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.