Professor Farris teaches graduate business courses in marketing, and has authored numerous academic papers and books on interactive marketing.
I recently caught up with Paul to get his thoughts on web marketing.
Will the web turn everyone into a direct marketer? My short answer is: everyone’s gonna try.
Listen to podcast: rkgblog-interview-paul-farris.mp3
Paul Farris Transcript
Alan Rimm-Kaufman:Today I’m talking to Paul Farris. Professor Farris is the Landmark Communications Professor of Business Administration at the University Of Virginia Graduate School Of Business. Welcome, Paul.
Paul Farris:Alan, thank you.
Alan:You are senior marketing faculty at a leading business school. Can you tell our listeners how MBA curricula have changed because of the rapid rise of web marketing?
Paul:Well, of course my view is primarily here at the University of Virginia, but I do make – have been close contacts with my colleagues at other schools so I think what has happened here is pretty typical. And that is in the beginning we had courses devoted to the general phenomenon of e-Business and I think people were just interested in lumping almost everything about the web into one course that looked at business models, that looked at direct marketing, that as I say, lumped the whole phenomenon into one course. Then we saw a second wave where those e-Business courses by and large went away and the content was absorbed into specific traditional areas. Marketing took some things, finance took others, and operations still others.
And I think what we’re seeing now, at least in the marketing point of view, is sort of a third wave where web marketing is being more closely integrated with interactive marketing, with courses that have both carry the label integrated marketing and communications. So I think from my point of view, those are the three waves that we’ve seen and we’re in the third one now.
Alan: Sure. In the early days of the web, the direct marketers were first to the party and it was really, I’d say, a direct response medium, and now we’re seeing more and more brand marketing efforts on the web. How do you see that playing out over time, the tension between brand marketing and direct marketing online?
Paul:Well, I think you’re right. I think it took the brand marketers with the big budget longer to appreciate both the value and to find out what kind of approach would be fruitful for – would be a productive use of their money. As they have discovered techniques for using the web, I think we’ve seen demand rise. We’ve seen what I would call the second wave of price increases from that and I think we’re now just on the edge of seeing some of the new technologies and capabilities of video, among other things, and integrated mobile – web and mobile marketing. So that’s the increase supply that is now responding to that increased demand.
Alan: Will the web turn everyone into a direct marketer?
Paul:Now that is, I think, a very interesting question. My short answer is everyone’s gonna try. The biggest challenge that I see right now is for marketers who need scale in a hurry finding out how to get at that on the web. For example, toy marketers, marketers that traditionally you would see on the Super Bowl, are spending a little bit of their money on the web, but I think they’re still struggling with how do we find a way to mount a campaign that has the scale that is commensurate with what they need for mass retail channels.
Alan: Interesting. I know you do a lot of consulting. Any of your clients doing some interesting things on the web you can share?
Paul:Well, I’m pressing them to do that. I’m telling them that they really should be looking at search marketing because they can get at this, and what I’ll call the variable cost approach to marketing, that they can try different things and if it works, they can scale it up in a hurry. But their traditional mindset that they come with, frankly they – I don’t think that they’ve convinced themselves that they can spend enough money fast enough on the web right now. That’s to come though.
Alan:It certainly will be changing quickly.
Paul:I think so, yeah, especially if we can integrate mobile marketing with the web. I think that will be from my point of view the next big wave.
Alan:This fall at Darden, you ran a very interesting executive education course. The topic was web marketing and I think it was one of the nation’s first executive ed courses on that topic. How did that course go and what are you gonna do with that course in the future?
Paul:Well, the first thing is we think it went very well from the point of view – two points of view. The participants were very satisfied. They all felt that it was worth their time and money and the Darden School intends to repeat it. So we thought it went well.
Alan:Can you tell me a little bit about the curriculum and the attendees? What sort of people went and what did they get out of it?
Paul:Well, it’s funny. We had just a wide variety of people attending. We had a small retailer from southern Tennessee attending, a haberdashery, and we had marketers from mobile telephone companies, insurance companies, big budget companies. So there was really quite a spread, including B2B marketers. It was a broad cross section of American business that was there. And we had also so many people who were very sophisticated, had been working in web marketing for years, and people who were brand new to this thing.
Alan: How did the course work with that diversity of advertiser size and advertiser sophistication?
Paul:The way we decided to approach it is to get subject matter experts from not just the Darden School but primarily from across the country and across the world and use our academic faculty not in the traditional mode of content delivery or even the mode of teaching cases that have been written beforehand. But we approached this along the way of using the faculty primarily to help develop the red threads and sew the content together into a coherent package and actually the course was more a series of live cases than anything else.
Alan:And plans for the course in the future?
Paul:Well, we’re going to continue that. I think one of the things that we may change in the future is to devote a day or two beforehand to covering some of the more basic topics so that we can differentiate a little bit between the participants who have prior experience and those who have very little. But beyond that, I think the general model really corresponds well to being able to stay on top of a very fast moving area.
Alan:Good stuff. Since you’re a marketing guy, do you have a plug for it? If people want to find out more, what should they do?
Paul:I think if they Google “Online Marketing Update at Darden” that will link them into everything they need to know.
Alan:Good stuff. As we wrap up this conversation, what would be your single, most important tip for online marketers?
Paul:Don’t forget the traditional media tool kit. While it’s true that our direct response measurements are wonderful and give us ROI measures like we’ve never had before, a deeper understanding of how to generate more creative and imaginative programs is also going to come from understanding reach, frequency, understanding the consumers that we’re targeting. So integrating the direct response with the traditional media toolkit I think is going to give us the best of all worlds.