Apple

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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Live Earth Not Live on iPhone

Posted on July 7, 2007. Filed under: advertising, Apple, Duran Duran, Flash, Geri Halliwell, iPhone, Live Earth, Microsoft, President Al Gore, Quicktime, YouTube |

Once again my mind is boggled by Apple’s failure to include Flash on the iPhone. I’ll be out and about all day and was hoping to catch some of the Live Earth music festival today. No luck. Whether it’s the sponsors’ (which include Microsoft) fault for using Flash for so many of the more important navigational elements without a non-Flash alternative or iPhone’s failure to include a 10 year old plugin is enough cause for debate. What I’m most shocked by now is that once I was able to navigate to a non-Flash, non-Internet Explorer page that actually broadcast the show, I checked to make sure it wasn’t Flash. To my surprise it was not. It was good old streaming Quicktime. An odd choice for a show sponsored by Microsoft. I guess they know their target audience. So, I copied the address to put on the iPhone. After all, there has been much talk about YouTube re-encoding their videos into the H.264 compression format for Quicktime. I can see those videos on my iPhone so it should be a cinch to watch these videos right? Oh, Snap! I get a broken plugin icon. What the hell?! So the Apple iPhone that is supposed to give you the real Internet, not a watered down version of the Internet, from the company that created Quicktime, can’t play a Quicktime video in their own browser?!
Wow.
This could have been a great publicity tool for Apple. Imagine allowing folks all over the country to take Live Earth with them wherever they go.
“I’ve got a better idea. Let’s not.” they must have said.
I’m not happy. While it seems like Apple put alot of thought into this phone, it’s almost as if a fw dcisions were made by interns while evryone else was on a lunch break.
Shame on Apple for not being able to support even their own products!
They could have even worked it out through YouTube. Did they? Of course not. A search for Live Earth on the built in YouTube widget (since youtube.com doesn’t work due to a, you guessed it, lack of Flsh plugin) reveals ovr a dozen videos, none of which have anything to do with Live Earth except for a promo from President Gore.
Shameful!
By the way, as I write this, I’m in front of my Apple G5 watching the ever beautiful Geri Halliwell introduce Duran Duran, who sounds amazing.

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My First iBlog

Posted on June 30, 2007. Filed under: Apple, blog, Browser incompatibility, iBlog, iPhone, Safari, WordPress |

I’m happy to report that the Apple iPhone is currently living up to it’s promise in my hot little hands. I’m only typing a little slower than usual because I’m only using on hand.
This phone is unbeatable. But it’s 2:45am so you’ll have to wait until morning.
p.s. WordPress needs to fix the image upload feature for Safari. It doesn’t work. Otherwise I’d be able to add a picture to this iblog to show more functionality. Fortunately this is a WordPress issue, not an iPhone issue!

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Good TV: Good bye or a Bad Buy

Posted on June 29, 2007. Filed under: 50 Cent, advertising, Apple, Battlestar Galactica, blog, Boston, Britney Spears, broadcast, Cat Deeley, CDs, Chris Isaac, Debbie Allen, Heroes, Jessi, Lauren, Mary Murphy, Michael Durwin, NBC, Nigel Lythgoe, NIN, Nine Inch Nails, NSYNC, Pasha, Sci Fi Channel, So You Think You Can Dance, Star Trek, Star Trek: The Next Generation, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, The X-Files, Tori Amos, tv ad, User Generated Content |

Tonight was a night of goodbyes. Many of us said goodbye to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip before we even got to know the characters. I’ve commented elsewhere on NBC’s decision to cancel this fabulous show. I don’t get it.
Another how with a goodbye was So You Think You Can Dance. My wife got me into this show and I’m a bit hooked. It’s your basic competition like American Idol or Top Chef without the nasty behavior. Dancers are paired off in couples and perform a different type of dance each week. The public is allowed to vote and the bottom 3 couples each have to dance solos to stay in the competition. Judges choose one male and one female to drop from the competition based on their solo performance. Last week, just prior to her performance Jessi collapsed and was taken to the hospital. Her partner Pasha dances with his instructor’s assistant. Because Jessi missed her performance she must automatically dance a solo along with those in the bottom 3. Follow me so far? Turns out she was fine, some heart trouble due to dehydration.
Every show opens with the entire cast doing a routine. So Jessi performs in this routine. Then, so the audience, can see how Jessi and Pasha’s dance should have looked, they perform their number. Then all of the bottom 6 dancers, 3 couples do their solo, in addition to Jessi’s 3rd dance of the night.
Now, I’m no dance expert but it is clear to see who has a better performance. The judges tell all 4 female dancers that they were sub par, singling out Lauren for taking 15 seconds out of her 30 second routine to walk onto the stage and take her jacket off before dancing. Then Nigel abruptly tells Jessi she’s out. No explaination whatsoever, no feedback and apparently it was not a unanymous decision. I’m interested to know who wanted to keep her. My guess is Debbie Allen, dancing instructor extraordinaire. It was a 2-1 vote. I’m guessing that Nigel, the show’s producer and his employee Mary voted to kick her off to save themselves from liability.

You might wonder what the hell I’m doing talking about areality show about dancing, on Fox no less and Studio 60. The two have something in common. The networks made a mistake and will pay for it.

I’m usually someone who is very biased against the music industry. I think they waste too many of our airwaves shoving talentless hip hop thugs and pop princesses down our throat with cotton candy crap they we won’t remember past their two hits. But for every half dozen Britneys and 50s their are artists with substance like NIN or Tori Amos. Artists like these are hardly everyone’s cup of tea. Compared to someone like NSYNC they have a relatively small following. Unlike NSYNC and other flash in th epan bands they have a loyal following. I’m not talking about screaming fans that have riots outside hotel rooms, but fans that will continue to buy their music for decades. One hit wonders subsidize the cost of keeping artists like Chris Isaac who consistently puts out great, but not chart topping records.

If the music industry followed the TV model, all you’d have is one hit wonders and the hoodlum of the week. You’d see one, maybe two records and that’s it. You might even just hear a single and never see an album release.

There was a time when the networks would keep a show on long enough for it to come into it’s own. If Star Trek: The Next Generation was put on the air today, it would be lucky to last the season. It took years for that show to mature and to generate a large audience, but once it did, the momentum was enough to support several movies and 3 more series.

That’s not to say that every show should be on for 7-10 years. Another one of my favorites, Battlestar Galactica, despite being a sci-fi show, has shown amazing writing and character development. Like very early NYPD Blue in space. It started with a mini series to see if there was enough interest, then launched into a full-fledged series. Season 3 finished recently. Season 4 will be coming, if rumors serve, in late 2007. This will include a spin-off prequal 2 hour tv movie, then back to the original storyline for 22 episodes rather than the usual 13. If these last bits of information aren’t strange enough, the show also announced that this would be the last season. Shutting a show down after 4 seasons isn’ odd. What is odd is that the show is at the top of it’s game. The producers merely felt that, rather than drag the show on, lose it’s stars and viewers like the X-Files, they would take an extended break and wrap the series up with a bang.

But this is far out of the ordinairy for networks. Some shows barely make it through the first season before they are axed. Networks don’t dont nurture shows any longer. They shove them out of the nest. If the show flies right away, such as Heroes, they’ll let it go on. If it doexn’t attract the key demographic within a few weeks it’s the axe.

What they are missing though is that as consumers/viewers become more fragmented and more demanding, with more choices, neworks will find that they have fewer and fewer shows that have global appeal. They, like other businesses, will find that they’ll need to cater to ever more, yet smaller groups who will expect the same quality. What that means is more money per viewer. Networks won’t have a choice, the people are in charge now and if networks don’t get that, they’re going to be in trouble. There are alot of other distractions out there besides TV.

This brings me back to Studio 60 and So You Think You Can Dance. NBC had a great show right out of the box. Granted it didn’t appeal to everyone, but it did appeal to a good sized niche market that weren’t avid TV watchers, that were somewhat older, more affluent. Sounds like a good crowd to sell commercials too huh? Obviously it didn’t sound good enough to NBC. Besides outcries and petitions, it will be hard to judge how taking away that audiences favorite show will effect NBC.

So You Think You Can Dance might not be so lucky. Viewers were supposed to help choose the winner, but were left out of last night’s choice. I think there will be a major viewership change because of this. You can’t tell viewers that they are responsible for picking the bottom 3 and then have the judges through a fan favorite under the buss unceremoniously without expecting a backlash. I hope someone makes the numbers public on this one.

Enough TV talk from me. Chances are all I’ll be doing for the rest of the summer is watching Battlestar Galactica reruns on my iPhone. I’m off to line up at my local Boston Apple store at lunch time today. Wish me luck.

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apple/hillary video

Posted on March 23, 2007. Filed under: Apple, Barak Obama, Blue State Digital, Freedom of Speech, Hillary Clinton, Phil de Vellis, U.S. Constitution |

I was sad to see that someone recently lost their job because they expressed themselves. Phil de Vellis, formerly of Blue State Digital, a political interactive consultancy company, was outed as the creator of the Apple/Hillary – Big Brother video that created such as stir on YouTube. de Vellis “resigned” his job with the company who does work for the Obama campaign, but I’m pretty sure he was given the choice to resign or be fired. This is a man who, on his own time with his own equipment, posted a video of his own conception to express his support for the Obama campaign. Because his company is affiliated with Obama’s campaign he was forced to resign. It’s not like Apple was suing for use of their video!


The Internet allows people all over the world to enjoy the freedom of expression that we take for granted but are Constitutionally guaranteed in the U.S. Unfortunately no one had the guts to say that while they were not affiliated with the ad that they not only support de Vellis’ right to express him self which is guaranteed by law, but that they applaud him for taking the initiative to take a stand for his candidate.


This is user generated content and it’s also Freedom of Speech. If you’re not used to it after 220 years you better get used to it soon.


I’m quite disturbed to see how a U.S. citizen exercizing their right to Freedom of Speech in their personal life is treated by a political candidate. John Edwards recently let go 2 bloggers working for him because he didn’t agree with what they had to say in their off time. So I guess John Edwards doesn’t believe in honesty, Freedom of Speech and allowing his employees to have a personal life.


I hope Obama feels differently.

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