Market Conversations – Listening to the Marketplace

Lackluster Listening

Lackluster-Listening-vs-Market-Conversations

Photo: Ryan Glanzer

Major Marketing Malfunction #1

Listening or broadcasting? Are we singing our praises so loudly to our target audience that we can no longer hear the marketplace conversation? To be effective in our marketing, listening is as important as broadcasting. In reality, not listening or just poor, lackluster listening damages your advertising, dilutes your brand, and undermines your marketing campaigns.

Effective listening in the marketplace reveals strategic answers about your target market, their core issues and decision-making criteria. Without this, your marketing – may turn into a futile investment. It would be like planning a dinner party without knowing who’s coming to dinner. Can you imagine the embarrassment of making a steak au poivre for a distinguished vegan guest! Irrespective of how good a cook you are – not taking your prospective guests’ (audience) preferences into consideration can lead to disaster.

Three causes behind lackluster listening [Read more…]

Advertising that Clicks!

Advertising that Clicks!
by Andrew Szabo

If the “Internet changed everything,” then by definition, advertising on the Internet changed how we market. Brand-building is passé and straight selling is in; we’ve moved from “spray and pray” to ROI; from boring banners to targeted, content-rich communications; users tune out the irrelevant and engage in “permission” marketing.

“Like almost everyone else, advertisers are logging on. Advertising spending on the Internet will rise from $3.3 billion in 1999 to $33 billion by 2004, roughly 8% of all advertising, according to predictions by Forrester Research, a high-tech consultancy. A third of this will be spent outside North America, compared with 15% today. Whereas television audiences are falling, the popularity of the Web is rising rapidly. Three years from now, as many as 250 million people may well be online around the world.” – The Economist, October 1999

Everyone in marketing today is talking of the Web as a new advertising medium, but few appear to know how to make the best use of it. Most still “spray and pray,” throwing money at the Web in the hope of reaching a mass audience and building a brand, just as they did in the broadcast world. Unfortunately, this diminishes one of the Internet’s most powerful attributes: that it is interactive and relational by nature. By allowing users and marketers to talk directly with each other, in real time, advertisers can discover what someone browsing on the Internet is looking at and, by tracking such behavior, what their real interests might be. They can instantly put forward a custom-made offer. It is my contention that the Internet will on an unprecedented scale become for many organizations the delivery mechanism that truly delivers on the original 1:1 marketing promise.

The Internet may also instantly reveal whether an advertisement is working. Although this idea terrifies some agencies and marketing consultants, not The Marketing Chef! We are eager to measure something that has in  traditional marketing been largely guesswork. For the first time, we can truly  measure a client’s marketing return on investment. And by more effectively  communicating the right message, to the right target audience efficiently,  you should also save money.

How people use the Web is changing. Now that the novelty of randomly exploring the World Wide Web has diminished, “click-through” rates (CTR) on banners have dropped to as little as 0.5% of the times a banner is displayed. Susan Bratton, a vice president at Excite, a Web portal, complains that the worst advertisements are “endlessly looping, strobing, cheesy banners that obnoxiously scream out a free offer.” But users are more interested than ever in content. Some of the most effective advertisements are such examples as links in book reviews to the website of Amazon. People are starting to use the Internet with more purpose.

Yet novelty on the Web is easily imitated and soon wears off. Most marketers will continue to rely on offline media to build their brands. IBM, the second-biggest advertiser on the Internet in 1998, says that those who think the Web is for building brands are “kidding themselves.” Dot-coms and Dot- bombs especially, found that branding needed coordinated on- and offline campaigns. New brands need to be promoted where most of the people are:  offline.

In addition, we are beginning to see a new phenomenon: “Website distribution.” Instead of attempting to lure users to one’s website, marketers are placing the relevant parts of their site in a rich-media banner or an e-mail sent directly to the target audience. The banner, e-mail or content/link is the “electronic envoy” of your business. For example, users can see video clips and views of the different Lexus models, get a brochure and find the nearest dealer, without ever visiting Toyota’s main website. Similarly, Sony Pictures promoted their film, “Muppets from Space,” using a banner that allowed users to download a free Muppets screensaver, shows a trailer and offers a game, all within the banner.

To direct the right message to the right audience requires what I call “customer knowledge.” As collaborators with our clients, we need to understand not only the target’s demographics (details such as age, income, address, position, etc.) but also the psychographics of the user’s browsing and shopping habits, which technology can certainly support. As a consequence, the phenomenon of “permission marketing” is becoming a driving force in attainment of customer knowledge. It empowers the user to enter into an interesting new advertising value proposition: the exchange of personal information and preferences for receiving advertising that is personally relevant. Several examples of these alliances between advertising and the consumer have become very successful: My Points, ClickRewards, as well as individual websites like E-trade.

In conclusion, it is apparent that marketing using the Web medium not only requires a paradigm shift in new thinking but an adaptability to the very nature of the way the Web behaves. Just when we begin to gain understanding of the medium, we can fully expect that it has or will change. The Web changes everything or everything within the Web is changing? We look forward to being your collaborators in thinking and creatively making your Web strategy an integral part of your marketing success.

Super Bowl Ads

SUPER BOWL ADS
955 words – a little over 4 minutes to read

How do you measure the success of Super Bowl Ads? Some measure by a laugh-o-meter. Others go for big graphics. I would put forth that success is based not on cheap laughs or expensive art, but what the viewers remembered about the brand itself days after viewing the commercial. Last week, I dissected the Super Bowl ads with students from Dallas Christian College, where I was a guest lecturer. Here are the 10 top ads we chose, and why.

Best Storytelling
Human minds zero in on stories. We love them, remember them, internalize them. And, if the story is truly connected to the brand, the feelings produced by the story are transferred to that brand for years to come. Here are our picks for best storytelling:

1. Taco Bell – Date
Taco Bell presented an entertaining story, as we watched a hyper-drive man move with supersonic speed from meeting a woman at a party to introducing her to his parents.

2. Bud Light – Meeting
We’ve all been there: the budget meeting, brainstorming session on how to reduce big corporate costs, the young guy in the corner who comes up with an idea. In this case, however, the idea (stop providing Bud Light at every meeting) gets him ejected — literally. Companies may need to cut back, but cutting Bud Light is unthinkable. The best part? The last line from the injured golden boy: “I was just kidding”. Even a green kid like him knows better than to touch the Bud Light budget.

3. GE – Wind Energy
A young boy tries to catch wind in a jar somewhere in Europe. He runs to a quaint cottage to join a birthday party of his grandfather. Warm tones, music from the old country, European farm life warm viewers’ hearts. Grandpa can’t blow out all his candles, so the boy has adorably tried to help. He opens the jar and woosh — gale force winds escape. Capturing the wind is suddenly a powerful thing. Well done, GE.

Top Pick for Ongoing Marketing
Jack in the Box – Hit by a Bus

The witty, good natured Jack is talking with a staff member when suddenly, out of nowhere, pow! Hit by a bus. Overly dramatic clichés mock TV dramas. The key, though is the ongoing campaign at www.hangintherejack.com. Visitors can watch “home videos” from inside the bus that hit Jack, leave a message wishing Jack well and see “In lieu of sending flowers, please order anything on the menu, anytime of day. Jack would want it that way.” Now that’s ongoing marketing.

Top Pick for Citizen Marketing
Doritos – Crystal Ball
An office worker brings in a “crystal ball” — really a snow globe — that tells him the future. Of course, this is a DIY destiny, so “I see free Doritos” is followed by the guy throwing the globe through the vending machine glass. Sadly, his co-worker’s attempt fairs less well. This ad was a great piece done by an amateur filmmaker and some of his friends, and deserves the buzz it produced. However, the real payoff for Doritos is the attention it gets for the contest. Over the past 3 years, thousands of amateur producers have tried to create winning Super Bowl commercials. Well, these friends did just that and were awarded $1 million for their efforts.

Top Pick for Putting a New Product on-the-Map
Hulu.com – Alec Baldwin
Whether a Super Bowl ad is worth the money is debatable in many cases. However, one of the best uses of a Super Bowl spot is to introduce a new or previously unknown company. Hulu introduced itself to over 151 million viewers at once and put itself on the map. Overnight, Hulu became the place to go to watch your TV favorite shows on your computer. Traffic on the website has skyrocketed. Web information company Alexa says Hulu’s 3-month visit percentage is up 32.1%.

Top Pick for Best Offer
Denny’s Thugs – Free Grand Slam
Denny’s “serious breakfast” ads weren’t superior, but their offer was. During America’s most watched television event, Denny’s announced that it would give a free breakfast to every person in the country. They made a big gamble, and the following Tuesday, America showed up. I waited for 25 minutes, while some in California waited for 2 hours.

Top Pick for Best Commercial
(that wasn’t entirely dependent on humor)
Audi – The Chase
While most of the ads depended heavily on humor, Audi stood out with an action sequence. Jason Statham, star of the Transporter movies, is being chased. He moves from car to car, disappointed each time, until he finds an Audi. He zooms off, finally in a car that performs as needed.

Top Pick for Most Memorable
Career Builder.com – Tips
There’s a reason kids’ songs that repeat and build every verse are popular: they’re really easy to remember. Career Builder did it’s version for viewers unhappy in their jobs and few people have forgotten it. The punchy visuals and emotion that you can relate to if you’ve ever been in a really horrid job. Career Builder had us anticipating the next verse and trying to remember each repetition. Kudos for getting the audience involved, and kudos for getting us to remember.

Top Pick for Continued Greats
E*trade – Talking Golf Baby
This ad was another good one for the guys at E*trade. The talking and trading baby, who debuted at Super Bowl XLII and continued to be a hit all year, joined us again for XLIII. This time he was joined by a friend. He was also joined by the great audio-visual synching, writing and punch lines that made this campaign famous.

All of these advertisers saw increased web traffic and/or business almost immediately. They created buzz both offline and on. They were memorable, well-done and will generate positive return on investment. Super Bowl Ad money well spent.

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My Picks For the Top 8 Of ’08

MY PICKS FOR THE TOP 8 OF ’08
938 words – about 4 minutes to read

Now that tumultuous 2008 is in the can, I’m revisiting the Top 8 of ’08: those marketing campaigns that left everybody else in the dust. These are the most appetizing appetizers and the most mouthwatering desserts. Here’s the countdown. As we say here at Marketing Chef HQ, Bon Appetit!

#8. Apple: I’m a Mac.
Witty, approachable and elegantly designed: Apple’s product philosophy entered its advertising with the I’m a Mac campaign. The ads let “Mac” be congenial and caring — the good guy, while “PC” made a buffoon of himself — awkward, a little paranoid, and often “buggy.” Worse yet for PCs everywhere, the ads went unanswered until just recently (and when they were, the Microsoft response flopped.)

#7. Nalley Lexus dealer: The Love Letter
Just before Valentine’s Day, thousands of men in the Atlanta area received a pink envelope containing a handwritten love letter. The first page is so doting, it almost makes you blush: “I can’t stop thinking about being yours…we belong together…life is too short to spend another day apart…” You get the picture. “I’ve left my picture and phone number.” The recipient turns to the second page and sees (you guessed it) the picture of a Lexus, “I was made for you” and, still handwritten, the dealership’s name, phone number and website. Steamy, deliciously funny and oh so satisfying!

#6. E*TRADE: Baby
E*TRADE hit 2008 right out of the gate with a Superbowl ad touchdown. Now, normally these ads aren’t worth the cost, but E*TRADE’s Superbowl commercial practically paid for itself before kickoff of the Pro Bowl. You remember the campaign: cute baby sitting in front of a computer making trades. Sounds pretty innocuous, except for the eerily well done lip synching that makes it appear that the infant’s actually delivering the monologue. Add a clown, phone or an unexpected spit up and you’ve got an unforgettable campaign.

#5. Geico: Gecko, The Caveman, and the Celebrity impersonating a real person
In 2008, Geico did something that most other companies didn’t do; they ran three different marketing campaigns simultaneously. They ran all three campaigns throughout 2008. The humor ties them all together, while cycling the commercials prevented overexposure for any one of them (a real risk for the Cavemen after the failed sitcom attempt). Rather than suffering from burnout, Geico customers and prospects anticipate the next commercials. When your customers feel like your new commercial is a treat, you know you’ve done something right.




#4. BlendTec: Will It Blend?”
The Posterboy of viral marketing has to be Blendtec’s internal videos turned brilliant marketing campaign. It all began when retro-cheesy CEO Tom Dickson started throwing things into the powerful blenders to see what would happen. Luckily, they videotaped it and somebody threw it onto YouTube. iPhones, tiki torch, marbles and more — and the viewers keep coming back to see what they’ll try next. Millions of views later, sales are up an astonishing 800%. Not bad for an accidental ad campaign!

#3. OfficeMax: Elf Yourself
Nothing says Christmas like dressing up in elf costumes and bustin’ a move with the family. Of course, few of us will actually do this, so OfficeMax’s Elf Yourself is the next best thing. Upload pictures of your family members’ faces, and voila — well-produced video greeting card starring you (or at least dancing elves that look remarkably like you). Interactive, appealing to the eye, starring in your own “movie” — what’s not to like? The website has boasted a whopping 193 million page visits in 2008, making it one of the most successful viral campaigns ever.

#2. China: Summer Olympic Games
When China hosted the 2008 summer games, it took the opportunity to remake its image. China, once thought of primarily as closed, communist, totalitarian country was hoping that the whopping $44 billion it spent on the games would change the world’s opinion. In preparation for the Paralympics, Beijing and the surrounding areas became disability-friendly. Sponsorships were touted as examples of a more open economy, and the ceremonies displayed the nation’s art and prosperity. China highlighted its modernity through technology, architecture and infrastructure, and its soft-side through its sites and human interest stories. Though there were slips in the image-making, like the little lip-synching girl, and the gymnastics age dispute, China largely succeeded in its endeavor.

#1. Obama for America: Presidential Campaign
Every four years, the best and the brightest come out to show us what they’ve got, and 2008 was no exception. No, I’m not talking about the candidates. I’m talking about the marketers who are hired by the presidential campaigns. No matter what your politics, I think it’s inarguable that the marketing for the Obama for America campaign left primary and general election competitors in the dust. Some of the things they did right:

  • An idealistic message appealing on a deep archetypal level;
  • Serious use of social networking. The campaign didn’t just use social networking, it lived on it.
  • Consistency throughout. The campaign (all about youth, hope, technology and inclusion) received a whopping 10% of its donations online, and almost all of those were under $100. Remember, everything you do and everything you don’t do sends a message;
  • Viral Marketing. Okay, so this technically wasn’t the campaign itself, but it still helped. You may have seen the YouTube video, Obama Girl. If so, you were among 8 million others who viewed — and were influenced by — the video.
Of course, this is my opinion only, so I’d love to hear your feedback. Join the conversation and leave a comment! And, check in next time, when I’ll talk about the Worst 8 of ’08: the biggest marketing blunders of the year.

 

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Making Pay-Per-Click Pay

MAKING PAY-PER-CLICK PAY
790 words – Less than 4 minutes to read

For large and small business alike, pay-per-click advertising can be a nimble marketing instrument with high ROI. It can also be a huge waste of money. A few tricks make all the difference. This week, we’re talking to Mark Shead, President of Xeric Corporation about capitalizing on pay-per-click’s flexibility, feedback and focus.

First, let’s have an overview of how Pay-Per-Click (PPC) ads work. PPCs are advertisements that are tied to certain keywords and phrases. For instance, a company that makes a seasickness patch might display a banner ad above a blogger’s tirade about a horrible cruise. Many PPCs are linked to Internet searches. If you’ve ever seen “sponsored links” at the top of search engine results, you’ve seen a PPC. And if you’ve ever clicked on one of those links, you just made that search engine some money, because (you guessed it), the advertiser pays per click. The order of appearance is determined by auction, where the highest bidder would appear first, followed by the second, and so on (but remember, they only pay that amount when and if the ad is clicked on.)

FLEXIBILITY
Pay-per-click sounds intimidating to many people who haven’t investigated it, so they’re often surprised to find that PPC is remarkably responsive and a great bargain. In the realm of marketing, there are sculptures skillfully chiseled in stone, like your brand identity. There are masterpiece paintings, that aren’t quite as hardy as a sculpture, but also take time to craft: an ad campaign, perhaps. Then there are your 2 year-old’s scribbles, created in seconds, prolific in number, and at best, destined for a few weeks on the fridge. PPC, then, is the refrigerator scribble of the marketing world.

There are several reasons it’s so flexible. First, it’s cheap. I mean, really, really cheap. You can test an ad on the web for a few days for, say, between $1 and $5 per day, then scrap it or change it, and throw it back on the “cyber-fridge door” to see how the new version does.

FEEDBACK
How do you decide whether or not to keep a certain “ad-scribble”? Feedback, of course. I’m not talking about the “No, really, I did like your ad, honey,” comments that your supportive spouse gives you. I’m talking analytics: hard data, numbers, statistics, facts and trends. OK, breathe. You don’t have to do this part. The nice techies at your search engine company will have an analytics package that will tell you things like how many people are clicking on your ad, how many clickers reach your predetermined goal (usually a sale, but perhaps the completion of a form or subscription to a newsletter). This allows you to test keywords and phrases to find the ones that maximize profits for you.

Interestingly enough, Mark points out that you don’t have to understand the trends, just use them. “The Analytics find patterns you can’t explain, but can use,” he says. You might find out that one phrase “crimson feather boas” works better than another, “red boas.” You may never know about all the snake lovers who clicked on your site with dreams of red-spotted constrictors, only to find your precious plumes, but it doesn’t matter, because now you know which phrase connects you to your customers.

FOCUS
You know that I’m a great proponent of targeting your audience, but PPC takes this to new levels. When you think keywords, Mark recommends brainstorming with the thoughts “If I were looking for this product, how would I describe it?” and “If I had a problem, and I didn’t know that this product was the solution, what would I search for?” Be specific, because the more you narrow your keyword phrases, the more on target you are (and therefore a higher sales to click ratio).

Focus on narrow slivers of internet users, but choose several of those slivers. For instance, if you sell super glue, you might want to attach an ad to the phrases “super glue” “adhesive” and “Cyanoacrylate.” But Mark points out that you also might want an ad with the key words “teacup” “broken” and “fix.” And for the CSI lovers out there, “super glue fuming,” “criminal investigation” and “latent fingerprints.”

You can focus PPC ads by geography, too, so your concert is only advertised to computers operating in your region, your grocery store only to your city, and your babysitting service to your subdivision. And you can limit when the ads run, so your nightclub ad only shows up on the first Thursday and Friday of each month (after people just got paid and are planning their weekend) to the hippest neighborhoods in the city. Talk about targeting!

So get out there and stick something on Google’s refrigerator door!

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