Monday, September 19, 2011

Netflix Split: A Cautionary Tale

Netflix announced a new model for the company on Sunday, sending the Internets abuzz regarding the new direction. I have been asked several times now for my thoughts on this, so, using my knowledge as a customer of Netflix for sometime and putting on my marketing guru cap, here they are.

Netflix is making, on the surface, a smart move in focusing on the future of their business - streaming content. Undoubtedly, and Blockbuster will agree, this is the direction of the market and the future for the Netflix consumer.

So, having a clear-cut future path set out before them, it's time for this once-promising company to take action and execute a solid business plan for their future development. Except that it appears they aren't going to do that.

Here's why this model won't work:

1. Integration. There appears to be none. The two separate divisions don't work together, and this makes no sense from the perspective of their digital customers. Separate websites, separate billing, separate login. Customers are already dropping like flies. Good luck with that.

2. Product. According to the Netflix blog, "Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us) because they are afraid to hurt their initial business." Fair enough, but to move forward, you should have a firm grasp on where you are going.

Before you throw the core of your business (DVD's) under the bus, you should probably try to make the new direction (streaming) at least mildly attractive. The streaming services of Netflix do not offer a prolific selection for their customers. Consider the following crowd-pleasing examples: Want to watch Avatar? Too bad. Not your cup of tea? Try Anchorman. You are welcome to watch Batman Forever but forget about The Dark Knight.

3. Competition. Anyone ever heard of YouTube? How about Hulu? Even Amazon has jumped in. Streaming content is competitive business. And a major competitive advantage, their licensing agreement with Starz, will dissolve when Starz said earlier this month it won't renew a contract ending in February that gave Netflix rights to newer movies from Sony Corp. and Walt Disney Co.

4. Brand. If you are attempting a rebrand of your business, do your homework. Did someone think up Qwikster yesterday and then slap it up there for the announcement? I hope so, because it's not that clever or descriptive. And it's apparently already been taken by a pot-smoking Elmo.

5. Approach. For some time, a problem for Netflix has been that they are not a consumer-centric operation. This latest change fails to address the issue, and the proof is in the pudding – early signs show that investors seem to agree that this is not a move in the right direction.

By their own admission, the initial step of this division, the price change, was mishandled. A humble blog post seeks to open and improve communication with the consumer regarding the direction of the service, but this latest move confuses nonetheless.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Too Much Monkey Business

Hi friends. After such an extended absence, I apologize that I’m about to make my return blog post about advertising to monkeys. Yes, a study is underway to determine whether capuchins respond to billboard ads.

In a field where so little of our research is experimental in design, what are the investigators aiming to accomplish with this study? It sounds like something from the Onion.

So a year ago when two New York ad execs learned – at a TED talk – that monkeys understand the concept of monetary value, they decided to embark upon the primate study. The idea is to determine if messages displayed outside their dwelling will have an effect on the captive monkeys. Monkey see, monkey do.

In essence are we, as members of the biological order Primates, innately responsive to advertising?

And what would the strategy be for such a study, you ask? Sex sells, of course. They are starting there. To sell these capuchins food, the brand A logo will be displayed with a photo of the female genitalia and another with a photo of an alpha male. Brand B will be the poor underfunded startup with no media buy in this study.

And why not? It works on us. If it works on the monkeys, it will beg the question: Perhaps we aren’t as evolved as we think? Food for thought.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Insider's View: Generation Why

Generation Y, the audience coveted by marketing communications pros yet elusive of so many. Generation Y, otherwise known as millennials, have been notoriously difficult to profile, but if a company truly understands this market and successfully engages them, they will be an asset for many years. Here are some aspects of this generation (which, being one, I might know something about) to help you get to "know" them.

Personality of Generation Y

Generation Y is a generation of joiners and doers. This group is actively engaged with society and would consider themselves friendly and social beings. This group is ambitious and accordingly has high expectations of the world around them. They are used to getting their way, but aren’t afraid to work hard to get what they want. They are stubborn, and they are passionate. They feel that anything is within their reach and ability. They are competitive. They have a high sense of self-worth for a group just coming of age. Millennials are more educated than previous generations and are accordingly achievement oriented. They have the desire to leave the world a better place than the one they came into, and they believe it is possible. Their value is just beginning to be recognized by external sources.

Inquisitive. Generation Y needs to know the who, what, why, when, and how. They want to know how things work from beginning to end. They are used to being able to find any information explaining the world around them with the click of a mouse on Google. Share, don't hide, information with this group.

Collectivists. If Baby Boomers were the “me” generation, millennials might be the “we” generation. This group thinks of themselves as part of a connected society that they are helping to improve. Previous generations have been more individualistic. Recently graduated millennials are moving into urban areas in droves, abandoning the suburban lifestyles they grew up in. There is a large focus on convenience and togetherness over space and expansion.

Social creatures. Not only do millennials see themselves as part of a whole, but they enjoy the interaction that comes along with group membership. They are a highly social group that values having a robust life outside of school/career where they view socialization as a necessary part of their lives. Gen Y wants it all.

Some aspects that have affected Generation Y

Technology. While there is some debate regarding the exact definition of millennials, members of this group were born somewhere between 1979 and 2001. From 1979 to present, the world has gone from this:

to this:

Among the technological developments these young adults have experienced include: the internet, laptops, mobile web, etc to name a few. Naturally, this has had a profound effect on the way this group views and interacts with the world. Essentially, they are used to rapid technological advancements, and they embrace the latest before other groups and faster than other groups.

Current Events. Millennials grew up through life-changing events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina. They have experienced a country at war most of their lives, and are keenly aware of global warming and environmental issues that have been hot button topics in recent years. Combined with the 24/7 availability of information due to the digital revolution, Millennials are actively engaged with current events, producing a further pro-social mindset.

Causes. Millennials are very cause-oriented, and they are more likely to support cause-related activity than other groups; a study by The Cone suggests that millennials are the most civic-minded generation to date. The group largely holds positive attitudes toward non-profit organizations. They are also much more likely to have volunteered than any other group. This audience was involved at a young age, often required to volunteer or do community service hours as part of a high-school level education. This has instilled the spirit of volunteerism among them. An estimated 80% of millennials will have volunteered in some way in the past year and 20% volunteer on a weekly basis. Millennials are trying to make a difference in this world, and they expect others to do the same. They are attempting to live up to that responsibility by volunteering, recycling, educating friends and family on social and environmental causes and donating money.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Why you should be using crowdsourced content to reach Gen Y

There’s no doubt that digital media has changed the conversation. However, as long as we as marketers adapt to the change, we will still be able to effectively reach some consumers through these channels, even though they will be a less-dominant part of the mix. One way companies and organizations are now doing this is to give the consumers a voice in your media content, product packaging, or other aspect of your brand communications.

Crowdsourcing is, “the act of outsourcing tasks, traditionally performed by an employee or contractor, to an undefined, large group of people or community through an open call,” according to Wikipedia (which really is the ultimate crowdsource). If two heads are better than one, then crowdsourcing might be an excellent way to go. It utilizes the power of many people’s brainpower for one common goal. Crowdsourcing is very niche - it won’t have the most mass appeal to the audience. However, it could strike a very powerful chord with a specific, selective crowd, effectively creating brand ambassadors.

CPG industries have been utilizing this for several years with great success. Mountain Dew’s DEWmocracy, is an example of a highly successful effort to create the next Mountain Dew. The campaign has been the subject of recognition within the advertising industry, cited as one of the earliest and longest-running examples of a consumer product brand employing crowdsourcing to make decisions that are traditionally made internally by employees. Fans helped pick the names, designs, packaging, ad campaign, etc. Sales of the new product were through the roof. Because of the success of the initial Voltage DEWmocracy, Mountain Dew relaunched DEWmocracy2, resulting in White Out. Mountain Dew Marketing Director has commented that due to the success of the initial DEWmocracies, we can expect another in 2012.

Essentially, this target market is very open to brand involvement if they actually believe that they have a say or that their voice will be heard. So while you aren’t getting Facebook or ABC Network reach, you are creating fewer, more valuable supporters. Millennials know what they want. Why not let them tell you?

An invitation-only crowdsourcing group has sprung up as the Millennial Marketing Super Consumer community. This group is maintained by Brand Amplitude, LLC as a way to get fast, meaningful input on brands. Crowdsourcing for Gen-Y members can be extremely powerful, putting the consumer at the center of the conversation.

For a nonprofit organization there is much to benefit from in using this message channel. Why not let your audience, who knows better than anyone what they want, have fun and save you $$ by promoting your product or service for you? According to a 2010 SXSW Interactive panel, using crowdsourcing to push philanthropy initiatives to a new level is relatively unchartered territory with great potential. The panel made the following suggestions for nonprofits considering crowdsourcing:

▪ Slow and steady. A lot of value can be gained from tapping into a wider pool of experts than just the ones you have on your staff, but it’s not going to happen overnight. Crowdsourcing will be slower, accomplishing your goal in more iterative steps.

▪ Have a goal. Just like social media monitoring, it helps to have a clear goal before you start asking for help. Know what you want the crowd to help you achieve and be able to measure your success

▪ Keep it simple. Make sure that you don’t make it too hard on your crowd. The simpler it is for them to contribute, the better results you’ll get. And don’t forget to make it fun!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A penny for your thoughts

Will a haypenny do? Please take 5 minutes to take my survey on the American Red Cross. This is completely anonymous, and I appreciate all participants. Thank you for your time and thoughts.

Click here to take survey

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The latest in digital marketing platforms

Bacardi Limon has teamed up with Hercules Networks to sponsor goCharge stations throughout 50 bars in NYC. This stuck out to me, as a recent post in one of my social networks declared that instead of coffee shops with free WiFi, we need more lap-top friendly bars. I know the feeling - sometimes caffeine just isn't going to cut it.

The kiosks are designed to entertain users with interactive branded messages such as cocktail recipes, trivia, and specials as the consumer charges their device. Will it catch? I don't know, but this is definitely out-of-the-box thinking that has the consumer at the center of it.

It could be a new addition to our increasingly mobile lifestyle. Apparently, others agree as goCharge plans to roll out additional branded mobile device charging stations in bars, casinos, sports stadiums, and other venues in cities around the world. I can't wait to try it out to see what types of creative and interactive brand messages Bacardi has come up with.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy anniversary to the tweet

5 years ago today, the first ever tweet was sent out into the world. Since it is such an accepted part of our social networking lives, it may be hard to believe that the site is so young. But with an estimated half a million new accounts created daily, we can count on continued growth and utility of this interactive giant.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The buzz, from start to finish

Recently, you may have [definitely] heard, Charlie Sheen was caught using copious amounts of drugs, was fired from his job, and has unleashed an ill-advised world-wide publicity tour. Last week, he added a world record for the fastest time to reach 1 million twitter followers to his resume. This is the kind of excitement a marketer can only dream of generating, although preferably with methods that don’t make the world question our sanity and produce positive feedback for our clients. But with Charlie Sheen out there in the virtual world #winning social media and the internet, it begs the question: what is it exactly that moves people?

It all goes back to social media and interactivity to create a dialogue with your customers. This is particularly true of the coveted Gen Y-ers. Non-traditional media is the medium you turn to in order to create a consumer evangelical movement for your client. Recently, Twitter unleashed more data illustrating why if you aren’t tweeting, you should be. Among these:

-Twitter users send 1 billion tweets per week
-460,000 new accounts are created each day
-456 tweets per second the day Michael Jackson died and 6,939 tweets per second announcing the Japanese New Years – big events implications

The modern customer wants to interact with businesses. They want to easily provide feedback and if they like what they see, they want the world to know about it. Buzz, viral, word-of-mouth, whatever you call it, it is all about engaging the consumer in a meaningful dialogue, starting with the loyal core and strategically working through social clusters.

As you work through your social marketing campaign strategy, to generate a buzz for a campaign, you should define, not only your target market, but specifically work your campaign through fans --> customers --> prospects --> strangers.

So, now we can all go out, define our core market of loyal consumers and create a wildfire of consumers buzzing about our client’s brand? Unfortunately, the Charlie Sheen story is interesting, but atypical. While most of us aren’t starting out with a celebrity-status and many marketing messages may not exactly be earth-shattering, you will make significant progress by formulating a good strategy and following through with social media tactics that reach your audience and relevant messages that will get them buzzing.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Some WOM Considerations

As the marketing landscape continues to reshape and harness the power of the digital world, word of mouth marketing is an increasingly effective approach. If something catches momentum, there are few mediums more effective at getting a message to your target audience that they respond to – both with actual word-of-mouth and digital word-of-mouth.

As I was browsing through some of my favorite blogs recently, I was considering the influence that some authors have over their readership - followed almost blindly in some cases. A trust is built with the audience over time. But in a world where our authors don't always uphold the highest standards of practice, sometimes the content put out there isn't always top quality. And as social media platforms continue to expand, there is increasing room for dubious goings-on and new ethical considerations for best practices – anyone remember “Walmarting Across America”? Now we have celebrities tweeting endorsements at $10K per 140 characters, broked by the firm

If you don’t always find the Federal Trade Commission’s guidelines to be a nice relaxing read, there are other places you can look for guidance. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (“WOMMA”) is an official trade association that represents the interests of the word of mouth and social media industry. WOMMA has produced a comprehensive ethical code that is regularly reviewed and updated to reflect industry trends. That code consists of 8 principles that outline best practices:

1. disclosure of identity
2. disclosure of consideration or compensation
3. diclosure of relationship
4. compliance with FTC guidelines
5. honesty in communication
6. respect for venue
7. marketing to children: no inclusion under age of 13 and compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA)
8. compliance with media-specific rules (regarding children)

Disclosure is obviously, popular with WOMMA (and marketers everywhere interested in responsible practice). These guidelines are necessary because chances are that as soon as a new medium comes along providing opportunity for consumers to be misled, someone will find the inappropriate way to use it. As bloggers and other content creators out there are increasingly visible (don’t we all have a blog now), guidelines for responsible content sharing will continue to be considered and reconsidered until the FTC puts out something more concrete on the subject.

And in full disclosure, I have no actual connection to WOMMA, the FTC, Walmart, or

Monday, March 7, 2011

RJ Reynolds cashes in on Mardi Gras

An advertising campaign for Camel cigarettes has stirred up a Mardi Gras controversy by piggybacking off of the popular festival. Camel’s Break Free Adventure campaign features ten cities across the US in a cross-country tobacco tour. In time for the famed New Orleans Carnival celebration, a wrapper on specialty packs reads, “With a nickname like The Big Easy, the Camel just had to ramble down to N'Awlins to snag a balcony, catch some beads and take in the bourbon-soaked fun below," in a city "where po'boys and Voodoo queens preside over a rich cultural gumbo, and where party people of every kind flock to get down and break free."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has sent communication to R.J. Reynolds requesting them to, “leave the celebrating of Mardi Gras and New Orleans to families.” While I don’t know about the reality of that request, Landrieu has a point that, "Camel is exploiting both our city's name and our proud history and tradition of Mardi Gras, food, art and music for its own gain and to the detriment of the health of our city's residents."

Of course, tobacco companies have been using these types of psychologically motivated tactics for decades. This is just the latest from the creators of Joe Camel. Alluring images of power, prestige, glamour, fun, amusement, success, vitality and sex appeal create a positive associations between la vie en rose and their products that many find offensive. The fun and exciting, if not glamorous, atmosphere of Mardi Gras would fit creatively well into their vault. Given the history of tobacco advertising, shouldn’t tobacco anticipate backlash as part of the creative process by now? And if so, consider how much RJ Reynolds and friends are thriving on these tactics and the publicity generated by them. Why not try to identify your product with a population that didn’t really want the association when the repercussions are so profitable?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Social networking drives web traffic for Gen Y

In the ongoing effort to understand the mysteries of what drives consumer behavior, more research has been conducted on how we use the internet and what drives web traffic. According to research released by Forrester, there is an increasing divide between younger generations and older generations in this aspect, which will make social networking more useful than ever. Furthermore, Gen Y is more than twice as likely to use social media as a referral source than older generations. The chart below illustrates the different drivers of web traffic destinations.

As you can see, Gen Y visits sites from their social network nearly twice as often as reported by any other group. Obviously, these sites are used more readily by this group of 18-30 year olds leading to a greater opportunity for content sharing. If your target market includes this group and you are not using social media, you may be missing out on a great communications opportunity.

These research results have further implications for understanding Gen Y. One important consideration is that these types of grassroots messages are great influencers of the 18-30 group. Word-of-mouth continues to thrive as a focus of marketing professionals who understand audience behavior. Here, trust and relation are major factors of the virtual psychology of the modern consumer.

As the advertising industry in the digital age continues to morph, social media continues to play a larger role in driving traffic organically and through word-of-mouth. With Gen Y and even younger generations increasingly becoming the focus of companies, integrating the message into the big social media outlets should be an increasing part of the marketing mix.

Monday, February 28, 2011

All in a day's work

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Google's Social Search reaches visibility status

Google’s Social Search is now being given more weight and will be integrated into search results based on relevance. Google explains that, “relevance isn’t just about pages—it’s also about relationships… Today we’re taking another step forward—enabling you to get even more information from the people that matter to you, whether they’re publishing on YouTube, Flickr or their own blog or website.” If even search engine relevance is about relationships, then the business-to-consumer dialogue is more important than ever.

So what does this change mean for marketers? With increasing status with major search engines, your social media efforts will be more visible and worthwhile. It is stating the obvious to say that social media is playing an increasing role in consumers’ lives. According to eMarketer, in two years an estimated 62% of Web users and almost half of the US population at 48% (doesn't it seem like we've surpassed this mark already?) will be on Facebook. Businesses should be mirroring this trend by allowing social media to play an equally increasing role in their marketing mix to reach consumers on a level they will respond to. This is all about creating a sense of value and trust with the consumer that more intrusive and less selective forms of mass media aren’t able to do.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Hello Old Friends

I know what you are thinking. Indeed, it's been a very long time to go without a single update. While I never intended to abandon this project, this blog was initially maintained as an academic requirement for a Master’s program. While I’m not deleting the original content, there will be some changes to the original format that will hopefully motivate someone out there to read it (Google Analytics is watching you). I intend to use this as a platform to keep my thumb on the pulse of a fast-paced and evolving field, and I’m taking you along with me.

I officially announce the revival of this blog.

“It can take a surprisingly long time to get from one part of my mind to another.” ~Ashleigh Brilliant