges, opportunities, say Kellogg marketing experts

By Raksha Varma

1/1/2005 - Leaders from the marketing world descended upon the James L. Allen Center to discuss the future of ad power, equity and agency at the eighth annual Kellogg School Marketing Conference. With its theme “Taking Action, Seizing Results,” the Jan. 28-29 conference brought together thought leaders to consider a host of related topics, including brand lifecycle, consumer choice and the benefits of nontraditional marketing.

Mark R. Goldston ’78, president and CEO of United Online, kicked off the conference’s second day articulating the importance of brand identity to his company. “Successful marketing depends on a company’s brand message,” he said. “Consumers associate our brand with a higher-quality opportunity at half the market price.”

United Online is an Internet service provider that offers consumers Internet access, accelerated dial-up services, premium e-mail, personal Web-hosting and high-speed access. Ending revenue for 2004 was $425.9 million, Goldston said, adding that much of the capital stems from the merger between NetZero and Juno in 2000.

NetZero, Juno and BlueLight are the Internet brands within the United Online umbrella. “It’s important to offer consumers multiple brands,” Goldston said. “If we’re going to dominate the value-segment, there needs to be more than one choice.”

Brands fail, he added, because of the company’s incorrect market segmentation, deficient price-feature relationship and poor execution of advertising.

“Your company must identify a niche and stake it out,” said Goldston, who is author of the 1992 title The Turnaround Prescription. He is also named as inventor on 12 U.S. patents, including products such as inflatable pump athletic shoes and lighted footwear.

Marketing strategies that propel brand efficiency include channel-specific customer acquisition, product integration and efficient media buying, he said.

Panelists at the Jan. 29 conference sessions also discussed traditional strategies while emphasizing the importance of breakthrough digitized marketing techniques.

“Consumers are God,” said Steven P. Feuling ’88, chief marketing officer for Starcom USA, one of the speakers for the panel, “Innovative methods for targeting consumers in the 21st century.” “The agency’s responsibility is to remain agnostic. We cannot be predisposed to traditional or nontraditional techniques.”

“We are starting to see more digitized marketing – video streams, cell phones and blogs,” said Mark R. Mitten, producer for Mark Burnett Productions’ “The Apprentice.” “These techniques are successful because they excite and integrate the consumer.”

Panelists also spoke about last year’s top nontraditional marketing feat. The majority voted for Apple’s iPod launch because it used alternative methods to deliver design, brand equity and strategic sponsorships — components for successful product placement.

“From partnering with [rock band] U2 to its sleek design, iPod was the top nontraditional marketing launch I saw last year,” said Que Gaskins ’93, global vice president of lifestyle and entertainment marketing for Reebok. He added: “The launch of Halo 2 was also staggering for the gaming industry. It raked in $10 million in sales in one day and opened a chapter for younger consumers.”

Although marketing efforts aimed at youth were emphasized, panelists advised companies to target older generations also.

“Wireless capabilities, digitized media and other streams are catered to youth, who are the future of marketing,” said Steve Knox, chief marketing officer of Tremor, a Procter & Gamble subsidiary. “But there is still a huge generation of baby boomers who aren’t quitting. How do you market to them? How do you make technology relevant to them? This is also the future of marketing.”

Conference attendee Reuben Subramaniam, School of Education and Social Policy senior, said: “Today’s panel shed some light on the future of the agency and its relationship to media – both traditional forms and digitized media. I’m curious to see where we are headed.”