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To create good and effective content for your brand, there needs to be collaboration between people from many different departments with many different abilities. Is your organization set up for content success?

In order to hold an audience’s attention, the push is on for brands and organizations to regularly update their websites, social channels, and other properties with new, relevant, inspiring, and sharable content in a variety of formats, ranging from brief lines of text to something as complex and costly as full-length custom webisodes or branded interactive games. This overwhelming, bottomless pit of need has sparked new job titles and departments popping up within marketing or as independent departments tasked with providing the endless stream of new content.

Once you have those content people in place it’s tempting to declare the case closed. Sorry, but the reality is that good content requires much deeper collaboration and efforts from a lot of different abilities and departments.

If you have someone or a department dedicated to content within your organization, you are definitely ahead of most, who are still relying primarily on already overworked marketing or creative departments to fill content needs. While content does have a lot of crossover with marketing activities, it needs to go both deeper and wider within an organization, putting the content strategist or department at the intersection of a spectrum of talents.

Good content requires someone (or a team) at the strategy level. Their job is to make sure content appropriately fits and enhances the broader plan. The one-off efforts that often happen without this kind of coordination and guidance can weaken the messaging platform, confuse your audience and interfere with integration efforts. The brand strategist has a handle on the big-picture planning, messaging, and budget available and is best positioned to outline and prioritize the content needs in a coherent and effective way.

You need to involve someone who has budgeting authority. This stuff is not cheap and if there isn’t support for an ongoing conversation with your fans, followers, customers, reviewers, visitors, distributors, and other audiences then it may not be worth starting that conversation. In fact, it might be detrimental. Charging into the chief financial officer’s office during budgeting season or submitting a large line item without providing the context and expected impact of the content spend is not the way to get support. Prepare in advance with cost estimates, timelines, and anticipated returns to gain an ally.

Engage your front-line personnel – those that have direct contacts with customers through community management or customer service, among others. They have the pulse of the relevant audiences. They are charged with providing almost real-time responsiveness to chatter, events, complaints, etc…and can provide invaluable insights – if asked.

The best content is fueled by insights from careful research and listening. Involve the research folks who can measure both the broad and specific impact of content against specific goals and provide feedback in a timeframe that allows for iterative improvements in your content program. They understand the audience as a whole and by various segments. This same person or team may be an analytics whiz but they may also man the listening post for brand and competitive activity and audience response.

The creative and technical teams who spend each day ideating, designing, and building all that content need more than just marching orders. If you treat them like a production house you lose the opportunity to tap into the passions that drove them into their respective careers. Too often it is assumed that the content creators work in a vacuum and require only task- or project-specific inspiration and direction to succeed. Get the best outcomes by supplying detailed briefs with background info and context to other programs and the overall strategy then give them some creative license and the time needed to get things done. Let them stretch your boundaries (on strategy, of course!) to create the kind of content that gets noticed and shared.

So where do agencies fit into the content picture? Agencies have always been in the idea and content business and can help advance content efforts as client needs escalate, but they need access to the kind of client side info, data, plans, feedback, and internal resources that are involved in the broader content effort. An agency without that trust and access cannot be effective (except by accident), but an agency appropriately utilized and supplied can be a tremendous content partner. Agencies can scale resources to respond quickly and at their core are exceptional communicators and creators with specific abilities not found in most organizations.

Content continues to be a major challenge for marketers and organizations as they sluggishly respond to this new content era. Creating content, monitoring and measuring it, and integrating all the groups and individuals involved in the process can be the responsibility of a point person or department but they can’t function optimally without considerable support from many different areas. Just anointing someone or creating a department is not enough. The content challenge many organizations face is primarily one of coordination and integration for a new focus that is not supported in the old organizational structure. Until that realization happens, old-style organizations will continue to struggle to compete.

Is your organization set up for content success or failure?

Brand marketers know that digital is important. C-level executives now get it too. But recognizing the importance of digital is not enough to succeed. Simply reallocating media budget isn’t the answer either.

As brands continue to struggle with the shift to a digital world, the role of the brand manager has significantly changed. However, many brand marketers consider themselves unprepared to deliver on the top factors that they identify as being key to success in digital marketing.

The insights in this article were sourced from direct experience working with brand managers and marketers, a quantitative survey of nearly 200 marketing leaders (“Finch Brands and Netplus Digital Pulse Study,” August 2013), and a series of interviews with the people who work in this space day in and day out. The findings clearly demonstrated that it’s time for marketers to stop pretending everything is under control. The success or failure of their brands depends on it.

The top 3 marketing challenges facing brands today

To view the full infographic on the results of the “Finch Brands and Netplus Digital Pulse Study,” click here.

So what do brand marketers see as their current biggest challenges when it comes to digital marketing? In this article, we’ll discuss the top three barriers to success and provide some tips for overcoming them.

Lack of expertise and training

Among the top factors important to success in digital marketing is having the right resources and expertise to guide strategy, as well as the staff to implement it. About 60 percent of brand marketers believe they need more help from experts to get the most out of their digital efforts, and only 27 percent of those in mid- and senior-level brand and digital marketing positions consider themselves experts.

The word used most often to describe how survey respondents feel about managing efforts in digital marketing is overwhelmed. To put some perspective around this, the pace of change and fragmentation in our industry can sometimes overwhelm even the savviest and experienced of us. There is a baseline of experience required to drive strategy and execute on specific disciplinary practices. Yet the industry changes so much and so frequently that it is impossible to know everything even in a specific subject matter area.

The top 3 marketing challenges facing brands today

The words most often used by marketers to describe how they feel about managing efforts in digital.

The complexity, rate of change, and the ability to plan and execute effectively in digital continue to be a challenge. As one senior brand manager at a Fortune 500 CPG firm said, “Let’s face it — TV is easier to do. Digital is more complicated and fragmented with a pace of change that can make your head spin.”

While TV might be more expensive from a production and media buying perspective, it is far more turnkey than digital; the investment in people, skills, talent, and effort needed to develop and execute effective digital programs is often overlooked.

Only 29 percent of brand marketers surveyed feel that their companies have sufficient skills training in the realm of digital marketing, and 60 percent say they need more help from experts.

The skills required to produce effective digital campaigns are often multi-disciplinary and can require teams of a dozen or more. “Skills have a lot more to do with thinking more broadly and strategically — while thinking tactically,” said Cyrille Labroul, a senior brand manager with Johnson & Johnson. “To be successful, you have to be able to move between strategy and execution easily.”

Half of all brand marketers surveyed believe that hiring internal staff members that specialize in digital is important to success, but only about a third feel that their firms are doing a good job addressing this need. Some brands are addressing this need by including digital experience in their job descriptions for brand management roles.

When hiring for digital expertise, it is advised to look for core characteristics such as the ability to cross-communicate and connect to business goals. Digital marketers must have a good marketing basis on which to build their digital expertise and a thirst for ongoing learning. Perhaps Jonathan Sullivan, digital lead for Valspar Paint, said it best when he shared, “Experts in our industry are experts at learning.”

It’s clear that budgets for digital marketing and media are increasing, but corresponding investments are lagging in the areas of acquiring the expertise and resources required to plan, develop, and execute effective strategies and programs. Brand marketers must start to integrate essential characteristics in their hiring practices and demonstrate the corresponding value to get the support they need.

Misaligned organizational structures and processes

Equally important to having digital expertise and resources is having the right organizational structure and processes to facilitate connections and communication across brand, marketing, and business goals.

To be successful, digital can no longer exist in a silo, in a backroom, or as an afterthought. The importance of this cannot be underestimated. And change has to come from the top.

While 62 percent of brand marketers feel that they are now getting senior leadership support for digital, only one in three think that senior leadership at their company has a clear vision for the role of digital marketing. This is greatly felt in the lack of organizational structure and process required to succeed. Brands need more active senior leadership support and focus on the role of digital marketing in their organizations. CMOs are in an ideal position to help facilitate and advance these efforts.

“There was a time when the web was its own thing — brand managers weren’t involved,” said Barbara Rentschler, CMO for K’Nex Brands. “There was no integration between marketing efforts and what we were doing on the web. Over time, we have changed the organization and the way people work together so that they are integrated, high performance, self-managed teams.”

Dedicated, internal digital teams that can bridge both classical and digital marketing are also a key contributor to advancing success. According to a brand manager at a Fortune 500 food manufacturer, “People are used to running traditional marketing programs. Having a digital team really helps.”

These internal experts can bridge the language and skill barrier between digital marketing and brand management, helping brand managers get the most out of their agency partners and each other. “Brand managers and digital marketers are still learning what each does and how our roles can support each other,” said Renee Heath, digital lead at B&G Foods. “It’s a tag-team effort, and some things we work on jointly. We are all focused on where we can best apply our expertise and skills.”

As content becomes integral to effective digital marketing, integration across brand management and digital becomes even more important as well. Brand managers for the most part are responsible for an increasing volume of content and messaging, in addition to their responsibilities for overall financial performance of the brand. Seventy-two percent of brand marketers believe that investment in strong digital content is important, but only 39 percent feel that their companies’ efforts are “good” or “very good.” To be successful, there must be true organizational support to drive the right business outcomes for brands.

Brand marketers are also calling for improved alignment and reorganization around agency selection and management. Many of those interviewed expressed frustration with agencies’ lack of digital expertise or ability to hire agencies with the expertise they need. Often brand marketers are managing multiple agencies. Brand managers and digital marketers are calling for innovation in agency management and to be included in decisions regarding agency selection. Often times, these decisions are made from the top down — by those furthest away from the existing and emerging needs of brand managers.

Ingrained legacy practices

Brand marketers are driven to figure out valid measurements, establish benchmarks, and gauge ROI returns that map meaningfully back to financial outcomes. When it comes to digital marketing, the language and the means are vastly different from what came before, and there is not a long history of proven performance, especially when you consider the pace of change.

From the perspective of the brand marketer, the fear of the unknown can be paralyzing. It’s always tempting to rely on vehicles like TV, even if they are losing relevance, simply because they have sophisticated validation models. As one brand manager put it, “You never get fired for deciding to go with TV. If you make a large investment in digital and it flops, everyone notices.” These legacy mentalities remain a key barrier to success with digital.

According to one senior brand manager at a Fortune 500 personal care giant, “There are so many legacy mindsets and processes from the old way of doing things that continue to persist. I’m not sure if CPG companies are still feeling safe about putting a lot of money down in the digital space because other older tools are ‘more proven’ because of historical marketing mix models.”

Labroul with Johnson & Johnson went further to say, “Even if we know that TV doesn’t have the same ROI, we don’t know how much digital connects to sales. At the same time you have to be able to convince management that we need to do things differently.”

There have been many industry attempts to translate digital metrics into legacy models with online ratings and GRP-type measurements with mixed results. While industry guidelines might be helpful, brand marketers must also focus on understanding the metrics that digital provides to develop their own benchmarks and ROI models that translate to their business.

According to one senior digital manager at a Fortune 500 beverage firm, “I sometimes get asked about how many GRPs digital provides, which reflects people trying to transfer old thinking to the new tools, and that just doesn’t work. It’s critical to be able to get into the numbers to understand what’s happening and the behavior behind them. These are different metrics from what brand managers usually look at.”


As digital rises in importance, brands need to have the right support from management. Budgets are increasing, but fragmentation, confusion, and frustration are as well. So while we might celebrate increasing digital budgets, the advancement of our industry, and acknowledgement of its importance, we still must address significant, unmet needs among brand marketers if we are to make these investments successful.

Only those organizations that recognize the needs and address them with senior-level commitment will be in a strong position to activate digital’s full potential.

Are you prepared for that?

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iMedia Connection

On Thursday, Instagram’s co-founder Kevin Systrom officially announced that video is coming to Instagram. The press event took place at Facebook’s Menlo Park headquarters in San Francisco, and users were able to tune in via a livestream promoted through the Instagram application.

Launching on iOS and Android, Instagram Video supports 13 brand new filters and 3 to 15 second videos that are viewable on users’ web profiles as well. In addition, a mode entitled “Cinema” has been incorporated, which acts as a way to stabilize footage.

Instagram Video has many features that are unavailable with Twitter’s Vine video application. Users can choose a cover photo for each of their videos, which will appear unanimated in their feed. They also have the option of editing out select frames in a video without deleting the recording entirely. Another noticeable difference is that Instagram videos don’t loop, they simply play once.

The newest version of Instagram is now available in the App Store. Have you tested it out? What do you think of the video feature?

It’s not that Conshohocken hasn’t treated us well. For 16 years we’ve been scribbling on whiteboards, downing endless pots of coffee, banging out what comes next, and smiling as new clients say, “Consho-what?” But deep down, we felt it was time to get into the heart of the city, to feel the history and the Center City vibe in a building built in 1891, to make it easier to tap into the great Philly talent pool as our numbers grow.

As of June 17th, our new home is 718 Arch St., on the 4th Floor of the Cast Iron Building. Our phone numbers and extensions remain the same, but you’ll no doubt be seeing more Philly Instagrams and check-ins as Rachel and Allison battle it out for mayor of our new digs. You’re more than welcome to stop by. As always, there’ll be a fresh pot of coffee brewing and cold beverages of all sorts in the fridge. We’re looking forward to hosting an open house soon—if you’re not on our email list, sign up and we’ll let you know a date and time once we’re settled in.

In the meantime, here’s to Philly, here’s to servicing our clients in a cooler, easily accessible location, and here’s to the next generation of award-winning, effective work from Netplus. See you soon!

Netplus, a top 25 digital agency based in the Philadelphia region welcomes 6 new additions to their award-winning, nationally recognized team. The new team members, support and advance Netplus’ disciplines across the integrated media, client service, technology, social media and project management teams.

“Netplus has a stellar, hard earned reputation reflective of the talent and character of our people,” says Denise Zimmerman, Netplus President. ” As such, we have a relentless commitment to continue to build on our existing talent, knowledge and expertise to meet the needs of our discerning clients across the country.”

Integrated Media
Atiya Dorn has joined the Integrated Media team as Sr. Digital Media Planner/Buyer. Atiya brings over ten years of media planning and buying to Netplus, seven of those in the digital space. Her experience comes to the fore when wrangling with networks for the absolute best deals and value-adds, and her media radar guides her to the format best suited for each individual client, whether CPM, CPC, or CPA. Atiya is a master at getting the absolute best ROI and understands that seamless integration with other campaign elements is a must. Specific goals and objectives are set up front, and constant tracking and optimization brings those goals to fruition.

Working across broad verticals has given Atiya a breadth and depth that clients admire. From tourism and entertainment, to healthcare and finance, she’s enjoyed working for B2B and B2C clients such as Trump Casinos, Virtua and Underwood Memorial, to name just a few.

Client Services
Taryn Gjurich joined Netplus as Client Service Associate. A 2012 graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Taryn earned a B.A. in Advertising with a special emphasis in Sports Communication. She brings to Netplus experience working as an Intern for UNC Health Care where she was involved in market research projects and digital media planning, and as a Public Relations Coordinator where she was involved in creating comprehensive promotion campaigns.

Adding to the Netplus work of gifted athletes, Taryn was a leader of the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Field Hockey team which won the national championship in 2009, and was runner-up in 2010 and 2011. As a senior, Taryn was selected as the 2011-12 UNC Chapel Hill Athletic Director Scholar-Athlete of the Year. She was also named to the All-ACC Academic Team each year at UNC.

Jason Curran is Netplus’ newest addition to the web development and technology team. He brings with him more than 15 years of experience in the web development industry. His specialties include HTML5, CSS3, JavaScript, jQuery, JSON, Mobile, Responsive, LAMP, PHP, SVN, Multitier Architecture, Continuous Integration, Unit Testing, eCommerce, Merchant Accounts, SSL, Web Services, Content Delivery Networks, Magento, WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Search Engine Optimization, Internet Advertising, eMarketing, Project Management, and Agile Methodologies.

Jason has also done an extensive amount of consulting for businesses in the greater Philadelphia area including GSI Commerce, TrueAction, TerraCycle, VerticalNet, and Performance Food Centers working with brands such as Ralph Lauren, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Nautica, Dockers, Timberland, Aeropostale, BCBG, American Eagle Outfitters, Toys R Us, FAO Schwatrz, Mattel, RadioShack, Modells, Sports Authority, and many more.

His experience also includes corporate training for web developers at Fortune 500 companies all over the east coast including AOL, DuPont, Mars, Lennox, Johnson & Johnson. He’s taught courses at Rutgers University and Mercer County Community college as well as the Katherine Gibbs School and DPT Business School. Prior to becoming involved in web development, Jason served as a Field Radio Operator in the United States Marine Corps.

Project Management
Kathleen Mulhearn joined Netplus as a Senior Project Manager. She brings over 10 years of project management experience in the online advertising space, including the management of design and development of websites,  online marketing campaigns, video production and  branding development. She has successfully managed hundreds of client engagements across several brands, built successful teams, and developed strong client relationships. She has worked in Project Management roles at G2 Worldwide, Digitas Health, Comcast Interactive Media and Razorfish Health. Kathleen is also an actor, solo artist, and teacher of acting.

Hector Nuñez assumed the role of Project Manager at Netplus. Hector brings years of experience in project management to his role. He has managed and overseen SEO, Reputation Management and Social Media Campaigns, and has strong knowledge of quantitative market research techniques and creative design. His understanding of the digital space enhances his ability to work across various teams and oversee the most effective allocation of time and resources. Hector is a 2005 graduate of Temple University where he earned a B.A. in Journalism, Public Relations and Advertising.

Social Media
Allison Solberg joined Netplus as Social Media Coordinator. Originally from Minneapolis, MN, Allison graduated from Villanova University in 2012 with a B.A. in Communication, a concentration in Public Relations and minors in Marketing and General Business.

Also a remarkable athlete, Allison was captain of the Villanova Varsity Tennis Team her senior year and trained for five years at an elite sports training facility known as IMG Academy. Her passion and drive to succeed extends into social media marketing, a subject she blogs about frequently.

What do most people do when they boot up their computers in the morning? Check email and check Facebook, right? How would that change if Facebook added an email client?

We can all find out today because Facebook is officially announcing that at their invite-only event at 10am PT during the Web 2.0 Summit.

Watch out Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail, and yes you Gmail – Facebook is coming. Continue reading

NetPlus has been named an OMMA Awards finalist for “Deb Shops Model Search” campaign and is now one of three in consideration for the Apparel, Fashion category in Integrated Online Campaigns.

The campaign is already a winner for Deb Shops, engaging girls from all over the country to participate in the fun and fashion of DEB. It was quite an memorable event for the winners and all Deb Shop fans! However the official OMMA award winner will be announced on September 27th. It is great to be continually recognized for our strategic, integrated digital work.

As a finalist, we are also automatically nominated for the Member’s Choice Awards, which is open to voting for all members on September 8th!

Denise Zimmerman, President & CSO NetPlus, returns to the shop.org annual summit for the third year in a row as an expert in Social Media.

This year she will be conducting one-on-one sessions with retailers advising them on How to Make Social Media “Work”.

The shop.org annual summit is September 27 29, 2010 in Dallas, Texas

To register for a “Doctor is in” session with Denise, please visit shop.org/summit10/doctor.

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