Three if by air

December 28, 2009

I figured I’d wrap this up by throwing in a now to one of the early posts here. I’ll let you figure out which one.

Anyway, as we’ve discussed several times before there are challenges created by the rapidly expanding options available to marketing professionals from the shortage of IT staffing to the limit on memory and the constant upgrading of devices.

Well it seems as though there is another problem with devices, the data that is transmitted takes up space and companies are about to run out. It turns out that all of the smart phones and other mobile devices are doing far more than what was predicted and that watching movies and playing games is beginning to take it’s toll.

This could lead to longer download times which would equate to frustrated users which in turn could lead to changes in how information is presented. AT&T is has already begun to swtich it’s tactics in the battle against Verizon by focusing on faster download speeds versus coverage area but if networks begin to slow down, what would they be able to market?

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Recipe for Success

December 27, 2009

For the past nine weeks we’ve taken a look at how technology and new media can enhance and expand marketing opportunities for companies and organizations. Still, as mentioned early on, these are just new takes on old themes, different tools in the box, etc.

What really makes marketing work is a good foundation and good plan. In a way it is a lot like a bread recipe, which requires certain ingredients and things to happen in order to produce an edible product. That brings us to an article that appeared recently in TIME magazine talking about Panera in the midst of the recession and how it has managed to continue to be successful. After reading the article there are several lessons to be learned that can be applied to marketing and expanded to include new media.

1. “The key to Panera’s success lies in what the company hasn’t done,” says Nicole Miller Regan, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. “Panera hasn’t fallen victim to discounting. It hasn’t levered up the balance sheet. It hasn’t tried to change.”

Now change is good and is happening at a rapid pace. But as the article points out, much like Daniel Craig’s character in the movie “Layer Cake” one should “have a plan and stick to it.” Having a solid foundation that can be augmented by new technologies and media is a good way to go.

2. “Unemployment went from 5% to 10%. There’s 90% of society that is still employed. I couldn’t capture all those people that are unemployed. They weren’t eating out at all. All I could do was stay focused on who my target customer was, and not be reactive.”

3. “To consumers, Panera isn’t just a refueling stop,” says Derrington. “It’s a treat, and you don’t have to pay a ton of money for that experience.” For about $6, you can get half a sandwich, soup or salad, and a drink.

4. “This is the time to grow. Real estate costs are down, development costs are down, volumes are up — these are the highest-return investment stores we’ll ever generate.” Panera has hired 20,000 new workers, rolled out new menu items, and improved the lettuce quality in its salads. Salad sales are up 30%.

5. “I worry about keeping the concept special,” says [Panera Bread CEO Ron] Shaich. “Is it worth walking across the street to? It doesn’t matter how cheap it is. If it isn’t special, there’s no reason the business needs to exist.”
This is perhaps the most important lesson in the article and it also has some very real implications in terms of marketing. The product has to be something special. It can be dressed up with all kinds of promotions, flashy advertisements, online games and other gimmicks, but without a good product, good plan and good vision, the most creative marketing campaign in the world isn’t going to save it once people try it. Of course if the ingredients are right, the oven is the right temperature and you keep an eye on the dough as it rises, you’ll end up with something worth eating.

A Christmas Story- 2009

December 26, 2009

I fell asleep Christmas eve sometime during the first few hours of the 24-hour “A Christmas Story” marathon being shown on TBS. When I awoke the next morning the movie replayed another four or five times as I opened gifts and talked with family members on the phone (decided not to even turn on the computer for a whole day).

All the repetition left the words “Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle” etched into my brain so when I finally sat back down at the keyboard I thought I’d take a look at how Ralphie went about planting the idea in the minds of his parents and how today’s technology would change his approach.

First though we’ll take a look at the tactics employed in the movie. The first is the direct approach. This involved Ralphie telling his parents exactly what he wanted. He also used inserted ads for the rifle into his parent’s magazines so they would have to look at them while reading, sort of like a predecessor to pop up ads today. Ralphie also sought to bring third parties into his marketing mix, using a writing assignment from class to extol the virtues of the air rifle as an excellent gift, as opposed to a football. When it appeared that all other avenues may not have worked, Ralphie went to see Santa, and after a brief period of brain freeze in which he agrees that a football would make a good gift (contrary to his previous written statement), he snaps out of it and asks Santa for the rifle.

Of course in nearly all cases in the movie, these attempts are met with the rebuke “You’ll shoot your eye out” but it all works out in the end.

So how would things be different today?

The idea of using flyers or ads inserted into things Ralphie’s parents might read could still hold. He could use a computer though to Photoshop himself into a picture of Red Ryder with the bb gun fighting bad guys. He could also include links in emails or other messages that go to the Red Ryder site or to local merchants or online retailers that carry the rifle.

A more subtle and nostalgic approach would be to find Red Ryder clips on YouTube and watch them in view of his parents. If the show only existed on the radio he could find mp3s and download them to listen to as well. He could also download ringtones for his and their cell phones featuring sayings from Red Ryder.

To counter the “You’ll shoot your eye out argument” internet reasearch could be done and links forwarded about how the handling of air rifles teaches responsibility, articles about safety equipment and proper shooting (including not using metal signs as target stands) as well as links to blogs and other sites extolling the virtues of the “Red Ryder” bb gun.

Pass Go, Collect $200- Direct to consumer services

December 23, 2009

Most of us are familiar with that phrase from the game Monopoly but in the world of business and marketing it could be tweaked slightly to read, pass middle man, collect money directly from buyer.

As use of the internet has grown, so has e-commerce and outlets available for purchasing goods and services. No longer are companies expected to deal separately with suppliers, storage, shipping and other costs. Instead of the traditional route, they can go directly from the factory to the buyer. Of course these options are not without ramifications. If a company was set up only as a producer, they may not have the staff to deal with shipping and tracking sales. The company website, once merely a location for posting information about products and where they can be bought, might need to be upgraded to an e-commerce site that requires additional security for payments. There is also the issue of inventory, can their larger customers still be supplied with goods while handling additional demands for products from direct, online customers?

To illustrate this point, a recent article talked about how Apple is in talks with Disney  and CBS to stream television direct to viewers, bypassing cable companies. There are many issues that arise from this. The first is that cable companies derive large percentages of their income from advertising. Shows streamed directly to viewers, as they are now on sites like Hulu, have minimal opportunity for multiple advertisers to purchase space. In a way this parallels the demise of newspapers who lost much of their revenue when readers began getting their information from the web, where it was available for free.

One large difference here though is that the cable companies are still holding a few aces. One is that direct-to-consumer broadcasting still requires infrastructure to support internet connections. Many of these companies offer internet services so they would still be required in order to deliver a product. Same goes for smartphones and web browsing. Cellular phone companies invest in towers, transmitters and people to maintain networks, which again are necessary to deliver content to consumers.

How does this impact the world of marketing? It could change the methods for delivering information, focusing not on clever ads to be inserted into programs, but maybe sponsorship of specific programs or the creation of entirely new content (like YouTube videos or short movies) that can be delivered directly to consumers.

In your face(book)

December 22, 2009

Score one for social media as a campaign organized by Facebook user Jon Morter caused Rage Against The Machine‘s “Killing In The Name” to become the number one single in Britain for 2009.

Grassroots campaigns run over the internet are nothing new. Howard Dean had great success prior to the 2004 election raising money and in 2008 Barack Obama took it a step further not only raising record funds but also mobilizing voters using platforms like Facebook. What really makes this story interesting though is the fact that an average person can start a campaign and compete against the marketing machine built by Simon Cowell of American Idol fame. The X Factor, billed as “the UK’s largest talent search” on its website has produced the top single for the past four years and with the most recent winner covering a song by Miley Cyrus, it appeared that it would top the chart again.

“”Killing In The Name” has topped the U.K. singles chart with 500,000 copies sold, compared to number two entry Joe McElderry’s sales of 450,000. For the first time in five years, an X Factor champion has not snagged Britain’s coveted Christmas number one spot, thanks to Morter’s Facebook campaign,” reported Lyndsey Parker in her Yahoo Music blog “Reality Rocks”.

In other Facebook news, The Associated Press talked about how social networking is changing the way people travel, allowing them to get instant recommendations while they are in a particular location via Twitter and using their network on Facebook to meet people from specific areas before they even arrive.

“Travelers have used the Internet for years to find hotels, restaurants and other attractions. Some Web sites offer recommendations from guidebook writers, critics and other experts, while others — like TripAdvisor.com, Yelp and Chowhound — offer feedback from individuals about their personal experiences. But credibility can be an issue. A good review could be written by the business owners themselves or their friends, while bad reviews could come from their competitors. A destination Web site might only list businesses that pay to be featured.”

The point made above is an excellent example of the way person to person contact is becoming more valuable than simply believing what a company is telling you. Personal recommendations, opinions and reviews allow a 360 degree view of an experience. I know for me, whether I’m looking for hotels or shopping for any of a number of items, I always read the worst ratings first then read some of the best ratings. Overly glowing reviews are discarded, especially if they don’t really offer any insight as to why something is so great. Sites or products that only have positive reviews should be viewed with a critical eye as well.

Packin’ Heat At a Snowball Fight

December 21, 2009

By now most of you have probably heard about the incident over the weekend involving an off-duty police officer who brandished a gun when his car was hit by snowballs during a massive snowball fight in DC. If not you can read about it here or check out the video below.

Fortunately things turned out ok and an investigation is ongoing but it does highlight how quickly reports of an incident can become viral videos on the web. So what can marketers learn from this?

1. Shock and Awe. During my journalism classes the instructors alluded to the addage that “if it bleeds, it leads.” While this may be a little grusome, there is some truth to it. Think about an accident you’ve passed on the highway, did you slow down to try and have a look?

2. Opposites attract. The exaggerated case of a gun showing up at a snowball fight is something that grabs attention because it almost seems like fiction. Why would anyone feel the need to pull a gun when they are getting pelted by snow? That could have made the ending of Frosty the Snowman completely different and disturbing.

3. Be careful what you wish for. While the snowball fight example is something from real life that serves as an example of how fast something can spread across the web, marketing campaigns that attempt to shock people don’t always work out. Remember the guerilla campaign for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie a couple of years ago where

State police remove ad for movie from bridge in Boston

were placed on buildings, bridges and other locations. The end result was publicity for the movie but also arrests for people involved.

So in the end, large gatherings of people can be used as impromptu marketing showcases, provided that a company has an idea good enough to sneak in without appearing to be overt product placement.

Help, IT needs somebody

December 20, 2009

Once again we’ve channeled the Beatles to help with discussing something else that could have a potential effect on mobile marketing- the amount of staffing in IT departments. According to a story on InfoWorld by Denise Dubie from Network World some executives and CIOs are concerned about the level of IT staffing and how it can be built up in the future.

So what does that have to do with marketing? On the surface nothing, but as marketing embraces, integrates and adopts more technology there have to be people who know how to keep networks running, maintain security for ecommerce sites and figure out how to keep pace with changing technology and devices. Also alluded to in the story is a “do more with less” strategy that is popular with a lot of companies during times of lean budgets and slower business which leaves current employees stretched thin and ultimately cannot be sustained without additional resources or a shifting of responsibilities.

This concern highlights the collaborative nature of marketing. It takes many people with a variety of skills to go beyond getting basic items like news releases out as well as creating campaigns or messages that will help a company stand out among the clutter of information that exists and stay ahead of its competitors.

Even if PR/marketing practitioners take on some of the roles of IT departments, that still goes back to the “more with less” mode of operation and could lead to decisions about how much time is spent developing strategies versus how much time is spent doing nuts and bolts things that allow those strategies to function?

Let It Snow

December 19, 2009

So last night Roanoke got over a foot of snow. Not sure what this has to do with marketing but it’s a fairly significant event for around here and it’s the most snow I’ve seen since I moved here in 2006.

In the battle between AT&T and Verizon Wireless holiday themed ads are making an appearance. The ads run the gamut from the feel good family moment with a father who can’t connect with his family to Santa’s reindeer who display the network maps between their antlers. The website, FierceWireless even critques the ads based on aesthetics and effectivness. The interesting thing about this is that the ads are not featured on the Verizon Wireless website, even though some of their older ads are posted there.

The fact that commercials can be found on YouTube means that the life of an ad campaign can live on far beyond what it was designed for by a company. It has been written that once something is uploaded to the web, it can remain there forever and, in the case of popular content, that is certainly the case. It also means that a larger audience can be reached through non-traditional distribution channels, even when not specifically done so by a company, which brings us to another point- projectors.

Once a staple of conference rooms and used primarily for showing power point presentations or broadcasting sporting events at bars, projectors are now becoming smaller and more portable. RecentlyLG began running ads for a projector that connects to a cell phone meaning that content viewed on phones may not necessarily remain on a mobile device to be shared by the user and maybe on other person at a time. With a projector connected to a phone, mobile content can immediately be broadcast to a larger audience without the need for anything more than a blank wall. Sound quality may suffer due to limitations on speakers but if an image can be planted in the haed of a passerby, they can be enticed to go search for it later.

Of course the model phone with the projector, the LG eXpo, is only available through AT&T so they might want to think about getting a better map before projecting it.

There is also a crossover promotion with the movie Avatar and this video explains a little about it.

Setting Limits

December 17, 2009

“Picture a preschooler running through a grassy field next to her house, pretending she’s holding a friend’s hand. That was my attempt at social networking,” wrote AP writer Martha Irvine.

The story goes on to talk about how she craves connections and now, thanks to outlets like Facebook and Twitter, has hundreds of people connected to her that follow her life and writing. Of course, there can be too much of a good thing, like the instant communication and expected instant answers by people in business who carry Blackberrys or other sorts of smart phones. When does the connectivity stop, where can you go to get away from it all?

At one point you could go home, plunk yourself down on the couch and watch TV, but now, thanks to mobile devices like Flo TV, you can take that with you while your on the move. You could escape to the woods, but according to the ads, there is an app for finding your way out of the woods, identifying birds, trees and plants. One time on a hike, we were discussing a question about how many pints of blood were in a body and so someone pulled out their iPhone and looked up the answer.

“Don’t get me wrong. I still think there’s a lot to like about social networking. And even if I didn’t, there’s no denying that it’s forever changed the way we communicate,” Irvine continues. “People like me are tired of feeling frazzled and overextended. In these times of great change and upheaval, they’re prioritizing, on and offline , for survival and sanity.”

These statements really get at the heart of marketing in the mobile age. There’s a lot going on and every waking minute is spent having to wade through a sea of information. As marketers and communicators, we look for ways to make our message float to the top but as recipents of the efforts of others we make choices as to what will and will not appear on our radar screens. In an episode of the cartoon Futurama, marketing is taken to a whole new level when companies sponsor and control the dreams of the public. Maybe it’s a good thing all the information is only limited to waking hours.

All the news that’s fit to pay for

December 8, 2009

Traditional print media has faced a crisis since the invention of the internet due to the loss of advertising revenue and the availability of free information on the web. For publishers, the problem can be a Catch-22, they want to ensure their content appears in searches, but they don’t necessarily want viewers to get it for free.

So in rides Google, at least according to a post on Yahoo!, that will allow publishers of newspapers to restrict access to their content while still having it appear in web searches. I could not find the original posting referred to on Google’s blog but the main question I would have is isn’t it a bit late on the part of the media industry to change practices? The article does mention the “First Click Free” program that Google introduced in 2008. This allowed people to access content, even if it was restricted, for free a limited amount of times per day. Under their new plan, access through search would be limited to five visits per day. Another proposal would be allowing publishers to opt out of having their content listed in Google News but still have it show up in search. The article also points to the Wall Street Journal, which has charged readers fees for more than a decade, but again, this is an established practice as opposed to trying to impose fees on other papers after years of not doing so.

We use Google news alerts in my office as an electronic news clipping service. It’s pretty convenient since it not only feeds news stories but also, depending on your search parameters, also includes blog postings and other types of information that I may not necessarily think to look for. Not having that ability, at least in my case, would be a step backward since instead of news coming in from a single source, I’d have to set up alerts or subscribe to RSS feeds for multiple sources. It would also degrade the ability to receive information from sources that I would never check, like when our stories get picked up or distributed by international media, which gives us a better idea of where information is going.