I continue to obsess about the duality of the online advertising and marketing business. Way back in 2007 I spoke and wrote about “The Oreo Doctrine,” in which I argued that our world would split effectively into two business disciplines, transaction — the automated, trading practice — and marketecture — the part that would involve problem solving, integration, environments and more. More recently I wrote about our field splitting into right brain and left brain functions, the first mapping to the sale of environments and the second to selling audiences. Yet still I find online sales leaders and their teams straddling the two markets; trying to act as both facilitators of automation and purveyors of deeply integrated marketing programs and sponsorships — and coming up short on both. Seems to me like it might be time for another good metaphor to help drive focus and action.
I think it’s all about coffee.
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Coffee is a commodity. It gets hauled around the world in huge cargo containers and is sold by the ton. There are sophisticated buying mechanisms that bid on it within commodity exchanges. Banner impressions are also a commodity, as are other standard measures of online ad currency. An entire industry and infrastructure has been built overnight — exchanges, demand-side-platforms, sell-side-platforms, private exchanges, publisher optimizers — to make sophisticated trades in this common commodity.
As a publisher you can decide to simply grow and process the coffee and hand it over to the wholesalers. Or you can hold back the lion’s share of your supply and sell it through your own gourmet coffee houses. You’ll have to create a real experience for customers when they come to your shop: give them a good deal of choice, customization, a level of service that’s transcendent. And the people you put at the counter have to know that what they’re selling isn’t “coffee” — commoditized impressions — but experiences: the experience that consumers have with your site and the experience the marketer and his agents will have in working with you. As an online ad seller, are you a coffee trader or a barista?
Certainly a potential customer may come to the counter of your store and balk at the price of your coffee. $6 a cup? I can get coffee at Dunkin’ Donuts for a third of that? Yes, he can. And if he goes to the store and buys Folger’s in a one pound can he can brew it at home for pennies a cup. It’s not about the coffee, it’s about the experience. There’s a reason that real customers come into your shop in the first place, and it ain’t the price of the coffee.
Last time I looked, the gourmet coffee business was doing pretty well. The commodity market is what it is. But those who create experiences, identify with a higher calling and properly define their roles and channels almost always transcend commoditization.
What’s your team brewing today?