Hail To The CMS

On this historic day of the inauguration of Barack Obama, I can not think of a more fitting topic to write about than content management systems. What, you can’t see the parallel?

Ok, in all seriousness, when was the last time you updated the content on your website? 3 months? 6 months? Is this because you don’t have anyone in-house that knows how to update content on the website?

Right now we are in the digital age where content is king and having the same old, stale content on your site for months on end will not win you any repeat visitors. If this sounds familiar, then you are a prime candidate for a content management system (CMS), which allows non-technically proficient people to manage and update content on a website.

There certainly isn’t any shortage of content management solutions out there in the marketplace today, but how can you be sure which solution is best for your company’s needs? The trend seems to be moving towards open-source CMS options like Drupal and Joomla. These are attractive for a variety of reasons, one of the biggest being cost! Because there is no actual cost for the program (with traditional CMS solutions you will most likely pay licensing fees) your only costs are for customization and integration to the website. Also, since these are open-source solutions, there are thousands of developers across the world continually working on ways to make the system better. Think of all that techie brainpower collaborating!

We at 451 Marketing have found that with Drupal, the knowledge base out there on the web at our fingertips is extremely extensive. More than 300,000 user accounts have been created on Drupal.org, and over 2,000 people have signed up for developer accounts. Having this extremely large user base makes it much easier to get help and support when needed. Just Google “Drupal” and you will get millions of results for blogs and other resources.

Drupal isn’t always the best solution for every website. Sometimes it’s more cost effective for a company to have a custom built system that may only manage a couple portions of a website. This may include Career Opportunities, News, Company Bios, among others. This will give them control of areas of the website that would change most frequently without having to implement and customize a system that would control the entire site.

A great resource for comparing CMS features side by side can be found here: http://www.cmsmatrix.org. This includes open-source as well as traditional systems.

So take back control of your website, and take down that press release from 2002 on your homepage!

Building Your Brand In 2009 – Are You The Next Clint Eastwood?

A recent viewing of Clint Eastwood’s latest film, “Gran Torino,” got me thinking about a lot more than just the final scenes of the movie and its excellent screenplay. I actually began to think long and hard about Clint Eastwood, his performance, his career path, and even, his image.

In this particular film, part “Unforgiven”-style modern day case study of the impact of violence and vengeance, and part “Million Dollar Baby” examination of the potential for connectivity between very dissimilar people, Eastwood’s machismo drives every line and every scene. But upon reflection, I started thinking more about 78-year-old Clint Eastwood “the man,” or more specifically, Clint Eastwood “the brand.”

Eastwood has utilized the medium of film over the past 50 years to create a brand for himself that is so unequivocally his own; tough-minded, shrewd, battle-tested, just, arrogant, and private. Eastwood’s brand does not necessarily personify the man or even every single role he plays as an actor or director (see “Bridges of Madison County”), but it’s strong enough to typify a likeness that has persisted over time. In essence, film allowed Eastwood to both launch his brand and maintain it over the years. But it wasn’t easy. Despite beginning his movie career in 1955, it wasn’t until 1964’s “A Fistful of Dollars” when Eastwood truly broke into the mainstream, and it was 1971’s “Dirty Harry” that officially signaled his ability to transcend genres with his brand; from spaghetti western’s to modern day examinations of violence and its consequences.

But more importantly, Eastwood’s brand consistency on the big screen ignited my thinking about how new media allows us all to create, maintain, and adjust our own brand image. Today, any average Joe can now use tools like Facebook or Myspace to develop (read: launch) their own brand profile by uploading all the relevant photos, videos, music, personality descriptions, etc. Without the power of film or television, internet users can create an image for themselves that personifies who they are (or who they want people to think they are), and they can even identify and attract their own audience. Sometimes finding this audience is as easy as a simple “friend request,” or as is the case with digital channels like Twitter and LinkedIn, the more attractive the profile (or online brand), the more likely the audience will grow. It’s simple brand marketing.

And unlike an actor, launching and maintaining your brand online can be free and easy. Without the startup costs, unexpectedly controversial or unconventional roles (or “off-brand” roles like “Bridges”), studio pressures or very public negative reviews, individuals can build and manage their brand on their own terms. And with the proliferation of new media into various channels, individuals can modify their image to please and engage different audiences (think of a LinkedIn profile as an individual’s attempt at creating their “Oscar Winning Brand”).

And the beauty of it, these same channels are just as useful for corporations, organizations, philanthropies, and all sorts of other groups looking to build or even recreate their brand.

New media, giving voices to the masses. Building your online brand would make Clint proud.

Go ahead, make his day.

New Media Expedites The Demise Of MTV's TRL

This past Sunday, MTV bid farewell to one of the most iconic programs the network has ever produced over the course of its near 30-year history. “Total Request Live,” or “TRL”, officially signed off the air for one last time, marking the end of the road for a show known just as well for launching the careers of “diverse” pop stars like Kid Rock and Christina Aguilera, as it was for it’s steadfastly devoted audience of teenagers (whom either spent after school hours glued to the TV set, or frolicking outside MTV’s studios in Times Square).

But whether you liked the show and what it stood for (obsessive admiration over artists, actors, and other “hip” figures getting their 15-minutes of fame), you had to respect the fact that at the height of its popularity, TRL symbolized the power of MTV to shape mainstream American culture.

That’s because while neither Limp Bizkit nor the Backstreet Boys were creating anything of transcendent quality, the appeal of these groups to the young masses, coupled with TRL’s unparalleled ability to let fans vote for their favorite videos and display their popular musical allegiance, did transcend the way viewers consumed music and supported (or gave “props” to) their idols. In essence, if fans kept voting for them, TRL’s most (in)famous host, Carson Daly, would provide viewers with immediate access to their favorite videos and frequent live appearances from the artists themselves. And, over time, fans began to demand this instant access. Band’s started building elaborate websites, albums came loaded with interactive media, and the music video continued the climb (that began with innovative videos like Peter Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer“) to its perch as the most defining aspect of the pop-oriented musician’s brand. That’s right, TRL was transcending the way we interacted with music, while at the same time, was serving as a band’s primary branding tool.

Admittedly, when I was of high school age I wasn’t thinking about any of this. I was a lot more concerned with aligning myself with the brands of such “alternative” rockers as Staind and Papa Roach. Did I think they made great music? Probably not. But I wanted to disassociate myself from the “boy bands,” so I went to war on a weekly basis (ok, maybe daily) with legions of teenage girls to support my side of the musical aisle. MTV, and the bands I supported must have loved me. I watched the show, voted for the bands, bought the albums, and even purchased the shirts to spread my allegiance, the old fashioned way.

So if TRL was the ultimate pop-culture, brand-building machine, why did the network just host their last show? I’m think it might have to do with the stunning proliferation of new media. Music fans no longer have to rely on TRL to see their band’s favorite videos; they can just as easily go to YouTube. Want to support your favorite band as manically as possible? Join their Facebook group. In a cluttered media landscape and a constant state of information overload, people have tons of different mediums through which to align themselves with, and enjoy, b(r)ands.

Undoubtedly, MTV came to this realization themselves. These days, music fans are just as likely to track a Twitter feed to discover a new band, and then download their video or podcast, then they are to spend a whole hour of their day watching TRL.

Information is moving at breakneck speed and for musicians and the music industry, hopefully this means that quality and skill will win out over the mass marketing and pop culture spin that defined the TRL generation (for better or worse).

Besides, it’s a lot easier to link to your favorite band then it is to buy their T-shirt.

Innovations in Mobile Marketing

When you hear the beep that you have a new text message it might not be from your best friend anymore. Instead, the message could be a Mobile Marketing tool sent by advertisers and marketers that you agreed to receive texts from. How do you know that the text messages are not spam? That is the power of Mobile Marketing; the consumer controls this form of communication by giving consent to receive text messages. This is different from most other marketing techniques in which businesses control the information they disseminate to consumers.

More and more companies are turning to Mobile Marketing to reach new and existing customers. Recently, QuickMobile, a mobile technology and services company, released a Version 2.0 as part of its Contextual Mobile Marketing Platform. By using QuickMobile, companies can send text, audio, video and graphics to mobile phones. Some new features of this program are Mobile Polling and Mobile Results in addition to enhanced security and preferences. Mobile Polling allows presenters to create and ask questions to audiences in real time and have them answer the question on their mobile phone. This interactive tool will add a new dimension to how presenters can keep audiences’ attention and collect data at the same time. The other new device, Mobile Results, allows Mobile Marketing Firms to track their activity in order to test its effectiveness. Both of these tools were utilized by the Presidential campaigns, as mentioned in Nick’s previous post.

With new tools being created all the time for Mobile Marketing Firms and Interactive Agencies, this technique is growing in popularity among companies. The fast and direct communication it provides to consumers appeals to businesses looking for innovative ways to reach their target audiences. Shopping, for example, can also be done through Mobile Marketing, with new innovative technologies that allow shoppers to engage in text ordering, as well as receive text messages about different upcoming promotions of the respective store.

All the new media technology involving Mobile Marketing is revolutionizing how consumers complete their every day tasks and activities. As the future unfolds, Mobile Marketing will continue to grow as a front-runner in new media communications.