Whose Line Is It Anyway?

The Detroit Red Wings’ Vice President of Marketing, Rob Mattina, spoke to my sports marketing class last week because, really, what else does he have to do? Thanks, Gary Bettman.

In all seriousness though, he was a great guy and a very engaging speaker, but I was left with a gnawing feeling that sports (let me clarify: team) marketing, or at the very least, hockey marketing lags behind other industries – or doesn’t feel, perhaps rightly so in the case of the Red Wings organization, that innovation is necessary.

Mattina spoke a great deal about the contrast between his “above the line” and “below the line” strategies, that is, traditional broadcast and digital or alternative methods (read: social). In the strictest sense, “above the line” refers to broadcasted mass media, while “below the line” refers to more targeted, measurable channels.

In my opinion, and in agreement with Ad Age contributor Kevin DiLorenzo, this terminology is out of touch.  In today’s media landscape, there is no line. Consumers prove this when they tweet on their phones or tablets while watching live TV, or engage mobile apps at the point of sale. The “line” is merely an industry cliché that allows marketers to silo their budgets in various areas rather than achieving integration.

This blurring, or disappearance, of the line coincides with one of the overarching themes of Advertising Week – the increasingly fundamental nature of digital, mobile, and social media. The days of agencies outsourcing their digital work, or housing entirely separate digital departments, are no more. Instead, campaigns must be built with all of these “alternatives” in mind, utilized to enhance the traditional broadcast mediums, or altogether surpass them in importance.

How often do you see a Starbucks ad on television? I can’t recall the last time. But online? Starbucks is ubiquitous. They’re active on Facebook and Twitter, use Instagram better than just about any brand, and “Pin” brand-relevant items better than most (I’m looking at you, Marc Jacobs and Nordstrom – let’s just say excessive).  Placing far more stock in loyalty, mobile, social, and in-store programs than it does broadcast mediums, Starbucks has been able to take advantage of its fan following in more meaningful ways.

To me, these actions do a better job – proportionately, at least – of “brand-building” than any traditional medium could. Brand-building is about growing loyalty, awareness, brand consideration, and equity. In my opinion, the depth with which these “alternatives” reach brands’ core audiences is of far greater value than the breadth that might be targeted through traditional broadcast media.

What is ultimately of the greatest value, however, is integration throughout a campaign. Disjointed narratives do little to enhance the consumer experience, if not causing confusion altogether. For a message to resonate with the consumer, it must be both cohesive and engaging – difficult to accomplish in what I’ll call “static” fashion.

So let’s do away with “the line” altogether, and focus instead on how to engage consumers in both meaningful and entertaining ways. Creating just one loyal consumer is ultimately more beneficial than entertaining ten who can’t pair your brand with, “you know, that one hilarious commercial.”