Monday, December 31, 2007

Collection of Ads

Where can you see current creative?

Firebrand, a site launched last month is dedicated to TV ads has some interesting pieces from television around the world. While still in beta (and having a few technical and layout issues) the idea of good ads as good content is interesting. Yes, they could be on YouTube but if I'm interested in what ideas actually get produced then this cuts through the clutter.

Particularly enjoyed the Braveheart ad for "The Mail on Sunday".

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Marketing and Advertising Defined

What do these terms mean?

In a recent MBA course I taught at Neumont University on marketing I had to define these terms. While there are myriads of technical definitions; here's what we came up with to capture the main point.

Marketing: the alignment of a need with a solution to everyone's benefit.
Advertising: publicizing the fact

Thus, marketing must understand who has a problem to be solved and then figure out how to make the exchange of benefits profitable to both parties.

On a side note, Neumont is interesting in that it focuses on two-year Bachelor's degree in Computer Science -- that's it. Students attend college full time, work on industry-sponsored projects, and graduate with 100% placement and above average salary. The founders (and venture capitalist backers) designed the program for what enterprises need in software developers.

Sales and Marketing Babel

What if we shared a common language?

Sales and marketing continue to talk in different languages. Consider the 'sales pipeline' and the 'brand pyramid'. Both tools should focus on helping to align people and solutions better; but we talk about qualified, buying stage, etc. in the sales cycle and emotional benefits and brand essence in marketing. In the end sales and marketing want the same customer - one that is deliriously happy with the solution.

The brand pyramid should be held up as a sales tool and the sales pipeline should be as a marketing tool. Maybe we should have "brand pipelines" and "sales pyramids" to help with alignment.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lattitude is the New Black

What do you do when your stuck for a brand name?

Well, two vodkas have used their location to create a brand. Both 44 North and 42 Below are flavored vodkas based on local fruits, huckleberries and manuka honey, respectively. Grizzly bears vs. bees; interesting positioning. Great ads as well.
I've had the one from Idaho; need to get to New Zealand.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Dove gets Axed

What happens when brand positionings collide?

We've all been taught that a product should own a place in a given target audiences mind. But what happens when two contradictory positions are attempted by the same company? Just ask Unilever. Their Dove brand focuses on 'real beauty' and 'self-esteem'. In contrast, Axe makes you think it is a pheromone in a spray bottle.

The press and YouTube (or should we consider that press now) are filling with stories and parodies about Unilever's apparent contradiction.

Now, when dealing with the essence of a brand one must also take into account the essence of the company.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Walls of Jericho Are Coming Down

What does open social mean?

First, what is it? Gabriel, I mean Google, is breaking down the walls between web sites by creating a means for functionality to be seamlessly shared across the Internet. Of particular interest is the ability to share functionality across a series of social networks.

Notice I didn't say 'site' above. The concept of open social implies that the web site is no longer a destination per se; but rather one part of the entire vehicle for interaction. This is a very good thing. As I've noted before, the concept of the Internet as a series of destinations is ultimately doomed because people want content to come to them.

In the past I sometimes wondered if I was inside those walls (corporate site) or outside (consumer). Today, its clear -- the wall is gone.

As Jeremiah Owyang recently wrote on MarketingProfs: " Web marketing no longer is limited to your corporate site. Let go of the concept of "driving traffic to your Web site" as a sole measurement of success. The Web, its message, and your battles are now fought on the open and distributed Web."

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sputnik Now Delivers Pizza

What is in a connection?

Like James Burke's show "Connections" from the late 70's on the BBC, Chris Linnet over on Search Engine Land also outlines the linkage between two disparate events. This time it is the launch of Sputnik in 1957 and today's ability to search for local options, like pizza.

Seems people really like connections, linkage, etc. -- something marketers should consider as part of branding. In fact, Hill and Lederer propose this notion in their 'brand molecule' approach where a product is part of an overall network of connections, some explicit some not.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Campaign Dips

What are the benefits of slogging through the tough patch?

In both Seth Godin's new book, "The Dip", and Chris Matthews' "Life's a Campaign" the central concept is about sticking with your dream/goal/objective and overcoming the hurdles thrown in your face; including the fact that most things take seriously hard work to achieve. The "Dip" argues that there is a trough between the beginning of something and a successful final outcome; "Campaign" argues that nobody wants a level playing field, no matter what they say. So, when launching a new campaign or product there is a very natural tendency for the world to conspire against you.

Sometimes it is worth the effort to persevere, sometimes it isn't.

"Superstars" know when they're in a dead end; they quit, move on and don't take it personally. Marketers should do the same.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Internet History and Web 2.0

How did we get to here?

In a recent article published in Chief Marketer, I argue that a fundamental issue with the Internet is that it was and remains a collection of destinations. Born out of the need to connect computers in the event of disaster, we're still leveraging destinations as a core marketing concept. So every new idea is yet another place to go. - just try to come up with a unique domain.

I don't know about you, but I don't want to go anywhere new anymore. Like any and all forms of advertising before it, the concept of a hot new website will diminish.

DMA - Buzzless Again, But Steady

What was new at the DMA?

Last year I wrote that the annual conference was a bit flat. This year was more of the same, but maybe that's the way it should be -- we're just working hard o achieve our clients' objectives. The best practices of 'being direct' are crossing the chasm with other forms of marketing. In a note on spending, "DM will make up more than half of all US advertising."

Another sign of the times, the interactive pavilion was integrated into the main area -- no more trudging underground to a place far, far away. More importantly the concept of integrated campaigns started to make sense to vendors from all walks of life.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Goldilocks and Article Length

What is the right length for content?

Readers' attention span varies by medium - print, online and blogs. Emailing with Tim Parry of Chief Marketer about an upcoming article we discussed a submission that was "WAY too long for the Web." This got us thinking about the 'ideal length'.

Here are my PowerPoints:
  • Blogs -- 100 words or less and focus on one point.
  • Online articles -- 600 to 800 words to communicate a single idea with support
  • Printed articles -- 1,200- 1,500 words to develop and explore a concept

Monday, October 01, 2007

SEO Quiz

Want to understand search?

The folks over at Advanced Internet Marketing Strategies have posted a cartoon-based quiz for understanding search. Found the link in the "Sterne Measures" email from October 1st. (Here)

Unfortunately the graphic for passing, which I did, isn't available.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Management Summary

Where are the cliff notes for management?

You've heard people quote this strategy, method, or theory - Porter's Five Forces, BCG Matrix, Balanced Scorecards, etc. -- and want to know what the hell they're talking about.

For an excellent summary of hundreds of approaches to management the 12Manage site provides 1 page summaries organized in a spectrum of categories. Well worth a visit.

So the next time a consultant or job applicant spouts off "I'm a proponent of using Ohmae's 3C's Model tempered by Kapferer's Brand Identity Prism to develop a profitable CRM strategy" -- you can call their bluff.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

New Visualization Element Discovered

How many ways can we look at data?

The folks at Visual Literacy summarized a wide range of visualization techniques in a periodic table format. It organizes approaches into data, information, concept, strategy, metaphor, and compound visualization. It covers 100 techniques ranging from the bar chart to the affinity diagram.

I submitted the data cloud (see previous post from August 02) for submission; might have a "discovered" a new way of presenting information.

Campaigning is Not Marketing

Just what do they think they are doing?

The coming onslaught of commercials, billboards, radio spots, banners, search jacking, etc. focuses on the immediate and short term world of getting a vote. It might be called advertising, PR, bullying, or just plain silly --- but it is not marketing.

Marketing takes (well it should) the long term view of what need needs to be satisfied. In the world of products, and what politician isn't a product at the end of the day, the prevailing wisdom is to focus the needs of a single user defined by a persona. This is our target market - nothing more - and the features align specifically to her. The trouble with the political and election process is that there fundamentally isn't any way to focus on the needs of one segment and still win an election. This flaw creates wish washing, flip-flopping, and some of the best sound bytes that don't really say much.

In marketing we should be able to clearly articulate a benefit statement -- politicians work hard to avoid that in fear of alienating some other group. No wonder they often fail in satisfying our needs.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Fast Tracking Startups

How fast can a company be created?

A weekend appears to the be answer. An interesting approach is being taken by Startup Weekend. Invite people (over 50 showed up), give them an idea (poll your friends via phone), put them in a space for a weekend and see what happens.

For an interesting read on what comes out and how it is progressing check out the first idea -- While not fully formed yet, it is interesting to watch.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Clouds Aren't Just for Web 2.0

Can we treat old dogs new tricks?

The use of clouds to display information isn't just for tags and search terms. They are a useful metaphor for any repeated data. Typically a cloud represents the relative number of times a term is repeated by changing the size of the font -- think search or tagging. They become even more interesting when the color is used to measure another metric.

Here's an example of using clouds for lead generation based on TV.

The font size measures the frequency of airing spots and the red indicates the lead volume for that spot.
We can quickly see that the distribution of ads in the media plan is relatively flat (all similar sizes) but certain programs generate better lead flow.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The New Sticky Note

Where is text marketing valuable?

It seems that an under-appreciated value of text messaging from a marketing perspective is the ability to provide the consumer with a sticky note. Texting becomes the analog to jotting things down. Too often I see billboards with a long URL that I never remember or I'm in places where doing something else is not going to happen (like being in a theatre) and need a means to capture information.

The use of a short code to retrieve a reminder (phone number, URL, event, location) is an interesting approach.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

I Don't Know Much

Why is there so much to learn?

I spend part of the rainy weekend catching up on newsletters, articles, and other general reading in the areas where I'm supposed to know a thing or two. Usually reading one or two emails a day gives me a glimpse into what others are thinking.

But running through 200+ in one sitting left me a) breathless, b) curious, and c) just a little dejected. There is simply too much going on at break-neck speed to ever hope to be 'on top of it'. Maybe this is why blogging, newsletters, feeds and other forms of communicating are becoming so much more important.

Now, to figure out the wheat and chaff.

Yahoo Widgets

Where's the beef?

Yahoo Widgets is a collection of functionality that are smaller than applications (applets??) and bigger than a snippet. There are thousands of them, kind of like tribbles, and I played around with the pretty little doodads over the weekend. On the one hand there are some very clever and elegant tools out there but as of today I don't see the killer application.

Not to mention installing them changed the behavior of my computer -- definitely not cool.

Worth checking out and following.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Innovation on Gilligan's Island

Why did the Professor and Gilligan succeed?

In a recent article Michael Megalli uses the analogy of Gilligan's Island to show the balance required between marketing and engineering to create innovative solutions.

The struggle to leverage both process and gut-feel is not just an issue with individuals but rather one of corporate culture since organizations take on the persona of their leaders. The risky part of all of this is that both points of view, while valid in certain times, are internal and lack the focus of understanding precisely what the customer needs done.

Who made a better customer: Mary Ann, Ginger or the Howells?

The referenced Booz, Allen, Hamilton report on global innovation can be found here.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Viral Marketing

Do viruses have sensibility (or branding rules)?

The debate over what makes a campaign interesting often ends up on those topics that restrict its spreading, not those that might accelerate it. For a campaign to sustain momentum the number of people reached in each succeeding generation must exceed the number who drop out.

In consumer packaged goods we might be concerned about repeat rate where successful products often have 'only' 40-50% of year-one buyers repeating the second year. Significant marketing effort is spent to both prime the pump with new buyers as well as limit the decay function.

Viruses kill their hosts. As a marketer I'm more interesting in keeping my customers alive and giving them the ability to leverage the message.

1. Marketing campaigns must be seen as beneficial by the host.
2. The message must reflect the host's point of view and reinforce their image among friends.
3. Control is a four letter word.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lost in Transposition

Why don't these numbers add up?

The recent issue of Revenue Magazine has an article on fund raising for presidential elections. A number of the stats come from the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet.

One slightly confusing table in both sources is the breakdown of online vs. offline donations, by amount, by age group. So, we have three sources of information but only two are shown in the chart.

Were 87% of the <$100 donors under 35? Nope.
Did 87% of the 18-34 crowd give <$100. Nope.

Of those who gave less than $100 and were between 18 and 34, 87% donated online.

The communication of information on the web has about 2.0 seconds to register. This example takes to long to register and runs the risk of being misquoted.

Aggitation 2.0

Where do I find what others are thinking?

There's an interesting collection of blogs on the impact of participation on what it means to be in the 'media' arena. The Media 2.0 Workgroup highlights general commentary as well as specific aspects like PR/Marketing, Tools, Content, Social Media, and Analytics.

They're looking for additional insight.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Marketing Defined

Should 'testing' be part of the vocabulary?

Marketing Experiments' recent article on email copy and the book "Selling Blue Elephants" both loosely define marketing as testing.

Marketing's creative mandate to change the status quo has always involved experimenting and sometimes even taking a flier but more recently that concept needs to be backed up with a show me the money attitude.

The article covers a variety issues around email copy ranging from format to natural vs. artificial offers.

For those with a market research background, the book covers the use of 'conjoint analysis' as a discipline for concept testing. Basically, let technology do all the heavy lifting around which combinations of ideas to test and how they perform together. There are lots of examples across all kinds of industries and marketing issues; like magazine layout, package design and politics. Although the term "RDE" (Rule Developing Experimentation) didn't quite sit well with me.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Spreading the News: Evangelism

What's worth reading?

While John Mayer might be "Waiting on the world to change" Guy Kawasaki writes on "How to change the world." Nice set of interviews and 10 questions with .... series.

"Statistics aren't inherently helpful"

Quick, is 10,000 good or bad?

As always the answer depends on the context. In the book "Made to Stick" Chip and Dan Heath make this point several times using a variety of examples like movie popcorn.

Usually I'd consider these fighting words, but they are in fact very true. Without providing both context and scale people can't understand a number or statistic. Successful communication of quantitative information depends on relating with the audience in their terms.

Ways to improve understanding:
What was it then and what is it now? "before the ...." or "in the age of ....."
How does it compare to a common task? "faster than a speeding bullet"
What does it mean in everyday terms? "more fat content than 3 hamburgers"

1. Never report numbers without their context.
2. Put data on a scale the audience relates two; usually personal and human.
3. Keep it Simple and Jargon Free

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Using Key Words to Build Barriers

How do you turn a competitive field into silos?

Utah is still at the "forefront" of Internet legislation by creating yet another repository of protected things within the state's borders that need to be checked. This time it focuses on keywords, you know those terms used to link consumer searches with relevant offers, even comparative ones.

It seems that the legislature thinks giving consumers choice is a bad thing. It's unclear who can register terms but local companies like Overstock and 1-800-Contacts are in the mix. From the article:
"...if you type into Google's search engine, you will get sponsored links to, and Under the new law, Overstock could sue the search engine and the competitor if such ads show up in Utah-based Internet searches. "

For a legal review see Eric Goldman's comments.

If this prevails, are tags next?

Monday, April 09, 2007

News Coverage

Why are we so isolated?

In a post on "Notes from the Digital Frontier" Naomi discusses how news differs around the world. Well, it really just differs in the US.

I lived in England in the mid-90s and was just as shocked as Naomi appears to be today. So, while a lot of digital, content, 'death of distance' has occurred since 1995 it appears that the ratings chase for marketing dollars and bragging rights still rules the decision process on what to air.

What a shame.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

The Importance of "Why"

Do we always need to know why?

Today's 'optimost' newsletter compares multi-variate testing first to American Idol and then NCAA 'March Madness'. It argues that the second comparison is more appropriate because of transparency and the wealth of information available about why Florida won its second straight national championship. American Idol is shrouded in mystery, although DialIdol and others make it more interesting.

From a testing perspective, March Madness is clearly champion-challenger or A/B testing. Two teams play, winner advances.

When it comes to peoples' tastes, prediction is difficult at best. In a study by Columbia University on teen downloading it was harder to predict the 'success' of a new song when the people could see the download rankings. Seems that there are a lot of interactions and some sort of gestalt that make books, movies, bands, etc. successful. Marketing is about leveraging and building momentum, not necessarily decomposing things into a billion parts.

Testing, and I highly recommend it, is not quite the same as measuring success. It is about improvement and validating decisions (assumptions.)

There are times when 'why' is important and there are times when it isn't.

Monday, April 02, 2007

The Ad Generation

What exactly is brand advertising?

Alexis Lloyd produced an interesting tool for generating ads --- he took real corporate slogans, mixed them up and added an image from Flickr to create imaginative ads that look, feel, and seem to be real. The project illustrates
'how the language of advertising is both deeply meaningful, in that it represents real cultural values and desires, and yet utterly meaningless in that these ideas have no relationship to the products being sold. '

The ad generator is interesting way to spark thinking, particularly about linking values with products.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Below the Belt

It is sad when blogging comes down to threats and personally offensive posts.

Kathy Sierra of "Creating Passionate Users" discusses the impact of personal attacks.

It hurts us all.

Marginal Returns of Perfection

What to do when some says 'ideally'?

Like an upside-down car, the costs of many items on a wish list out-weigh their value. In short, they turtle. There is a strong temptation to deliver on ideals, particularly when stated by senior executives. The result is often over-budget and under-whelming.

Ideals are rarely thought through enough to be thought of as requirements. They are just that - "A conception of something in its absolute perfection."

The features in the ideal category are often not worth the development effort to deliver. It takes a strong constitution and a fair bit of politics to convince people of this.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Understanding Search

Where can I find how people find my site?

Hittail is a tool for understanding search traffic put together by the folks at Conner Communications. It is elegant in its simplicity -- it takes search strings, parses them into key words, ranks them into the head and tail, and then makes suggestions about how to improve traffic to a site.

It's a hosted site and all that is required is placing a snippet of code on a site. Free for small sites, reasonable for the rest of the world.

Very useful indeed.

Effect of Brand Name on Lead Flow

When is a good thing too much?

Licensing brand names can be good for business; but it can also be bad -- particularly in pay-per-click models. A popular brand like 'American Idol' can work wonders on impressions and clicks but if the lead funnel isn't shaped just right one ends up with a very low conversion rate. The result: extremely high cost-per-sales that risk eroding any or all margin.

Tuning lead flow for brands that attract interest is quite different than generating leads for either targeted, niche or new brands. It turns out you don't want to buy the brand name, you want to buy what the product provides and use the name as leverage. Yes, you get fewer clicks but the guys in finance like the numbers better.

Remember: the product benefit is what ultimately sells.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Marketing 101

At the sound byte level, content and advertising are the same.

Media Congnosticism

Do you believe in the effects of media?

More specifically, do you believe that different channels impact people differently and that the effects can be measured?

If yes, then 'media agnostic' isn't the right approach since that means 'without knowledge' or more generally something that can't be proven or the individual has no proof and thus ends discussion.

Defining audience targets and then building appropriate media plans for a desired experience outcome absolutely requires understanding how different channels work and interact (like radio impacting awareness among Internet users.)

What we need is more information, analysis, and proof about how things work in the real world.

Risky Assertions

What's wrong with executives having opinions?

Well, they're often wrong.

In IBM's recent paper on new media: "Navigating the media divide" there are a number of quotes from people interviewed used to illustrate the divisions in the industry.

Korean infrastructure is so fully developed ... Cell phones are used to control both online and mobile environment.

People will only use [mobile screens] if they have no other choice.


The younger crowd has a stronger and faster influence today than the same age group did 10 to 15 years ago.


Anytime you 'cross-collateralize' or converge, devices, it remains in the realm of the Gadgetiers. Portability is not key for Massive Passives.

Your business strategy depends on whether you pick option 'a' or 'b'. So here is the dilemma - a strategy depends on choices but choices are often wrong.

As with all technology introductions; what we think will happen doesn't. It neither happens as fast as we thought nor along the same trajectory, i.e. what does happen isn't what we expected at all. Just think of all the predictions:

The world needs five computers.
Cell phone penetration will not reach critical mass.
Internet will replace libraries.

Power Points
1. Stick with the facts; not opinions.
2. Experiment to understand
3. Don't issue a quote about 'won't happen'

Friday, March 02, 2007

New News Source

Where do I catch up on daily goings on?

The site Original Signals is a hyper-aggregator of all kinds of news/info sites. Well laid out and organized --- saves me the trouble from going to a variety of sources.

Interesting that is produced by the media company Stillpoint Media, a Dutch web-publisher which is based in Amsterdam.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Mundane but Critical

Once again, data quality has interrupted a very well laid out process intended to reactivate lapsed customers.

This time the house file had two understandable but damaging problems.

1. The address field was used by customer service for adding commentary based on phone conversations.
2. The first name field was appended with nickname in parentheses.

So, without scrubbing what was promised to be a 'clean' file we ended up with things like

Dear Patricia (Pat but not Patty) our records indicate the contact address is:

356 Sycamore -don't call on Fridays
Randolph, ST - Tuesdays are good in afternoon

Power Points:
1. Ensure everyone understands how information is going to be used across the organization.
2. Enforce data validation entries.
3. Add lots of space for comments.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

New vs. Traditional Media

When did the change occur?

Remember when it used to be traditional vs. online media? Now the discussion is around social media vs. traditional online media like 'email and ppc'. It's funny how fast things change; in the course of just a short period of time the comparative position became the adjective.

Pretty soon, maybe next week, social media will become traditional and will be replaced by something else.

Things are Always Wrong

Why should we evaluate programs?

Assumptions, like forecasts, are always wrong. What's interesting is understanding why they are wrong. It is the understanding of how current programs work today that makes our jobs interesting. And since nothing is forever, although Google never forgets, tried and true methods that worked in the past run the risk of being irrelevant today -- particularly in Internet marketing.

So, here are my Power Points:

1. Never assume what worked will continue to work.
2. If somebody says "I think..." they're probably wrong.
3. Don't get in the rut of 'set and forget'; it will erode quickly.
4. Tweak, tinker, and test - continuously.
5. Know what you're trying to achieve in the first place.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Idol Voting

What's in a word?

Actually, everything on American Idol. Seems that forgetting lyrics is a sure way of getting sent off. Last night a contestant with commercial appeal was sent packing. The fan traffic this morning was that she should have stayed.

In the spirit of tracking opinions; here is a vote for Bailey Brown.

Create polls and vote for free.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Marketing Duality

Is something I see content or an ad?

The lines between content and advertising are so blurred that it is much like physics where light behaves as both a particle and a wave. Okay, the concepts of particle and wave don't apply with really small things like those found in quantum physics but when viewed from those terms things behave strangely.

It seems that marketing is moving toward a duality where something we see is both content and advertising. At the scale of TV or even print magazines, it is relatively easy to separate the two concepts. One is used to financially support the other - everybody knows how the game is played.

But what happens when the unit of consumption is very small -- a search result, a blog entry, a posted video, a mobile message? At what point do 'content' and 'advertising' lose their meaning?

The rush to monetize ever-smaller pieces of content may reach a limit where uncertainty creeps into the equation and we're left in search of a completely new explanation and business model. If there are no direct costs of producing content, why do we need advertising?

For a variation of this topic see Steve Smith's post on the impact of mobile messaging on branding.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Social Search

Why can't I find what I'm looking for online?

On the heels of today's earlier post "Finding Optimal Relevance" Google has released personalized results. The 'one page fits all' model has been replaced with a collective understanding of what you do and possibly who you are in order to improve results.

Not surprising, optimizing for Google tools is recommended. A bit more interesting is "Social Search" - using the searches of others to find results; not unlike collaborative filtering for books.

Maybe I will find that SEM doesn't mean scanning electron microscope.

A New Acronym: FOR - Finding Optimal Relevance

What does relevance have to do with technology?

One of the current threads on the marketing blogs is around the value of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). A recent debate is whether it is 'rocket science' or not.

Once again I feel that the tail is wagging the dog and a specialty is taking over the controls of the big picture.

As a searcher, I'm looking for results that match my current intent. (Which is sometimes date dependent and sometimes not; causing a lot of frustration.) So all that matters is relevance. Instead of trying to game the system and optimize around the internal machinations of search engines, why don't we work on Finding Optimal Relevance (FOR goodness sakes). This is a much bigger opportunity than the current SEO landscape.

Friday, February 09, 2007

The Problem of Choice

When does having choices make it difficult to choose?

I've been straddling the Mac vs. Windows fence ever since we got a G5 at home. At first, frustration -- it didn't work like a PC. We can argue the merits of that statement but 20+ years in Windows some things are ingrained. So I wait.......

But now that Vista is out I'm thinking about my choices. This is where stagnation comes in. There are, count them, six (6) editions.

1. Windows Vista Home Basic
2. Windows Vista Starter
3. Windows Vista Home Premium
4. Windows Vista Ultimate
5. Windows Vista Business
6. Windows Vista Enterprise

I simply don't want that decision forced upon me, I've got enough other things to think about.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Yahoo Pipes

What's new in the application space?

Yahoo has introduced "pipes" a way of linking disparate sources of data. It must be very interesting since the link to produces a humorous message:

Our Pipes are clogged! We've called the plumbers!

Glad to see a sense of humor.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Advertising Effectiveness

How to allocate sales to tactics?

A while back Kevin Hillstrom posted a challenge to figure out how multiple tactics worked in a multi-channel world. A set of catalog and online sales data was provided for 10,000 customers along with which marketing tactics they received, e.g. catalog, email, postcard, etc. He recently posted an answer.

The most important conclusion is that influence is multi channel. Just like "advertising drives search"

Some thoughts on the solution provided by Grigorios Tsoumakas.
1. It is based on the correct premise that the problem is one of allocation; not prediction. This makes it both simpler to create an answer as well as to explain. "Sales are allocated to individual tactics in accordance to their influence across all possible combinations of tactics."

2. The solution makes an assumption that one tactic was dependent on a previous one. In this case the second email was assumed to be delivered to the same customers as email 1. The data suggest that this is valid since everyone who received email 2 also received email 1.

3. Organic sales were those among customers who received no marketing. Simple but probably understated. It is close to saying that the level of sales would be $2000 if advertising was withheld. "Unattributed" might be a better label in this case.

4. This seems to be along the lines of an 'observed vs expected' problem. I wonder if there is an extension there to include costs to get to financial effectiveness.

5. No catalog sales were attributed to email. Given the large amount of sales that are attributed to the catalog, I'd 'expect' some. But the numbers don't lie.

So what would regression have told us? (And yes I was one of the 500 who downloaded the spreadsheet.)

1. It is fairly easy to distinguish between online and catalog buyers. If they shopped in one channel, they weren't very likely to shop in the other.

2. A large number of customers did not purchase in the month of interest, but were marketed to. Inclusion of these '0' sales will bias most models tremendously. So, should we look at only those sales that occurred in a given channel and only include the customers who made them? "Yes" since the problem is one of allocation, not prediction.

3. Mathematically, the role of the 'catalog' was interesting after segmenting the data. For online sales the presence of a catalog depressed sales -- okay, you're expecting that. For catalog sales, the presence of a catalog also depressed sales --- welcome to the vagaries of regression.

The math is about minimizing the error in the model, not about explaining it to your boss.

Dashboard Examples

What's new in the display of information?

Ran across a blog dedicated to the concept of dashboards. What's nice in the Dashboard Spy is the collection of visuals showing the craft in action. The emphasis is on design and implementation (as opposed to defining the metrics in the first place) with a couple of templates you can download to use as wireframes.

Nice service by a 1%er.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Customer Service - Not

What happened to falling on your own sword?

We're working with one of the ad serving technologies. Today it had some problems and posted the following error message:

Please contact the server administrator, and
inform them of the time the error occurred, and anything you might have done
that may have caused the error.

I really like the fact that they blamed me for a server error.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Applying Technology in Retail

What's Microsoft telling retailers?

While most of the press activity is around Vista and Office, Steve Ballmer recently spoke at the National Retail Federation's "Big Show."

His themes in a session called "Retail Innovation Outlook" covered four points:
1. The consumer is the center of the universe -- get used to it.
2. The competition gets it (or at least enough of them do) to make point #1 the truth.
3. Those that interact with customers should be empowered to say both 'yes' and 'no.' This means they need information and direction plus the authority to execute.
4. Technology should be implemented in a way that improves customer interactions; not existing business processes.

This make take a while.

Lombardi or Augie Trophy

Are the going to rename Superbowl the trophy?

It seems that the folks at Anheuser-Bush have the formula down pat; according to most polls this morning their spots ranked atop the Superbowl list. Different sites listed different ones as the 'best' --- "Classroom" which is all about getting the product name in the minds of the listener; "Rock Paper Scissors" sets up the audience for a laugh when one of the 'fellers' fighting over the last beer uses a real rock at the end of the challenge - although paper trumps rock in the game. "Crabs" worshiping a cooler on the beach didn't quite have the anthropomorphic punch line that I'd like to have seen.

Losers have to be King Pharmaceuticals for their strange "Heart" portrayal and GM for the suicidal "Robot." (Short Circuit it wasn't.)

The best part is that they're all over the Internet.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Social Networks meet Business Intelligence

What's new in answering tough questions?

There is an old adage that 'many hands make light work'. It appears that IBM has turned that around to be 'Many eyes make light work'. There is an interesting site that allows users to post data, create visualizations and allow others to post and discuss the insights. In the 'about' section it is described as follows:

Many Eyes is a bet on the power of human visual intelligence to find
patterns. Our goal is to "democratize" visualization and to enable a new social
kind of data analysis.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Innovation Eventually Slows Down

What are some people saying about creating value?

The book "Blue Ocean Strategy" by Kim and Marborgne has spawned numerous consultant practices; one is listed below.

A recent post was "Google to business: Why can't you be as innovative as us?" The point -- 'insane complexity' slows things down. The Google exec's recommendation was to outsource non-core functions (easier said than done.) At some point in time an innovative company will become staid and less nimble - when will this happen to Google? As long as they have the cash and the desire they can postpone that milestone.

Gabor George Burt On Blue Ocean Strategy & Value Innovation

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Business Redesign

Do you plan for the future or right now?

The book "Idealized Design" by Ackoff et al argues that redesign should be in the here and now with only a few rules.

1. The solution must be technically feasible and not science fiction.
2. The solution must work in the existing environment, i.e. operationally viable.

Their argument is that designing for the here and now removes the uncertainty about the future, something no one can predict. Second, the removal of current constraints lets creativity reign.

To quote the authors: "Desire must replace existence as criteria of choice."

Idealized Design: How to Dissolve Tomorrow's Crisis...Today

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Social Content and Consumer Generated Networks

What are people doing online these days?

A recent replay of a webinar from Hitwise is worth 25 minutes of your time.

My take-a-ways:

1. Social networking and consumer generated content can not be ignored or passed-off as 'fad', 'just for teenagers' or any other excuse.

2. These forms drive traffic to and receive traffic from 'mainstream' sites (what ever we might think that is.) Money is spent before and after visiting these sites (getting money directly from these sites might be the next challenge - and it probably won't be a sale.)

3. Online video shifts consumption patterns. YouTube is both a distribution platform for new things and a clearinghouse for old things (particularly TV; I will use TIVO for things I know I want to watch and use YouTube for things I didn't know I wanted to watch)

4. Still very much in the early stages for experimentation so asking 'what ideas will work?' is the wrong question. A better question is: 'Did this idea work?'

Friday, January 26, 2007

Internet Investments Require Diversification

Are all the eggs in one basket?

Costs for both clicks and leads appear to be rising.

On the lead side, more competition in established verticals like refinance, insurance and education means buyers are chasing fewer good leads and as the law of supply and demand tells us -- prices rise. Targeted and niche opportunities exist in the affiliate world that would help balance the costs and raise the overall returns.

On the search/click side the Performics 50 tracks campaigns over time and show a rise in costs. The suggestion is to manage a wider selection of keywords across a variety of search platforms.

Both are examples of asset allocation; the bedrock of financial investments.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Lead Generation: New Emphasis

What should clients value in lead generation programs?

Three things:
1. Economical: the cost of the lead is in line with the desired action, the cumulative value of the prospect, and the cost of acquisition. This suggests something more than a straight CPL model where all leads are treated equally.
2. Educational: there is an exchange of information as part of the bargain. This is one area where integrated lead generation programs can add value to search.
3. Emotive: there is a resonance established between the user and the experience.

It's more than "Just to it." It's more like: "If it feels good, do it."

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Blurring Lines: Affiliate vs. Agency

Just what is the difference between an affiliate and an agency?

One of the interesting discussion points I heard recently was the 'competition' between affiliate programs and ad agencies.

Let's see:
1. They both work on behalf of clients.
2. They both should work on raising prospect interest and converting it into action.
3. They both should be paid for performance.

Now some of the tools and channels are different, but that distinction will dissolve over time. So, as usual an early categorization scheme isn't very useful over the long term as the industry changes. It is likely that the emphasis on measurability and tracking demanded of affiliates will bleed into the agency world.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Data Has Value --- duh

Where to invest in affiliate marketing?

The most common theme in presentations from both buyers and sellers about the future of affiliate marketing was along the lines of: We'll pay more for quality.

So, things that can be done to improve lead flow and conversion are high on the list. It is no longer about eyeballs (although some still think that way looking for the lowest CPL.)

Assuming we're talking lead generation, then ....

I want to know that the information you provide is accurate. (Bronze)
I want additional information to help provide context as we build a relationship (Silver)
I want to know how to discriminate the potential value of one lead versus another (Gold)

Customer Supply Chain

Do more players make for more efficient marketing?

In the physical world it is typical to assume that too many steps in the flow of goods is not the most efficient means of connecting products with customers. Just think about "Just in Time" and "Virtual Inventory" etc.

When finding customers via the Internet it appears that the more the merrier. I'm currently at the Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas and one of my take away is that there is plenty of opportunity for MORE intermediaries between product and customer. The non-controlled (some would argue "uncontrolled") nature of online navigation provides the opportunity to create way stations where prospects get close, but don't necessarily get to their destination.

A secret to success in the affiliate space will be providing enough service to the prospect to get information in exchange. This is where affiliates can differentiate themselves from search and make a huge impact on marketing by learning about the non-converters.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Third Decimal Point Security

When is consistency is more important than the truth?

When making decisions using data trended over time, consistency in how the metrics are defined is substantially more important than whether the numbers are accurate to the third decimal point. People, and managers in particular, like to know if things are better, the same or worse than expected. Market share of 13.244% is much less valuable than knowing that it is up over last year. To make sure that it really is up consistent definitions and calculations are required in both numbers.

This lesson was learned years ago in the syndicated data world when errors in projection schemes were corrected only when we were sure the relative change was still consistent. Simply having a more accurate number is not always the right answer.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Oops in Hoops

What does the NBA ball episode teach us?

Isaac Cheifetz, a colleague who writes a column for the StarTribune in Minneapolis-St. Paul, discussed some good thoughts about the introduction of a new basketball into the game that was then quickly pulled from the market.

The key points about technology introductions:
1. Don't ignore feedback from workers in the field. While the ball was tested in the lab and among former players, the NBA didn't test among its target market - current players.
2. Live by brand, die by brand. Branding is emotional not the subject of engineering or analytic tests. (Ask Intel or Coke)
3. Quality as consistency vs. user experience. Automation, cost savings and six-sigma won't replace custom, hand-crafted solutions if that is what is wanted. Stars like things their way; just look at Louisville Slugger baseball bats.
4. If you want to be right, admit you are wrong. Similar to other product recalls. David Stern did the same as James Burke - stood up, made the right decisions, and moved forward quickly.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Best Advert on Idol

Who did the best job of tying their product to American Idol?

The winner by far was Coke. In a reference to it's classic "I'd like to teach the world to sing.." ad from the early 70's two quick messages were shown during a break in the audition show.

"Teach the world to sing."

Perfect harmony.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Strange Offer Category

Shouldn't co-promotions make sense?

A recent promotion at Smith's grocery store offered a free half-gallon of Dreyer's ice cream with the purchase of six Lean Cuisine entrees. Somehow, the combination of ice cream (and I stayed away from the ice milk) and a product focused on 'wellness' don't seem to go together.

Although Stouffer's tag line "Do something good for yourself!" applies to ice cream just as well!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Blogs of Interest

What crossed my desk this week?

I've added two blogs to the marketing list.

Greg Verdino works with clients on how to work with emerging media. His blog covers a variety of topics and today he spoke about Second Life.

Kathy Siera and Dan Russell focus on the user experience on their blog. Their objective is creating passionate users; something we should all aspire to.

Quantum Media

When does reporting on a market change that market?

Quantum mechanics has shown that the act of observation or measurement can in fact change what is being observed or measured. In a case of 'independent reporting' changing a market Greg Verdino spoke today on the MarketingProf's seminar about Second Life for Marketers about the impact mainstream media had on the demographic profile of Second Life.

It seems that the age profile of the Second Life audience shifted to an 'older profile' just within a month of broad media coverage.

Or is it that people just grow old in avatar years?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Life Extending Brands and Products

How do extensions impact a brand or company?

It seems there are three potential impacts -- broaden the financial footprint, add value to the franchise, and transform the product or company.

Three current ones come to mind:

1. eBay Express -- the auction selling firm, now selling at fixed price. Laura Reis of "Origins of Brands" wasn't terribly shocked that it wasn't doing well because it violated a fundamental rule of staying true to a brand's identity.

2. American Idol Singer's Advantage -- sure it is a licensing arrangement, but it also happens to be the singing coach of a number of former contestants on the show. Certainly better than the list shown on AdAge's current poll that includes ice cream and theme park rides: Is there more promotional opportunity for 'American Idol'?

3. Apple iPhone -- not only is it an extension of their other products, it is at the root of changing the company's name from Apple Computer to just Apple.

The decision to extend should not be tilted toward short term finances.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Portable Projections

Where else can we project ourselves?

First iTV lets us stream material from a computer to the on the horizon, but we no longer need a computer or a television. ViewSonic recently introduced a projector that has a built-in iPod dock allowing us to go directly from the small screen to the really big portable screen.

Now, if they could power the projector from the iPod I could show different movies on those cross-country trips.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Gender Conflict: Men's Health and Cosmo

How does the better half write?

The recent MediaWorks email from Adage was flagged as 'SpamSuspect'' so even AdAge gets caught.' With a headline like "'Cosmo' Girl Seeks 'Men's Health' Guy" who can blame the engine?

Actually, its a story about the two magazines swapping editors for a month. Maybe a trend we'd like to see more of.

Features: Here today gone tomorrow

What happens when a feature is pulled from a product?

Microsoft is about to find out the answer. According to an article on TechRepublic the license for part of their Media Center that links to television expired on December 31st (no not another Y2K). Hopefully, the customer service implications aren't too severe.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Marketing Convergence

What are the experts saying in the New Year?

A number of sources are reporting on the increased attention being paid to integrating offline and online assessment of marketing. The recent newsletter from Chief Marketer has several.

Key points:

"Actionable Analytics for Online Success" by the Dave Friedman of an interactive agency (Avenue A Razorfish) discusses understanding the impact of all marketing efforts (something often termed 'marketing mix modeling') on online activity, e.g. conversion.

1. Analyze historical campaign data to identify best mix of brand and direct advertising.
2. Link media data to transaction (behavior) and work out the online-offline (vice versa) attribution question.
3. Understand the interaction of online and offline channels. Don't always attribute action to last event - like MediaPlex.
4. Web analytic platforms need to be analytic platforms in a more general sense.

In "Predictability 2.0: The Core of Marketing Performance Management" Lane Michel (a colleague of mine at Quaero) argues that the two most significant hurdles to ROI are 1) lacking the discipline to execute and measure returns, something the direct world is reasonably good at and 2) forgetting that customers are people who make choices. The second should be taped on every marketing plan.

In "Revealed: Which E-Mail Tests Work Best" Anne Holland of MarketingSherpa highlights some of their research on e-mail success.
1. "Testing in and of itself increases ROI." is the key finding.
2. "Only problem moving forward .... is how to integrate offline campaigns -- which ultimately must be included."
3. "The three best ROI tests had more to do with words (copy, offer, subject line) than with design or graphics.

My read:
a. Clients will continue ask for more hard data and proof that their programs are working.
b. Marketing services firms, including agencies, should consider how their organization and deliverables can best align with this need.
c. More cross-functional integration will generate more successful innovation.
d. It still isn't about technology.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Multilevel Marketing: The Redirection Conspiracy

Just where is the promised land of good content?

A recent email from BitPipe held forth the promise of new "Business Intelligence" predictions for the new year -- something rather common this week. It had the usual - click here for more information.

The link is to yet another content provider that requires registration before accessing the crystal ball. Now I usually don't mind registering for content, but the use of a newsletter for which I'm already registered to drive traffic to another newsletter smacks of multi-level marketing.

My prediction: newsletters will actually publish the content they market. (Or is this just a wish?)

Marketing From Everyman

Is the ordinary man better equipped than the professional?

The recent release of Citizen Marketers by Ben McConnell and Jackie Huba offers a collection of anecdotes about the impact of individuals in non-traditional marketing roles. While the subtitle is "when people are the message" they are also often the medium.

"Citizen marketers create what could be considered marketing content on behalf of people, brands, products, or organizations. ... They are on the fringes, driven by passion, creativity, and a sense of duty. Like a concerned citizen."

The work lists out four types of 'citizen marketers':

  • Filters aggregate information, usually without analysis, and pass it on.
  • Fanatics add analytics and a cause to their work.
  • Facilitators create communities in a way that an editor or mayor may work.
  • Firecrackers create an instant spark for their contribution and occasionally themselves.

It doesn't take a great leap of faith to draw parallel to the concept of citizen soldiers, an idea dating back quite a while where ordinary people come together to fight a common cause. In neither case are they mercenaries -- those hired to do the work of others.

The recent phonecam example of Saddam's execution blurs the boundary between citizen marketer and citizen soldier.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Legends of the Graph

Do charts need legends?

Sometimes it does take a few words to explain a picture. The following graph was in some research published by iCrossing. I'm still trying to figure out what the least prevalent activity is among both genders. My guess is that in the desire to make the chart look nice on the page, some selective editing was applied. However, it has made the chart only partially useful. The objective of graphics is to portray all the relevant information in an easily consumed method. This one fails the test.