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February 15, 2016 Q&A

Like media industry, Maier evolves with time

PHOTO | Contributed Bill Maier, founder and president, of Maier True Communication
PHOTO | Contributed I. Todd Russell, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, of Maier True Communication

Q&A talks with Bill Maier, founder and president, and I. Todd Russell, executive vice president and chief marketing officer, of Farmington-based Maier True Communication, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary in 2016.

Q: You've been in the advertising and marketing communications field for 45 years. Is anything the same in your field as it was back in the early '70s? What's the biggest change?

A: Maier: We're still creating traditional media, but what has truly evolved is mobile. People are using it daily as a communication vehicle. That has hit very hard in the last 10 years. Although print is not going away, it's being overtaken by digital. The fundamentals haven't disappeared, but everything's leaning toward digital and instant communications.

Russell: Print isn't going away but clients are getting much smarter on how to leverage it. It's about being more timely and relevant. Offline marketing now involves print on demand. For example, we set up campaigns and when a certain trigger occurs, we can deploy a piece of personalized collateral to a targeted individual. Gone are the days of huge volume and people relying on a 1 to 3 percent response from a direct mail perspective. Results have improved through measurement and analytics.

Q: On your firm's website, there's this line in the “About” section: “Megaphone marketing has been replaced with dialogs — exchanges with customers that offer targeted, useful, easy-to-obtain information.” How true is that? Does all marketing have to be that targeted to be successful?

A: Russell: Websites are clearly a mandatory component in business-to-business communications. We've recently evolved and reworked our site — but it's never finished. That's one of the advantages with digital mediums. The ability to change and evolve is there. Being targeted is important — it's a huge part of what we do. And one aspect of targeting is measurability. If a client can't justify a spend, measure it, and report back, they should not be making that investment. That's how critical it's becoming. Just throwing things out there to see what happens is not a strategy. You have to be able to measure it.

Q: Along the lines of dialogs, are influencers still a relevant aspect of marketing? Is social media where the message has to be?

A: Russell: Influencers are still relevant. We create multi-tiered strategies and campaigns to reach and communicate to the various influencers touching our clients' businesses. While social media isn't a mandatory medium, our clients need to take a serious look at it. It's a very powerful medium and can be enormously effective.

You might recall during a nationally broadcast NCAA championship football game a few years ago, announcer Brent Musburger made a comment about a woman in the stands. As soon as he did that, within 30 minutes, her Twitter followers increased from 5,000 to 100,000. You can't argue with those numbers. The recognition really catapulted her career.

Social media can be used to extend conversations. Dollar Shave Club got their start in a Super Bowl spot. The real traction came when they started releasing videos on YouTube and engaging people on Facebook. It blossomed into a household name.

It's about storytelling. That's a term we hear a lot. We're now involved in marketing with people rather than at people.

Q: Is your business always a march forward or do aspects of it come back full circle at times? Is your industry cyclical or a straight line?

A: Russell: We're in a cyclical business, especially in the way we utilize digital marketing. As mentioned, websites are never completely finished. They're updated regularly with new content. If a web asset doesn't provide a viewer reasons to return, there won't be “stickiness.”

We want to attract and engage people, acquire them as customers, and obviously retain them too. For that to happen, content needs to be constantly refreshed, regardless of marketing channel. There has to be a reason for people to return to whatever medium in which you are broadcasting your message.

Q: What's ahead in marketing communications? Where is the industry going?

A: Russell: Technology plays a huge role these days. Some of the tools are CRM — customer relationship management — marketing automation, and overall analytics that help with measurement and reporting. Most of our clients have these platforms.

What's ahead is more effective messaging with mobile and wearable devices. I don't think people reflect on where we are — digital marketing is still in its infancy.

My first email account was established about 20 years ago. Smartphones have been with us less than nine years. Now we have wearable devices. Eventually, we will have one device that will take care of all our needs. We have to craft our messages in different ways that will be effective. A digital billboard on I-84 will look a lot different than it will appear on someone's Apple Watch.

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