Tag Archives: marketing

The Best; Then There’s The Rest

One of the classic methods of marketing centers around the idea of bundling; i.e. getting people to pay for lower-quality merchandise by pushing sheer quantity over quality. This strategy isn’t always successful, but when it works it can work brilliantly.

When I was a teenager growing up in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, music was sold via vinyl records. The “hit” songs were played on the radio, thus creating artist familiarity and product demand. Radio stations of the day would sometimes play the “B” side of the record but most often they only played the “hits.” In other words, they weren’t playing the “misses” on the radio.

In a stroke of marketing genius, however, someone somewhere got the idea to bundle the musical misses and missteps on the “B” side of the vinyl records. When 33-RPM records came along, this trend was amplified because there was more room than ever. Make consumers think they were buying not only the artist’s latest hits, but throw that filler material in there too. Sometimes with certain artists the filler material could be brilliant too. However, most of the time it was just filler material.

This strategy mostly worked until digital recording and playback techniques, combined with the Internet, caused massive changes in the way people manufactured, discovered, marketed, and purchased music. For a variety of reasons, today people tend to only want to buy what they consider to be the very best “hits” from services such as iTunes, and there’s little to no market for the “filler” misses.

The same marketing concept has been used via bundling to get people to pay for “filler” cable TV channels. Want a “good” channel such as Discovery, TLC, or History? Sorry sir, that sandwich only comes with pickles, mustard and horse radish – take it or leave it.

What consumers often fail to realize is that substantial portions of their cable TV and/or satellite bills are paid directly to bundled channel providers that they probably never watch. Bundled mediocrity gets rewarded.

Why are you mindlessly paying good money for bundled channels you probably don’t know the names of? Stop rewarding bundled mediocrity. Turn off your cable or satellite subscription. I promise you – your heart won’t suddenly stop beating. The world won’t suddenly come to an end.

Code of Practice for Privacy Protection

The UK’s Information Commissioner’s Office has published a pair of  guides about holding personal information online.  The first guide is a Code of Practice aimed at organisations, particularly, those that sell goods and services over the web and is to help them understand the data protection law and develop good practice.  The second is for individuals and is Protecting Your Personal Information Online.

The Information Commissioner’s Office is an independent body setup to promote and police the UK’s information legislation including the Data Protection Act and the Freedom of Information Act.

The new Code of Practice has several sections including how the law applies, how to operate internationally, individuals’ rights and pitfalls to avoid.  It also includes a number of special cases, e.g. when dealing with children.

The personal guide provides information on protecting your personal info and identity, online scams, cookies, browser settings and social networks.  Definitely worth a read, even if you are not UK-based.  It’s all good sensible stuff.

What’s been stirring the media is that for the first time the ICO has commented on “behavioural marketing”, i.e. adverts are tailored to your browsing activity.  There had been some debate about the legality of this but as long as its clear what is going on and the person can opt out, there’s no problem.  There’s more information on behavioural marketing here.

Regardless of whether you are in the UK or elsewhere or whether you are a supplier or a customer, it’s worth giving both guides a browse.

Will You Survive The Coming Changes?

Get ready for a world where everything is on demand and à la carte. Traditional broadcasting is going to change whether it wants to or not. Marketing will be forced to change in profound ways. As a result, content-making will also go through a major metamorphosis.

Marketing and traditional broadcasting have long had an interesting relationship that has had a potentially detrimental effect on the quality and quantity of available content. Television in particular has long been known as “a vast wasteland.” If one thinks about how this lowest-common-denominator programming can exist, the realization emerges that anxious, aggressive television advertisers have often been willing to sponsor junk programming content to capture passive viewers. In the pre-Internet world of broadcast TV, people would surf channels in order to find what was often the least-boring programming. Also because of the hypnotic potential of this type of TV watching, many viewers were willing to sit in front of virtually any programming without really caring about what they were watching, using TV viewing itself as a sort of nightly drug. Marketing messages get programmed into viewer’s brains, but more importantly using this type of passive TV viewing as a drug has definite detrimental side effects to both the individual, the family unit, and society at large.

After a few months of agonizing, I recently cancelled my Dish Network account. I was already a Netflix customer and was watching more stuff from Netflix than I was from Dish Network, so it has been a remarkably easy transition.

There are differences. One of the differences is that I’m now forced to choose what I want to watch when I want to watch TV. Being forced to choose necessarily forces me to choose something I find personally interesting. The net effect is I’m making a conscious choice of my television influences. Of course, another difference is that streamed Netflix content has no ads.

Hulu.Com offers streaming content with ads, and recently started offering an inexpensive monthly premium streaming content option, which also has the added benefit of vastly expanding the list of devices they will stream to beyond the desktop/laptop computer to include media extenders and cell phones. Like Craig’s List cannibalized the local newspaper ad business, Hulu.Com and similar emerging streaming services are going to further cannibalize the now-breaking and broken broadcast TV model. I say this not to blame Hulu and other services as I believe this push for choice has been well underway for a long time and these emerging streaming services are simply accelerating it.

The ad-supported content will be forced to change because the programming must be appealing-enough to consumers to get them to choose the particular content. Non-ad supported content will continue to have a market but will be forced to appeal just the same to induce consumers to choose that content.

Consumers, Brands and Social Networks

If you are retailer and want to build your brand, social networks are where you need to be, says IDC in a new report.  According to it, Web 2.0 is creating opportunities for competitive advantage with the top 10 social networks having over 1.3 billion members.  Yes, there’s plenty of people who live on more than one network but that’s still a pretty big number.

IDC says, “Social networks, blogs, price comparison Web sites, and the likes can all be used by retailers of all kinds and sizes to attract and influence customers, to study demand patterns, to improve brand reputation, and, finally, to provide customer support.”  I’d certainly agreed with the latter – I think we’ve all heard the stories about certain companies responding to individuals who have tweeted about problems they’ve had with products.

It also notes that the social networks are a great source of information about customers and what they’re saying about products, whether it’s the retailer’s or a competitors.  For those of us in the space, this isn’t exactly news but for companies looking in and wanting to get value out of their investment, this is going to be important.

Obviously, it’s taking time but if the big consultancies are now able to produce reports with hard data regarding the benefits of social media, the money will start coming into the social / new media and out of traditional media.

The full report costs money but you can read the press release for free.

Apple, What Are You Up To?

appleWord comes today that Apple has applied for a patent for an “enforcement routine” that will force viewers to see commercials on various devices. And when I say force, I truly mean force.

The patent application indicates that the forced-advertisement will freeze a device until you indicate that you’ve actually read/responded to the ad (through the use of clicking a box or answering a test question). This technology would work on any device with a screen, including televisions, computers, media devices, cell phones, etc. The ads can appear at any time while the device is being used.

What the patent application calls the “enforcement routine” involves administering periodic tests of the user, like displaying a pop-up box within the ad, requiring a response (a button that must be pressed within five seconds before disappearing) to confirm that the user is paying attention.

These tests then become progressively more aggressive and difficult to confirm if a user has failed a previous test. The response box can be made smaller and smaller, requiring more concentration from the user to find and press to confirm they are reading/responding to the advertisement. There may be a need to press various keyboard combinations, enter a date, or type in the name of the advertiser as commanded, to demonstrate that the user is paying attention.

Of course, Apple does not think this is nefarious in any way. They are saying that having this type of forced advertising would allow devices to be sold for lower prices or even be given for free, and that to avoid the advertising, simply paying a fee should free up your device from the forced advertising.

This whole thing feels like a 180 turn from Apple’s usual business practices, at least in my mind. It certainly doesn’t endear me to Apple products and services, that’s for sure. What Apple, and many other businesses, fail to accept and embrace is that the business model is changing. This type of George Orwellian behavior is not appreciated nor desired by users. I have seen plenty of intrusive “free” services that only frustrate me and keep me from using them in the first place (“free wifi” in the airport, anyone?).

If you want me to “see” advertising, then make it compelling. Make me want to watch it. But the minute you start forcing me to watch it, you can almost guarantee that I won’t be buying whatever that product is. Like an elephant, I have a very long memory, and I will not forget. That can’t bode well for any advertiser’s long-term future.

AT&T Now has the Power to crush Vonage and Others!

I have been very outspoken in recent past about AT&T’s growth, primarily the BellSouth merger. While I cannot do anything about that merger except grumble internally, I can keep my eye on the anti-competitive actions of large companies. If the Internet had not evolved the way it has I would almost be willing to call AT&T a monopoly again. But in the true definition of the word I don’t think they can be classified as that.

But they are big and they own a heck of a lot of real estate both in the hard wired world and in the wireless world so an announcement today to allow customers of AT&T Long Distance that also have Cingular wireless service to talk free is what I would consider a major first strike against the VOIP operators such as Vonage.

If Vonage was smart they would start inking deals with companies like Verizon and Sprint to stay competitive. This move by AT&T is a smart one and how would not want to eliminate all of there Long Distance charges. The question is which of the remaining land line carriers will be the first to broker deals with companies like Vonage and cellular carriers to swing the entire marketplace so that all land line long distance is free so long as you are connected with partner companies. thevoipgirl.com

Whose Website Is It, Anyway?

Glitzy graphics showcasing this year’s latest technological developments, surveys and questionnaires supported by product literature designed to help prospects select the models that best fit their needs or technical support FAQs and repair diagrams that facilitate self-repair and minimize the number of request for telephone and onsite technical service: which of these services is the focus of the company’s website? Maybe, all three?

Earlier this year, Jupiter Research, a division of Jupitermedia Corporation, reported, “Often there is neither an incentive for [business] units to work together to accommodate each other’s objectives, nor a governance mechanism to maximize the overall value of the Web site as a corporate asset.” “The Web [site] represents a confluence among different part so the company,” Says David Schatsky, Jupiter Research senior vice president and the author of the report.

One of my graduate business students is a senior at a well-known international travel services company. He is responsible for the proper handling of millions of dollars in corporate travel arrangements each year. During an e-business management class this year he described the company’s plan to incorporate a marketing effort designed to develop personal travel management services into the same website that currently serves only corporate clients. The chance for success in the new effort seems slight, at best, and the opportunity for incurring damage to the company’s primary niche is amply clear. So, why would a team of experienced marketers make such an obvious blunder?

The answer is more obvious than you may imagine.

When departments compete for clients’ attention, the overall corporate message can become muddled. Multiple, sometimes competing, messages are presented via single website that confuses the clients and creates an improper public image for the organization. Worse, clients may leave (both the website and corporate account) and encourage others to do the same.

Companies must be clear, from the outset, about the goal and expected outcome of the website. It is vital that clarity and buy-in from all stakeholders is created at each of the three major phases of website development: conception, design, and rollout. Senior leadership must participate in or delegate full authority to representatives who participate in the concept development and formative design processes. Cross-departmental coordination, focusing on fundamental needs and expectations, is most likely to ensure a final website product that, rather than seeming a Rube Goldberg invention, is actually a clearly-presented and crisp display of information that becomes a properly functioning business tool and creates significant return on investment.

Call for Comments
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Jupiter Research