Archive for Business

Have You Seen Our Ad?

I was watching football on Sunday morning, and an advertisement came on for Symbicort that featured an older gentlemen working on his truck. He’s talking about Symbicort generically improving his life. You know how these medication commercials go – sometimes you get to the end of the commercial and you still have no clue what the medication does. Does it help with blood pressure, give you an erection, make your eyelashes longer, or all of the above? Well, it turns out that Symbicort is for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – basically, it’s like an inhaler that helps you breathe easier. I’ve included a shot of the ad below, as I couldn’t find the video online. Also – sorry about the resolution – I took the photo with my iPhone on a my non-hi-def TV in the bedroom.

Symbicort TV Ad

Symbicort TV Ad

My problem is not with the script for the advertisement, but rather with a line that appeared at the bottom: See our ad in Ladies Home Journal.

TV Ad 2

I have two issues with this:

1. Who is your target audience? COPD is not exclusive to men. In fact, it seems to inflict approximately the same number of men as women. This ad appeared during football on Sunday, which is dominantly male. OK, no problem, you want to reach the guys watching football. Why does your ad ask me to see the ad in Ladies Home Journal? Do you really think that a lot of the people that watch football on Sundays (men) read Ladies Home Journal? It’s not only unlikely, it’s stupid. Let’s say that in your channel planning, you decided to run  TV ads and magazine ads. Fine. And you decided to buy air time during a dominantly male program. Fine. Would you not also purchase an ad in a dominantly male magazine, like Sports Illustrated? THEN, it would be far more logical to say, “See our ad in Sports Illustrated.” I’m not mad at you for placing an ad in Ladies Home Journal – just don’t tell me about it during men’s programming.

2. See your ad in a magazine? Seriously? Why even add this line to TV ads? Unless you have the magazine in your home, you’re not going to head down to the grocery store and grab the magazine to find out more about an obscure drug ad. We already know that fewer and fewer people are reading magazines – they’re going out of business left and right. We’re going to go online to find out more information. In their defense, they did include their URL. I think my bottom line is that it’s a outdated technique to put, “See our ad in…” Don’t get me wrong, integrated marketing campaigns are supremely important. But, I think this technique misses the mark completely.

What do you all think? Was this poor marketing, or was it smart integration?

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The Greatest Talent You Can Have

There are a lot of talented people out there in the world. Slick salespeople, creative artists, intelligent programmers. They all have a skill set that makes them special and that makes them valuable, but for my money, the greatest talent or skill that you can have is empathy: the ability to understand or identify with another person. Don’t get this confused with sympathy, which is more about feeling the same as another person. But empathy doesn’t require you to share a feeling, thought or motivation with another person. Rather, empathy refers to your ability to simply understand or identify with those feelings, thoughts or motivations – and that is a talent you can leverage in many walks of life. 

Of course, I think the unspoken caveat to having this talent is that you then know what to do with that understanding. In my line of business (marketing), this talent is essential to success. This industry is about understanding a specific target, and what motivates them, engages them, scares them, makes them happy, etc. Those who can use their skill of understanding another person can really connect with their message. 

But, empathy is a great talent in many other industries, as well. Nearly every industry that provides a product or service has another person as the end user. Those who can best understand what that end user wants are in a position to succeed. 

OK, let’s say you don’t have a product or service – you may have a boss, and it helps to understand them. What motivates them? What might they be going through? What will mean the most to them?

If you don’t have a boss, you may have employees. You can’t tell me you wouldn’t be in a better position if you were able to empathize with your employees. By better understanding them, you can get better results out of them. 

Heck, let’s move this away from work. There is incredible benefit in better understanding a love interest, or a friend, or a family member. There is benefit in understanding the cashier, the waiter, even the guy who cut you off in traffic. 

The great thing is that we’re all capable of some level of empathy. It’s that old adage of “putting yourself in their shoes.” But this is where there is varying levels of what I consider to be a talent. We’re not all great at putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. We often view the world exclusively from our own perspective – which is another reason I consider strong empathy a talent. If you are able to “step in to” somebody else’s perspective and really try to understand why they do what they do, and why they think what they think, and why they feel what they feel, then you’ve really got something special.

So, if you really want to perfect a talent, I’d work on empathy. Take opportunities to really try to put yourself in another person’s shoes. Really try to imagine that you are experiencing exactly what they’re experiencing, then ask yourself how you would feel/react in that situation. This does take a strong imagination. I think you’ll find that by working on your empathy, you’ll really see the effects in your life.

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PostSecret: A Lesson in Social Media Excellence

needles  hacker  baby   

PostSecret is a very interesting entity. It calls for people to submit their secrets (some funny, some sad, some loving, some scandalous), anonymously, on a postcard and mail them to PostSecret’s founder, Frank Warren. Frank then selects a handful of postcards to share, online, once a week (Frank actually refers to PostSecret as a “community art project”). I’m not going to review the history of PostSecret (although it’s very interesting, and Frank now tours around both with museum displays of submitted secrets, and speaking to large groups about the therapy of letting go of secrets, among other things). But I encourage you to read up on the history of PostSecret (plus a pretty decent little interview on Guy Kawasaki’s blog, actually).

This post, however, is to highlight how well PostSecret has done in entering the world of social media. I know I usually complain about how awful most organizations are at participating in social media, but this time is different. I’ve been consistently impressed with PostSecret, and their ability to be true to their community and offer value to the relationship. PostSecret secrets have been simply shared on a blog for a long time now, and I feel like they cautiously moved into the world of social media. Based on what I’ve read, this was due, in part, to the PostSecret Community (those loyal PostSecret followers) begging to not “taint” PostSecret in the social mediasphere. Ironically, I feel like they didn’t want to share the secret pleasure they had discovered in PostSecret with the social media world. PostSecret moved into Facebook not too long ago, and then recently into Twitter. And it’s really their Twitter presence I’d like to applaud the most. Here’s the top 5 things they’ve done BRILLIANTLY in their Twitter community:

1. Kept It Real: Frank is at the heart of all communication. He is the face of PostSecret, he is transparent, and he is accessible. Followers feel like they have a relationship with him. He responds in a reasonable amount of time, despite having more than 100,000 followers on Twitter. He also talks about real things that are happening in his life. Sure, the tweets about seemingly mundane parts of people’s lives are what makes Twitter laughable and futile, it’s also what makes you a real person. People don’t want to talk to your brand – they want to talk to a PERSON who represents your brand well. So, it’s ok to pepper in some flavor with an occasional tweet that contains your opinion, or your joys, or your frustrations. we all have them. Use discretion, but be real. Who ever wanted to join a community of logos?

2. Asked for Feedback: Frank will be publishing his fourth PostSecret book soon, and I have LOVED that he is asking his community on Twitter for feedback on the cover artwork being sent to him by his publisher (example here). Heck, he’s even asked his Twitter community to submit their own cover artwork for consideration. It’s this kind of engagement that is frickin’ gold! We don’t feel like followers of PostSecret, we feel like valuable members of a community. You should all strive to offer your community opportunities to give you feedback. What can you ask for feedback on?

3. Asked for Help: Besides asking for feedback (a form of help), Frank has even reached out to his Twitter community to ask for help with translating, decoding, understanding certain postcard secrets that are sent to him. He recently asked for help decoding a Star Wars coded secret he received (here). Think about how you can apply this to your organization. How can you ask for assistance? Make your community feel valuable. 

4. Gave Added Value: One way to reward your community for connecting with you in a social media space is to give them “more than the average bear.” What I’m saying, in a convoluted way, is thank them for being a part of your community by giving them things that the people that simply browse your website wouldn’t get. For example, a sneak peak at a new product, a discount that only your community gets, a prize giveaway or just some kind of access to something that ONLY they get. For PostSecret, it’s sharing secrets that come in the mail before they get published (and some of them never get published, making the community feel that much more special). We’re getting secrets that nobody else is getting! So, think about it. What can you offer (OF REAL VALUE!) that adds value to your community, and makes them feel special for being a part of it? It has to be more special than simply reminding people in your community of the discount that you’re already offering every Tom, Dick and Harry.

5. Sparingly Self-Promoted: Yes, you need to promote. And yes, PostSecret promotes. Frank promotes his book release, his tours and the art shows. But he does it sparingly. It’s OK to talk about the great things you’re doing with passion and excitement. Again, we didn’t join this community to be sold to. BUT, Frank gives us so much value in being a part of this community, that we don’t mind the occasional promotion of a book or a show. Think about it in terms of talking to a friend – if they had a new product, or an exciting tour, or something coming up and mentioned it, you wouldn’t consider it promotional. Well, that’s how it works here. It’s just like a buddy mentioning another exciting thing that is happening in their life. So, promote, but promote in an unassuming way that reads like another excited statement about your life. 

My hat is off to you, PostSecret (and specifically Frank Warren), for being a glowing example of how to use social media properly. Thank you for doing it right. There are so many people treating Twitter as a new ad platform, that’s it’s refreshing to see you use it as a community.

(note: images from postsecret.blogspot.com)

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More Advertising, Please

I am SO sick of companies thinking that if they give you a taste of content that they’re entitled to blast you with tons of worthless, one-way advertising. Disgusting.

A few times a week, I have to endure receiving the “Neighborhoods” version of the Reno Gazette-Journal in the mail. There are a lot of problems with this publication, despite it not delivering on its promise of news in my area of town. This publication is nothing more than a shell for advertising. In this latest issue, it contained 3 pages of content/articles (and 2 of those three pages contained some advertising), and 214 pages of advertising. I’ll repeat those stats – 3 pages of articles, 214 pages of advertising!!! That’s almost 99% advertising. I know, you’re wondering how the hell that’s possible. I must have my numbers wrong. Nope – I counted three times (I’m careful, plus I often waste my time if I can make a point).

RGJ Neighborhoods

RGJ Neighborhoods

99% Ads

99% Ads

Of the flood of ads I received in my newspaper, how many were relevant to me? Who knows? I don’t. I typically throw this whole package away because I know that I am not getting any relevant content in that publication. Advertisers – you are wasting your money! 

It’s no surprise to see that consumers are growing increasingly weary of this kind of “interruption advertising” and turn to communication channels in which they can better control the interaction. Yes, I’m talking about everybody’s favorite hot topic – social media. Sadly, advertisers are already in full stride toward the gold rush that is social media, and treating it the same way they’ve abused mass media. This parasitic behavior makes me ill and angry all at once. Some advertisers are  slithering their way into the established communities in different social media channels, and treating it like their own “Neighborhoods.” Are they giving members of their communities valuable content, meaningful conversation or a symbiotic relationship? Nope. They treat it as a new place to put their ads (and advertisements take many forms). I am warning advertisers again, that you should treat social media like this only if you want to fail. 

You think you’re participating in social media? Re-examine that notion – because if you’re not “playing by the new rules,” you will fail. Have you created a blog and are simply posting your press releases there? Fail. Maybe you created a Facebook page – but is there any community interaction other than you blasting out promotional messages? Fail. Maybe you have a Twitter account so that you can syndicate your blog entries of your press releases. Fail. Are your YouTube videos nothing more than advertisements (be honest)? Fail. I encourage diversification of your presence in social media – but you have to think differently in this arena. It’s not another advertising platform. It’s a community-based form of communication. If I invited you over to my house for dinner, and all you talked about was how Cinnamon Toast Crunch was $2.95, or that your new pickup truck had 250 horsepower or some other way I should come spend money with you… I would never invite you over ever again. Please understand the analogy here.

So – anybody who is putting out content – be it in publications or in social media – evaluate your communications. How much of it is promotional? Don’t let it be 99%. Not even close.

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Thank You America! Bad Move Chrysler.

Chrysler received a $4 billion bailout from the U.S. Government. In my opinion, none of these bailouts were deserved, and it is the respective companies’ fault for having failed. But, I had no say in the matter. They got the bailout. We all know the story at this point. So, I won’t rant.

But, I saw this ad they put out a while back and had been meaning to share it with you all for a while now. They posted it on their blog, which welcomed a flood of thousands of hateful replies. The blog has since been deleted entirely. I don’t know if they actually bought any paid ad space and ran this (but if they did, the money spent on ad placement would be even more insulting).

But speculating aside, and ignoring the question of whether or not they deserved a bailout – do you think this “Thank You America” move was smart from a marketing or PR approach? If not, how do you think they should have handled it? Should they have acknowledged the bailout? Was there any good way to approach this?

 

Thanks for the Money!

Thanks for the Money!

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Living Well in a Recession – $3,000 T-Shirt

Stumbled upon this t-shirt today at Zazzle.com that reads, “Fuck the Recession. I’m Still Rich.” You may not have a problem with it, but I think this is an awful idea. Don’t get me wrong – I get the gag – based on irony. A t-shirt that says something like this is usually not actually worn by somebody who has money. That’s what I thought, until I saw the price tag. $3,325.00! Ridiculous. I thought maybe the price itself was a joke, but I added the item to my cart, and sure enough, it costs $3,300! 

Tshirt Front

Tshirt Front

Tshirt back

Tshirt back

$3,325 at checkout

$3,325 at checkout

Here’s my problem with it. When we’re in a “recession,” you should not (as an individual or a business or organization) show signs of living or spending opulently. It’s tacky. It’s insensitive. I guess I just don’t think it’s that funny or novel to spend $3,000 on a t-shirt in this economy. People are hurting. Genuinely hurting.

To waltz around with signs of spending money lavishly is really socially insensitive to me. There are some companies that are doing this – sending out postcards that are gilded, printing Annual Reports with ornamental and lavish features. Stop doing this! Granted, in my line of business (advertising and marketing), I wish clients were spending more money – but I think it makes such poor business sense. If you even look like you’re spending a lot of money right now, you will offend customers. I don’t care if you got a good deal. Perception is reality – if you look like you spent a ton of money, you spent a ton of  money. Be aware of the messages you’re sending.

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The True Cost of SMS

Just a straight repost here to share with you from Phil Barrett. Great info about SMS and the actual costs to the carrier associated. What do you think? Will mobile carriers be forced to eventually change the way they do business? In what ways? Here is his post:

The New York Times reported last week that the true costs of text messaging (or SMS) to carrier is effectively zero.  This is curious as the average U.S. carrier has doubled their costs in the last three years from 10 cents a message to 20 cents.

The cost is effectively zero as the bandwidth used to transmit messages is so minuscule that that even the 2.5 trillion sent in the U.S. last year had little impact overall on their infrastructure.

A major part of the reason is that the message is carried on what is called a control channel – space or spectrum reserved for the operation of the network itself for connecting a tower to a specific mobile device. The reason SMS messages cannot be more than 160 characters is so that they can fit within this channel.

The control channel sends 160 characters each time a connection is made – even if there is no SMS message attached for the free ride.

It’s like charging your wife for gas to drive her home from the office – even though you were already heading home regardless if she needed a ride or not. Then charge her double the following day. See how long that relationship lasts…

Cross your fingers that new carriers like Globalive will do more than just say all the right things during their courtship of your mobile service contract when they go live in 2009.

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Verizon Caught Saving Customer Money. WTF?

 

photo by Thomas Hawk

photo by Thomas Hawk

I stumbled upon an article on The Consumerist about Verizon calling a customer to tell him he could save money on his plan. Yeah, yeah, yeah – I’ve heard that a million times… “can we look at your account to try to save you money?” Then they up-sell you and you end up with a 5-year contract or some other ridiculous commitment.

BUT, that wasn’t the case here. It seems as though they actually wanted to save this customer money (and they DID). It seems like they actually cared that he had a good experience. It seems like they actually wanted him to be a satisfied customer. ((Check out the full story at the end of this post))

This is weird. I don’t know how to deal with this. Companies aren’t supposed to do that. Companies are supposed to extort you and squeeze every last dime out of you and then move on to the next poor sap. So, big kudos are in order for Verizon. THIS is exactly the way a company should treat it’s customers. This is exactly the way to keep a customer – do right for them. Hmm – that’s a pretty good idea.

(FULL STORY):

“…another call. This time it was from Rosanne. I am pretty sure that was her real name too. I was talking to somebody in Verizon’s customer service department whom is apparently tasked with reviewing new accounts and making sure everything is okay (kudos to you for having QA/QC on your plans Verizon!). She asks if my phone is for corporate use. “No”. But you have a corporate plan. “Yes I know, it is for the discount program at work”.

It turns out that she wanted to save me money, and she did to the tune of $40 per month! Basically for somebody who is not a corporate user, doesn’t need to get email from an exchange server or have access to the intranet at work, the $45 per month Blackberry plan (hence forth, VZW BES) was not required. Instead, I should have the $30 per month plan (hence forth, VZW BIS). Now, the VZW BES is labeled on Verizon’s website as “Unlimited Data” while the BIS is just “Internet and Email”. I confirmed with the CSR at least 3, maybe 4 times that both plans included unlimited data (that is, until I suck down 5 gigs worth to my Storm!). She told me that they were (she did go and confirm some things either with a supervisor or the computer, and I was on hold for the 2 or 3 instances for no more than 45 seconds).

So BAM, right there switching the Blackberry plans saves me $30 a month over both lines with zero change in services I am actually going to be using. I am not paying for things I won’t use now. This is awesome. Further more the CSR decides to check our minutes usage. We have a 700 minute share plan at this point, the smallest / cheapest they offer. We barely use 300-350 total peak minutes between the two of us on a busy month. Turns out, there is an unadvertised “loyalty” plan that is used for “loyal customers” (and probably also for those threatening to leave VZW) that is a share plan of 550 minutes and is $10 per month less. As a bonus we were given 500 additional minutes that is a “reserve” of sorts. If we do go over rather than getting billed the minutes come out of that reserve first. Cool eh?

So after 14 minutes and 3 seconds on the call, I am not saving $40 per month. How cool is that?”

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Twitter adds 4 million users in 2008

Twitter numbers are in for 2008 (well, Dec 07 – Dec 08), and they exploded! They boosted their numbers from about 500,000 in December 2007 to about 4.5 million in December 2008. In fact, they gained one million unique visitors in December 2008 alone. This reinforces my anecdotal observations. I, for one, LOVE Twitter. I think it’s great, and will continue to get better. Some people hate it. It will interesting to see how it progresses from here. (btw – @mikemcdowell if you’re not already following me).

Anecdotally, again, I have really seen an increase in the number of brands that are using Twitter now. Sadly, I feel like many brands are f’ing things up. They start following people based on keywords. Yeah, they use automated services that “auto-follow” people on Twitter based on keywords. This feels a little like phishing to me (I know, not the same, but kinda the same concept). What’s equally unbearable, is that once they follow a person, they don’t use Twitter effectively as the communication medium it is. They use it to blast promotional messages, offer nothing to their followers, etc. I rant more about this in a previous post.

The other interesting trend to look at (which I saw at Mashable), are the trends for social network giants Facebook and Myspace. Facebook has now caught up, and in fact, passed Myspace. They both trump Twitter’s 4.5 million, as they are bringing home about 60 million. Eiher way, interesting trends. Take a look at the graph:

Also, big props to Compete.com, a pretty nice website analytics website (that’s where these charts came from).

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You Oughta Know (Inbound Marketing)

This is a fun little video put together by HubSpot‘s Rebecca Corliss about inbound marketing vs outbound marketing. Her disturbed lamenting is set to the tune of Alanis Morissette‘s “Oughta Know.” It’s not the coolest, most impressively produced video – don’t worry about that. Yeah, it’s kinda corny and gimicky – don’t worry about that. 

As I watched, I thought – OK, how are they going to end this thing? What’s the call to action? I expected to see a URL. But, no. We are given a shot of somebody entering “inbound marketing” into a Google search bar. 

I had to do it. Sure enough – the top result is a post on HubSpot’s blog called Inbound Marketing vs. Outbound Marketing. I love the switchup from simply putting a URL at the end of a video. Plus, it completely proves the point that Corliss was making about the importance and potential of search. Well done : )

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