Why 47Harmonic Part 2 - Harmonic Cycle Planning

In the last post I talked about the problems with marketing and about how it has ruined almost every communication media ever invented. I also discussed how it’s horribly siloed and inefficient for numerous reasons. Go back and read this post if you haven’t already; it’s a rant most of my friends and co-workers have heard me go off on the past few years.

To fix this problem 47Harmonic has re-thought marketing from the ground up. Instead of building marketing around a media vehicle or the creative, we instead focus on consumers and their interactions with brands. What do they want from your brand, how do they want to be treated and how do they want to interact with your brand?  When looking at those questions, we realized the traditional marketing funnel companies use isn’t based on the consumers’ journeys with a brand, but instead is based on what the brand wants their journey to be.

So, we threw the sales/marketing funnel out and started over.

We re-evaluated this journey from the consumer’s perspective and have developed the Harmonic Cycle to reflect their preferred journey. As opposed to a marketing funnel, this cycle follows the complete consumer journey. It starts with getting consumers to notice a brand and goes all the way through post-sale, figuring out how to turn customers into evangelist for the brand. We don’t simply use this cycle to understand the customer journey, we use it to develop a complete integrated marketing plan, or as we like to call it a Harmonic Marketing Plan.

So instead of simply grabbing some number out of the air to determine how much money we put at digital, social, traditional, etc. we determine our clients’ marketing plans based on what it is going to take to achieve the needed results for each stage of this cycle to create sales and evangelist for your brand.

To do this we follow the following steps: research, set goals, brainstorm and plan. Because customers are at the center of everything we do, we first do customer research that involves social data, focus groups and interviews to determine what it is consumers want and are doing at each stage of the cycle.

Once we have this research, we develop specific goals for each stage of the Harmonic Cycle. For the notice section, the goal might be the ideal level of unaided awareness; for desire it might be time on site or interest being expressed on social channels. We do this for each stage first before actually starting the idea development process.

Once the research is done and the goals are set we go into the brainstorming process. Here we bring in some of the best in the industry to help us come up with ideas. Not just 47Harmonic employees, but specific industry experts that may be creative talent from other companies and other industry contacts. Our goal at this stage is to bring in the best people for the specific brands we are working with so we are able to come up with the best solutions to that brand’s marketing problems.

In these brainstorms we develop the initial tactics for each stage of the cycle both on the creative and media side. For the creative, we develop a few big overarching ideas and then go stage-by-stage developing out specific creative executions for each. For media, we dive right in and look at each stage and determine the best media vehicle(s) to achieve the stated goal for the given budget. To ensure we don’t miss a possible media vehicle, we have a system that ranks each media type by its effectiveness at each stage of the cycle and its effectiveness at different budget levels.

After we have conducted our brainstorms we take both the creative and media ideas and merge them to create the initial high-level integrated plan ideas. These initial brainstormed ideas are the framework for the development of the Harmonic Cycle Marketing Playbook. This playbook gives the brand both a media and creative plan for each stage of the cycle that includes the following: budget levels, goals and creative tactics to be implemented and tracked. Because 47Harmonic is overseeing the full process, the plan is completely integrated and focused around the consumer’s journey and needs, eliminating the waste seen in most marketing budgets.

By focusing marketing around the Harmonic Cycle and having defined goals and budgets for each step, you can better optimize your programs and stop the waste of marketing in silos. With the Harmonic Cycle, budgets and media are determined by goals and objectives, not the latest shiny creative idea or what media the client has the best tickets to the game.

The Harmonic Cycle is a full-service integrated plan that takes the guesswork out of marketing planning.  

Why 47Harmonic? Part 1 - The Problem with Advertising

Why must people repeat the same mistakes over and over? Nowhere does this statement apply more than in the advertising industry. It seems no matter what great media and creative vehicles are developed, advertisers find a way to ruin them by using the same ineffective strategies they used with old media. Look what we marketers have done to the great communication vehicles of the past 100 years: print, mail, phone, TV, digital and now social have been overrun with ads. Instead of communicating with consumers, most advertisers just push ads at them asking people to buy stuff, or insist that their product is something people can't live without. 

Does it work? Sure, it works to some extent, but the real questions are: is it efficient? And, is it the best return of a brand's advertising dollars? 

So many media options, it's hard to keep them straight. 

So many media options, it's hard to keep them straight. 

I think we all know the answer to these questions are no. Sure, digital media has allowed us to micro target audiences, and easily push messages at people, but it still isn't as efficient as we all want. We might optimize CPM's and CPA's, but we still have no real idea how all our media vehicles are working together or how we are driving people through the sales and post sales process with our brand.  We might all say we know what is going on, and what is working, but most of the time we test backward into it our guesses.

Even worse is that most advertisers have no real idea what media vehicle they should use and why.  You deal with a digital agency and digital will be the answer to everything, a creative agency and video and big budget creative will be the answer or a social agency and it's all about word of mouth. Most of the time these different groups of people, whether internal or external, not only don't work together to develop integrated plans, they actually fight against each other for budget and creative control.  I can't imagine anything less efficient or effective than this group of marketing gurus fighting one another. 

I've often wondered why this is. Is everyone in the advertising space simply an egotistical bastard? While we do have our fair share I don't think that is the sole cause of this fighting. The reason they fight is because most agencies and brands don't plan their tactics strategically. Sure, they have a high-level strategy that says they want to achieve a certain level of brand awareness, sales, etc. and then have individual strategies for each marketing vehicle. But, the problem is marketers almost never work together to develop out an integrated tactical plan where all media vehicles and creative tactics work together. Even the very few companies that build marketing and advertising plans based off the traditional marketing funnel do so without considering the complete consumer path customers have with their brand. 

47Harmonic exists to fix this marketing planning struggle. We do this through the use of the Harmonic Marketing Cycle that puts the customer at the core of the entire marketing plan, working around them and making it easy for them to do business with your brand instead of trying to push something down a crazy funnel or guessing at what media vehicles to use. Is the Harmonic Cycle and 47Harmonic perfect? No. Is it better? Definitely, and I'll explain about how we go about executing this in the next post. 

In the meantime, I'd love to hear any stories you have about fights between different types of marketers so please share them in the comments below. 

Following My Passion to Something New

Two years ago at my last SMC Seattle event as President, I talked about following one's passion and the power of doing so. That is what I, and the entire SMC Seattle board, did when building SMC Seattle into the amazing group it became. Passion can overcome a lack of experience and talent, as someone with passion works harder, learns better and leads others to greater heights. Passion is contagious.

Well today my professional passion has changed. Social media and the hopes I had for it changing the way companies market and do business are fading away. It appears that many of us that went through this social media bubble are feeling the same way. Don't get me wrong, social isn't going anywhere; it's just not achieving everything I hoped it would and transforming the way business is done. Social for me was always more about a consumer centric philosophy than the technology. Unfortunately social media didn't force companies to implement that consumer centric philosophy and instead most continued with marketing as usual tactics pushing sales and focusing on CPM's.

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One thing that hasn't changed for me is my passion to change the way marketing is done, to stop yelling at people and to focus on consumers and what they need by working with them not against them. From now on, instead of just using social media to do this, I will be changing the way integrated marketing plans are developed and how brands view their customers. That is my passion, and is what will be the foundation for my next adventure as I start my own agency, 47Harmonic in January of 2014. Social will still be a big part of this, but the problem I am looking to tackle is going to take a more integrated approach to fix it.  

Over the past three years at Spring Creek Group, I have been lucky enough to be a part of something special, and placed in situations to work with some of the biggest brands and agencies in the world. Most of all, I will be forever grateful to have been a part of the Spring Creek Group family, and anyone that has worked there knows I am not joking when I call it a family. 

Never have I seen a group of people rally together like the group at Spring Creek Group. This group of talented people has made it through a huge layoff, a sudden death of a manager and office leader, along with the upcoming closing of the Seattle office. Through all of this they have stuck together, taken care of each other and done everything with grace and class. Best of all, they have continued to put their clients at the core of everything they do and have continued to deliver industry-leading work. I don't know of any other group of people that could have made it through this series of events in such a positive way.

I must admit I stayed on a little longer at Spring Creek than I should have. My passion for only doing social has waned this past year, and the drive to do something new and on my own has been bugging me for months. That said, I stayed on because of the amazing team, and because of the unknowns of breaking out on my own. 

But if I have learned anything, nothing ever goes as planned. The best plans are there to help you deal with the unexpected changes that will arise, not ensure a perfect course. I know that applies to what I am launching as well. I am confident I have developed a better a way to do marketing, a way that puts customers at the center, demystifies the media landscape and is extremely efficient. Even with a better approach, I know there is much competition and the economy still isn't great, so I know this won't be easy. 

Following one's passion is never easy, and I am rather sure I am in for the hardest challenge of my life, but I'm ready. 

I am glad I gave up on the easy route and focused instead on what I wanted to do, what I feel God is calling me to do, and not on the path of least resistance. I have had a few offers to work for other companies in Seattle and options to move to other markets, and for that I am extremely grateful. I know I am not making the financially sound decision to pass on them, but I must do this, and I must do it now. The desire inside me to do this is busting to get out. 

I will explain more details over the coming weeks of what 47Harmonic is and will be doing, but know one thing: this won't be marketing as usual. My goal is to not be just another agency. I won't do things like others do; I know first-hand they don't work. Instead 47Harmonic will be about breaking silos, blowing up funnels and developing marketing programs that work with consumers and benefit brands for doing so.