Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Butterball Message for Thanksgiving?

What better to contemplate on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving than a perfectly-roasted turkey? Last week Ad Age pointed out that Butterball had joined Web 2.0. I considered that a charming thought and investigated further.
As I suggested on the webcast yesterday, I don’t understand all the angst about cooking a turkey. I think it’s one of the easier things to do in the kitchen and I’ve never quite understood the popularity of the help line. According to Ad Age, it started in 1981 with 11,000 calls. They now have a (seasonal, I presume) staff of 50 and field 100,000 calls. The Turkey Talk Line® is, indeed, a great marketing device but 1) it’s expensive and 2) it’s not entirely convenient for today’s on-the-go consumer. According to the senior v-p of marketing at Butterball:

"When the Turkey Talk-Line started 28 years ago, the phone was the best way to give people the important turkey-cooking information they needed," Mr. Klump said. "This year, Butterball continues to evolve and reach new cooks with initiatives like turkey text messages, a new mobile website and web chats, so that we can provide Butterball's expert holiday advice the way modern cooks want it, anytime and anywhere."

Indeed they can! The mobile alerts and website are a nice touch. They also have some other interesting social media initiatives. They are doing a live chat on their site today and another on the Gather.com site tomorrow.

I complained—rightly—yesterday about the lack of a live link to the informational page about the web chat from the home page. This morning a link to the information page has gone up. It’s about an hour until time for the chat to start, and the promised link at the bottom of the information page is not yet there. I’m used to B2B events where they ask you to sign up in advance. Looking around just a bit, I don’t see any other timed chats like this, so I don’t know whether this just-in-time provision of information is typical for B2C live chats. It seems to me to place a big burden on the person who wants to attend to remember it and to sign in during the chat. I checked the Gather site too and same thing. You have to remember to attend the live chat. Wouldn’t an autoreminder make sense for these?

They also mention blogging, so I looked. What they’ve done here is also interesting. They profile some of their “star talkers.” What you find on this page is that they’ve recruited three of what I call the “mommy bloggers.” All of them are active on multiple blogs and/or sites. That’s reaching out to bloggers in a very active way. I can’t find a Butterball blog, per se, so they seem to be counting on these established bloggers. A Technorati search shows considerable activity in recent days for “Butterball turkey.”

So gentle readers, it appears that Thanksgiving preparations are well underway. If you are traveling, do so safely! Wherever you are, do enjoy your Thanksgiving with family and friends, as I’ll be doing. See you next week!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

"Starting the Conversation" Monday, Nov. 24, 11 a.m.

Hope you'll be able to join me for the live webcast.

The slides for the presentation are posted here.

If you have trouble with the player, please use the direct link to the presentation, where you'll be asked for brief registration information and then redirected to the presentation.

I'll post the link to the archived presentation Monday or Tuesday. It will only be active for 30 days.

Check out the entire summit on the BrightTalk home page!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guest Post: How Much Control Over Internet Content?

I'm delighted to have Ailsa Leadbetter as guest author today. She is Crossmedia Manager for vdBJ/Communicatie Groep, a Dutch media firm, and an astute observer of the European Internet scene. There seems to be both questionnable individual and governmental actions in this tale of the German Wikipedia site. Alisa wrote this on Monday, November 17 and notes that the main German Wikipedia page was still closed. It's open now. Her links all work, if you read German. I made the link to the English Wikipedia version because it tells the original story in considerable detail and gives updates as recently as today, all suggesting that the German politician learned an interesting lesson about the power of the Internet. Perhaps we should all pay attention!

Here's an interesting legal story: a German judge has closed the homepage of the German Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.de). Apparently, a German politician was not pleased with his entry in the German wikipedia and asked the courts to close the homepage. He has also filed cases against 3 authors of his entry (http://www.tagesschau.de/inland/heilmann100.html, in German, sorry).

Thanks to the fact that the German wikipedia and wikipedia.org are separate legal entities, German content is still accessible (through de.wikipedia.org). According to the Dutch article I read (http://www.marketingfacts.nl/berichten/20081116_rechter_sluit_homepage_duitse_wikipedia/), this injunction has caused the German politician in question much embarassment, probably more embarassment than the sections of his wikipedia entry that he originally objected to!

A few Dutch bloggers see a similarity to Nazi practices, specificially book burning. The injunction from the German court limits the freedom of communication, freedom of information exchange, in their opinion (and mine too, actually). Ironically, this politician was a member of the East German Stasi (secret police) before German reunification. It's a bit of a creepy tale, in that respect.

I just looked this guy up on the English Wikipedia and his entry there discusses this too. It says there that he will drop his case against Wikipedia Germany (but not against the 3 authors) but this morning when I checked the page was still closed.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Measuring Engagement

This could be a really short post. There is no commonly-accepted measure of engagement—bye, see you tomorrow!

Clearly that’s not very useful, so I’ll present some perspectives and approaches. According to the Economist Intelligence Unit in part 2 of their Beyond Loyalty report,

Some executives have decided that precise measurements may not be possible, and are trying to satisfy themselves with more general measures. “Quite often, the customer is satisfied, and if the customer satisfaction index goes up, that’s good enough,” says Mr Jennings of Reuters.

Interestingly enough, they point up the fallacy of the “we can’t measure it” approach in the paragraph immediately before:

Nearly half of our survey respondents say that the difficulty of measuring engagement is perhaps the biggest barrier to achieving greater levels of customer engagement. (both quotes page 9)

And I am often reminded of the quality management truism, “What gets measured, gets managed.” So ok, metrics are important, and some commercial measures are available. A search of comScore press releases turned up 45 releases on engagement and revealed metrics such as “visits” and “duration.” These are important site statistics, but are they a complete measure of engagement? Not as we’ve defined it.

About a year ago Jerimiah Owyang summarized a number of approaches to the engagement metric in an excellent blog post. It has lots of links and many interesting comments and it’s useful background leading up to a report released by Eric T. Peterson and others on September 7 of this year. This 54-page report is called “Measuring the Immeasurable: Visitor Engagement.”
Peterson and his colleagues go into great detail on the measurement issues and if you’re a metrics wonk—or if measuring engagement is mission critical to you—then you should read it all. I’ll summarize in lay terms, starting with Peterson’s conceptual definition:

Visitor Engagement is an estimate of the depth of visitor interaction against a clearly defined set of goals.

That’s a statement that incorporates behavior both on and off the website, and that’s important. As stated, though, it’s not measurable. Their computational definition is:

“Visitor Engagement is a function of the number of clicks (Ci), the visit duration (Di), the rate at which the visitor returns to the site over time (Ri), their overall loyalty to the site (Li), their measured awareness of the brand (Bi), their willingness to directly contribute feedback (Fi) and the likelihood that they will engage in specific activities on the site designed to increase awareness and create a lasting impression (Ii).

Here is how they define the variables:
Click Depth Index: Captures the contribution of page and event views
Duration Index: Captures the contribution of time spent on site
Recency Index: Captures the visitor’s “visit velocity”—the rate at which visitors return to the web site over time
Brand Index: Captures the apparent awareness of the visitor of the brand, site, or product(s)
Feedback Index: Captures qualitative information including propensity to solicit additional information or supply
direct feedback
Interaction Index: Captures visitor interaction with content or functionality designed to increase level of Attention
the visitor is paying to the brand, site, or product(s)
Loyalty Index: Captures the level of long-term interaction the visitor has with the brand, site, or product(s)

The good news is that these all appear to be metrics that can be derived from or added to existing metrics programs. That’s also essential, because a good metric for engagement must be part of a comprehensive metrics effort.

My guess is that this metric or one like it will soon be available from metrics firms, although I can’t find any evidence of it yet.

Marketers need to decide whether engagement is an important part of their ongoing strategy. The first post in this series suggests that it should be. Engagement is part of all the models of new media strategy, including mine.

The major point of this series of three posts is that engagement is more than choosing “engaging media.” It represents the outcome of ongoing dialog with customers and the larger community around a brand. Making that work requires both commitment and a rational strategy. Are you working on it?

Part 1 here
Part 2 here

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Save the Date - Conversational Marketing

I enjoyed the last BrightTalk summit on social media, so I was pleased to be invited to participate in "Conversational Marketing" on November 24. My presentation is "Starting the Conversation;" it's at 11 a.m. Eastern Time. I'll put the media player on Monday's post early in the morning.

BrightTalk is using a Facebook page to market the summit as well as email and, of course, participants like me.

It's interesting and useful. I've set up my own channel and I'll be using a webcast to answer questions about my social media course at Harvard Extension when enrollment starts on December 8.

What are you/should you be using webcasts for?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Drivers of Consumer Engagement

Yesterday I wrote about engagement—what it is and why it is important. The key take-away is that the combination of consumer and employee engagement improves bottom-line performance. I’ll concentrate on the consumer side and ask, “How do we go about producing consumer engagement?”

A superficial answer is that the new social media are interactive and engaging. That’s true, but it doesn’t provide guidance for marketing strategy. It’s not enough to just add some videos or start a company blog without having clear goals in mind and strategies for getting there. So the real question seems to be, “How do we get consumers to engage with our brand?” The chart from a recent Jupiter Research report distinguishes between interaction-based and communications-based engagement techniques and asks which ones marketers are using. That’s an interesting perspective, but it doesn’t address the strategy issue. Notice that their sample is “social marketers;” usage of these techniques is not this high among all marketers.

Last month I wrote about a CMO study of consumer experience with leading brands across several communications channels. That study focuses on the role of consistent, integrated content delivery across all channels—communications engagement in Jupiter terms. The most important part of the report (download here) may be the latter pages in which they give the items on which they rate the brand performance in each channel. Those items suggest performance benchmarks. However, that still doesn’t necessarily guide marketers in search of their own strategy, particularly which elements of social media will produce the most useful kind of engagement.

A study in 2006 by Carat for IAB in the UK is helpful. It focuses on mothers with small children choosing among several small car brands. The research on their information sources and decision processes summarized in this chart is pretty standard—multiple items (in this case “contact points”) factored into several engagement factors. Assuming typical marketing research, those factors have a significant impact on engagement with the brand. I’m not clear, though, how they measured brand engagement. There is an interesting Guide on this page, along with a series of brand engagement studies including this one, but I haven’t found the specific metric for engagement. I’m accepting it because they seem to be using “brand engagement” consistently, and I'm sure they must have defined it somewhere, perhaps in the IAB member content.

This kind of study (and they find the drivers to be different from one industry to another) illuminates the strategy development process. If the marketer knows the criteria (the factors, in this case) on which the consumer makes decisions, she can work to move the needle on one or more important factors. In this case, style is most important. Which experiential/ engagement techniques will move the needle on style? Video, perhaps? A customize your car, in this case around the needs of your children and resulting lifestyle? Fun is the second most important factor. How do you allow female customers to participate, even help to create, the “fun” part of the car experience? And since they want a feminine car, how do you deliver this to women and not to men?

I keep thinking that there is so much that marketers COULD do in the arena of social media. The strategy question is, “What SHOULD we do?” There is no one-size-fits all answer—this view of engagement makes that clear!

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Meaning and Importance of Engagement

A few days ago I thought I’d do a quick search to find out how we marketers are defining and measuring engagement. It had been awhile since I checked this out and I assumed there would be greater unanimity about what we mean. The IAB has a working group considering related issues, but I didn’t find any public information, so I went looking. I came up with enough for several posts!

Along the way I ran across a relatively new firm that specializes in what Allegiance calls Enterprise Feedback Management. Its Engage Platform facilitates measurement of both customer and employee engagement as a driver of business results. We all know that happy, motivated (read that “engaged”) employees deliver better customer service and create happier customers, but it doesn’t hurt to be reminded that customer loyalty and employee loyalty are two sides of the same coin.

So with that perspective in mind, what is engagement? We don’t have a commonly-accepted definition yet. Some of the popular definitions are oriented to the impact on the brand, others to how we actually measure engagement. I’ll look at branding issues in this post and metrics in a follow-up.

Let’s start with the idea that it’s more than loyalty. We all know that many satisfied customers defect. I asked a group of students last week how many were “for sale” to better offers from marketers. Almost all of us are. So, as the caption of the graphic indicates, we need to go beyond satisfaction in our effort to prevent defections. Here’s Allegiance’s definition of engagement:

Allegiance considers engagement the emotional bond or attachment that a customer develops during the repeated and ongoing interactions accumulated as a satisfied, loyal and influencing customer.

Peppers and Rogers add that all definitions of engagement have three basic components; intellectual, behavioral and emotional. That’s the basic components of attitude in sociological theory, which tells us something about the concept of engagement. (You can download both Allegiance’s Discover Engagement and Peppers and Rogers Engagement, The New Competitive Advantage papers here.)

The thrust of the Peppers and Rogers paper is that engagement can and should be measured. Their engagement chain concept shows the major drives of engagement for both customers and employees. The drivers are measurable and the paper notes they can be divided into engaged, swing and disengaged customers. They don’t say so, but it seems most efficient to target swing customers in an attempt to increase their level of engagement.

Is it worth the effort? This chart says that it emphatically is. Performance is significantly better on a variety of financial metrics measured over various business units in 10 different companies when customers are engaged. Little surprise there! Similar outcomes for engaged employees are reported on page 4 of the report. Firms with both customers and employees who are engaged are roughly “twice as effective financially” as those who excel on only one type of engagement (page 5), so the combination is potent.

One thing that strikes me is that this is the update to the Bain loyalty studies that made such an impact on marketers in the 90s. Those studies helped realize the importance of customer loyalty and retention marketing programs. Even then we recognized that loyal customers recommended, referred and, in general, were advocates for the brand.

We have now invented the term “engagement” to help explain what happens beyond loyalty. I’ll come back to how to create engagement and more on engagement metrics in days to follow—stay engaged!

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Every Cup Has a Story" - Cute or Strategic?

An interesting example of a marketing program built around user-generated content was brought to my attention by a Canadian student—thanks, Sarah! I wasn’t familiar with the Tim Horton’s chain of coffee shops, which is huge in Canada. It beats out McDonalds for breakfast traffic there and has a growing number of shops in the U.S., mostly in the Midwest.

It’s their current campaign that is interesting in a couple of ways. It’s called “Every Cup Tells a Story,” and they’ve set up a community page on their site to host it. The stories are tagged and searchable. I clicked on dogs, and then on Duke’s picture to see his story. All very cute and sweet! From a community point of view, note that comments are moderated—good idea as far as I’m concerned. From a marketing point of view note that the story page has several “share this” options as well as a GPS store locator.

Since they seem to be into social media I did some surfing around. There are a ton of Tim Hortons commercials on YouTube, most of which seem to have been created by fans. I didn’t find any recent “real” ads, so I moved on. It was on Facebook that I hit a mother lode! A search for “Tim Horton’s” turned up over 500 groups. Most of the ones I look at seemed to be the typical fan group of one kind or another. However, the second one on this list, “Biodegradable Cups at Tim Hortons” looked interesting, so I clicked through. It’s an advocacy page, urging an environmentally acceptable solution to the problem of coffee cups as solid waste.

A frivolous issue promoted by a college student, you say? The group has over 10,000 members, so there must be something going on. There is—a big push in Toronto to do something about the volume of solid waste that’s being generated by fast-food outlets of all kinds. As one of the largest, Tim Hortons is a focus of proposed regulations. Note all the related stories and the comments listed with this article from the Globe and Mail newspaper.

This really got me to thinking. Is the “Every Cup Tells a Story” a creative way to put a positive spin on the waste disposal issue? It seems more than coincidence to me! The waste disposal problem is real, and Tim Hortons assures us they are working on it, but as far as I know there’s not yet a biodegradable coffee cup. The campaign is a bit of the warm fuzzies in the midst of the waste disposal controversy.

It would be a good campaign on its own. If it’s also a way to blunt public criticism—hopefully while they continue to work toward an ecologically-sound solution—it is brilliant!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Guest Post - Ringtones for the Blind Part 2

Yesterday, Laura described the ringtone project for the Perkins School for the Blind. Today, she takes us through the often-difficult process to it successful conclusion.

Although our web administrators at Perkins are very talented, ringtones were not within their scope. Therefore, I began to investigate what other organizations were doing in terms of branding and marketing.

First, I emailed and telephoned the organization which had been reported in the press to have created Obama’s website. The company is called mStyle and, of all things, happens to be located in Boston! The emails I sent to the address posted on their site bounced back (not a good sign for a company in the technology space) and the telephone messages I left – three in all – were never returned.

Next, I Googled ‘ringtone downloads’ and ‘creating ringtones’ and other similar phrases and found a number of articles promoting this as a new way of reaching a younger audience.

What I discovered in my research was that some websites:
a) clearly had problems with the downloads (The National Zoo in Washington, DC has a message “Due to temporary technical problems, the ringtone samples and store are offline”)
b) worked through a consolidator of some kind (meaning that you are sent to a website which is not your website, and the consolidator makes money),
c) made the ringtones available, but not for free (in some cases as a donation to the cause as in the case of this Unicef campaign against violence in Kenya)
d) made the ringtone downloads so difficult to find that I never found them, although they had been cited in articles about ringtones (Ford Mustang, Porsche)

I ended up finding a new company called Myxer, which responded immediately to my email. The VP of Business Development called me back within an hour. When I explained to him what I was trying to do, he told me that although much of what they do is to enable people to make their own ringtones, or to download an artist’s ringtone, they also work behind the scenes with companies like Friendly’s Ice Cream to provide free downloads.

One of the ways Myxer makes its money is by showing ads on the text message you receive once you have requested a free download from a specific artist.

If your company or organization agrees to pay the equivalent of the cost of the ad placement, Myxer will not show ads and just provide your ringtone download without showing any other company’s advertising. This is the direction I chose to go in. Nonetheless, I had to give up the requirement that the delivery of the ringtone would be branded only with the Perkins brand and not with a third-party provider. When a visitor downloads the ringtone from the www.perkinsbrailler.org website (or from Friendly’s), you receive a text message from Myxer directing you to the Myxer website to finish the download.

Myxer was incredibly courteous to work with, turning their organization inside out to get us up and running in our very short timeframe. Moreover, they offered to provide the service for free until we reach a certain number of downloads, believing that our cause is worthwhile.

And we are up and running…

Still, this has not been easy. We have had feedback that people can’t seem to do the downloads – partly because they don’t understand how their cellphones work, and partly because the technology is complicated.

As was reported in a recent article in AdWeek, the technology is not really ready for primetime yet. Apparently this is due to a variety of reasons, including:

  • A large number of carriers, all having their own restrictions
  • A wide variety of equipment with varying capabilities
  • The type of message being sent, with some phones unable to receive some types of messages

This was validated recently when I attended a luncheon at which the CEO of Nokia spoke. During the question and answer period, I briefly described my own foray into the world of mobile marketing and asked him whether there was any initiative among various manufacturers of equipment as well as providers to standardize the technology and make it more universally accessible. He indicated that this is a very important question and although there are explorations being made, there is no solution at this time.

Our initiative is intended to be international since the Perkins Brailler is sold all over the world. But, the problems only escalate when you are talking about ringtone downloads with carriers in India or Africa.

All in all, quite a learning experience! But until the technology matures, this is still going to be a difficult road to traverse.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Guest Post - Ringtones for the Blind -- Part 1

Today I'm delighted to have a guest post from Laura Matz who is Director of Sales and Marketing for Perkins Products at Perkins School for the Blind, a world-renowned organization located in Watertown, MA. Laura contacted me last summer in the early stages of this marketing program. I've followed the development of the program with interest, and am pleased that Laura has provided us with a detailed narrative of the issues she faced. Today is the introduction; watch for the steps to a successful conclusion tomorrow.

I work for Perkins School for the Blind, responsible for international marketing and sales for a small division within Perkins which sells the Perkins Brailler® – a low-tech device used all over the world which looks like a typewriter and creates printed Braille. After 57 years, we have just launched the Next Generation™ Perkins Brailler® - a ‘reimagination’ of the classic Perkins Brailler, incorporating a sleek design, contemporary colors, and cool, new features which users have asked for.

Since one of the target audiences is young people who are blind and visually impaired – ages 8 – 15 and older – we decided to create an audio campaign, for obvious reasons. We contracted with a brilliant musician, Raul Midon, to write an original song for us. Raul, aside from being an internationally known, gifted guitarist and singer, is also blind and uses Braille.

One of the goals of the campaign is to enable a young person in a mainstream school who is blind or visually impaired to be able to show the new Brailler to his or her sighted classmates, and feel proud that it is a cool device; not something that looks old-fashioned or obsolete. In addition, we wanted kids to be able to share the song with their friends, blind or sighted, using the modern, new media with which kids communicate these days.

Therefore, we decided to turn the song into ringtones and post them on the website for download. I began to look for a company that would guide me through the technology hurdles and allow me to:
a) Offer the downloads for free
b) ‘Private label’ the downloads, meaning that I didn’t want to go through another website in order to download
c) Ensure that there was no advertising associated with the download, which could compromise the ‘integrity’ of a non-profit organization such as ours.

The example which I wanted to emulate was Barack Obama’s website which makes the downloads available for free, makes the process simple and does not appear to go through a third-party. Also Bounce at Procter and Gamble makes it free and easy to download their jingle.

Stay tuned for Part 2 tomorrow!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Customer Experience on the Social Web

Bruce Temkin at Forrester Research is a tough, thoughtful analyst of Internet strategies, especially as they impact customer experience. Many of us have enjoyed the Customer Experience Rankings he does for Forrester for several years now. Customer experience is critical to success, but in the world of social media marketers no longer control all the elements of experience. Bruce has recently set forth a set of “management laws” to aid in our social media journey. In this podcast, about 9 ½ minutes long, he talks about those management laws. The theme is “weave social media into marketing culture and decision making.” It’s worth listening to.
What lead me to his blog and the podcast was a reference to another set of “laws,” these for customer experience. You can download his white paper from the home page of the blog. I’d like to quickly summarize the laws:

1. Every interaction creates a personal reaction. Individuals have experiences, not segments or markets. How can we make experiences relevant to the individual?

2. People are instinctively self-centered. Whether customers or employees, everyone views the world through their own perceptual filters. They care about meeting their needs, not your business is organized and operates. You have to give them ways to satisfy their needs. See #4.

3. Customer familiarity breeds alignment. Share customer knowledge with your employees so they can be effective in meeting customer needs.

4. Unengaged employees don't create engaged customers. Enough said. The real question is how to engage your employees. See #5.

5. Employees do what is measured, incented, and celebrated. One of Bruce’s posts led me to a page on Tesco’s website; Tesco is my absolute favorite CRM example. Their “steering wheel” is a powerful summary of what they measure—and they are good at measurement!

6. You can’t fake it. And many of us should take a lesson from discredited politicians and remember that you can’t hide it either.

Openness and transparency rule! And thanks to Bruce for the reminder that building trust with our employees is just as important as building trust with our customers. Building trust in both areas should be Job 1!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Local Recommendations Go Social

I ran across a new beta called TrustedOnes when I was looking for something else on the free pr distribution site called PRLog. Since it’s about both consumer recommendations and local marketing, I was interested and checked it out. I couldn’t remember anything similar except the TouchLocal service in the UK, which I wrote about twice in the spring.

I had to create an account in order to see anything, but that’s ok. There was a privacy statement right beside the sign-up box (typo and all): “No information is collected for any purpose other then your enjoyment of TrustedOnes.” I got an immediate confirmation email and could sign in and look around.

If you know lovely Cape Cod, it’s a pretty small market. I tried Orleans, MA, the closest shopping area to me. Only one recommendation, for a restaurant in Brewster. So I tried Hyannis, MA, the closest to a metro area we have. Still only one recommendation—for the same restaurant in Brewster. I checked it out; the reviewer loved it. The page provided a map with the restaurant location and opportunities to add a review, share, etc.

In order to see more I changed the location to Boston. That’s actually the only complaint I have about how the site works. I had to go back to the home page to change location; why can’t I just do it in the location bar on the page I’m on? But this is a beta, after all.

There are quite a few recommendations in the Boston area in many different categories. I tried “landscaping” under “Other Services.” I got only one firm in Newton, MA, which is well within the trading area. When you click through you see other tags. In this case the tags included gardens (still the same landscaper in Newton). The reviewer was lyrical in praise of what the landscaper had done for her garden—interesting! There are also reviews on this link for things like maids and cleaning services. The page itself offers links to other services in Newton—obviously a much more active reviewing scene than Brewster! All makes sense!

I was interested in seeing if anyone I knew had used the service, so I gave it access to my gmail account to find out. Ok, so I’m sort of a trusting soul, but I had read their privacy promise. They came up with 278 names (which is more than I can find in my contacts list when I’m trying to find someone!)—sorry, none of them were members. I tried a specific friend’s name; she’s not there either; I could have invited her to play along. Notice the privacy promise on that page also.

I did notice that there’s one Mary Kay consultant from Providence who has put her business blurb up several times. Tacky, but obvious. Users of the site will take it for what it is; maybe it will do her some good, maybe people are indeed only going to look here for recommendations made by friends they trust.

The marketing take-aways are two-fold. The press release, which is the only info I found on the web, doesn’t give any hint of a monetization strategy. The potential for local advertising is obvious, and maybe that will come in time. Second is that I only looked at three recommendations. Two were effusive in their praise. The third was a strong but sober recommendation for a dermatologist, which made good sense.

Why do marketers believe that if they let customers say things about them, they will say bad things? Are they that afraid that their products/services are poor quality? Don’t they trust their own customers? Is a puzzlement, but one that marketers ought to be seriously considering!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008


You may have had some of these during election season also; this is by far the best I’ve seen. So take a minute to view the video and to think about the power of personalization.

Then I’d encourage you to see how Boone Pickens is tying his energy program to election day.

Then go vote!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Video Ads Are Now DIY

A few days ago I stumbled on a mention of Jivox, which immediately sounded like AdReady, but for video ads instead of display. Looking at the site, I think my initial assessment was right, and that SMBs may be delighted to discover it just in time for holiday advertising. According to their site, their ad network consists of “over 600 premium - branded local television, newspaper, radio and weather related sites as well as some national brand sites and portals.” I see one of the major news sites in Boston on their list and others whose name I recognize, so the network looks credible.

The business was launched in March 2008 with venture funding and presumably is still in Beta, although they don’t make an issue of that. It allows users to create their own video ad or to run an existing video ad on their network. They describe it as a simple three-step process. Creating the ad is free, or they can arrange production. Let them explain the pricing in their own words as stated on their FAQs:

I thought the service was free? Why am I being asked for credit card information? There's absolutely no cost associated with creating your ads with Jivox. A conventionally produced ad for local television can cost $10,000 to $30,000, but you pay nothing for ads created with our revolutionary AdSlate technology. We charge you only for the advertising itself: running it on the sites in the Jivox network. Once you've create one or more video ads, you set your daily, weekly or monthly ad budget to place it on the Jivox network. Jivox will automatically match your ads with the audience that is most likely to respond favorably to your campaign. In addition, once you have a live campaign, we provide automatic upload to YouTube and to local search providers such as Google Maps and GetFave, free of charge.

The ads are created with an embed link so the customer can put them on a website, blog, etc., so they can do double or even triple duty.

There’s a gallery of ads and a page of case histories. These ads probably aren’t going to win creative awards any time soon, but a video ad could be a real breakthrough for a small local business like the B&B mentioned in a WSJ article about Jivox.

From the standpoint of both advertisers and publishers who accept the ads, this is another in a step toward making rich media advertising available to even the smallest local business in a way that makes economic sense. It’s also a way for publishers to monetize their sites, at least if the sites are advertising appropriate, as a lot of social media are not. That said, it puts a lot more pressure on the free content/advertising supported business model. Can that model carry the weight for publishers of content? That remains to be seen!