advertising

Changing Brand Opinions of Consumers

Posted on December 22, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, blog, consumer marketing, iPhone, Mac, marketing, Twitter, viral marketing |

A recent HARO post, a reporter asked the following:

“Looking for experts on consumer behavior or branding strategies or even psychology to discuss how press/consumers develop an opinion about a company and whether/how that opinion can be swayed.”

It got me excited that someone may be looking for new ways to engage with consumers other than the same old shotgun marketing that has been going on. I focused on consumers, as that is my area of expertise.

Here was my response:

Consumers are influenced in their opinions of brands by many factors:

Engagement – a consumer’s actual experience with a brand. This usually but not always refers to their actual use of a brand’s product or service. Sometimes this can manifest itself in their experience with the brand’s customer service.

Marketing – of course marketing, advertising, coupons and the like are a big influencer, or brands wouldn’t spend the money! A fine example is Apple. They developed a product (iPod) that was marketed as hip, cool, and trendy. Their psychographic was not just people who were hip, cool, and trendy, but those who thought they were, and those who wished they were.

PR – this taps into the same channel as above, what people are reading or hearing about a product.

Peers – Peers have replaced celebrity endorsements in the mind of consumers. They’re not going to by a t-shirt because Michael Jordan wears it (much to Hanes’ chagrine), they are going to buy it because their big brother wears it. Consumers are much more likely to engage with a brand based on what kind of experience a close contact, friend or family, has had with the brand. This may mean that I’ll buy a CD (or more likely download an mp3) of a new artist because my buddy Roy likes them (he and I have similar, but not identical tastes), or I may decide not to make the purchase because my buddy Steve (whose tastes I can barely stand) recommended them.

Peripheral Peers – while these aren’t close contacts, they are other consumers with a similar psychographic makeup. For example, my wife and I are expecting our first child in February. She did not put a single item on our baby registry without reading every single review on the site of the company through which we’re making a list. Often she would double check the reviews on another site, say a portal like thebump.com, or with our neighbor who has a 6 month old (see Peers). While these influencers have less of an impact, they make it easier to get input from those with the same mindset. I’ve used Twitter recently to get feedback from my Followers on a video camera I’m looking to purchase. This gives me a broad range of honest, yet in-depth feedback. I have to take some with a grain of salt, like the podcast pro who only uses high end Canon products, or the 22 year old that just love, love, LOVES her Flip Mino (mostly because it’s pink I think).

As a side note, I use the term psychographic when discussing groups with similar interests or mindset. A 16 year old boy and a 60 year old woman wouldn’t necessarily be in the same demographic, yet when considering marketing for the New England Patriots, it is important to keep in mind that they belong to the same psychographic: New England Patriots fans. I find that targeting a psychographic is much smarter than targeting a demographic. A psychographic is a qualified lead, while and demographic is a quantity play. When I was 16 I knew many other 16 year olds, they were all very different with very different interests, why would anyone want to market to all of us the same way?

As for your question on whether or how a consumer or PR reps opinions can be swayed, it depends:

What has lead them to form an opinion? If their negative opinion is based on marketing a good Peripheral Peer review would do it. This or a Peer influencer would overcome almost all other types of influencers. My brother-in-law got an iPod that gave him endless trouble. He was totally turned off of Apple products. Yet, after a year of influence based on my own engagement with the brand (iPod, iPhone, Macs and home and work), he changed his mind. He has since bought a new iPod, an iBook and has been begging for an iPhone. Peer input is the strongest influencer, and in it’s absence, Peripheral Peer input. Both are hard to overcome, Peer being the hardest. Only ground breaking marketing and PR can change a negative Peer influence to positive.

I assume that the question pertained to changing a negative opinion to a positive one. That takes alot of work. However, changing a positive opinion to a negative one is pretty easy. All of the influencers I’ve mentioned above can very quickly change a consumer’s opinion about a brand. Recently a viral email was sent around showing images of dead chickens (not killed FOR selling, but long dead) being cleaned for sale to Walmart. I received it from several sources and forwarded it to many more. Regardless of any of the recipients’ past interaction with Walmart, I’d guess that few that saw the email would be very likely to go back to Walmart. PR mistakes, bad press, word of mouth or a bad personal exchange with any brand can very quickly change an opinion.

That being said, customer service goes a long way. I’ve had some trouble with my car and my computers. In each case, my frustration was quickly erased by excellent customer service. In every case, a similar engagement with a brand would have sent me to a competitor, not to mention negative word of mouth. However, thanks to excellent encounters with customer service, I’m an even bigger fan of the brands (signing up for their newsletter, becomming a brand ambassador).

Customer service is going to become a larger part of corporate marketing budgets in the future as products and services (as well as advertising) become more personalized how-the-economy-back-during-the-depression-of-2009-changed-the-world-part-8-marketing), advertising becomes trickier, and more brands are vying for the eye of every consumer.

One of the best low-cost ways to generate positive branding is to find brand ambassadors like myself, those with peripheral or direct peer influence, and take advantage of them. I hear and have experienced being a targeted blogger or Twitter user who is engaged by a brand. The brand would send products, ask for, or pay for reviews, hoping that the blog or Tweets would influence others. This is a demographic approach that doesn’t often work. Many bloggers won’t do it, often their readers will see through it. Rather than finding digital influencers in general, who will at best ineffectively market their product, brands should take the extra time to find those who are already fans, ambassadors or at least interested in their products and services. These are your influencers!

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How The Economy Back During The Depression of 2009 Changed The World Part 8: Marketing

Posted on December 15, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Apple, consumer marketing, Mashable, RSS feed, Science Fiction, Second Life, Social Network, tv ad | Tags: , , , , , , , |

In my continuing series on the Depression of ’09, or Bush’s Collapse, as historians have come to call it, I will focus on how marketing and advertising was effected. In 2038 it’s hard to believe that only 30 years ago quotes such as “no one every got fired for doing television” and ideas like Mass Marketing weren’t ridiculed. One needs to remember that back then Social Media was used to differentiate a particular form of “online engagement”. Of course people still used the term Internet to qualify where they absorbed a particular piece of information. Most Gen A kids today are still confused by the fact that during the Gen X/Y days we received information from multiple devices with screens: one you could interact with, and one you just stared at. I won’t mention “radio” for fear of veering too off topic.

Leading up to Dep II folks used the Internet to gather data, purchase goods, and be entertained by music, vids and games. In most cases a company I’d individual would “post” media to a “web site” where users could read, click, watch, or download it. Users had very little choice on what they got, generally being given only a few options. Something was about to change all that though.

Just prior to the election of President Obama, the first of his 3 terms, several print publications (see references below for definitions) named the consumer as the Person of the Year and Marketer of the Year. The average citizen was beginning to take control of how goods and services were presented to them. Up to this point most manufacturers and service providers would build a generic product then hire marketers to create advertising campaigns to promote their product. The advertisements would, almost without exception, be focused on a wide demographic. Men: 18-45, teens: 12-22, were typical designations. Of course no one today would waste time on such a broad and incongruous grouping. Even now, at 79, I can remember being a teen, nine of us were very similar. There were jocks, studes, vocies, rich, poor, popular, geeks, etc. It still amazed me that anyone sold anything in such a broad way. It’s important to remember that back in the 20th Century and into the singles of the 21st Century, most people just accepted that they belonged to a demographic and accepted products and services as they were: Corporate America was in charge. Of course that is no longer the case: we get goods and services tailored personally to us, we brag about the cool advertising generated by our profile. Lime most of history, it is easy, in hindsight, to see the tipping point: The Attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chinese Colonization of Mars, Secretary Michelle Obama’s Global Union Initiative, etc. Bush’s Collapse changed the relationship between consumers and corporations forever.

It is unfair that the Collapse be completely blamed on George Bush, it is so named primarily because the Iraqi Folly put such a financial burden on the country, at a point when a brief financial meltdown was imminent. It took several decades of corporate greed, governmental missteps, and an economy based on speculation and Wall Street, to cause the Collapse. The “Silly President” just happened to push it over the edge.

The hardship had many unexpected consequences including the collapse of the television, radio (much different than what we consider it today), music and oil industries. The collapse of the oil industry and it’s evolution into an international conservatorship has been widely discussed and irrelevant to this story. The Big Media collapse has direct bearing though.

Citizens attention was divided in their entertainment, communications and informational options then: between a television, telephone and radio or a computer. With meager incomes most had to choose between the two. History shows they chose computers. These bulky, desktop machines were far less elegant than our current solution, yet they offered information, communication, entertainment and productivity in one package. This primitive machine had been used to market to consumers in a 19th Century manner, with 20th Century technology. A few technology advances offered the ability for social networks to begin to crop up, all separate and distinct. Very quickly more niche networks emerged, focused on specific subjects, forms of communication, and psychographics. CGTalk, Twitter, and Ning are examples of each that I was immersed in. Very quickly the populace found they had replaced one fractured interface with another, as their attention was now divided between multiple separate “sites”.

Yet the seeds of control had been sewn. Many of these sites, oddly called “networks”, offered personalization features as well as the ability to be viewed on mobile devices. Soon a demand was met: the ability to bring all of their desired content together under a universal, personalized ID, that they could interact with on any device. Early mobile and computer companies began building customized devices receiving customized information. Soon behavioral targeting was giving users information they wanted before they asked for it. Advertisers couldn’t bridge the gap. Most companies were still selling generic products using mass marketing tactics. The people demanded better. They had the power to make demands. It was easier fir a mom & pop operation to deliver customized goods, promoting them with customized messaging, easier than large companies. Product and Services industries as well as their advertisers couldn’t compete on such a micro-level. This signaled the end of marketing as it had been for decades.

Early social media proponents recognized early on that talking to one was better than shouting at a million. Advertisers and companies, in their desperation finally began to listen. An entire generation of marketers and advertisers was displaced. Their seats were filled by social media evangelists managing hundreds of non-employee brand evangelists. These weren’t just mouthpieces, they weren’t even paid! They were brand fans. It was the pyramid management system. One SoMe evangelist would invite brand loyalists, even competitive brand loyalist to try products and report on them. These loyalists in turn were followed by thousands, who, in turn, influenced millions of others.

Many companies during this time abandoned the strategy when they received negative feedback. The smart ones began to see this as positive input. It wasn’t long before companies were creating custom products for their loyalists. It was expensive. This zoo drove the desire from all consumers to have personalized products. Advertisers soon got in the act, creating customized messaging. Consumers had long given up the idea of privacy or anonymity online. Their tracked behavior, purchase history, financial background, resume, even family info now fed shared databases from which technology evolved to serve advertising unique to every recipient.

It seems odd, in this day and age, that a single add would be the basis of an entire product campaign. Teens in college, sports fans in bars, even the few that still work in offices, share their commercials as a bag of identity, as unique as a fingerprint. Just today my grand kids and I were laughing over our implant OS updates from Apple. I’m still on 10.4.2!

Who knows how personalization will effect us in the future. If I have to spend 4 hours on an airship to visit my grandkids on the West Coast, I’d like a seat that knows I have a bad back!

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<3 Your Brand

Posted on November 11, 2008. Filed under: advertising, consumer marketing, Social Media, Social Network, Twitter, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , |

I’m reading an article in Fast Company Magazine (Oct. 08 – yes I still like print especially with nice paper covers) about thanking companies you appreciate (I Love You. Now What – Heath & Heath). The gist is that while companies have sunk millions into call centers to smooth the ruffled feathers or complaining customers, there is virtually no way to thank them. They go on to show the positive impact it has on employees of the company, if marketing shares the compliments.

While I could spend the rest of my ride on the T talking about ways that social media could be the medium to share the good will, no one is going to pay me for it, and with a recent layoff, I’m feeling much less gracious with my free marketing advice. The holidays are coming though and we should all be looking at what we’re grateful for, even if we need the Large Hadron Collider to test the theory of the existence of something to be grateful for. With the coming rush of holiday consumerism and travel I thought we should consider Paying it Forward to some of the companies we appreciate. Perhaps @GoodWill and @Karma will get the Tweet and our holiday season won’t be tarnished with bad company-customer interaction. Perhaps customers will be a bit more patient and understanding, and corporate employees will be extra diligent and helpful in their job execution.

So I’m asking readers to think of a company whose products or service they admire or have had a positive interaction with, and give them a shout out. A simple “hey, nice job” is enough. If you want be more expressive, feel free. Use whatever medium you feel comfortable with; post a video to YouTube, write a letter, call the service center, start a Facebook Fan page, post a Tweet (#iLuvBrandX), hug a stockboy!

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Now Is Not The Time to Skimp on Advertising and Marketing

Posted on November 3, 2008. Filed under: advertising | Tags: , , , |

As the economy continues to be of concern to citizens and corporations, we wanted to share a recent article we came across concerning economic downturn and advertising. A question was asked on Google Answers about what companies did well during the Depression. The answer is interesting and offers some great, concrete examples. Following the article is a link to the original post and to references from which informed the answer.

It is important to note that whether the economy is in an upswing or a downswing, consumers still spend money, they still have needs, and they still have wants. Pulling back on advertising only allows your competition to take advantage of a conservative marketing environment, and the advantages that offers, such as reduced media rates, to step in to capture a greater mind share. Taking advantage of new technology and marketing channels is as effective now as it was then. Compare the use of social media and mobile now to Proctor & Gambles use of radio then. The troubled economic times we find ourselves in now can be as good for some as much as they can be bad for others. It’s all on how you take advantage of the situation.

THE QUESTION

What industries fared relatively better and worse in terms of pricing and demand during the Great Depression of 1929? Do the industries reflect a hierarchy of demand from essential consumables to deferrable purchases to capital goods? What specific companies did well in any industry and what distinguishes those companies.

THE ANSWER

To begin, not all was gloom and doom during the Great Depression. It was a time when those who knew what they were doing made great economic strides and the very nature of the depression itself was an economic boon for them. It was a time when several companies benefited from aggressive marketing while their rivals cut back. A good example of that would be Kellogg besting C.W. Post during that time. Consumers didn’t totally stop spending during the depression, most just looked for better deals and the companies providing those better deals came out stronger after the depression ended. When spending picked up, consumer loyalty to those companies remained.

To state a generality, those companies who not only survived but did well and grew during the Great Depression are those who continued to act as though there were nothing wrong and that the public had money to spend. In other words, they advertised. These are industries who didn’t wait for public demand for their products to rise, they created that demand even during the most difficult of times. Because so many companies cut spending during that era, advertising budgets were largely eliminated in many industries. Not only did spending decline, these companies actually dropped out of public sight because of short sighted decisions made about spending money to keep a high profile. These advertising cutbacks caused many customers to feel abandoned and associated the effected brands with a lack of staying power. This not only drove customers to more aggressive competitors but caused a certain among of financial mistrust when it came to making additional investments in the no longer visible companies.

Both anecdotal and empirical evidence support the case that advertising was the main factor in the growth or downfall of companies during those years. To put it bluntly, the companies which demonstrated the most growth and which rang up the most sales were those which advertised heavily. The Great Depression offers classic examples of the power of brand advertising even during times of economic crisis.

Proctor and Gamble

This is a company which has a philosophy of not reducing advertising budgets during times of recession and they certainly did not make any such reduction during the Depression. P&G has made progress in every one of the major recessions and that is no accident. When their competitors were swinging the budget axe, P&G actually increased their spending. While the Depression caused problems for many, P&G came out of it unscathed. Radio took P&G’s message into more homes than ever.

Chevrolet

During the 1920s, Fords were outselling Chevrolets by 10 to 1. In spite of the Depression, Chevrolet continued to expand its advertising budget and by 1931, the “Chevy 6” took the lead in its field and remained there for the next five years.

Camel Cigarettes

In 1920 Camel was the top selling tobacco product. American Tobacco Company then struck back with the Lucky Strike brand and by 1929 Lucky had overtaken Camel as the number one brand. Two years later in the heart of the Depression, Chesterfield also overtook Camel. Camel countered with a massive increase in advertising spending and by doing so demonstrated the power of advertising during depressed times. By 1935, it was back on top.

Now, these examples count as anecdotal. But in addition to these examples, studies have demonstrated that during times of recession, companies that maintain advertising during these periods experience higher sales and profits during the downturns and afterward than companies who cut their advertising budgets.

It was also the very nature of this advertising that spurred the growth of two other industries during the Depression. The first of which was radio broadcasting.

Let’s return to Proctor and Gamble for a while. P&G first turned to radio in 1923 advertising Crisco on a New York station. Other products such as Ivory and Lava soap were advertised on ‘product oriented’ shows which were similar to today’s infomercials. But in the heart of the depression P&G took a step which changed not only that company but the broadcast medium forever while creating great demand for its products. The president of P&G at the time was Richard Deupree. In spite of the fact that shareholders were demanding that he cut back on advertising, he knew that people were still buying essential household products. So he created radio programming that did not focus on a product. Because of that, we now have a cultural attribute known as the “soap opera.”

In 1933, P&G went on the air with its first “soap” – “Ma Perkins,” sponsored by Oxydol. P&G was so satisfied with the increase of sales, they went on to introduce “Vic and Sadie” for Crisco, “O’Niells” for Ivory Soap and “Forever Young” for Camay. By the time 1939 rolled around, P&G was sponsoring 21 radio programs and they doubled their radio advertising budget every two years during the Depression.

Radio was one of the fastest growth industries of the depression. P&G virtually built daytime radio with its advertising budgets and programming. Two industries were thriving from the advertising budget of one.

The print media was also a growth industry during the Depression. To give some reason for this, we now return to Chevrolet. the first ads for Chevrolet appeared in print in 1914. In 1927, they began to increase their print advertising budget. As the country moved into the Depression a couple of years later, Chevy did not let its commitment to print advertising falter and its car ads not only kept some publications afloat, it helped many to grow. In as much as the term “print media” covers many outlets, they pioneered the outdoor advertising medium, billboards. Chevrolet also went into radio and sponsored such Depression Era classics as Fred Allen and Jack Benny. Chevy’s print ads appealed to the “emotional” side of a buying decision which was a great move in light of the economic uncertainty of the time.

So once again, those companies which took advantage of the Depression and came through in good form were those who kept their name in front of the public in spite of a lack of purchasing power.

Your question asks about a hierarchy of demand from essential consumables to deferrable purchases to capital goods. In reality there was no such hierarchy. I have tried to balance the examples given to show some spectrum across the board. Proctor and Gamble represents essential consumables, Chevrolet represents deferrable purchases and Camel represents non-essential products. So as you can see, the so called hierarchy of necessity and want was sidestepped by those who had the marketing gumption to ignore such distinctions.

However, capital goods information needs to reflect the entire economic structure of the Depression and not just those companies which were successful. Overall, new production of capital goods less capital goods consumed during the years 1929 – 1939 was near zero. The increase in the money supply during the 1920s also increased the prices of capital goods relative to the prices of consumer goods. This disparity set in motion a boom in real estate and stock market prices and interest rates were driven down by the “increase in Fed money.

It must also be noted that the preceding statement on capital goods is only one of many competing economic theories about the Depression. There are some who say this compounding of assertions is wrong from beginning to end. But in composing an answer such as this, there needs to be one which best meets the nature of the question and in conjunction with the material about public visibility covered above, this is the one your researcher ties into the equation. When money has entered the economy from whatever sources during business fluctuations in the past, has there been a disparity between the increases in prices of capital and consumer goods? That alone is a subject which would take volumes to answer. In fact, it would take volumes just to cover the debate without any resolution coming about.

As far as the end of the question as to what distinguished the companies that did well during the Depression? They were the companies that kept their name in front of the public and created brand name recognition even during the worst of times.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE
http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=178334

SEARCHGoogle

TERMS
great depression, company growth great depression, great
depression success stories
, brand name awareness great depression,
advertising history, new industry great depression, benefits of
advertising

REFERENCES:

“America’s Great Depression – Causes and Cures” –
http://www.amatecon.com/gd/gdcandc.html

“H102 Lecture 19: The Great Depression and the New Deal” –
http://us.history.wisc.edu/hist102/lectures/lecture19.html
University of Wisconsin, Stanley K. Schultz, Professor of History

“Sliding into the Great Depression” –
http://econ161.berkeley.edu/TCEH/Slouch_Crash14.html – University of
California at Berkeley

“Great Myths of the Great Depression” –
http://www.uaca.ac.cr/acta/1998nov/lreed.htm – Universidad Aut noma de
Centro America

“Economic Surpluses” – http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/surplus.htm
– San Jose State University

“Accounting for the Great Depression” –
http:/www.stern.nyu.edu?~fperri/papers/account.pdf – a PDF file,
Acrobat Reader needed.

“Four Myths About America’s Great Depression” –
http://www.libertyhaven.com/theoreticalorphilosophicalissues/economichistory/fourmyths.html
– From Liberty Haven

“EAP Vocabulary – Exercise” –
http://www.uefap.co.uk/vocab/exercise/buscycl.htm – some interesting
information about capital goods and business cycles here but mostly in
a modified glossary format

“Creating Mass Culture” –
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/am485_98/graham/mass.html
University of Virginia

“The Visitor in Your Living Room: Radio Advertising in the 1930s” –
http://xroads.virginia.edu/~CLASS/am485_98/graham/visitor.html
University of Virginia

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Twitterers For Obama

Posted on October 28, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Social Media, Social Network, Twitter, viral marketing, Web 2.0 | Tags: , |

Twitterers For Obama

Twitterers For Obama

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The Next Internet “Craze”

Posted on August 8, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Social Media | Tags: , , , , , |

A recent post on Flackme.com wonders if Social Media has plateaued and what the next “craze” will be for public relations. I don’t claim to be an expert on PR, but do feel I’m a bit of an expert with online marketing tactics, having begun my career with Notepad, Photoshop 3 and a Prodigy account.

This was my response:

We’re seeing alot of people talking about Social Media being overhyped or just plain over. The thing is, SoMe is not a craze, it is a change in the way people communicate. The Internet was built to share information (anyone remember newsgroups?), for years it has been used by companies to sell TO or market AT consumers or other businesses. The web2.0 trend is the common sense evolution of the Internet. Services such as Facebook, Twitter, blogs, vcasts, have allowed users t take control of the medium and decide WHO, WHEN, WHERE and HOW they want to talk WITH others whether they are brands, friends or colleagues.
Calling it a craze or phase, is like calling equal rights a passing fade. It is a change in the mindset of the average person.

As for SoMe reaching a plateau, it’s not even close. Saturation hasn’t even set in, if you look at US user charts. 70% of those that use the Internet at all, use it daily. Only 13% of Internet users visit a SoNet, 11% read a blog, 16% watch a video, and 5% have a blog or upload their pictures.* Not only has usage just begun to grow, but it has just begun to make money.

Currently, companies are struggling to make sense of marketing through SoMe. Many companies don’t get the model that most of us familiar with social media think works. This is a big part of the problem. SoMe behavior is growing and changing at such a rapid pace that it has been difficult for anyone to come up standards of measurement, never mind success. And the concept around SoMe is just that “social”, which means conversation. Most companies and marketers are still looking to develop 2-6 month campaigns, which just don’t work. SoMe is about building relationships, something you can’t do in an elevator pitch, even if it includes widgets, apps, and wallpapers!

The next “craze” for the public relations, advertising/marketing, interactive, etc. is when we all learn how to engage SoMe in a way that will enhance our brand or our client’s brand so that we can monetize it! Most of the comments we see about SoMe being hype, a craze or as having a negative impact on brands, come from the frustration of not “getting it”. Many attempting to engage in SoMe are trying to attack it as they would any other media platform. The difference is that this one is new, and it is a game changer. It’s like trying to learn a non-latin language: it’s not just about the words but a completely different mindset and group of cultural references.

*PEW Internet Trends 7/22/08

By the way, cell phone usage in the U.S. should reach 100% saturation by 2013. It currently stands at 71% according to Forrester Research.

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Social Network: Users Not Welcome

Posted on July 21, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Boston, Michael Durwin, Social Network, Web 2.0 | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

I’ve recently discovered that I will soon be a father. I was recently a husband and previous to that a fiancee. At the beginning of this category-changing trip, I, along with my fiancee, decided to sign up for theKnot.com. It’s a great site, we found alot of helpful info there from photographers, to the ceremony site, to etiquette hints. I signed up partly to help my wife plan and make announcements, see links, etc. and partly out of curiosity as a creative director that does quite a bit of social network strategy development.

Once married we found that we had graduated to a sister site called theNest.com. Having lived in sin for so many years, it wasn’t the helpful to us. When we found out recently that we were expecting, I thought of theNest and decided to see what they had about new families. I discovered that theNest had a section called theNestBaby, soon to be theBump.com. What a brilliant business plan, a social network for every major step in your life.

So I started using theNestBaby to post our due date and to see what we could be expecting. No offense to the book What to Expect When You’re Expecting, but it doesn’t have a search engine! Today I visited theNestBaby to find that theBump.com had launched. I clicked on the link and found myself on the new site. It hadn’t changed from it’s previous incarnation except for one thing: I was no longer logged in. Ah, cookies, gotta love ’em right? Wrong.

I wasn’t logged in, simple enough, I’d log back in. Hmm… I couldn’t remember my password, of course. So I typed in my email and went over to my account to get my password. Oh yeah, that’s right. Returning to the site, I typed in my email and password: Your account is not active. Huh? I tried it again, and again. Same thing. Crap. How could it not be active if they just sent me my password? Well, maybe they’re not porting over login info. Excvept that it clearly says “Already a member of theKnot or theNest? Log in using your existing membership information.” Interesting, but not helpful.

So now I have to login all over again, assuming that they f@#$d up and lost some of theNest’s user info. What a site registration is. Name, email, password, okay. Address required? Really? “Deals, Events, Inside Scoop” Yeah! So much for hoping on to check off something on our checklist:

My email is already in use. No shit. But it’s not active. WTF!?

How is that going to get users in? Not only have they already lost my users info, but now I have to wait until tomorrow night to do anything? This is a use case scenario that I talk to my clients about all the time. They want tons of info, they want to approve every entry, they want to tie registration to advertising, even if it’s in the form of a “reward”, usually a percentage discount if you buy with a specific advertiser.

So, my first trip into the daddy-to-be social network did not come out so well. Hopefully I’ll feel better tomorrow night when I can sign in, unless I’ve already found the nursery furniture I wanted to see elsewhere, or found another site with a pregnancy checklist that doesn’t make me wait like I’m buying a handgun.

Well, in the meantime, I’m on to make next daddy-to-be adventure. I was thinking today that pregnancy often excludes soon to be fathers. We don’t get any attention, gifts, days off, and justifiably so. We’re not pushing a screaming bag of sugar out any of our orifices! I was trying to think of ways to still be involved, even helpfully so. A quick online search didn’t find too much. TheBump certainly didn’t have a section for fathers. So, I’ve decided to start a small site dedicated to helping fathers through pregnancy. I’ve bveen thinking of links content to include:

Links to helpful info
Recipes even a clumsy guy can easily make (I did bruchetta this evening and will post that recipe – 10 minutes!)
Smart home repairs to get out of the way
A forum for guys to ask advice dealing with cranky wives during the hot days of summe
Building baby furniture

Anything I can think of or that anyone wants to share is welcome. Reply to this blog, I’ll post a link to a new Ning site as soon as I have it set up.

Cheers, the wife is calling!

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BMW Shoots Viral Piece, Does it Hit or Miss?

Posted on June 25, 2008. Filed under: advertising, blog, Boston, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, DVD, Facebook, iPhone, Michael Durwin, movies, MySpace, new media, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Web 2.0, YouTube | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

BMW movie The Ramp

Earlier this year BMW launched a viral video to promote the launch of it’s new model in the U.S. The video was released as a documentary following the stories of a small Bavarian town named Oberpfaffelbachen. The town’s citizens include a stunt driver, over zealous police chief, event promoter and mayor, trying to save the town from hard financial times. They devise a promotion in which they will launch a 300 horse power BMW 1 Series from a 454 meter (1486.5 feet) ramp from Bavaria, across the Atlantic to the U.S. The town has created an entire festival around the event called Rampenfest. Towns folk are turning their houses into gift shops, town managers are tearing down forests for parking. I won’t give away the ending, but obviously something goes wrong. Not as dramatically as I’d hoped unfortunately.

The quality of the video is excellent, the acting, direction and effects (as subtle as the ramp, as obvious as the teeth) as good as a movie. The video has been seen by millions which can give BMW the opportunity to claim a positive impact, especially considering that it was shot overseas and cost far less than a U.S. 30 second spot. Was it successful? It’s hard to say.

As with any viral, guerilla or virtual advertising, it is hard to judge success. Many still talk about the negative impact of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force guerilla stunt, requiring a payout of 2 million to the city of Boston to cover lawsuits and the cost of our crack bomb squad (who apparently can’t tell the difference between a bomb and a light brite!). The press loves to bring up the GM (Chevy) Yukon promotion run on YouTube. Many people made anti-SUV ads from the audio and video clips GM posted in the make-you-own commercial promotion. This brings us to what determines success.

The GM promotion was considered a failure because of the thousands of ads that were created that shed a positive light on the Yukon, there were a few that were negative. But, is that a bad thing? Most people learn by making mistakes or being told they’re wrong. Negative feedback is just as important, if not more important than positive feedback. How will you know how to improve your product unless people tell you what they DON’T like about it? GM learned that there are alot of people that consider their giant SUV bad for the environment and a gas guzzler. If this prompts them to make eco-friendly, gas-conscious improvements to their vehicles, is that a bad thing for the company or the consumer?

And let’s not forget that with the launch of the BMW campaign, the GM promotion was brought up as a failure again. Really? The Chevy Yukon is mentioned in the press for another car manufacturer’s promotion and that’s a bad thing? Sounds like free press to me. Even when a guerilla or viral campaign can’t be measured in sales or doesn’t have quite the immediate impact a company would hope, there is always the fact that it will continue to keep the brand in the public’s conscience for months and years to come.

Brand visibility is the best way to consider whether or not your viral or guerilla campaign is effective. You can’t often track sales back to a campaign like this or even sign-ups. You may get a solid number of visits to your microsite, but when visitors pull down your video, or assets, or talk about it in their blog, it can be difficult to track especially since those co-opted branding placements end up living for months out of your control.

So, how successful will the BMW campaign be? Well, they millions of viewers at the moment. Add on a few million views of the video once people (like me) download the clip to their iPod/iPhone and show it around, upload it to their YouTube, MySpace, Facebook or blog accounts, hundreds of discussions of it in marketing or news related blogs (where I found it) and then it’s recurring mention every time another automaker or major corporation does a viral or guerilla campaign and it sounds like a success to me.

But BMW knows this. They were arguably one of the first to use viral video not just as a tool to sell cars but a way to engage consumers with their brand, and to redefine their brand as cool. I still have a DVD copy of the BMW Movies from the promotion in 2001. The shorts were directed by Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, John Woo, Tony Scott, John Frankenheimer and featured Forest Whitakker, Madonna, Clive Owen, Mickey Rourke and others. It received rave reviews at Cannes, from the New York Times, and Time magazine. They very successfully hit their middle-age, married, 150k/yr target.

The new spot however, at least in the words of Marketing VP Jack Pitney, was, rather than target a demographic, to target a psychographic. While most companies want to stick to categorizing their demographics by generation, age and finances, BMW is smart enough to know that they can pull an 8 year old boy and an 58 year old woman into their brand halo just by virtue of the fact that they may share common interests, like flashy cars, or mockumentaries.

Despite my feeling that this viral video may be a bit long for most viewers (35 minutes), I’m fairly certain that the folks at BMW will be pleased with the outcome. And I’m happy to help them broadcast their brand (even though I drive the “other” german car)!

Links:
Official Film Site

BMW Films Wikipedia

BMW Films Site (no videos here)

BMW Film “Star” (you can find the rest of the films here as well)

Digg submission where I first found out about the promotion

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Viewer Generated Politics

Posted on February 11, 2008. Filed under: advertising, Social Network, User Generated Content | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

<b>I</b> certainly don’t want to turn the Durwin Report into a personal or political blog but an interesting thing has happened in social media that relates to the current race for President that I thought would relate to the Durwin Report.

<b>M</b>any may remember the I’ve Got Crush On Obama girl. She created a video for a song she wrote about her crush on Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama. It was a big hit and got tons of press.

<b>F</b>ollowing the New Hampshire Primary Election, Senator Obama gave what one would have thought would be a concession speech, but instead became somewhat of a rallying cry. Musician/producer will.i.am of Black Eyed Peas fame was so inspired by the speech that he got a copy of the video, edited it, added background music and put the call out for celebrities to help sing/perform the song “Yes We Can”.

<b>A</b>mber Valletta, Ed Kowalczyk (Live), Eric Balfour, Common, John Legend, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Kelly Hu, Maya Rubin, Scarlett Johanson, Herbie Hancock and others joined will.i.am for the song. The song was posted to YouTube and other video sites on February 2. As of this morning (Feb 8th) it has had 5,335,574 views. Dozens of musicians are recording and posting their own versions and the video has found it’s way onto dozens of other video sites, and several news casts. The video on the original site (<a href=”http://www.dipdive.com”>dipdive.com</a&gt;) includes not only credits but embed code allowing users to put it on their Facebook, MySpace and other social network sites. The video is showing as the first piece of media you see on the Barack Obama website (<a href=”http://www.barackobama.com”>www.barackobama.com</a&gt;). The video has inspired supporters to begin a Yes We Can video chain of people from all walks of life posting videos to YouTube with the simple message “Yes We Can”.

<b>W</b>hat’s most interesting about this is not just how many views the video got, but how it has inspired so many people to post their own versions of the song or their own copy of the video file. It is being sent around in email, from cell phones, being carried around on iPods and passed out on CD. One comment on YouTube from someone in London, suggested that this song might make it to the pop charts or MTV’s TRL with NO major label distribution. Even with the popularity of consumer generated media and web video, it still is shocking to see both the political ad process and the music industry trumped by one musician inspired by one speech. Is it the power of the Internet, the power of the people or the power of Obama? We won’t likely know until November. What we do know is that more than ever, media is in the hands of the people. <b>I</b>f you’d like to see the video or hear the song you can go <a href=”http://www.eyeanimate.com”>here</a&gt; to download various file formats. The song is easy to find on YouTube or you can visit the original site, listed above.</p>

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Corporations Leave Second Life. We never knew you were there!

Posted on July 25, 2007. Filed under: advertising, American Apparel, Bank America, Burger King, Consumer Generated Content, consumer marketing, H&R Block, Lost, NBA, Sears, Second Life, Social Network, User Generated Content, viral marketing, Warcraft, Web 2.0, Web3.d, Wired Magazine |

I got a good laugh out of the recent Wired article stating that Second Life was officially over.
Many companies who tried to market themselves in Second Life failed and are now leaving. Coke, American Apparel, NBA, Sears, H&R Block, etc. (edit: Some of these companies aren’t leaving, just complaining that their real world strategies failed).

The problem with these companies is they try to market in it the same way they market in the real world. This is a virtual world that they know virtually nothing about. Why would an avatar want a Coke? Duh! There is no thirst in Second Life as their is no rain.

It amazes me that these companies look at a brand new technology and say, “let’s make money in it right away. If we build it they will come and spend.” Very few of the marketers who have delved into Second Life have engaged users. “Come drive my car”, okay but to get there I’m going to hop on my hovercraft or just fly. Once the novelty of driving your car for 5 minutes wears off, what else do you have to engage me? A chance to win a Pontiac to the person who creates the coolest concept car in Second Life? No? A Mercedes racing game? No? Oh, a free racing suit. Thanks. ALot of people talk about American Apparel closing it’s store. It may have been one of the first but it was also one of the worst. There was stage but no posting as to when fashions shows took place. AA clothes are for the most part non-descript. Why would it appeal to me to buy one of your plain t-shirts for my avatar? I have an alligator head and fairy wings! Not to mention that there was no staff at the store, no events, NOTHING of interest, oh, except the free 6 pack of beer on the desk (random).

One of the few real world entities that has a presence in Second Life that works is the L Word. Why? Because they’ve created locations from the set to hang out, they let Second Lifers sell their L Word-related merchandise their, they host events, there are greeters to meet you and answer questions. Second Life is a waste of time for most companies just like Bud.tv was. Why go to a web site just because it has the bud logo. What are they offering consumers? Why go to Coke Island or wherever? Because it’s Coke?

I’m surprised Burger King hasn’t tried to replicate their games or created new ones in SL. That would generate some interest. I’m further surprised that game companies don’t host mini, playable previews of their game environments there, or more record companies don’t do virtual artist shows, or tv shows (Hello Lost) put on spin off episodes, meet the cast, or tour the island events on. These are the kinds of companies that can benefit from Second Life. Bank America isn’t going to get people to use their ATM machines! What is H&R Block going to do in Second Life, help people with their virtual taxes?

As for Wired’s article above, it’s further sensationalist journalism. “Second Life is Officially Over” they say. Only 1 million visitors in the last 30 days. I’d bet there are alot of companies that would like that kind of turnout on their web site.

Second Life does herald the next generation of the Internet, only a fool can deny that. The thing is, not unlike early 90s web sites, it’s not ready to be an ecommerce tool. Brand awareness, generator, maybe. Possibility for consumer engagement? I’ve got news for you, consumers are in charge now and no place is that more apparent than in their own world.

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