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Podcasts are now everywhere and there is one for everything. Bob explained that "the competition (in podcasting) is really steep and there are so many choices... the chances of getting noticed are minuscule." And yet, The BeanCast has made quite an impression on a lot of people in the ad industry. The show's forward-looking slogan "The Best Marketing Podcast Anywhere," is becoming a reality with every weekly show. With only a year and a half of being on the online airwaves, the show has gone from a water cooler experiment to an influential conversation that is a must-listen for anyone even remotely interested in marketing. As Bob told me, "you don't need to build a huge audience to have impact, you just need to reach the right people."
Reaching the right people is not enough though. To truly create an impact on a growing audience, Bob makes sure that The BeanCast is entertaining. "As much as I try to present a forum for smart people to present their ideas, my primary objective is to have an entertaining program.. that stimulates conversations." The payoff of the show is a combination of information, entertainment and relevancy. And that's probably why The BeanCast is one of my favorite podcasts: it showcases the thought-provoking views of experienced people in the ad industry, without being boring.
The fantastic thing about podcasts is that your listeners are really engaged with the content. "Podcasts target your topic to people who really want it and want to engage with it, and I think that's fantastic." Podcasts can be great because they are "programming on my schedule."
Still, podcasting has its limitations and most people are not tuning in. Bob knows that radio is still widely used and believes they are still a very effective way of reaching people. "Let's face it, only 11% of us are listening to a podcast." Ease of use beyond RSS and iTunes is the future of podcasts. "Streaming on the go" and "content on the fly, when I need it" is going to become the norm, and maybe we will finally leave radio behind when that happens.
Bob reads and thinks about the ad industry on a regular basis so I asked him about the current state of the ad industry. With the recession, layoffs, financial difficulties, consolidations, and the rise (and potential fall) of the mega agencies, it is difficult to know where the industry is going. "Some people say that big agencies are on the way out.. .. We're seeing a lot of small shops and that's to be expected; I am one of those small shops, but capitalism would argue against that (trend towards the small agency). I can't say for sure that the small agencies are the way to go, but I can say that small agencies and consultancies are necessary to fuel the growth of the industry."
Regardless of who is working for clients of all sizes, "great ideas are still the core of what people do in the industry" and it is increasingly important to build solid brands. A brand, an identity, and a relationship with customers are essential. "The brand is what builds upon the promotion."
Some example of agencies that Bob likes these days, for their "long-term strategic approaches," are Mullen, The Martin Agency, and Crispin Porter + Bogusky. I thoroughly agree with his choices. All of these agencies are creating memorable and relevant ads for an impressive roster of companies, and while they are great at executing traditional ads, they are also innovating in the social web.
Social media has grown in important and buzz in the last few years and Bob and I talked about it extensively, especially around the foundation that lies under the tools and tactics that are often over-hyped.
Here are 7 insight about social media that I learned from Bob:
1. Social media requires a strategic mindset. It is an all-encompassing approach and a philosophy that needs to invade an entire organization.
2. Don't rush into social media. Understand and address your needs, legal concerns, and internal problems first.
3. Social media is not about push communications. It is about creating a venue where the customer feels empowered and encouraged to talk about you.
4. Don't make it all about social media marketing. Social media also adds value to other areas like customer service and sales.
5. Social Media cannot be the savior of your customers' problems if your customer service as a whole are broken.
6. Be clear about your online personality within and outside of your organization. Stick to your guns.
7. Integrate social media into the entire process and seek to be create an environment that fosters strategic ideas.
My conversation with Bob lasted over an hour so there are many other things we talked about, including O2's initiatives around user-generated customer service, Apple's quiet online personality, geeky forums that provide more help than customer service reps, airbrushing in advertising, and Zappos' emphasis on email customer service.
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