This blog series, featuring interviews with speakers from the SES Conference & Expo, scheduled Aug. 15 to 19 in San Francisco, is brought to you by Incisive Media.

This question-and-answer session is with Performics CEO Daina Middleton.

How is online advertising changing? What do businesses need to do to keep up?

Beyond advertising or even online advertising, marketing in general is in the midst of a drastic evolution. Think about the environment we live in today, and remember that nearly all of the tools, processes and philosophies around marketing were developed more than 50 years ago. More than 81% of upscale Generation Y-ers use Facebook every day, nearly twice the number who watch TV or read newspaper content, according to a report from L2 think tank. Gen Y-ers are commonly defined as the generation that is technologically savvy. What perhaps is not commonly observed is that Gen Y-ers were born participants and expect to engage as an equal relationship with everyone. The relationship is one of equality, and the rules of participation in their eyes apply to everyone — individuals, companies, government organizations. Evolved technology has provided them tools to connect with others who have the same expectations. Participation is innate to their identity — in the real world, and the virtual world. And the line separating the real and the virtual worlds is becoming increasingly thin. Companies are challenged to hire these participants as employees and win them over as customers with hopes and dreams about fostering lasting relationships. In both cases, understanding these changes have occurred, and creating an environment specifically designed for participation is a prerequisite for survival and success.

What’s the secret to getting — and keeping — someone’s attention in a world in which a growing number of platforms host content that constantly changes?

Marketers must actively acknowledge the value participants contribute to the brand and conscientiously approach marketing planning differently. This is where the rubber meets the road regarding a philosophical change. The goal of today’s participant marketing is to activate a set of interdependent motivational elements that work together to inspire someone to join, share, take part, play a part, connect and engage. These inter-related elements are what we call the Participation Code and are not a new concept. Across the ages, scholars, sociologists and scientists have studied the reason people are intrinsically motivated to participate. Aristotle, Freud, Nunberg, Maslow and others developed self-determination theory to explain the reason humans naturally seek out participation as part of their psychological development. The idea behind the theory is that individuals are motivated to seek challenges, to discover perspectives and, in doing so, actualize their human potential. If someone is intrinsically motivated, the person will chose to actively engage and participate. Social environments can be designed to facilitate and enable participation, or they can just as easily cause disruption, fragmentation and disinterest.

Until now, intrinsic-motivation theory was applied only to psychology, education, health care, sports and exercise, and work environments. It wasn’t applied to marketing because it wasn’t relevant to do so. Technology has enabled participation in ways Aristotle never imagined. In the past 10 to 15 years, the number of sites and applications with the single purpose of connecting with others and designed for participation has grown exponentially. Never has there been a time more significant for marketers to understand participation. Brands that embrace participant marketing will communicate more effectively with customers and employees, add more value and compete more effectively in today’s connected world.

Unfortunately, marketers are struggling to operate in this environment using antiquated tools and theories. What if a brand were able to inspire someone to join, share, take part, play a part, connect and engage by applying three simple elements? The concepts are simple, logical and relatively easy to employ once they are described in a simple and relevant manner translated for marketing purposes.

What marketing tools or advertising formats excite you the most? Why?

Translating data into insight is a critical tool for marketers. It’s vital for brand marketers and their agency partners to evolve their philosophy and strategies with the primary goal to ignite and maintain brand participation from prospective and potential customers while simultaneously achieving performance demanded by business goals. These marketers are “revolutionists,” meaning they are digital innovators who have adopted an agile and adaptive marketing culture by actively employing data-driven insight and are continually integrating and optimizing programs for optimal performance. In fact, recent studies showed that CMO longevity is actually on the increase for the first time because data are being utilized to make informed decisions. It’s vital that marketers choose agency partners that are focused on driving participation and performance resulting in quantum results.

I am also passionate about mobile. Consider worldwide growth rates for mobile devices: 20 years for the first billion to sell, four years for the second billion, two years for the third billion and, today, more than 5 billion people use mobile phones. That is a staggering 62% of the world’s population; comparatively, fewer than 2 billion have a personal computer. Mobile-phone adoption is expected to reach 20 billion by 2020. Advances in networks, platforms, devices and data have combined to create an extremely personal and participation-enabling mobile device. Mobile adoption is probably the fuel that seals the fate for companies questioning the need to become more participant-focused. No other tool is more primed for participation than a mobile device. It is a simple vehicle of empowerment clutched in the palm of the hand. In fact, a majority of mobile-phone users report that the device is so personal, it is no more than a foot away 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How can business best tie platforms together? How do you make display ads work harmoniously with social media, e-mail and other formats?

As each dollar a marketer spends becomes ever more important, managing marketing performance across channels is vital. This is consistent with our performance-marketing strategy at Performics. When I was a marketer at Hewlett-Packard, I didn’t have a preference for the channel I employed; I wanted only results. The reality is that few marketers truly understand how channels are performing individually or in relationship to one another because each channel is managed independently. Revolutionists are considering their channels holistically and utilizing data to strategically develop marketing programs and optimizing them for maximum results.

Marketing revolutionists are applying these principles to all digital channels, including display, social, mobile, e-mail — and they are looking to understand how offline and online media inter-relate. And don’t forget that participants are the marketing lifeline for a brand, dictating what, where and how they interact with a brand.

What’s the biggest mistake online advertisers are making?

I think the biggest mistake advertisers in general — online and offline — can make is to ignore the environmental shift that has occurred in the market and fail to embrace the new philosophy on participant marketing. This might seem overwhelming; however, I often remind frustrated marketers that revolutions often begin with a simple change. In this case, an example is a change in vocabulary. It might seem minor, but the words we use regularly are profound because they lay the foundation for all marketing programs and set the narrative. Antiquated words such as “consumer,” “audience” and “target” do not accurately reflect the participatory culture and imply a dependence that doesn’t exist. The vocabulary choices we make can provide a powerful tool to set the stage for brands to more effectively engage with participants. This is the reason we choose to use the word “participant.” It might seem small, but sometimes it’s the small things that make a difference.

Image Credit: scibak, iStock Photo

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2 Responses to “How to become a marketing revolutionist: Q-and-A with Daina Middleton”

  1. @statdash says:

    An immense amount of great information at SES today. Thanks for all of the gems Daina!

  2. I'm so glad I ran across this , because it reminds me why I have so much respect for Daina! Her views on participant marketing are totally in line with my thinking and I agree wholeheartedly that the language we use has profound impacts on how we relate to the world around us.

    Thank you for the incredibly insightful interview here.