The Gateway Recession: What’s Next?

25 06 2009

Essential reading from The Counterintuitive CEO Blog, whether you’re a CEO or not.  Thanks to my friend Mike Troiano of Crimson Hexagon for pointing this one out.

Here’s the deal. We’re at a portal between eras: what was, and what will be. We’re not talking about change.  We’re talking about CHANGE. There’s a difference.

portal

Key takeaways from the article:

1) Digital will be mandatory, not a choice. But you already knew this, or you wouldn’t be reading my blog.

2) Brand loyalty will be limited. The news from the recent CMO study already wasn’t good news. Can we afford for it to get worse? I don’t think so.

3) Customers will look very unfamiliar, as shown in the Forrester report, The State Of Consumers And Technology: Benchmark 2008.  You may not like it, and you may not understand it, but your customer is being changed by technology — and your customer will change your company.

4) The war for people will be intense. Now’s a smart time to hunker down and develop skills that will be worth fighting for.  Which side of the portal are you on: the past, or the future?

5) You will sell differently. Many traditional channels won’t survive in the new era — because the new consumer won’t pick them up or tune them in. You will have to reach customers in new ways — blogs, Facebook, Google, Twitter, and whatever supersedes them.

6) The way you innovated is dead. This is actually good news: the old way hadn’t worked anyway for a long time. Isn’t it a relief to know it’s not your fault?  :-)

Click here to read.





Alice.com: CPG E-Commerce Revolution?

25 06 2009

UPDATED NEW LINKS August 31, 2009

The mesmerizing promise of milk, Mallomars and maple syrup via modem is as old as the Internet itself.

alice_logoIt’s powerful, exciting stuff:  When I was a partner in the digital agency I founded, Brandscape,  we worked for a really smart Boston-based company called ShopLink.

It felt like we had a shot at changing the world. Or at least the pantry. (Hey, you gotta start somewhere).

But, ShopLink hit the same wall that most of the others hit: doing this right turns out to be a very expensive proposition.

Alice.com is different in a lot of ways. Specifically:

  1. It offers big-box (read “Wal-Mart”) prices and free shipping.
  2. It has a different business model than traditional e-tail. They take no markup. Instead, Alice.com collects a fee from CPG manufacturers for shipping products out, and passes customer data back to the manufacturer.
  3. Manufacturers set their own prices.
  4. They have signed on 5 of the top 10 CPG companies.

A Weiden + Kennedy blogger makes an interesting and smart point here about how “alice.com uses coupons to create value and urgency using three variables — number of personal uses each coupon afforded, the offer expiration data, and the remaining number of available uses for the offer”.

The iCPG Unofficial Alice.com Link Round-Up

Here’s a link round-up and some screen shots, for when your Boss strolls into your office and says “you’re totally on top of this Alice.com thing, right?”

Alice.Com Screen Shots

alice-shop

alice-add_610x484





Inattentional Blindness, aka “I Know Why The Banner Alien Dances”

22 06 2009

A brief history of advertising.

Stage I: “The Boredom Is Killing Me. I’ll Look At Anything.” It’s the early 20th century. Newspapers are a critical defense against the ennui of living in our one-horse towns. We’ll give our attention to anything.  Even if it’s just a baldness-fighting Hygienic Vacuum Cap.

baldness

Stage II: “I’m Beat. I Can’t Wait To Relax With Some TV.” It’s the midpoint of the 20th century. We’ve suffered two world wars and a Great Depression.  We’re sick of death, of dancing_cigarettescrisis, of worry. We don’t want the media to stimulate us anymore.

What do we want?

Escapism, entertainment, fantasy. Part of that is looking at ads for the good life, now that it’s here.

Hey look, there’s Milton Berle in a dress!  There’s a dancing Old Gold cigarette pack!

We’re not as eager to give away our attention, but advertisers can still grab us if they dance well.

Stage III: “Don’t Bug Me, I’m Doing Something.” It’s the early part of the 21st century. Unlike past media, the Internet is not just a “view” medium. It’s a “do” medium.

We can find anything, whether it’s how to install a floating modular water-resistant polyethylene subfloor system or the video of Auto-Tune the News where they sing about lettuce regulation.

dancing_alienI Know Why The Banner Alien Dances

This is why I find the dancing banner alien such a poignant figure. He’s the digital descendent of the dancing cigarette pack, begging for our attention.

But he has a sad, existential  fate.  The people he’s dancing for aren’t ignoring him. They literally can’t see him.

They have Inattentional Blindness.

Isn’t This Just A New Term For The Same Old Stuff?

Nope. This isn’t about advertising clutter (which apparently dates back to 1759)  or Steve Rubel’s Attention Crash.

Inattentional Blindness is a very real phenomenon discovered by psychologists Arien Mack, PhD, of the New School for Social Research, and the late Irvin Rock, PhD, of the University of California, Berkeley.  Mack and Rock’s experiments proved that people whose attention was focused on one thing often failed to notice an unexpected object, even when it appeared in the center of their field of vision.

“I came away from our studies convinced that there is no conscious perception without attention,” Mack says.

I believe Inattentional Blindness is a major factor in why ad clickthrough rates have plummeted near zero.  When we’re focused on finding something specific, we’re blind to everything else. And it doesn’t help that we all know exactly where the useless stuff (aka “banner ads”) lies on the page. The ads are — in every sense — peripheral to the task the user is trying to accomplish.

In that case you can forget “engagement” as a metric, kids. You can’t measure something that doesn’t exist.

Three Prescriptions To Fight Inattentional Blindness.

If Inattentional Blindness is indeed the problem, then IAB CEO Randall Rothenberg’s call for an Interactive Creative Revolution can get us only part of the way to where we need to be.  We’ll be doing far superior dances for an audience that remains stone blind.

Here are my three prescriptions:

1) Get In The Attentional Pathway In The Right Way: Quit Dancing And Help Somebody. If someone is focused on getting the latest sports score and you’re trying to advertise to him, dancing to get his attention won’t work. He’s blind, remember?

Instead, find ways to help him do what he’s trying to do. A simple logo next to the score he’s focused on is better than a complicated ad he’s blind to. Or sponsor enhanced stats. Get creative about how to help.

2) Advertise Where There’s FAB.  Marketing is choking on a glut of acronyms. But I can’t resist the urge to invent one more: FAB.

It stands for “Farting-Around Behavior”, and it’s a silly name for an important concept. Namely, it’s much easier to attract someone’s attention when they’re not doing anything important.

This, by the way, may explain why TV refuses to stay buried no matter how many headstones we put up, or books we write.  Maybe the reason TV isn’t dead is that it’s a nearly 100% FAB medium.

While there’s lots of highly-directed behavior online (see Google’s market cap if you doubt this), there’s also a ton of Farting Around Behavior. This is more politely known by its old name: web surfing: clicking around looking around for fun.

One of the most brilliant ideas for attracting FAB is my friend Jaffer Ali’s company, VidSense.  He offers an irresistable tray of possible video snacks to web surfers, and when they click they get the free snack plus an ad. When VidSense users click, they’re volunteering their attention. That’s unbelievably rare today, and worth checking out.

3) Remember That People Are Rarely Blind To Their Friends.  There’s a real role for Social Media in marketing. But, it’s part of the opportunity, not the whole thing. If a Social Media “expert” tells you TV is dead and Social Media is your only hope, put your hand on your wallet and back slowly away. You’re talking to someone who has Inattentional Blindness about how marketing really works.

Three Things To Think About

  1. A whole lot of the people you’re trying to attract online are suffering from Inattentional Blindness. They can’t see you, no matter how frantically you dance.
  2. To succeed, you’ve got to help them do what they’re doing, or find them when they’re not doing anything.
  3. If you can find them when they’re not anything, great.  But to Randall Rothenberg’s point, you’d better dance a whole lot better than you do today.

What do you think of my Inattentional Blindness theory? Does it hold water? Or, is there something obvious that I’m being blind to?

As always, I welcome your comments.





The Day The Media Died

5 06 2009

Have you heard “Mad Ave Blues” yet?

OK, the lyrics don’t scan quite as well as they could. And, for comedy, it’s kind of a sad song.

But if you’re in advertising or marketing or media, this should really hit home with you.  It did for me.





Back From Bombay

12 05 2009

Just flew back yesterday from a trip to Bombay (OK, today it’s actually Mumbai but what writer can resist alliteration in a headline?)

My first visit to India, and hopefully not my last. I shot this out the window of my car.

sari-scooter

On the flight to Mumbai. I read Robyn Meredith’s excellent “The Elephant and the Dragon: The Rise of India and China and What It Means for All of Us“. Highly recommended.

Here’s what I’ve been reading since I got back.

Is Cheerios a Drug?

Smart cause-related marketing from P&G and Pampers

BlogHer Releases Second Annual Women and Social Media Survey

Tyson Chicken and Social Media

Nielsen on CPG Trends For The Next Decade

You can see the rest of my Mumbai photos here, if you’re curious.





Marketing Analytics, AKA “Why Is Scarlett Johanssen Hot?”

22 04 2009

Today, everyone wants to know to the penny what’s driving results. Exactly how much incremental sales are we getting from this effort vs. that one?

But, you can’t prove any of this stuff. Neither can I.  What we can do, if we want to waste a whole lot of time and money, is highlight the data that “proves” whatever each of us has already decided beforehand is the right answer.

It’s like doing an analysis to understand why Scarlett Johanssen is hot.

scarlett1

As you can see from the photo above, she is indeed hot.  But, is her left eye contributing more to the overall impression than her right eye? Is it her feet, or her hands? Which toe or finger is driving the most movie sales? Let’s also look at what it does to concession sales, I want a breakdown by popcorn and by Twizzlers. Let’s break it down by neckline and jewelry – do her films gross more when she’s wearing a scoop neck and a pendant, or a v-neck with a diamond?

I’m not saying don’t measure anything. You need that data for direction. But I am saying that we can dig into this until there’s nothing left to dig, and at the end of all knowing… there will still be more questions.

Out in the real world beyond spreadsheets, everything influences everything. Scarlett is hot because she is.

Your TV influences your direct marketing results. You’ll never know exactly how much. The banners you ran will make some sales happen earlier than they would otherwise. You’ll never know exactly how much. The paid search you did last year will drive some percentage of your sales a year from now.

You’ll never know exactly how much. Or why. And it doesn’t matter. It’s a sucker bet.

The competitors who are beating the daylights out of you in the marketplace aren’t winning because their analytics are better than yours.

It’s because while you’re focusing on your spreadsheet, they’re focusing on your customers.





This Is A Stop Sign

9 03 2009

clarity

The more market research you read about the future of media, the more confused you’ll get.

According to a recent report from Netpop Research,  “Media Shifts to Social,” the percent of time people spend communicating online has increased 18% since 2006, while time spent on entertainment has declined 29%.

According to a recent report from Nielsen research, the average American television viewer is watching more than 151 hours of television per month — an “all-time” high — up from more than 145 hours during the same period the previous year, Nielsen said.

When all the signs point in different directions, in my opinion it’s time to stop and ask ourselves three questions:

Where do our customers want to go?

Where do we want to go?

What’s the best way for us to get there together?

Everything else is just press releases.








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