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6 posts from December 2009

12/16/2009 Charity begins online

With the holiday season comes the time of donating to charities. It's not surprising that we're starting to see this in different marketing guises. Two examples in the last week caught my eye. They're very different in many ways, but they both center on the idea of charity.

I received an email from Seth Godin's Triibe letting me know that Seth's had a new book out and that we had a chance to get the book three weeks ahead of the publication date. Now, I love getting (and reading) Seth Godin books. I have the milk carton from Purple Cow and the cereal box from Free Prize Inside on my shelf. My picture is one of the multitude on the inside cover of Triibes. So of course, I jumped all over this.

The catch was that I didn't have to pay for the book, per se. I had to donate $30 to the Acumen fund. Since it was a donation, I actually donated more. Seth's goal was to raise $100,000 for the fund, and get the book into the hands of his biggest fans.

Screen shot 2009-12-16 at 7.26.10 AM
Within two days, he had raised $108,000. And all of us get the book first. Win-Win.

Around the same time, Paypal, working with the great EVB, launched a site "Regift the Fruitcake." The fun idea is that no one wants to get the dreaded fruitcake for a gift. The upside is that instead of the fruitcake, you pick your favorite charity and get your friends to donate.  This all happens through social media, Facebook in particular.

Paypal provides the payment engine and gives away prizes each week. It looks like a great way to encourage people to donate to their favorite charities and to bring their friends and network along with them.

A week before Christmas, the Fruitcakes have collected close to $17,000. The biggest charity has raised a little over $2,000. There's probably a greater good will here, but it's not working as well as Seth's campaign. That might be for two reasons.

Screen shot 2009-12-16 at 7.55.56 AM

The first is that Seth targeted those of us who already were fans and had shone we'd plop down money for a book. But the fact that we get it first to review, instead of the journalists, was a free prize inside we couldn't resist.

With the Fruitcake, the person asking is a friend, not someone we look up to. And it's not clear what's in it for us, except that warm and fuzzy feeling.

Both are great ideas; don't get me wrong. But it's worth thinking about what makes great ideas work.
12/14/2009 Twitter Ponzi

I started using the site Twunfollow a few months back and since then I've seen evidence of what I call Ponzi schemes on Twitter.

Twunfollow sends you notices via e-mail any time anyone unfollows you on Twitter. I thought this would be a good listening tool to make sure I wasn't boring or driving off people I want to communicate with.

What I found instead showed that many, a majority actually, of my new followers unfollowed me in a day or two, especially if I didn't follow them back! Not that I mind that much, but these people didn't really care what I had to say at all.  Their choice. What I do mind is that there seems to be some type of unspoken pact of "you follow me, I'll follow you" going on.

And to be honest, I felt that way when I started with Twitter as well, especially with people in my own field. But the people following and unfollowing have nothing to do with my field and, in many instances, already have upwards of 20,000 followers.

I've realized that the name of this game is building huge Twitter followings. And that wouldn't bother me except for the fact that in this early stage of social media, following size is one of the key measures of influence. Just try any of free measurement tools; most say the same thing.

If we use followers to identify key influencers, the whole system breaks down. What's worse, I see many brands following the same Ponzi scheme, trying to grow their Facebook fans to 1,000 or 10,000 by screaming out "Join Us and Raise Our Numbers." What they find is that many people are not really their fans at all and don't really care about the brand.

If you're using social media to talk to people who don't care about you, you should either stop or buy television advertising.

I'm not sure what to do about the Twitter Ponzis. But they make the metric of followers and fans into a complete joke.
12/11/2009 Facebook is Not a Strategy

I was reading SEO.com's post about the Top 10 Internet Marketing Strategies of 2009 the other day and they repeated something I see a lot of these days. They mixed up strategies and tactics. Number two on their list includes channels like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Having a Facebook page is not a strategy.

One challenge I find with clients interested in increasing their digital marketing, especially with social media, is that they, like SEO.com, equate a digital strategy with  having a Facebook page. The intent is good but the thought process needs help.

Are you looking to allow people a better way to connect with your brand? Would you like to get more first hand feedback? Do you want to find ways you can help people spread word of mouth for your brand? Would you like a fairly inexpensive way to reward your customers with coupons, specials, or deals?

If so, then Facebook might be a good idea for you.

Do you have very vocal anti-brand groups? Are you afraid of negative criticism or have no internal mechanism for dealing with it? Does your company not really have that much to share, except for sales promotions? Do you have a lengthy and complicated response procedure?

If so, then Facebook might not be a good idea for you.

All of the tactics listed in the MarketingVox article could work great, if they match up well with your brand's objectives and strategies. If they don't match up and you move ahead without putting at least a little thought into what you're doing, you may spend too much time putting out internal and external fires and not enough time building the right kind of relationships.

We all want action, now. Usually, and especially when you spend marketing dollars, it's worth creating a thoughtful strategy first.
12/10/2009 Go Ogle has Droid Rage

Google launched Droid more than a month ago with a solid male-focused campaign including rockets blasting the earth. Maybe Google leading with machismo was a good idea for capturing some marketing share from Apple's iPhone. But now you have to wonder if Google hasn't gone over the line and is just plain homophobic.

The latest Droid TV spot takes clear aim at the iPhone, labeling it a "princess" phone. See below.

Google and Droid might be taking aim at another product, but they're certainly questioning everyone who uses an iPhone. According to Google, iPhones are for "girly men" (or girly girls for that matter) while real men use Droid. It's interesting to watch them break down the brand attributes as male or female

Can Do

Hmm. Actually these ads feel a lot like the ads for pickup trucks. When one of the truck brands added an extra step on the back, another brand labeled it the "man step." Only sissies use man steps, apparently. That is, when they're not using iPhones.

As Google tries to paint all of us iPhone users as pansies, you wonder if that stretches to iPod users as well. Why wouldn't it? The question is: How many Google engineers have iPods or even iPhones for that matter? It used to be that the challenge was to show that tech people weren't nerds but were kind of cool. Now, cool is for wimps. Now techies eat raw meat!

You kind of wonder what's coming next? Maybe Google/Droid will use Dick Cheney as its macho spokesman. Not only does he shoot old men in the face but also without technology, his heart would stop beating. In some way, he is a droid.

If Dick won't do it, maybe Droid could poach the iMac ads and use Patrick Warburton who played Puddy on Seinfeld. I'm thinking of the episode "The Face Painter" where the guys paint themselves to go to a hockey game. Puddy scares a priest to death by screaming "The Devils! Haaaa!!" Just change it to "Droid! Haaa!" and you may have a winner.


And once Google has manhandled Apple, you know what's coming next, right? Microsoft's Bing. Bing! You can already imagine the hockey metaphor. The LADY Bing Award for sportsmanship in hockey is like the search engine Bing. Tame and soft.  But real hockey, like real search, is about tripping, slashing and elbowing. Real hockey, like Google, is about fighting and losing your teeth! Hockey without violence is, well, it sounds almost European. Ah the possibilities.

Actually, I don't think the TV ads do enough for Droid. After all they're still only TV ads. No, what Droid needs are some real hardware extensions for real men, to really distinguish them from the iPhone girly men. Here are some suggestions.

Bottle Opener - To save Real Men's teeth or eye sockets, Droid should build in a bottle opener into every phone. Then they could do co-promotions with Budweiser. Oops, I meant an American beer.

Weaponize Droid - The Droid is pretty harmless actually. It needs some type of weapon in it. Maybe Google could create the Droid Shiv, with a little stiletto that pops out.  A derringer would be another cool idea. Somehow, both of those ideas seem a little wimpy. Both stiletto and derringer sound too foreign. Google should bring in the NRA into one of the vaunted Google Labs to figure that one out fast.

Inflatable Droid - How about a Droid that inflates to one of those sex dolls? Apparently they now have motors at all of the orifices. If Google could figure out a way to do Droid voice control it would give Droid Men amazing power and control. Things they don't have in real life. It wouldn't do a Droid vibrator though, since there's already an app for that. (Of course!)

With those three things, the Droid becomes more than a phone. It becomes a real man's survival tool! Wimps, sissies and princesses need not apply thank you very much. You can wuss out with your iPhones.

Maybe Google really does have Droid Rage.

12/04/2009 Foursquare, local business, and Twitter

A funny thing happened a few weeks ago. I was at my new favorite bakery and café August First  where I usually go to do some work or to meet with my business colleagues. August First opened in, well, August and since then has actively participated in social media via Facebook and Twitter. Burlington Tweeps have held two Tweetups there and the place is rocking.

Every time I go there I check in via Foursquare to let people know I'm there. I'm currently battling it out with Lou McKenna over mayorship. I also rave about their breads, especially the Kalamata Olive bread that my daughter and I now are addicted to.

Well, a while back I started getting tweets from friends that looked like this:
Screen shot 2009-12-03 at 3.29.48 PM
What August First did was pay attention to the Twitter chatter and then reward me for it. But they didn't tell me, they put the message out and let others Tweet about it. Talk about tapping into the power of the community!

I think this is a great, smart use of social media and shows the potential of what location based services like Foursquare could mean for local businesses. August First used classic steps in social media:
  • They listened to what was happening on social media
  • They were generous in that they gave back instead of continually asking for something
  • They let the community do their work for them
  • It was fun

Of course, part of the fun was that everyone who saw this little picture below first thought I was passing bad checks ;-) And this was only a little example. Wait until some leverages this location based technology in a big way.


12/01/2009 Are You a Responsible Marketer?

I read an article this weekend by Paco Underhill, author of "Why We Buy" and "Call of the Mall" in which he wrote about our (U.S.) changing retail culture. I'm a big fan of Paco's and I used to buy his "Why We Buy" book for all of my colleagues. I think it's one of the very best books aimed at understanding consumers.

In his article Underhill points out two somewhat distressing trends. The first is that our past culture of vehement consumer spending is over and that our addiction to retail is going through a painful withdrawal and treatment phase. That habit will not come back soon. The second is that the decline in spending combined with the bonanza of online information means that stores need fewer and fewer sales people. Why talk to someone when you can look up 3rd party reviews in an instant on your phone? Of course fewer jobs mean even less spending power, etc., etc.


All this got me thinking: What responsibilities do we marketers have in all of this? You'd think that with fewer goods sold, we'd have fewer marketers but the opposite seems to be true. There seems to be more marketers than ever right now, thanks to the digital revolution. Do more marketers actually make the system more efficient, rather than relying on fewer more expensive options?

The bigger question, though, is if people spend less, and there are fewer of them who even have money to spend, does that impact what we marketers do, which is in essence try to increase sales? One way to answer this is that the plethora of marketers now aims to make sales costs more efficient through targeted digital media. I don't know if that's completely true, but it could be.

Do we ever accept the fact that people will buy less and encourage them to do so? The only time I remember doing this was when I did work for the utility Green Mountain Power. We built some very good interactive tools to help people lower their electric bills. You'd think that would mean less money for the utility, but the reality was that if they could keep peak energy use down, they'd be more profitable, not less.

I'm sure not many of us are having this conversation with our clients, though. And if we did, what would we say? If we say, "You have to market to lower profits," our clients might simply show us the door.

Efficiency, especially around digital, is a great place to start. It will hurt the marketing big guys and help the marketing people taking risks.  But it doesn't answer the question of how what we do digitally may, in and of itself, be part of the job-loss problem.

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