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Sideways marketing

Media consumption and interaction are no longer linear. What in the world does that mean? I’ll tell you -With the accessibility of on-demand media, it means that from the content-producer perspective, time is no longer a huge factor in consumption. To use our Trabian's own Matt Dean as an example, it means that he doesn’t watch The Office on TV at 7:30 on Thursdays. He downloads it through iTunes and watches it whenever he pleases.Meanwhile, consumers themselves are creating distribution channels through blogs, podcasts, bittorrent networks, text messages, YouTube, water-cooler conversations, the effects of links on search engine results, and a slew of other things I haven’t thought of. The majority of this consumer generated content is on-demand too.Because of this, communications do not move along a specified path, they bounce around willy-nilly. Marketers, this is especially important to you because you can no longer think in terms of top-down distribution for your marketing. When you speak, it’s important to understand (and capitalize on) the channels that message will fly through. We’ll call this “sideways marketing,” and it involves viewing and reaching consumers by recognizing their distribution channels, and making yourself accessible and deliverable through those.

A few examples

Campbell-Ewald’s Chief Contact Officer (cool title) Ed Dilworth (less cool name) gave a session at ad:tech entitled “Navigating the Current of Participatory Communication” that broke down how his firm was flipping clients on their sides. For their clients, it means everything from setting up corporate blogs to asking consumers to create an ‘07 Super Bowl spot to setting up farmer’s markets throughout the U.S. Separately, Jay-Z and Coca-Cola distributed a live performance video, embedded with promotions for Coke, through illegal file-sharing networks. Jay-Z’s stereotypically-named lawyer, Mike Guido, said this about the strategy:
“The concept here is making the peer-to-peer networks work for us. While peer-to-peer users are stealing the intellectual property, they are also the active music audience…this technology allows us to market back to them.”

On your own site

Because many search results point directly to internal site pages, the homepage is less significant. People are gaining sideways entry into your site, and your design should reflect this. Embrace this by:
  • Tracking the search results that are pointing people to your site using tools like Mint.
  • Tracking which internal pages are receiving the most traffic.
  • Making sure your internal pages have calls to action and links that cross pollinate the rest of the site.
  • Design a clear information architecture that is easily navigable even in the deepest reaches of your site.


Step one in all of this is to listen to and understand your consumer. How else can you understand how they’re communicating, where they’re creating content, and how they’re accessing and redistributing yours? Once you understand this, it’s simply a matter of working with them.

Life lessons from a hyperactive four year-old

ad:tech 2006