Friday, December 28, 2007

Doing Good by Working the Web

A colleague recently brought a Facebook post by Alnisa Allgood to my attention. It describes the efforts of two brothers (who, for a year are communicating only via their vlog, but that’s another story) in behalf of the Project for Awesome. Hank and John Green’s basic idea was to get people (Nerdfighters) to post videos in support of their favorite charities on December 18. By all posting at once they would attract more attention.

It worked! The project had virtually all of the most-viewed videos on that day—shared only with Mike Huckabee, according to one of the brothers--Hank, I think, in this video. It’s about 4 minutes long, but worth watching completely for the ending.View the video here.

The project made its big splash on December 18, but it’s ongoing. There are about 4 thousand videos uploaded under the Project Awesome channel. It’s worth scrolling through several pages to see the diversity of causes represented. It’s also worth watching a few of the participant videos.

This effort reminds me of two things. One is the post I made in October in support of Blog Action Day, which focused on the environment. According to their stats, over 23 thousand posts were made that day. Some were targeted blogs like ours; but some of the best-known blogger names as well as corporate blogs also participated. This, too, was a volunteer effort, although it appears to have had back-end support from Google. So this kind of “flash mob” on the Web works in the short run. Does it create engagement with causes in the longer run? I don’t see how it can do anything less, when a person goes to the trouble to write a blog post or create a video.

The other reminder was my interesting class experience with the Gap participation in Project Red. Young people are looking for causes to believe in and support. Non-profits won’t reach or engage them by traditional methods. Both the New York Times and the Financial Times have recently written about the importance of web-base efforts to a variety of organizations.

Non-profits have work to do. Corporations and local businesses can help and support. There are two questions:
1.How to engage young people on their own ground, on their own terms.
2.How corporations can help—and how non-profits can take advantage of their help—without seeming (being) crass.

Witness the frenzy over “green” at the moment and the hype and misinformation that sometimes accompanies it. How can we do better?

Your thoughts?

Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Consumer Needs and Social Media

Today’s newsletter from the Center for Media Research references an interesting new study from marketing services firm Communispace. They’ve used a framework of personal needs and motivations to explore the benefits that consumers can gain from various types of social media. This chart summarizes their framework and benefits of various types of social media.
If the categories sound familiar, that’s because they are based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which we’ve all met in social psych and marketing courses. The hierarchy itself is rather global in nature, but when applied to specific subject matter it becomes interesting. Their adaptation produces five social needs people can meet by participation in social media and points out that they are increasingly seeking to fulfill these needs online. Meeting deeply-felt needs results in an increasing sense of connection to the site or business that is responsible for the community.
Two points are especially worth noting:

1.Different social media are used for different consumer purposes. Blogs are by definition a means of self-expression. Community requires groups of some type, whether they are consumer generated or formed by an outside entity.

2.From the marketer’s perspective all the social media represent the voice of the customer and we should be listening intently.

I’ve repeatedly noted that the social media give marketers the ability to engage customers in ways that are mutually beneficial. If communities form, either spontaneously or with marketer sponsorship, it is because the interaction fulfills a real need. The CMR newsletter says that:

People want to be reassured of their worth and value, and seek confirmation that what they say and do matters to others and has an impact on the world around them.

I agree with that perspective on consumer needs. From the marketer’s perspective, I suggest that we develop online spaces where like-minded people can meet, interact, support one another, and—in time—perhaps become evangelists for the sponsor.

This strongly implies that social media initiatives cannot be—or be perceived as being—a heavy-handed promotional activity. Each one has to meet one or more basic consumer needs in order to be welcomed and integrated into customers’ lives. That requires a kind of delicate sensibility that is the opposite of traditional advertising and promotion. Maybe that’s why it’s so hard for many marketers to grasp this new way of interacting with their target audience.

You can access the complete report here.
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, December 21, 2007

Singing Pringles Usher in the Holidays

What could be more appropriate for the holidays than singing Pringles? You might have ideas of your own, but if you’re Procter and Gamble the answer is, “Nothing.”

Yesterday Ad Age reported on the Pringles Christmas contest P&G held in the UK. They started out looking for a new jingle. They liked this video so much they declared it the winner and will air it on Christmas Day. Here it is; it’s season-appropriate and perfectly charming. The page has other finalists as is common in these contests.Enjoy the video here.

I agree with the comment on—why not play it in the US as well as the UK? I don’t know if that has to do with the non-standard length—40 seconds—or with the cult-like popularity of Pringles with young Europeans. Whatever the reason, it is an engaging way to sign off for a few days of family fun and fellowship.
Best Holiday Wishes to All!
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Where Are The Viewers Going?

Yesterday the AlwaysOn newsletter published a video interview with Tina Brown. As the former editor of Vanity Fair and the New Yorker, she is a respected observer of the media scene. Admittedly “a print junkie,” she has scathing things to say about network news and interesting observations about online news, current and future.
View the video here.

The video led me to Beet.TV, which seems best described as a channel of BlipTV, the video hosting service. BeetTV focuses on media, so it’s a site marketers might keep an eye on.

It also led me back into my files to review some of the data on how consumers are using their media time. The data from eMarketer is about what most of us would expect, except possibly the continued gains of television (overall) in terms of viewing time. Other viewers seem to feel like Tina Brown does, though; network TV is not faring well. The chart from Forrester may help explain why. As the Boomers age and retire, they are watching more TV. That’s not true of younger age cohorts, as we know.

They are watching video and a Harris study quoted today in Marketing Charts gives data on what and where they are watching it. In an article entitled “Viewers Want More TV Episodes and Movies Online,” they summarize key findings:

•Online video viewership has increased overall in the past year (81% versus 74%).
•YouTube’s viewers have increased the most: Nearly two-thirds (65%) of US online adults say they have watched a video there, compared with 42% at the same time last year; the greatest gains were among those over age 25.

Viewers over 25 are discovering YouTube; wonder how far that will go. But if anyone doubts this is an ongoing trend, these data should put that to rest. The only real question is how to incorporate these trends into your media buy and your branding plans.

Think consumer behavior. Think consumer engagement. Then proceed to find out what consumers want to hear from you. Marketing research that follows in the tracks of the Harris study would be worthwhile. Interactive experiments are likely to be even more effective. Your website, newsletters, and blogs can all allow you to track individual pieces of content—how often they are accessed, where viewers go/what actions they take subsequent to viewing your content. Let your customers tell you what they want!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Widgets Go Mainstream

Widgets are all over our desktops and the websites we visit. You may have downloaded a local weather service for your home page, an icon that offers news about your favorite sports team, or you may have reached this blog by an RSS feed. These are all icons of one sort or another that provide access to content or other Internet functionality with a single click.

A well-known one is the Southwest Airlines Ding widget that provides reduced-fare alerts. It is credited with over $150 million in ticket revenue in about 2 years of operation. Their widget program is ongoing. If you look at Southwest’s Travel Tools, they have a new Wireless Alert for your mobile phone using the standard RSS icon.
With all this going on it’s no surprise that Widget platform Clearspring has just announced an advertising network for widgets. Here’s some background on the subject:
•In June comScore announced a metrics service for widgets. In April 2007 they said that widgets reached almost 178 million people worldwide.
•For a good, quick video explaining how ad networks work, see “The Evolution of Ad Networks.”
•Clearspring helps users develop widgets. Widgetbox is one of the many free platforms for DIY widgets. All the large portals have them also. I pointed out earlier that even I could develop one using Google’s freestyle widget template.

Widgets offer exciting possibilities but before you dash off in all directions, this is a good time to study Google’s Open Social platform. It’s stated purpose is to make it easier to share what they call “social gadgets” between social applications. Some of the larger ones like MySpace and LinkedIn are already part of the network.

Do you need to deploy anything from content to marketing offers to people who are willing to hear from you? Think widgets!
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, December 17, 2007

Consumer Reviews Are Positive

Not long ago I wrote a post for the eBrandMarketing blog urging marketers to encourage consumer ratings of their products. Data keeps rolling in that shows the power of this user-generated content in the consumer decision process. Not only do consumers use peer reviews; those who do spend more money. According to eMarketer:

Some 27% of the respondents who read customer reviews reported average spending between 5% and 10% higher than those who did not read them. Another 21% of review readers reported average spending between 1% and 5% higher than that of non-readers. Nearly 7% of respondents who said they read customer reviews reported average spending 20% higher than other online shoppers. (Newsletter, December 4, 2007)


A few days ago eMarketer reported on a study that should reduce—if not eliminate—manager’s worst fears. They worry that customers will say negative things. While I can, and do, argue that negatives should be heard (and acted on!), that’s another issue. This data comes from BaazarVoice, a company that helps retailers with social media applications. They analyzed their data for a single month, and found most reviews positive. If this was a five-point scale, 36% were “Always” and 51% were “Most of the Time.” That’s 87% in the top 2 boxes. That’s amazing! That’s huge! The main reason for writing the reviews (90%) was to help other customers.
That’s nice of them, but, given this data, it would behoove retailers to be proactive about reviews. I referenced ShopNBC in the earlier post. Amazon recently asked me to review purchases, see the email above. Since these are automated messages, it doesn’t cost the retailers much, and the results may be significant!
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Does the Marketing World Need a Blog Council?

Once again I owe one of my students, Amy Yen, a vote of thanks for turning up an important new web activity. A group of corporate leaders has formed The Blog Council, “dedicated to promoting best practices in corporate blogging” under the leadership of Andy Sternovitz, CEO of WOM consultancy GasPedal. The founding members are a roster of leading corporate names, many of which are already well known for the success of their blogging efforts.

With a blog that’s dedicated to exploring marketing applications of social media, in which I’ve written about blog transparency, I couldn’t be more pleased to know there’s a best practices group. I’m fortunate to contribute to a major corporate vertical blog, eBrandMarketing, while I interact with smaller businesses and non-profit organizations. In a nutshell, large corporations need a way to engage with their customers. Smaller businesses and non-profits need a way to get their message out in an environment where mass media are expensive and increasingly ineffective.

However, we all know there’s a tremendous amount of hesitance to “join the conversation”— with thanks to Joseph Jaffe whose phrase (and book) I find to perfectly capture the spirit. I don’t think it’s any more true of large or small organizations. All are wary. Many have spent years building their businesses and brands and are reluctant to open them up to new media. It’s a scary world they don’t know much about. The smaller ones and the non-profits, however, have fewer resources to devote to learning about it and in some ways they need the access even more.

So I wish the new Blog Council well. In creating an environment where they can openly and freely discuss best practices, I hope they’ll also consider how to share their expertise with a broad set of marketers who need guidance even though some of them don’t even know it yet.
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

GPS Meets Mobile in New York Taxicabs

This video is a light-hearted look at a GPS-driven system for taxi passengers in New York City. Apparently the system has also been authorized for testing in a small number of cabs in Boston. I haven’t been exposed to it in either place, and I’d like to try it out. I’d also be happy not to have to be sure I have enough cash when I take a taxi in either city.View the video here.

GPS in our transportation systems has not been without controversy. New York taxi drivers initially threatened to strike over the system, which was viewed as costly and a potential invasion of privacy. The strike didn’t happen, but the drivers still don’t sound happy about it.

I was reminded what happened in Massachusetts last year when GPS systems were mandated for all snow plowing contractors. They also were not happy and threatened to strike going into the winter season—not acceptable to Massachusetts residents. So the state put off the requirement for a year, but as far as I know, the GPS systems are going to be required of all contractors this season.

As you view the video, think about the advertising opportunities it opens up. As usual in mobile, Asian countries are far ahead of us. I found another light-hearted look at taxis, with Japan and Singapore having especially interesting applications.

If this gives you an idea for a last-minute Christmas gift, CNET is keeping an eye on what’s available!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Creating Brands Online

I’ve been writing about online branding for quite awhile, in my textbook and some marketing encyclopedia articles. The chief point has been that we have a whole new set of interactive tools to use on the web, whether we are creating new brands or strengthening existing ones. The tools are:

•Co-Creation of Content
•Purchase-Process Streamlining
•Brand Community

Many online marketers use several of these tools well. Amazon has pioneered some of them and uses most of them well; I’m not sure they engage in dynamic pricing. What I am sure of though, is that when you do it well it can become an information product. When I ordered Christmas gifts from Target online I was given a choice to use their checkout process or Amazon’s. That was a surprise, but no big decision. I have my account set up on Amazon, I trust that they take care of my data, and I’d use them whenever given the chance. Seeing Amazon in that context didn’t do any harm to their brand image either!

There are new branding opportunities inherent in Web 2.0, as the description of Verizon’s recent branding activities in today’s iMedia Connection suggests. And that article doesn’t include Verizon’s My Home 2.0 promotion I discussed earlier—different agency I think.

Having suggested a new media model that reflects that new reality, I’ve been thinking about branding. I posted my thoughts on the eBrandMarketing site. Hope you’ll take a look and tell me whether you think this is the way it can work in the Web 2.0 world.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Is It Content or Context?

Earlier this week I had the opportunity to hear a talk by Lisa Gregorian, EVP of Worldwide Marketing at Warner Bros. Television Group. She spoke about “Making the Old New: Marketing Television in the Web Age.” She had a lot of fascinating things to say but ones that particularly impressed me included her emphasis on professionally-created video content and the dominance of the ad-supported business model. I spend a lot of time thinking about user-generated content, so that was a useful perspective for me. I was also intrigued by the ability of the content creators to tailor content to the needs of the narrowcast channels. Think The Closer for TNT.

The next morning when I opened my inbox there was a link to a presentation by Andrew Heyward, entitled “Content Isn’t King Anymore.” He is arguing that context is king in the world of consumer-controlled new media. View video here.

Heyward’s “rules of engagement” in the new media environment are worth considering. They are:
•Value — beyond relevant content to the ability to serve many needs, perform many related tasks
•Affinity -- a chance to connect with like-minded people
•Simplicity — “ask little, deliver a lot”
•Recognition — reward consumers for interacting with the brand
•“Working the web” -- by giving up some control to users.

What’s interesting is that the content creator and the advertising advisor are both talking about the same thing. Consumers want content in many forms, through many channels. Sticking with video we can distribute content over broadcast, cable, Internet or mobile media--each of which has hundreds, maybe thousands, of channels these days. Making the same content work across multiple channels is no small feat but it’s absolutely necessary. Even though you may be reaching a smaller niche market with targeted content, some of your targeted viewers still prefer to sit on the sofa and watch TV while some want to watch on their laptops from wherever they happen to be. And with mobile coming into its own as a medium of communication, it will only get more complicated.

The marketer has to react by understanding that consumers are receiving the content on demand—consumers’ timing not the marketers—and in the context—medium and channel--of their choice. That puts Heyward’s rules of engagement front and center. Marketers have to provide value and the other kinds of meaning he talks about whenever and wherever the consumer chooses to interact with the brand.

Interesting hypothesis—does that bring us back to a core value proposition that we communicate in various ways? In other words, does it focus us on marketing basics, including our customers, not just on clever uses of all media, old and new?
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Mr. Clean Makes A Video Splash

Here’s another contest to think about. Procter and Gamble’s Mr. Clean has a line extension of Magic Erasers. I’ve tried them and they really do work—to the extent that I’ve recommended them to friends. The warnings suggests they are full of some pretty strong stuff, but that’s another (important) subject.

The contest is similar to others featured in this blog. Create a video for the Magic Eraser line. The contest is now closed and the winner is to be announced on December 8. You can choose your preferred video if you like; they are all posted. It will take you awhile because the contest drew 96 official entries. There were a lot of daily prizes (Magic Erasers, I think) that kept the interest level high.
It also spawned some that can best be described as disgusting (I found 90+ videos on YouTube, many of which don't appear to be contest entries) and another that was too late to qualify but funny.

If my new media model is on track, these people are brand evangelists, most of them with a positive message. Does this kind of activity create a bond with the brand—a feeling of ownership, even? I think it might.

At the very least a lot of people have Magic Eraser samples. And Procter and Gamble has a lot of consumer insight for relatively little expenditure!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

New Media Model

The Internet changed the way marketers interacted with their customers. Permanently. Irrevocably. The social media of Web 2.0 are doing it again. That’s the theme of this blog.

Don Schultz describes the old model of how marketers use media as “linear.” It looks like this.“Linear” is a good description, but we all know the old way no longer works. There are a lot of suggestions, successful experiments and terms like “engagement” floating around. As far as I can tell no one has yet successfully put it all together.

Here’s my perspective on how it works. Notice that it does not use the terms “advertising,” “promotion,” or even “communication.” That’s intentional. Those terms are becoming as irrelevant as the linear model. So here’s how I think it works. Note that the overall context is one of trust—trust in the brand, the message, and the company that sponsors the communications.
Attention. We first have to attract the attention of the prospective customer. Television has always been best at doing that because of its huge reach. Between ad zapping of all kinds and the fact that television simply doesn’t reach some consumers like young males, it has lost much of its effectiveness. Online often works. Marketers can use many techniques to attract attention, from video clips to relevant content on websites.

Engagement. The next step is to engage them in our content to the extent that they not only spend time on our site but return to it. Advergaming is one way to reach the young male and the constantly expanding universe of gamers. Videos and interactive content work. The interactive content ranges from “build your own ” to “comment” to “rate this product.” It keeps people on the site longer. Even more important it draws them and gives them a feeling of ownership.

Commitment. This gets to the attitudinal component that is key to old models of media use and branding. People need to form positive attitudes about products, brands and businesses. Continuing to interact with them in a way that is relevant to their interests and respectful of their time and intelligence is essential. It adds to the context of trust in which all interactions must take place.

Conversion. Attention and interaction are wonderful, but at some point marketers have to create a customer. Online marketers often follow the direct-response model, using incentives to convert the prospect. That works, but there are other techniques that are potentially more effective and perhaps less costly. They range from word of mouth marketing to product ratings to viral content of all kinds. These techniques have the common advantage of coming from trusted personal sources not from advertising or any obviously-marketer-sponsored communications. Marketers must also be mindful of the fact that much conversion still takes place offline and integrate their strategies accordingly.

Loyalty. Old models stopped with the exhortation that marketers must create loyal customers. That’s still true. A quality product is a large part of that but this is an age of mostly parity products. If the product is not the keystone for loyalty, what is? It is the customer experience—from a consistently user-friendly and customer-responsive site to all the elements of the offline user experience. Think JetBlue. A reasonable business model and outstanding customer service created strong customer loyalty. That loyalty allowed them to weather (pun intended) the experience on Valentine’s Day, but customers made it quite clear that continuation of major customer inconvenience was not an option. David Neeleman, JetBlue CEO apologized publicly and insists that he is listening to customers. A touch of humanity never hurts.

Evangelism. Loyal customers are likely to be evangelists anyway. Give them tools to be more active. “Post your,” “Share this with your friends,” “Join our community discussions” all leverage the incredible power of WOM.

Evangelism and social media tools complete the cycle. They attract the attention of new potential customers. The marketer has to be ready to start the cycle over again, not when it’s convenient to broadcast a marketing message, but at the moment the individual customer enters the process.

Inside the process circle are two elements that keep it going:

Content supplied by marketers is the “new advertising.” It is informative, relevant and available on demand. It is presented in ways that engage as well as inform.

Contribution by customers (and others) is the immeasurably valuable input from the previously-voiceless “mass market.” They have found their voice and it’s not going to diminish. The “voice of the customer” will only increase as time goes on and more people become comfortable with the interactive techniques of Web 2.0. It adds to marketer-supplied content—a highly credible addition. It’s the voice of the customer, spoken directly to the marketer. What more can we ask for?

Trust is both the beginning and the end. Without trust other marketing efforts will have little impact.

That’s the way I see it! How about you?
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 30, 2007

TJX, Television Viewing and Trust

I ran across a CNET post earlier in the week that recalled a recent experience. While I was paying (in cash) for a small purchase at the local TJ Maxx the checker asked me if I wanted to save money with a rewards card. I had seen a promotion for it as I entered the store and thought, “Are they nuts? Willingly give them any data? Not in this lifetime!”

And that’s pretty much the response I gave to the clerk’s question. The look on her face suggested that she was hearing that a lot, but she just replied politely that she had to ask. I apologized for snapping at her. The failings of TJX management are not her fault.

The CNET post highlighted a 60 Minutes segment from Sunday, November 25 that included the recently-completed Canadian study of the data theft. Sorry I missed it, because one of the subjects for the week’s Internet marketing class at Emerson College was data security. The TJX hack was in the class notes even though we had already talked about it several times, but I was pretty sure that Leslie Stahl had more/more recent information than I did.

So I asked the class of young professionals how many had watched 60 Minutes Sunday night and then waited for a hand to go up. And waited. Of the 15 young professionals and 1 much older one, not one of us had seen the promotion for the segment or watched the broadcast. It’s no secret that broadcast TV has its own viewership issues, but that surprised even me.

I assumed the segment might be posted somewhere, so during the break I searched. It took me less than 60 seconds to find it on the CBS News site, where it still resides as of this posting. That, too, is a commentary on the changing media scene. We all watched it together and had similar responses. The subject matter is downright scary even though we all though we knew quite a bit about the situation. For an Internet marketing class it also made the important point that identity theft is currently more common offline. Will that change as ecommerce continues to grow?

No matter whose fault they are—the retailers or the financial services providers—thefts like the TJX one do irreparable damage to customer trust. Especially when the institution at fault doesn’t notify the public in a timely fashion and seems less than forthcoming when they do notify. TJX does still have a prominent link to customer information about the data breach on their home page and on the main pages of each of their units. That mostly serves to remind many of us where we will only shop with cash, if at all.

No rewards card for me, for sure. And a sobering reminder of how hard marketers need to work to build trust in their brands and how easily it can be damaged. If you are a Jet Blue, and you have a great reservoir of good will among your customers, you can survive one bad experience, especially if the CEO is public and forthcoming and promises to fix the problem. How many of us have built that level of satisfaction and trust among our stakeholders? And what do we need to be doing to continue building trust?
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Savy Students and a Marketing Icon

The two go together, don’t they? A team of students from the Integrated Marketing Communications program at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University recently sent me the link. They had produced a podcast interview with Don Schultz, who has already been featured in this blog.
Don is a veteran advertiser and educator who has been a role model and mentor to many of us. That’s probably the reason he has a Wikipedia entry. It’s a delight to hear Don talk about the evolution of integrated marketing communications and speculate on the future. Do take a few minutes and listen to the podcast.

As you do, think about the students who are learning to use social media techniques and the academic programs that are fostering that kind of real world relevance. In my early explorations of DIY Marketing I required a class of MBA students to each “build” something using freely-available applications. They looked at me with dismay; they were marketing students and the idea of exploring the applications wasn’t what they expected. But they got over their initial shock and came up with some great ideas. A couple built wikis, one set up filters (in the days before Google Alerts) to monitor the web for mentions of his company, several did podcasts or blogs. No one bought any software; one did have to buy a microphone--$17 as I remember, but that was the extent of the entire class’s expenditure.

At least one project made it into the marketing communications repertoire of the student’s firm. None of the projects that featured their own academic program were picked up by the administration, but—true to my prediction—a student group soon started their own independent blog. Higher ed has a real problem with open communications about programs, courses, and faculty. It’s even worse when it’s undergraduates where parents may see what’s going on.

These students are the future of our discipline. They need to be grounded in business-relevant, business-appropriate use of social media tools. Otherwise they may meet the fate of the bank intern who was all over the web the week after Halloween. This could be an urban myth, but no one has yet exposed it as a hoax, and the pictures are great!

Academics need to make the extra effort and practitioners really need to support them with guest lectures, curriculum support, internship programs and more in order to make this happen. Then we’ll have more great creative products like this one from Medill. Thanks, gang!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Will 2008 Be the Year of Mobile Marketing?

That’s in the US, and AdAge thinks it will be(free registration required). Mobile use, and consequently mobile marketing is already well-established in Europe and the Pacific Rim. Marketers need to watch developments there because they are several steps ahead of us. The site of the Mobile Marketing Association and their case studies are an efficient way to find out about some of the best campaigns outside the US.

Back here, why mobile? Why now? Why mobile is straightforward—wireless penetration is now substantial among both adults and teens. Why now is also pretty straightforward. Until now wireless bandwidth has been insufficient to support anything except calls and text messaging.

The FTC will auction wireless spectrum early next year that will greatly increase access to high-speed wireless connections in the US. The auction has received more attention than usual since Google announced its attention to participate. Their intentions are not entirely clear; they have until December 3 to detail them to the FTC. In the meantime, wireless users indicate they are willing to accept some types of ads on their mobile devices. Paul Martecchine gives some examples of good mobile marketing. Click here to view the video.

Mobile advertising can be a minefield for the unwary marketer. Advertising on small screens to people with small keyboards who may not welcome your communications is a whole new field of activity. Let’s begin with the fact that it requires what I call “Expanded Permission Marketing.” You have to ask not only “if” I may contact you, but also for “what” reason, “where” and “why.” This month Boston’s MBTA is conducting a beta test of wireless alerts for subway and train delays. Sounds like a good idea, right? Riders interviewed were concerned about how they would cost if there were actually a lot of alerts. Marketers beware!

The recommendations of one mobile marketer include using mobile to accomplish customer conversion and designing campaigns that are relevant to their lifestyles and interaction with your brand. In today’s lead article in iMedia Connection another mobile marketer warns that mobile must be an integral part of your strategy and gives more examples of successful campaigns.

Mobile marketing is just over the horizon—after a long wait—for US marketers. It’s not just the web on a wireless device. It’s a new channel with its own requirements for success and its own traps for marketers. It’s another train that is leaving the station and marketers should be considering what makes sense in terms of mobile initiatives.

Monday, November 26, 2007

ShopNBC Scores With V-Commerce

If it’s Cyber Monday, I must write about online shopping, right? And that from a smug person who has most of her Christmas shopping done—a large portion of it online.

My enthusiasm for video as part of the communications mix is well known. It’s not just a shopper perspective, although I use and value online video. It’s data driven. A recent study by SellPoint and Coremetrics and reported by Marketing Charts showed video product tour increasing online conversion by 35%. Among the findings of the study were:

•Shoppers who viewed videos spent an average of 2.5 minutes viewing detailed product information. That’s considerably more than the average time spent on most of the top sites according to the October 2007 Nielsen//NetRatings release.
•Last year shoppers spent more time on Thanksgiving Day viewing video product tours (208,509 minutes) than they did on Cyber Monday itself (181,726 minutes).
•They estimate that time spent will go up this year to 380,000 minutes on Thanksgiving and 182,000 minutes on Cyber Monday.
There are a lot of people pushing back from their Thanksgiving dinner table and rushing straight for the computer to start shopping! All online marketers should take note.
One firm that’s doing a lot of things well is ShopNBC, one of the big 3 television shopping channels. They use various communication channels well, including email and direct mail. Their website is a best practices leader. They call it a v-commerce channel.

After their most recent site update shoppers can:

•Watch previously-aired tv shows indexed by product category, brand or host. (All three channels have offered live streaming of their current programming for several years.)
•Search videos by product, brand or host.

•Customize the upcoming week’s program schedule by product, brand or host (full disclosure: that feature isn’t working this morning)
•Watch webcasts, which appear to be selected previously-aired programming.
•Share video by email, although that doesn’t seem to be available for all of the 4,000 or so video clips on the site.

After two month’s experience with the upgrade ShopNBC describes the results:(Press releases documenting the upgrades can be seen at > Investor Relations > Press Releases.)
•Average viewing time for the enhanced live web video stream at is five times higher than its previous version.
•Conversion for products is significantly higher when web video is a part of the customer experience.
•Strong web video usage has been seen in the most important online product categories.
•Top customers use web video more than anyone else.

They have already announced several upgrades since the v-commerce site was launched in May. Given the strong results, it seems likely there will be more. It’s a site worth watching.
But right now, I have to go shopping!
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Importance of Word-of-Mouth

Marketing Charts recently published results of a study of word-of-mouth marketing. All marketers know that word-of-mouth is powerful. The PQ Media study shows that formal word-of-mouth marketing is still miniscule compared to other marketing media. It is growing at a rapid rate, and they predict expenditures will exceed $1 billion this year.

Efforts to generate WOM are fairly recent and they have met with mixed results. I think I know why.

A firm that has achieved explosive growth with its WOM program is BzzAgent. What they do is interesting overall, but my focus is on their disclosure policy. They require that Buzz Agents disclose the fact that they are “buzzing” a product, whether it’s in person or in some medium like a blog. The requirement to disclose is absolute.

Doesn’t that limit the effectiveness of the agents? To the surprise of virtually everyone, it doesn’t. Whatever the venue, people just seem to accept the disclosure and move on to information, or product experience, or whatever it is that’s being offered. BzzAgent is much in the news, having recently established a major strategic partnership with the Interpublic Group, but I can’t find any reports of the negative consequences that would come from a revelation of non-disclosure.

Think back to the blot on the record of John Mackey and Whole Foods caused by his dishonest postings. The Wall Street Journal recently reported (subscription required) that all Whole Foods executives have been forbidden to post on any Internet forum not sponsored by the company. That’s too bad, but it’s what you get when you do something wrong and get caught at it.

What started this train of thought was the reminder a few days ago that there are sites on the Internet where you can find people willing to write for pay in Internet forums of all kinds. The ones I’ve looked at don’t seem to have a disclosure requirement. For my money, that’s a bad idea. Period.

Transparency works. Deceit does not.

Word-of-mouth works—if it is honest and transparent.

It’s really hard to hide anything in this always-on world. You will get caught. So build transparency into your social media programs. You and your brand will be better off!
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 19, 2007

Online Events Extend Reach of Events Offline

Marketers who want to get more mileage out of events held in the physical world should consider linking them to a parallel world in cyberspace. Last week when new media maven C. C. Chapman visited my class at Emerson College he told us about another installment in the Verizon FiOS block party series.

Verizon has an interesting approach to making a local event into a cyberspace happening. They can only expand the super-fast FiOS network in a particular area one neighborhood at a time. What they are doing is using the block party rubric because it’s essentially a local event. But by creating an event space on the web they give it greater reach and longer life. The event is modeled after the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series on ABC. Verizon selects a family in the neighborhood for a “media makeover.” When it’s ready they invite both the real and the virtual neighborhoods. If you’ve watched the extreme home makeover shows or Trading Spaces on TLC, you pretty much know the drill.

The basic components (at least the ones I’ve found) are:

•The MyHome 2.0 website. It has serious information about the FiOS network, an introduction to the makeover specialists and a section featuring the families that have been selected for the upgrades.
•A Facebook group
•A Flickr site
•Tie in with FiOS TV
Blogs and vlogs all over the place.

When I tuned in to the Pittsburgh party about noon on Saturday, C.C. Chapman was broadcasting live from the Zaharko home as everyone geared up for the party. His video gives a great sense of what was happening. I also noted an invitation on Yahoo! Local and I’m sure there were lots of other things I didn’t find that were aimed at drawing attendees.

At that point I had to leave and go Christmas shopping—sorry, C.C! I caught up today—watching videos, reading blogs, and looking at some of the pictures.

And that’s exactly the point. This neighborhood block party in Pittsburgh left its footprint all over the web. Verizon has gotten a lot of mileage from the event and the promotion. It will last long after the last cup of coffee has been drunk.

One blogger was already hoping the promotion would next take place in Delaware. She wanted friends to be able to apply. The buzz is the real outcome. You might want to keep an eye on the Be The Next Reality Star page—they hold auditions.

Or you might want to think about how you can give your next promotional event a life of its own on the Internet!
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Should Marketers Stop Talking About Advertising?

Several recent studies have documented the persistent movement of marketing attention and dollars away from traditional media to interactive and social media. Highlights include a report from Forrester Research predicting that spending on interactive marketing will be over $61 billion by 2012. As a yardstick, their estimate of interactive for 2007 is in the neighborhood of $20 billion while TNS Media Intelligence estimated total advertising spend at over $152 billion.

These estimates vary hugely, depending on what media are included and the forecasting approach. For instance, Jupiter Media forecasts about $35 billion in online spending by 2012. eMarketer is in the middle, forecasting roughly $42 billion by 2011.

Whichever set of absolute dollar figures you subscribe to, the actual flow of dollars from traditional media to interactive is well documented. It is generally agreed that interactive is growing by double digits while many traditional media are experiencing actual declines in advertising revenue. The TNS figures are representative.

What is most interesting about the Forrester chart is their prediction of continuing strong growth in search marketing and huge growth lumped into “emerging channels.” Since they explicitly include online display ads, email and video (which also is forecasted to experience explosive growth) it’s clear that the emerging channels are other social media from blogs to social networks to advergaming and beyond.

Two other recent reports give perspectives on how this will change the advertising industry. A report by Accenture, quoted here last month, asked marketers to identify their top three areas for increased online spending. The choices are fairly conservative. Even so, they will create changes in how marketers carry out their interactive spending. Amateur content owners are new to the survey; the only growth area from the previous year is professional content owners. The “emerging channels” are content hogs and other content providers aren’t positioned to meet the needs.

The report with the provocative title “The End of Advertising as We Know It” is from an organization not known for frenzied speculation. IMB surveyed 2400 consumers and 80 advertising executives from around the world. Then they sounded impending doom for traditional advertising agencies and broadcasters as well as for traditional direct marketing. Advertisers themselves (DIY?), consumers and interactive agencies will create the most economic value.
This isn’t news to the traditional advertising agencies who are scrambling madly, through acquisitions and partnerships, to bring interactive services under the same corporate umbrella as their traditional services. This didn’t work well in the heyday of direct marketing back in the 1980s, it is proving problematical in the heyday of interactive.

There is a world of content creators out there—from the young man who created the iTouch commercial to residents of virtual worlds to the millions of people everywhere who post videos and photos. Savy marketers are learning to harness their own creativity and that of loyal customers in support of their brands. Let the learning continue unabated!
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Announcing a New Blog

I'm happy to announce that a new vertical blog sponsored by Glam Media launched just last night. eBrand Marketing has an interesting line-up of authors and you can expect it to be a lively and informative look at ebranding, especially in the context of marketing to women.

You may be familiar with Glam Media. Their website Glam has recently become the web traffic leader in the women's space. It has lots of good content and Web 2.0 features.

I'll be making today's post there with some new data on video. We hope you'll check it out and come back often!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Coke, Virtual Thirst, and Second Life

According to Coke, even avatars get thirsty!

Whether you believe that or not, Coke has just concluded its first contest in virtual world second life. Called “Virtual Thirst” it invited people to create virtual vending machines for Second Life. The machines were to vend experience—the essence of Coke—not cans of Coke product.

The contest had a couple of interesting aspects; participants could submit entries in a variety of different formats and Second Life avatars would be the judges.

According to the contest rules,

You may submit your idea in any of the following ways: - gift an object to us in Second Life - teleport your avatar to (link no longer active; see graphic below) and use the drop-box to gift us your object
- share a video in YouTube - visit and use the "Connect with VirtualThirst" function to send us a message and attach your uploaded video
- share an image/description with us in MySpace - visit and use "Send Message" to post your idea as a message to us
- US residents only can also e-mail us your idea - send an email to with the subject line, "Virtual Thirst Entry" and attach your idea to the email. Please do not use the body of the email to describe or to link to a description of your idea.
[emphasis mine]

The contest took place across several media channels, opening it to more participants and giving Coke insight into channel usage. It probably also increased the difficulty of picking the winning entry. Judges were avatars, members of Joseph Jaffe’s Crayon marketing services company. A blog entry by Greg Verdino, a member of the firm, shows how comments were used to implement “listening” as part of the program. He also makes available a screen capture of the submission process on Second Life, complete with avatars.

The winning entry was a video and the announcement gives a good idea of how the contest played out. Coke doesn’t appear to be talking about their perspective on the contest—at least not yet.

There’s been a lot of criticism of Second Life in the marketing and tech trade press lately. Second Life itself offers metrics for its use, which of course makes their credibility suspect. Second Life may or not have the sustainable model; time will tell. There are many virtual worlds now; Tech Crunch (see complete table here) did an overview recently.
The time may come when most Internet users will have a presence in a virtual world for social or business purposes. It’s another thing marketers must learn about, must experiment with. It looks to me as if Coke’s first try turned out pretty well. I’m sure they learned lessons that will stand them in good stead as they consider other interactive ventures.
Sphere: Related Content

Friday, November 9, 2007

Attracting the Attention of Internet Users

Reports on multitasking always amuse me. That’s probably because I see when I am sitting in front of the computer with the TV on in the background, maybe playing a video clip or webcast loud enough to be heard over it. I’m a member of the group, and I’m always interested to see what we are doing.

Marketing Charts quoted a recent study by Burst Media in which they found both men and women of all ages multitasking while they are online. They found that:

• ”Watching television (58.3%) is the most common offline activity while also online.
• Television viewing is followed by job-related activities (33.0%), reading a book (31.1%), reading a magazine or newspaper (29.7%), talking on a cell phone (23.6%), listening to the radio (21.6%), school work (17.9%), sending text messages by cell phone or other device (17.8%), and playing video games (15.5%).” See the full report here.

Not surprisingly, young users 18 – 34 do a bit more, but I doubt the differences are significant until you get to the 45s and older. USA Today did a series last year that went into depth on the media habits of the younger set, elaborating on issues I wrote about earlier in the week. They are trend-setters and it’s important to watch them, but don’t let that obscure the fact that multitasking is universal.

The question then becomes how we attract their attention in any medium—and it’s becoming increasingly difficult. There has been a lot of buzz recently about both MySpace and Facebook offering targeted advertising that is based on behavioral profiling. The buzz is a bit overdone because behavioral targeting is an established sub-discipline of Internet marketing. eMarketer, quoting the Connected Consumers study cited in an earlier post, consumers find personalized ads useful at the same time they have some qualms about being tracked.
There is also the time-honored direct marketing technique of offering them something. That approach is going mobile, and it’s especially popular with the young. However, a couple of recent ads from my friends at BostonNow shows that it’s taking hold in urban environments too. Mobile advertising has a way to go in the US, but if you are heading in the direction of one of the restaurants, why not text ahead for a free serving of nachos or a free cup of coffee? As direct marketers know, “free” is the operative word, and it attracts attention. Good marketers will carefully acquire opt-in permission to continue offering these customers mobile promotions. Let the dialog begin!

These two ways of attracting the attention of consumers have something in common. They do not rely on what pundits from Seth Godin to Bob Garfield have described as “interruption marketing.” It just doesn’t work anymore. Consumers are doing something else important and they don’t want to be interrupted.

Relevance works. So does embedding targeted offers in entertaining content.

What doesn’t work is trying too hard--too obviously--to sell them something. Online advertising needs to avoid the meaningless blandness of most offline advertising. Presence on social media must offer something useful in a life-style appropriate manner. Mobile absolutely must be invited.

We are in search of a new advertising (or is it non-advertising?) model. Any thoughts on what it’s going to look like?
Sphere: Related Content

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Dove Takes Another (Small) Step

Dove has received much positive buzz for the Campaign for Real Beauty that began with a Super Bowl ad in 2004 and has continued in many forms since. Ad Age(graphic on left; subscription required) recently suggested that sales of the brand have slowed in spite of the (mostly) postitive vibes about the campaign, but Dove is continuing to innovate within the framework of the Campaign for Real Beauty and the Dove Self Esteem Fund that is part of it. The positive message of this campaign is attractive to many of us.

I get excited when I see something new, so when I saw a Dove video described as “customizable” with an alt tag that said it could be personalized, I thought it was a great step forward. If you play the video, you’ll find it in the charming/warm/fuzzy genre that is typical of the Dove ads. The boy shouts for Amy, who he thinks is beautiful. Can you change the name in the video? No, you can’t. Can you add a personalized message? Sort of. You can’t add it to the video, but you you are encouraged to add a personalized message telling someone how beautiful she is. (I was sending it to myself, so I didn’t go that far; see below).

When I looked at YouTube the video had been viewed 5,147 times: I couldn’t tell how many times it had been shared. There were many comments, most of them positive, so the Real Beauty campaign continues to resonate, even though the advertising may have faltered. But I don't find anything that I consider really "customizable." I do find something that could go viral, and that's pretty good for now.

Another link that you can find either funny or scary, depending on how comfortable you are with the consumer-generated content. “Scary Dave” posted his personal video tribute to Dove as part of a contest several months ago. He can’t spell, he can’t sing, and he has no taste whatsoever. You may get all you want from this blog post. If you have a strong stomach you can watch the video. Either way, think about whether Dove should have reacted. I don’t think they did—or should have. It’s crude and tasteless; ignore it and it will go away sooner, except when bloggers like me choose to resurect it.

It’s not a nice, tidy world for marketers and I doubt that it’s going to get any neater. Our customers have found their voice and we have to listen to them—even when it pains us!
Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Relating to Gen Y

The generation of consumers born between 1980 and 2000 numbers over 70 million. Many are well into their 20s and in the labor force. All, through their own earnings or through influence over household expenditures are a powerful consumer force. They are a prime target for many retailers. They have been raised on media and the Internet is their chief channel. They are a leading indicator, and often an influencer, of cultural change. Their opinion matters. New York magazine had a provocative article (free registration required)about their values and behavior recently.

I’ve had a couple of interesting encounters with the more broadly defined 18 – 35 demographic lately that have started me thinking. Both center around one of their favorite retailers, Gap.

In a recent class I assigned a short Internet marketing exercise. It started with my usual “select a website that interests you, one that you are reasonably familiar with.” Eight teams of graduate students worked industriously for about 20 minutes, with little or no conversation between groups. At the end, when we debriefed the exercise, two out of eight had chosen the Gap site. Not too surprising until I realized that both had focused on the (Product) Red ™ promotion.

Members of both teams had been following the promotion and gave every indication that it would affect their purchasing behavior and they wanted to encourage others to participate. Cause-related marketing can be powerful for young adults.
Their support of (Product) Red ™ lead to a broader discussion of social issues. The class occurred just a few days after the news about child labor in one of Gap’s supplier plants in India. They had been following that also, including being aware of how and how quickly Gap president Marka Hansen responded to the allegations and how quickly her response was posted on the Gap home page. They are paying attention. And always remember they are communicating. I searched Technorati and found 136 posts for “gap child labor india.” When I broadened the search to “gap child labor” I got 506 posts. I counted 13 video clips on the subject. All this has happened since the story broke in the British publication The Observer on October 28, and the posts continue.

What I heard from this small, unscientific sample is that they were giving a trusted brand the benefit of the doubt. Gap has a pretty good record for dealing with this type of issue and the reaction to this revelation was swift and decisive. So far, so good, but they are being watched.

A few days later a communication from another member of the target demographic revealed that Gap, too, has marketing feet of clay. The opt-in email offers a nice promotion. Unfortunately on the day it was offered, the entire site was down for a scheduled upgrade. Do Marketing and IT talk to one another? Not in this instance! And the site was back up a day later, so the promotion could easily have been postponed. Will the young adult continue to patronize the Gap? Probably, but they likely lost a sale this time.

Whether they are identified as Gen Y, Gen X or the 18-35 demographic, these consumers are connected and demanding. Their demands include the behavior of corporations as well as the products they offer. A trusted brand is built slowly, with considerable effort. It can provide a margin of error for unforeseen events. But news is viral among these consumers and marketers have to react quickly and effectively.
Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Explosion of Advergaming

I'm not a gamer myself so when I saw the announcement that Dr. Pepper had introduced its first branded game for the iPhone I though I’d look around and see what was going on. A first stop was eMarketer, which forecasts that all kinds of branded mobile spending are ready to explode.

Second stop was Dr. Pepper itself. I found it interesting that I could only access the game using the Firefox browser, but once I did that it seems easy enough to play from the desktop. Hum. . .looks like “bottle cap bingo” to me.
Then I visited Apple to learn a little more about the iPhone and the Safari browser that makes applications like gaming easy. If you want to learn more, take the Safari tour.
I kept on to the iPhone page, because I really didn’t know much about the iPhone except that it's expensive. I listened to the September updates video and was blown away with how much you can do wirelessly. Apparently your iPhone and your desktop iTunes update one another when you plug it in. Cool!

As I write this, analysts are discussing the new Google SmartPhone software. The speculation is that Google will partner with device makers with the effect of boosting the already-rapid growth in the mobile Internet space.

A final word from Marketing Charts, quoting a study by Ingenio/Harris in which Gen Y consumers, a key target market for mobile promotions, emphatically resist all types of mobile advertising. That makes Dr. Pepper seem right on track. Mobile users don’t want advertising per se, but they do want entertainment on their mobile devices. iMedia Connection has some suggestions on how to do it right. Let’s hear it for advergaming!
Sphere: Related Content

Monday, November 5, 2007

Beginning the Do Not Track Debate

Recent announcements by AOL and MySpace imply diametrically opposing stances on tracking of website users. AOL is supposed to be readying a Do Not Track service on their site, although it is not yet on either their main site or listing of betas. MySpace, on the other hand, plans to offer advertisers a targeting service based on the profiles and behaviors of users. TechCrunch has early details and a screen shot of the interface for the service called SelfService by MySpace.

While publishers are taking varying approaches privacy organizations including the Center for Democracy and Technology, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse and others have submitted a proposal for a Do Not Track rule. The Federal Trade Commission held hearings on the subject last week. They have posted the transcript in the form of webcasts on their site. Yahoo had a nice graphic of what the rule would look like a few days ago.

And no, I haven’t listened to 2 day’s worth of webcasts either, but they are well organized to locate subjects or speakers of particular interest. The usual suspects are, of course, arrayed in the usual formations—privacy advocates vs. advertisers and web publishers. The proposal is worth reading, especially page 4 on the recommendations for the rule. The NYTimes online notes that while Google, Microsoft, Yahoo! and AOL/Time Warner spoke at the hearing, MySpace was there only as an observer.

One thing that caught my eye was an element of user-generated content in the hearing. The Stop project at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School has sponsored a Cookies Crumble Contest and votes on the winning video were taken at the hearing. A first for the FTC. . .maybe for Harvard Law also?

Considering how slowly other privacy initiatives have moved since 9/11, this is a debate that is likely to continue for some time. While it does, technology will continue its inexorable progress.

I’ve watched the privacy issues for many years. I would call attention to the Do Not Call legislation. Could the industry have forestalled actual legislation by being more transparent and accommodating to the wishes of the public? Should the Internet industry begin (yesterday) to inform users in an open and understandable manner what they are doing and why they are doing it? History suggests it should!
Sphere: Related Content