Technically Speaking With…Drew Mehl

Drew MehlFor this month’s Technically Speaking column, we spoke with Drew Mehl, Principal and Creative Director of Binary Pulse. Founded in 1994, Binary Pulse is one of California’s leading technology marketing firms. Read on to see what Drew had to say about social media and marketing integration, the emergence of mobile marketing practices and…corneal implants??

Newtek Technology Services: Social media is no longer as much of a buzz phrase as it is an understood marketing component. Are you starting to offer it as a standard service versus an add-on? Do your clients “get it” or do you think there is still a certain amount of confusion about social media, much less flat out ignorance?

Drew Mehl: Most of our customers understand the need to integrate social media. Clearly there are different levels of understanding from the point of engagement. We’re able to get practically all clients to understand the virtues of socializing content…even if that’s simply including ShareThis functionality on their web sites…which we now include as a core component of any site design. But expanding to a more comprehensive social media program still takes education and motivation.

The vast majority of our clients are B2B in nature. So we readily encounter the question of “isn’t this for consumer brands only?” Once we explain that social media is a natural complement to a B2B sales cycle that thrives upon providing valuable, insightful content, and listening to customer feedback, then we open some eyes. We talk about the fundamental shift toward inbound marketing and how social media and search naturally dovetail. Sharing recent statistics about how Fortune 500 B2B marketers are deploying social initiatives with the same frequency and breadth as B2C companies helps them accept that this is something that isn’t going away.

Frankly, our biggest challenge continues to be helping clients overcome their resources hurdle. We all know that social media realizes its true potential when it’s pervasive to an organization. But most companies still try to roll it out within a department, or even a team within a department. On the heels of last year’s economic turbulence, our clients are grappling with reduced staffs. And that requires a good deal of consultation on our part to help align limited resources effectively.

NTS: Essentially anyone (no matter the marketing budget) can now create videos on the fly and then upload them to their own Vimeo or YouTube channels. Are polished,  more “professional” videos still necessary or is the public warming up to the idea of “guerilla” videos, at least in the corporate context?

DM: We get a lot of requests for a “viral video.” Customers regularly show us videos that they found as shining examples of what they need to do. Some of those videos are fluky, homegrown things. Some have high-end production values. We’ve learned to be more flexible about production values in favor of being deliberate about the messaging and rationale behind the video. Sure, you might go out and record something totally over the top or stupid or irreverent…and maybe you get a few hundred thousand views on YouTube. But you have to question the relevance to the sales cycle and any ramifications on your brand. Some brands can get away with ‘homegrown”, but for some brands, “homegrown” just looks cheap and amateurish.

We advocate starting with an honest review of your product’s main virtues and connecting that to some untapped desire or perception of the consumer. In that mix, you can do something unique and honest. And with that honesty, I think you get the real potential for a viral video. If that means doing handheld Flip videos of people “behind the scenes” because you want to show a day in the life of how your product gets made, for instance, then that’s totally appropriate. Particularly in a social context. I’d rather a video be considered creative for how clearly it illuminates a product or service or brand, rather than because of shock or stupidity value.

NTS: There’s a lot of interest in mobile marketing for handheld devices. Do you see marketing moving solely in that direction, or will there still be a place for magazine ads, radio spots and television commercials?

DM: It’s a good question. Social media, search and mobile are three of the big areas we’re focusing our growth around. They naturally complement each other, too. The moves that Apple and Google and Microsoft are making to own both the platform and the search environment are really telling. The volume of search traffic from mobile platforms is increasing rapidly.

It’s clear that print took a drubbing in 2009. It’s amazing how many of our clients have given up printing collateral in favor of solely having it available via PDF. I think print advertising will never fully recover, to be honest. I think newspapers will continue to dry up in their current form. The stronger ones will evolve, however, into the digital realm. But some print forms, like outdoor, will still continue to be relevant. Primarily because they will support an increasingly mobile consumer. If a transit poster can provide actionable information – something a consumer can respond to at the moment of inspiration – then that’s a real validator for that print medium.

Broadcast should continue to thrive. But the rapid convergence with the online experience is evident. Within 10 years or less, surfing and watching TV will be indistinguishable from each other. And with mobile devices becoming more powerful and the Internet access feeding them more capable, that converged experience will follow us wherever we go. The implications for advertisers are enormous.

NTS: We understand you’re an avid reader…is print dead? Will it ever die?

DM: I was just having this conversation last week. I am a passionate book guy. I love the smell of them. I love my bookshelves. I love used bookstores. I have a hard time accepting that they will be gone. But, yes, I think within 10-15 years, printed books will effectively be extinct except as collectibles and in libraries. Environmental concerns are part of that, cost pressures are part of that…but the proliferation and convenience of mobile devices will make it almost inescapable.

Personally, I’ve given up print newspapers. I get all my news online. I hate newsprint and all the perceived waste of that recycling effort. So I think once more people accept the alternative for books, their days will be numbered. But as a colleague of mine said, until you can take a mobile reader on the beach and be confident the sand won’t destroy it, books will still have a place in the world. Then I start talking about the phase BEYOND mobile devices as we consider them today…like wearable computers and corneal implants. That’s when things get really interesting! Most people just walk away from me at that point.

Care to chime in on any of the topics Drew touched on? Mobile marketing? The slow death of print? Corneal implants or wearble computers? Leave us a comment below!

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7 Responses to “Technically Speaking With…Drew Mehl”

  1. I agree with Drew on many of his views of social media and where it is going. I however disagree on his timeline for printed books to disappear. I believe they will be around for decades, because they are easier on the eyes to read and people just need to take a break from having a computer screen staring at you all the time. I have a neighbor who received a Kindle for a gift. She is also an avid, voracious reader, but she does not like it. I told her “What do you do all day? Sit in front of a computer at work?” She said yes, and I explained, “Who wants to sit at a computer all day, glaring at a screen, then go home to relax to a good book which is ALSO a computer screen?” Perhaps someday, corneal implants not included (shudder!), the tech will be there to provide books in a way that is people friendly and soft on the eyes. Until then, I’ll continue to curl up to a good book anyday… it’s more… organic? …natural? …it just feels good! :)

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  2. If you follow this blog, you may have already noticed, but I’m a total social media fangirl myself, so I ALSO absolutely agree with Drew on the social media front. In fact, I’m reading “Engaged!” by Brian Solis right now. Great read. I’d absolutely recommend if you’re a social media champion for your own organization/business. My book, however, is a good old-fashioned book. I actually kind of agree with you, HK. There really is nothing like curling up with a good one at the end of the day. :)

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  3. HK and Libbie-
    Thanks for the feedback. I certainly don’t think books will disappear completely. And there’s no crazy science behind my 10-15 year window (a decade always seems like a convenient “future” increment, doesn’t it?). But I do think the economic and social pressures on printing combined with the liberating freedom of mobile technology will fundamentally change things. Why take one book to the park with you when you can take the whole library?

    Trust me, I love my books as much as anyone. But in 10-15 years, you have to acknowledge that it could be a totally different landscape. My kids (12 and 9) have never seen a vinyl album (let alone an 8-track). They’ve also never seen a 5.25″ or 3.5″ floppy disk. Technology takes no prisoners and it rarely hits the brakes. :)

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  4. I stare at a computer screen all day, but I have a Kindle as well, and I adore it. Reading on it is nothing like looking at a phone or a computer screen – the ePaper makes it very easy on the eyes. Is it a perfect device? Not quite, but I can certainly live with it. Just the facts that it is ultra-portable and very thin and lightweight, meaning I can take it anywhere, and that I have over 20 books on it at any given time (not to mention that Amazon archives my purchases) makes it that much more valuable to someone like me, who not only reads in bed but travels.

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  5. The thing I try to remember is that the old-media-replaces-new-media paradigm doesn’t necessarily apply anymore, or at least it doesn’t apply in the same way. We watched our movies on reel-to-reel, then video cassette, then DVD, and now Blu Ray. We listened to our music on vinyl, then 8 track, then cassette tape, then CD, and now digital download.

    But does Blu Ray mean we’re done with film? Has .mp3 made vinyl obsolete? Kinda yes and kinda no. I read that vinyl sales are the strongest they’ve been in over a decade. I think what Drew is saying, and I completely agree, is the question of the right media must be answered alongside the question of the right context. Not what’s “better”, but what’s more appropriate for who, what and why. And that seems to be as true in marketing as it is in media.

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  6. To digress just a moment… your artwork is amazing, Jeremy :)

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  7. Why thank you!

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