Building 21st Century Connections to Customers – Book Review

Always On: Advertising, Marketing, and Media in an Era of Consumer Control

By Christopher Vollmer with Geoffrey Precourt
McGraw-Hill Professional; March 2008, 192 pages, $17.95.

In the past five years, there have been steady declines in the amount of time consumers spend with newspapers, magazines and broadcast television. At the same time, consumers are increasing the time spent with cable and satellite television, the Internet, mobile communication devices and video games.

We know this from observation and experience, but what is the impact on advertising and marketing activities?

This book from the Booz Allen Hamilton strategy+business series delivers a good look at the changes in advertising and marketing being driven by the ongoing digital communication revolution. Christopher Vollmer is a vice president with Booz Allen Hamilton, leading its North American media and entertainment work, and he has a solid grasp on the issues.

The digital communication trend began some years ago, but it is increasing in both speed and complexity. The explosion of communications platforms is generating significant change for above-the-line advertising components. Television, radio, newspapers and magazines are losing the dominant positions once played in advertising. Bringing a product to market successfully now includes the use of cable and satellite television, home video, Internet, mobile devices and video games.

In addition, digital communication approaches are changing below-the-line marketing components. Promotion activities, sponsorships, event marketing and in-store promotions require creative approaches to imbedding the product identity in all that transpires, not just adding it to already existing visuals.

The keys to success, according to Vollmer, are the following:

-¢ Develop a brand-messaging experience that customers will seek out and share.
-¢ Use relationship marketing and insight development to listen and learn from customers, focusing on interests and behaviors and not just demographics.
-¢ Build campaigns around above-the-line advertising and below-the-line marketing for greater impact.
-¢ Develop new applications and consumer environments to accelerate marketing.
-¢ Learn how to measure the impact of different media on campaign performance, and use the measurements to drive greater brand awareness, earlier trial buys and more purchase loyalty.
-¢ Redesign sales, planning, personnel systems and creative processes to put the customer’s needs at the center of marketing and media.

Customer focus admonitions are not new, but the author connects the idea to new media and advertising platform possibilities in a helpful way. Also provided are informative examples of products and campaigns used by different companies that demonstrate how the recommended approaches can work.

Vollmer argues for greater accountability for the time and money spent in marketing and advertising efforts. To achieve this, the tools of return on investment calculation must be used.

As is true with so many business books, it carries the presumption of a large business structure. For businesses without significant in-house advertising and marketing resources, the power of the book is its description of elements and processes to examine when looking for marketing and advertising agency help. While not the last word in modern marketing, it will help business professionals find ways to extend the reach of their products and services.

Bob Clark is the president of RWC Consulting LLC and has more than 30 years experience in labor-management relations. He provides consulting help in labor relations and is an adjunct professor at Concordia University in Ann Arbor.