Showing posts with label Demographics. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Demographics. Show all posts

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Teens' New Sharing Options Should Concern Parents and Marketers

As we explored in yesterday's blog post, despite the loud and frequent claims to the contrary, all evidence thus far suggests teens are still using Facebook. There is, however, a new teen trend that will be of interest to marketers and parents alike: Kids are broadening the services and applications they use to communicate. If you thought sharing on Facebook might be dangerous for kids, then you really will not like some of the reports about this new breed of mobile sharing and communication tools.

To see the potential marketing issues with these new and untested platforms, let's first start with some information that may raise a few alarms with parents. I keep hearing from people who think their kids are abandoning Facebook for Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram. This may be true to some extent, but kids are also spending time with newer sharing services of which, I suspect, many parents are unaware. Last weekend, I saw a series of unsettling news reports involving platforms such as Whatsapp, Snapchat, ask.fm, Kik, Voxer and Pheed. If most of these applications are new to you, read on (but be prepared for some disturbing information). 

Source: Radio Free Europe
The first news item, while not specifically related to teens, demonstrates just how much sharing is happening away from the big social networks. A video is being circulated on Whatsapp of a gay Russian man being brutally sexually assaulted, and Radio Free Europe reports, "Viewers on WhatsApp overwhelmingly praised the violence as a well-deserved punishment." If you assume WhatsApp is some tiny, niche service, you will be surprised to learn it has more users than Twitter. WhatsApp already has 300 million monthly active users who send 11 billion messages and receive 20 billion messages per day. Although it is most popular in Latin America and Asia, WhatsApp is approaching Facebook Messenger in popularity here in the US--Onavo Insights reports the reach of WhatsApp among iPhone users in the US is 9% compared to Facebook Messenger's 12%.

The second sad news report this past weekend was about a beating that occurred over explicit photos shared with a teen girl via Snapchat. Chances are most parents know about Snapchat, which has gained infamy in recent years for sexting. The service allows users to share photos and videos which (theoretically) can be permanently deleted from recipients' phones and Snapchat servers after a predetermined period of time. In the latest of a series of disturbing news stories about Snapchat, a 15-year-old boy was beaten confronting a fellow 15-year-old boy who sent an explicit photo to his 13-year-old sister.

Source: Brian Blanco for The New York Times
The most heartbreaking news report I saw last weekend was about a 12-year-old girl who committed suicide after being cyberbullied. The bullying started at Rebecca Ann Sedwick's school and on Facebook, but when her mother shut down Rebecca's Facebook page, the girl gravitated to new social and mobile apps such as ask.fm, Kik and Voxer. It is there she received messages such as “Why are you still alive?,” “You’re ugly,” and “Can u die please?” Rebecca's mother thought she had taken the steps necessary to monitor and protect her daughter, but the girl jumped to her death from an abandoned cement plant near her home in Florida.

Rebecca is tragically not an isolated case--cyberbullying on Ask.fm has been associated with the suicides of at least four other teens. Meanwhile, children's use of Kik has become so common and troublesome that the Indianapolis Metro Police has issued a warning about the application and school districts are banning Kik from kids' iPads

Many parents may feel secure that they can monitor their children on Facebook, but it is possible kids are interacting with others on applications that have far fewer controls and safeguards. I am a social business professional, not a parenting expert, so I will not offer advice; instead, I will caution parents about the growth of teen sharing using new apps and furnish some helpful links with guidance for parents on monitoring and talking with your kids about their digital and social behaviors:
As for marketers, there is good reason to proceed into these new platforms with great caution. Some brands have launched marketing campaigns on Ask.fm, but several, including Vodafone, Laura Ashley and Save the Children, pulled ads from the service in response to the suicides and cyberbullying. Snapchat has also seen some marketing experiments, although Adweek recently noted, "It’s too soon to tell if the pitches are working." Early adopters include Taco Bell, which is using the platform to launch new products, and clothing company Karmaloop, which is embracing Snapchat's reputation with risque photos of its own.

Time will tell if Ask.fm, Snapchat and other similar services are appropriate and successful channels for marketing, but most brands ought to stay on the sideline for the time being. It will be very easy for parents, educators and child advocates to associate brands on these services with bullying, sexting and predators, and I predict more calls for boycotts and brand shaming will occur in the coming year or two.

While the anything-goes nature of these new services is part of their appeal, watch for these companies to start cleaning up their act to attract more brand dollars. Ask.fm has already committed to taking steps to increase safety on the service and recently launched a button to report bullying. In time, Ask.fm and other mobile apps could prove themselves a reliable and safe place for reputable brands, but that time is not now.

Safe socializing, everyone! 

Monday, September 16, 2013

Teens Are Not Leaving Facebook

Kids are leaving Facebook. You know it, your kids know it, marketers know it. So, let me present all of the evidence as of September 2013 that teens are abandoning Facebook:


That was it. There is no evidence. None.

Source: Pew Internet
This may change in the future, but to date there has not been a shred of objective evidence of this frequently repeated and well-known "fact." The latest data from Pew, based on Q3 2012 research, demonstrates that the percentage of teens using Facebook has been steady, increasing from 93% to 94% in the year prior. In addition, Facebook was the social network used most often by 81% of the teens active in social media (and no other social network was even in the double digits!)

While this year's research from firms like Pew, Nielsen and Forrester could furnish the evidence many people anticipate, Facebook has warned us not to expect any significant shifts in teen behavior this year. Mark Zuckerberg, on the company's second quarter earnings call, flatly rejected the assertion that teens are abandoning the platform: "Based on our data, that just isn't true." Zuckerberg added that activity for teens has been steady over the past year and a half, not including Instagram.

If there is no evidence of teens flowing off Facebook, why do so many take this as fact? Every blog post and article on this topic seems to cite one or both of two clues:
  • A Pew Research report: In its May 2013 report, "Teens, Social Media, and Privacy," Pew Research Center noted that teens "have waning enthusiasm for Facebook, disliking the increasing adult presence, people sharing excessively, and stressful 'drama.'" Case closed, or is it? "Waning enthusiasm" is hardly the same as abandonment--people have not been "enthused" about email since around 2002, but how many have eliminated their inbox? We may find using email to be more of a chore than an exercise in fun, but we still do it because email is essential (and today, so is Facebook).
     
    Another interesting thing about that quote from the Pew Research report is that the excerpt above is not the complete sentence from the publication. Most people do not seem to read or share the second part of the sentence, which is, "...but they keep using it because participation is an important part of overall teenage socializing." In fact, the Pew report has been cited in so many "teens are fleeing Facebook" blog posts that the research organization clarified its data on its own blog, unambiguously titled, "Teens Haven't Abandoned Facebook (Yet)."
     
  • Anecdotal evidence: "My child/niece/nephew tells me they have stopped using Facebook." I swear I hear this at least once a week, but this is not evidence; it is an observation, and not a very reliable one at that. Neither is it substantiation of a Facebook exodus when a single teen writes an article on Mashable entitled, "I'm 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook." It goes a long way to show people's bias about Facebook's future that this article was shared 1350% more often than the Mashable post two days later, "I'm 15 and All My Friends Use Facebook." (I wonder if anyone has yet studied the relationship between cognitive dissonance and social sharing.)

    There are at least three reasons why children's anecdotal evidence might be less than reliable. First, teens (like everyone else) are poor observers of their own habits. Second, teens (like everyone else) are not eager to admit how much time they spend on Facebook, and this may lead them to under-report their Facebook usage. Finally--and hold on to your hats for this--teens lie. Some have learned how to use Facebook's lists to continue social networking away from the prying eyes of their parents, and they are fine encouraging adults to believe they have abandoned or reduced their use of the platform. To be honest, there is not hard evidence of this; Pew Research found that just 5% of teen Facebook users say they limit what they permit their parents to see. That said, I suspect this number is quite possibly under-reported and very likely to be growing. 
While there is little evidence to support the idea that kids are abandoning Facebook, that doesn't mean that teens' social and mobile behavior is not changing. Teens are broadening the tools they use for communications, and some of their options should give both marketers and parents concern. Tomorrow, we will explore the new breed of mobile communications services that are probably much more popular (and treacherous) than you think.  

Friday, February 22, 2013

Satisfaction with Social Marketing and Servicing Impacts Your Brand, Says J.D. Power Survey


Last week, J.D. Power and Associates published new research on the ways consumers interact with brands in social channels and how this engagement affects behaviors such as satisfaction and purchase intent. I had the chance to probe the findings with J.D. Power’s Director of Social Media and Text Analytics, Jacqueline Anderson. Her study furnishes still more evidence of the rising expectations consumers have of brands in social media, as well as the importance for brands to get social right, both for service and marketing.

One of the findings of the study is that consumers are engaging with both marketing and servicing in social channels, but this varies with age. In the 18-to-29-year-old demographic, 23% interacted with brands (on the brand’s owned social site) in a marketing context and 43% for servicing purposes. For those older than 50, the ratios are reversed, with 38% engaging with companies in a social marketing context but just 18% turning to social for servicing.

Interestingly, while consumers’ social marketing and social servicing experiences may vary by age, the impact to the brand does not. Anderson notes that, "While there are vast differences among age groups in the frequency of servicing and marketing engagements, there is a consistency in the impact on brand perception and purchase intent through both types of engagement. A one-pronged approach to social is no longer an option."

Another important conclusion of the study should surprise no one—making people happy in social channels is good for business. Among highly satisfied consumers, 87% indicate that the online social interaction "positively impacted" their likelihood to purchase from that company. Meanwhile, one in ten of those who are less satisfied indicate that the interaction "negatively impacted" their likelihood to purchase from the company. This relationship between consumer satisfaction and purchase intent is consistent across all age groups. “Younger and older consumers alike who are satisfied with their social marketing experiences are more likely to purchase,” says Anderson.

As she evaluated the data, verbatims and conversations observed in the community, Anderson found that consumers make little distinction between a brand’s social experiences and the overall brand experience. “There’s no social bubble anymore. Everything a company is doing—whether it’s in a store, on the website, in an email, on the phone or in social—impacts the consumer’s opinion of the brand. Companies need to make sure that experience is cohesive.”

One of the primary conclusions from this study is that brands have to get serious about social customer service. Says Anderson, “So many companies jump to the marketing piece, but consumers are looking more and more to social channels for support. Some companies feel threatened by this but it’s actually an amazing opportunity.” The J.D Power survey found that 67% of consumers have used a company's social media site for servicing, compared with 33% for social marketing.

Servicing and marketing are part of the same circular brand funnel, notes Anderson. “It is critically important that consumers are able to find you in social—that’s the marketing—so they can talk to you when they need to—that’s the servicing. Then, of course, you want to keep those consumers engaged with your brand, so you circle back to the marketing again.” This synergy between social marketing and social service is “especially important for elusive younger consumers. If you can nail that service experience, you have the opportunity to make a strong connection and engage them on an ongoing basis.”

Anderson points out that the trends among Millenials is unmistakable and demand that brands “set the ground rules for their approach to social servicing now, before it’s too late. Millennials are infamous for wanting things done quickly. As this group ages and starts having families and more time constraints, they’re going to turn more frequently to the fast-paced world of social to interact with brands and get their issues resolved.”

The J.D. Power study also looked at what turns off consumers about brands’ social media engagement. Unsurprisingly, consumers hate when brands focus too much on themselves. A participant from an initial online research community  described the problem using an interesting analogy, recounts Anderson. “She compared ‘liking’ a company on Facebook to dating. You take the first step and agree to go out—‘the  like.’ You look forward to learning about them and sharing information about yourself, but then it becomes clear the other person is only interested in talking about themselves; it’s always, ‘me, me, me,’ so you have to break up.”

While purchase intent may be the brass ring for brands, Anderson notes that satisfying social experiences provide other benefits, as well. “We found that positive servicing experiences raise the likelihood to use social servicing again, as well increases consumers’ likelihood to recommend social servicing to friends and family. In addition, we found that social marketing satisfaction has a positive impact on overall brand perception.”

If any brands have any doubt about social's importance, the J.D. Power study should put them to rest. Says Anderson, “There is a very strong storyline here that finally supports the case that social engagement truly is important to brands.”

Amen to that!

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Demographic Social Tidal Wave About to Swamp Your Business

Many of the changes of the digital era came because older folks ("digital immigrants" like me) adopted new behaviors, but most of the inertia for business evolution occurred when a wave of "digital natives" came of age. What will happen when the current batch of young "social natives" reach their adult years? A lot, and this will require businesses do far more than just add to the IT stack and hire a couple community managers.

In the mid- to late-2000s, the Gen Y cohort--people who almost could not remember a time (and could not function) without PCs and the Internet--joined key advertising demographics, reached voting age and entered the workforce. Many companies anticipated this and had deployed digital strategies early, but some waited for the mid 00s before shifting significant ad dollars online, adopting email and online service channels and developing new digital products and business models. Companies bound to old business models struggled to adjust to new realities as their customer demographics rapidly changed.

One example of how the last major demographic shift swamped an industry is the photo business. Shutterfly and Ofoto, two early photo-sharing sites, launched in 1999 at a time when Kodak had a market cap of almost $22 billion. The startups foresaw the wave of change to come with young people adopting digital photography. Kodak waited two more years before getting into the photo-sharing game (by purchasing Ofoto, later renamed Kodak Gallery), but it never really understood how Gen Y was changing the photo business. Kodak Gallery didn't permit sharing in the same way as its upstart competitors, kept photos locked behind a registration screen, and in 2008--just as the use of mobile phone cameras was exploding--Kodak implemented an ill-fated program requiring customers to purchase items or lose their stored photos.

How did that work for Kodak? Since January 2005, when Kodak launched its rebranded online photo-gallery service, its stock is down over 99%. Currently, Shutterfly is acquiring Kodak Gallery for a mere $23.8 million and Kodak is restructuring. Shutterfly was the only bidder in a sad auction for Kodak Gallery, which gets fewer than a million visitors a month, down 29 percent in one year.

Source: MinorMonitor
So, what will happen within the next few years when "social natives" enter key buying demographics, join the workforce and begin voting? We'll find out soon. Facebook launched a high school version of the service in 2005 and opened to the general public (13 and over) a year later. Of course, many teens had already adopted social behaviors before Facebook via services like Myspace and Friendster, which hosted millions of accounts as early as 2003. This means that by 2015--just three years from now--the average 18 year old won't remember a time without online social networks. (And before anyone points out that 2015's new adults will only have been legally able to use Facebook for five years, it is worth noting that over 38 percent of children with Facebook accounts are below Facebook's 13-year-old limit.)

Many of today's leaders do not understand what it will mean to serve, sell to, market to or employ the new generation of social natives. The answer is not merely to have a corporate Facebook presence, advertise with Promoted Tweets and host a community on the company intranet. Social natives will bring vastly different attitudes and expectations into their adult years, and this will force changes in the way we steer our brands, conduct business, set policies, devise organization structures and manage employees.

Soon, we will need to employ and build relationships with people who are disconnected and awake less than an hour a day.  (Any longer and it "creates an unnerving sense of disconnectedness.")  We all know business hasn't been 9-to-5 for a long time, particularly for global brands, but serving a generation constantly connected and demanding of non-stop brand care and interaction is going to require an even greater focus on deploying a 24/7 enterprise.

Think of how quickly this single aspect of social demographic behaviors is changing our world. On a personal level, few of us employed in marketing, PR or social media ever truly disconnect any longer, and on a business level, most large organizations already deploy community management well beyond old-school "working hours." Still, few companies have significant numbers of service staff deployed round the clock.

Soon, it will take more than a skeleton second- and third-shift crew to meet the needs of never-disconnected "social natives." The customer who tweets a customer service question at 1 am will likely have no different an expectation about response time than the one who tweets at 1 pm.

The generation of social natives also evaluates its brand preferences differently than their parents. TV advertising? It's not dying, but neither is it going to be as effective as in the past. ComScore recently found that millennials are less likely to say they found a TV ad interesting, believable or likeable, and they are more likely to call it irritating.

Source: Bazaarvoice
If younger folks don't believe in TV ads, what do they rely upon? It sure isn't corporations--37% of millennials claim to distrust big business. Instead, social natives trust others; Millennials are 50% more likely than boomers to say that recommendations from strangers influence their opinions.

Another way millennials are different than preceding generations is that they aren't afraid to voice their opinions and act when unhappy. Whereas Gen Xers were more inclined to reject institutions that failed to serve their needs, millennials are far more likely to take action to force change. This isn't just the case for brands they use and buy but also for their employers. In an Ad Age article, economist Neil Howe, who coined the term "millennial" in the early '90s, notes:
"If you ask a bunch of Gen Xers [born in the '60s and '70s] what they would do if they didn't like where they worked, most would say 'leave.' But if you ask millennials that question, their attitude is, 'Someone will fix it.' They'll start IM-ing each other, a few will get Mom and Dad on their cellphones, someone will call the local media, another will alert the congressman."
Source: Edelman Trust Barometer 2012
And woe be to brands that think they can compete merely through operational excellence. Great products and services are table stakes to a generation that expects transparency. Edelman's most recent Trust Barometer study found that trust in CEOs and government officials experienced record declines in the last year while trust in other consumers and regular employees skyrocketed. Moreover, when it comes to building trust, the agency notes:
"The 16 attributes... responsible for shaping current business trust levels are largely tied to business competence, and those that will build future trust are more societally focused. Listening to customer needs, treating employees well, placing customers ahead of profits and having ethical business practices are all considered more important than delivering consistent financial returns."
The differences between social natives and previous generations go on and on. In Zipcar's fascinating study of millennials and driving (embedded below), researchers found that younger consumers:
Source: Zipcar
  • Find physical interaction less vital--nearly seven in ten say sometimes talk to friends online instead of driving to see them. 
  • Are willing to drive less if options are available--those under 34 are almost twice as likely than people over 55 to be willing to drive less, provided public transportation, car sharing or convenient carpooling is available.
  • Are ready to buy less and participate more in the sharing economy--compared to consumers over 55, those under 35 were approximately five times more likely to participate in car sharing and home- or vacation-sharing programs.

Is your enterprise prepared to sell to, rent to and employ a generation that is always on, empowered and prepared to take action, highly networked, more influenced by peers than ads, distrustful of big business, unforgiving of companies that aren't transparent, disinclined to conduct business with organizations that do not stand for something and more willing to share and rent than buy and own? What will happen when the current generation of ROI-maximizing, privacy-protecting, production-oriented, quarterly-obsessed CEOs runs headlong into a new generation that expects organizations to listen, make the world better, be transparent and commit to long-term societal missions?


Explore more EK Data at Wikinvest

Explore more SFLY Data at Wikinvest

Many companies think they know the trends and are comfortable planning for change in the future, but they are not really prepared. In 2008, when Kodak was comfortable with its decision to make sharing difficult and to force users to buy something or have their photographic memories deleted, it had a market capitalization of over $5 billion and Shutterfly was worth less than $200 million. Today, Shutterfly has a market cap of $1.1 billion and Kodak is in bankruptcy with a market cap of $77 million.  Of course, even innovators need to play by market rules, and later today Shutterfly announces its latest quarterly earnings; it may have bested the giant Kodak, but with social natives seeing no need to print photos given Facebook's (not to mention Twitter's, Instagram's, and Flickr's) free storage services, even Shutterfly could get crushed in the next demographic wave.

In very short order, social natives will be your customers and employees. Time is not a luxury today's businesses can enjoy when considering the evolution required in the next five years.
 

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Twidiots: The Fact and Fiction of Social Media Demographics

I'm surprised by the amount of ignorance that exists today about Social Media demographics. Considering how easily accessible statistics and studies are, there is no excuse for marketers and those interested in communications to hold incorrect beliefs, make erroneous statements, or base decisions upon outdated assumptions. But whether due to laziness, fear, or bias, some people are saying awfully dumb things about Social Media.

First Twidiot: In an AdAge.com article about Michelob's use of Twitter, George Hacker, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest said, "Twitter is for kids, and this is a way to put these brand names in their faces." (Full disclosure: I do not work with Michelob, but I am involved with the marketing of beer brands; my client has an unwavering commitment and takes constant and proactive steps to target their marketing messages to the appropriate adult audience.)

Whether Hacker is simply misinformed or allowed his passion to get in the way of the truth, his contention about Twitter is demonstrably and thoroughly incorrect. I expect better from a guy who is a director at an organization with "science" in its name.

Quantcast's data cannot tell us specifically about the 21+ audience on Twitter because they divide age groups at 18 and not 21, the legal drinking age, but quantcast's data still paints a conclusive picture. Just 6% of Twitter site visitors are under 18. More than half are over 35 years old.

Other data reinforces the facts about Twitter's adult audience composition: According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, the median Twitter user is 31, compared to 26 for Facebook and 40 for LinkedIn. And comScore reveals that adults 25 to 54 over-index on Twitter compared to the general Internet population. Children 12 to 17 under-index at just 59%.

Not only isn't "Twitter for kids," but we can confidently conclude the demographics of Twitter fit the conditions of the Beer Institute Advertising and Marketing Code, which requires that beer advertisements be placed only in media where at least 70 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be at or above the legal drinking age. Mr. Hacker is simply wrong, and his statement is of the type that reinforces incorrect assumptions about Social Media participants.

While researching this blog post, I ran across twidiot number two: J.R. Davis, who writes for nwahomepage.com, the site for Arkansas radio station KNWA. Perhaps I shouldn't get bent out of shape about something said on an Arkansas news site--it's not as if a significant number of brand marketers visit this site--but I expect more care and attentiveness to detail from journalists. Plus, Davis' error is one common among many marketers--a failure to recognize how rapidly Social Media demographics are changing.

Davis wrote the article "Internet Fatigue," which states, "Here's the kicker... The 14-24 year old demographic represents over 65 percent of users (of MySpace and Facebook)." Davis' fact isn't so much wrong as it is terribly dated and thus not accurate or appropriate for an article published in June 2009. The statistic cited came from a Rapleaf study performed a year ago. Has anything changed in the period from June 10, 2008 (the date of the study) to June 11, 2009 (the date of the article)?

In January 2009, istrategylabs.com wrote that the fastest-growing demographic on Facebook was the 35-54 year old demo, with a 276.4% growth rate the past 6 months. The same report notes that the 55+ demo had a 194.3% growth rate and that users 21+ represent 66.3% of all Facebook users. Had Davis cared to do any up-to-date fact checking at all rather than repeat a statistic from the dark ages of Social Media--and yes, a year matters quite a lot when referencing Social Networking data--he or she might have visited quantcast and found that while teens 12-17 are the largest demographic, those over 18 account for almost three-quarters of Facebook.com's traffic. Over two-thirds of MySpace's traffic comes from those 18 or older.

With facts and information so easy to come by, it's frustrating to see comments like this, from Philadelphia 76ers’ communications director, Michael Preston: “We are not yet convinced that our target demographics for season ticket [buyers] and partial plans are totally dialed into the social networking scene.” Why not ask, find out where your consumers are engaged in Social Media, and become convinced?

The implications of incorrect assumptions and outdated information can be substantial to brand health. The failure to recognize the growth and changes in Social Media is resulting in a lack of urgency around this channel. For example, while “time spent watching TV is virtually unchanged" and "time spent social networking has grown 93% since 2006," marketers seem to be slow to increase Social Media in their marketing mix. According to one recent report, marketers still consider Social Media experimental and are said to be budgeting less than $100,000 for social media efforts over the next year.

While companies like Dell are creating revenue and positively impacting their brand in Social Media, most others have barely gotten started. As noted in an April 2009 article on Adweek.com:
"Thousands of brands from large, medium and small companies... crossed that hurdle a few years ago of making a Web site. But they are not yet waking up to the fact that the Internet is not just about parking your information somewhere and hoping people stumble across it somehow. You have to be active for anyone to notice.... Companies obviously know Twitter and blogs and Facebook. They just don't know how they fit in. "
The facts are out there. There is no longer any excuse to be a Twidiot. The time has passed when being unsure of where Social Media fits for your audience was merely a casual problem to be solved as priorities permit. In late 2009, failing to understand how our increasingly social world challenges and benefits brands has become an act of shortsightedness or deliberate ignorance that threatens consumer perception, brand value, market share, and the bottom line.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Social Media Demographics to Broaden

If you are a regular reader of Experience: The Blog, you know that I often compare the experience of the Internet era to what we can expect from the upcoming Social Media era. Doing so permits us to foresee what may happen as Social Media becomes more integrated into consumers' lives and into business operations.

One of the most obvious parallels between the introduction of the Internet and the birth of Social Media is the demographic trends. Back in the mid 90s within every company in the country, some version of the following was uttered by a senior executive: "The Internet is for kids and geeks, and our consumers will never be online." The first half of this statement wasn't necessarily wrong at the time, but the second half was quickly disproved as the Internet expanded across all demographic categories.

Today, you can hear much the same dismissal of Social Media. Too many people believe it is primarily for kids. Those people may want to check out a new Entertainment Trends in America study by The NPD Group. They found that 41% of baby boomers have visited social networks, and in the past three months boomers stopped at these sites an average of eight times. This isn't nearly the frequency with which their kids visit Social Media sites, but it is growing.

The problem with falsely stereotyping Social Networkers as kids is that brands can fail to exploit a medium that is growing older and more diverse with each passing month. Doug Akin, evp-brand development at Mr. Youth, notes that "few brands that cater to an older crowd have made a My Space page or a Facebook presence mandatory," which he calls a miscue.

It should be appreciated that, just as people of different ages have come to use the Internet differently, so will tweens' Social Media usage differ from their parents. Jeremiah Owyang, senior analyst at Forrester Research, notes that, "younger consumers want to engage, while older [consumers] are there for information."

Dismissing Social Media as being irrelevant to a brand with an older customer base is dangerous. Social Media is already seeing a broadening of its user demographics, and as occurred with the Internet a decade ago, this trend will continue. Not every demographic will engage Social Media in the same way, but in the years to come every demographic will engage Social Media in some way!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Stereotype Social Media Users at Your Brands' Peril

For brands to properly plan for and use Social Media, marketers must not evaluate their consumers' Social Media habits today but foresee those habits a year or two from now. The demographics of Social Media users are already becoming more diverse, as evidenced by recent studies.

Just last week in Social Media Demographics to Broaden, I posted a link to an Entertainment Trends in America study by The NPD Group that found that 41% of baby boomers have visited social networks. The commentary that accompanied the report warned about the risks of dismissing Social Media for older consumers, noting that while much of social media marketing today, "may be targeted to a younger audience... there are more older people who enjoy these services."

Here's more evidence: iMedia features an interview with Technorati CEO Richard Jalichandra in which he notes, "Multiple studies... tell us that blogging is moving from early adopters into the mainstream."

Technorati recently released its 9th State of the Blogosphere report, and Jalichandra notes that 44 percent of bloggers surveyed are parents and 34 percent are female. He adds, "Right now, only 8 percent of survey respondents are more than 55 years old, (but) as the digital generation ages, we'll see a change there as well."

When evaluating the Technorati report on blogging, it's important to remember that while blogs are an important piece of the Social Media pie, they are just one slice of that pie. Still, as the one of the earliest and most widely recognized portions of the Web 2.0 spectrum, blogs provide an interesting barometer with which to measure the direction of all Social Media. Viewed from this perspective, the report contains some other fascinating information. Here are some examples:
  • Many blogs are started and abandoned--Technorati has indexed 133 million blogs since 2002 but just 1.5 million of these were updated in the last seven days...
  • ...but this doesn't mean that blogs are not a pervasive part of people's Internet experience. "Blogs have representation in top-10 web site lists across all key categories, and have become integral to the media ecosystem."
  • Bloggers are interested in sharing their perceptions of brands and products; Four in five bloggers post brand or product reviews, with 37% posting them frequently.
  • If you think that building relationships with bloggers is a new and unique strategy, you'll be surprised to learn that one-third of bloggers have been approached to be brand advocates. Of those, more than six in ten were offered payments of some kind.
  • U.S. bloggers are more diverse than in other countries. 57% of bloggers in the U.S. are male compared to 73% in Europe and Asia.
  • Bloggers are not impoverished students posting from their dorms. 58% of U.S. bloggers are 35 or older compared to 52% in Europe and just 27% in Asia. In addition, 74% of U.S. bloggers are college grads and 51% earn more than $75,000 per year.
  • Want to reach bloggers? Offer relevant content online and start your own blog! Twice as many bloggers look to other blogs compared to TV, print, or outdoor advertising. And bloggers aren't dedicating a lot of time with traditional media; compared to U.S. adults 18 to 49, bloggers spend two-thirds less time watching television and 70% less time with radio. (They do, however, spend slightly more time with magazines and newspapers--which is interesting considering 20% of bloggers don't think newspapers will survive the next 10 years.)
To envision the demographic penetration of microblogs, crowdsourcing, and other cutting edge Social Media tools in 2011, look at how blogs are being used in 2008. You'll find that more and more, the people who maintain and visit blogs look like the general Internet population, and this trend will continue in other Social Media categories in the future.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Interactive Gaming: More Social, More Women, and Older

If you read this blog regularly, you know I'm a big fan of advergaming (or branded gaming, if you prefer.) The right game for the right audience can create enormous attention.

If you read that last sentence and thought, "Yeah--the 'right audience'--but my brand isn't for teen boys," then you haven't see the latest gaming demographics or followed what's new in gaming consoles. Games are skewing older, more female, and more social than ever.

A new survey by the video game industry trade group Entertainment Software Association has found:
  • Some 40% of gamers are women.
  • The average age of video game players has risen to 35, with 26% of gamers now over age 50.
  • Women age 18 or older represent a significantly greater portion of the game-playing population (33%) than boys age 17 or younger (18%).
Check out other interesting demographic facts about interactive gaming on MarketingCharts.com.

This trend toward older and more diverse gaming will continue as the games themselves become even more appealing to non-traditional gamers. The Nintendo Wii was a major factor in changing consumer perception and involvement in gaming in recent years, and Nintendo will continue to be a leader in offering appealing new game features such as:
  • Wii Music: Guitar Hero and Rock Band are huge hits, but they have tended to appeal to younger gamers with their style of music, competitive game play, and need for speedy coordination. Wii Music will appeal to a more diverse group--both older and younger--by offering something different: Creation rather than competition. Players can select from over 60 instruments and enjoy the art of music creation.

  • Wii Speak: Nintendo is going to make gaming even more social with their new community microphone. The mic is designed to pick up voices from anywhere in the room, so everyone playing a game in one place can chat with other players around the world. Games Nintendo has demonstrated allow players to trash talk during competition and to gather for a voice-to-voice chat in a virtual cafe.
At Fullhouse, we've been diversifying our gaming capabilities for clients with great success. Our most recent game uses motion gaming controllers to permit consumers to compete in a home run derby on a field branded for Miller Lite. (Don't worry--the game is only deployed in bars so that access is limited to consumers 21 and older.) Consumers swing their hands as if holding a bat, and when they knock one out of the park, they're treated to fireworks on the jumbo Miller Lite scoreboard. Consumers line up to play, creating a huge opportunity for the brand to spend time with consumers and offer a value-added experience that enhances an evening of socializing.

Interest in gaming will continue to grow, opening new opportunities for marketers wanting to reach not only young males but a variety of audiences with diverse demographics.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Adquake Strikes Hollywood (and Everywhere Else)

The earth is shifting under the feet of people in Hollywood (and New York and everywhere else where big media and marketing are found). No, it's not an earthquake; it's an adquake.

The television industry is being shaken by rapid changes in technology, consumer tastes, and demographics. For decades, the role of television in the marketing environment was assured--to reach a large audience with a branded message that appealed to the emotions, you used television. The combination of universal reach, barriers to entry for competing networks and media, and video delivery assured television of its lucrative place and caused the media mix to change very little for many years.

But in recent months, we've seen a series of news reports that validate what we already know: Television is losing viewers and thus its confident place atop the marketing portfolio.

In February came news of a new IDC study of consumer online behavior found that the Internet is the medium on which online users spend the most time (32.7 hours/week), almost twice as much time as spent watching television (16.4 hours).

In April, Microsoft announced it would take advantage of the Internet's growing power to deliver video to broadband-connected consumers and offer its own original slate of programming via its Web properties. Also in April, the New York Times featured an article about Naked Communications, a new type of agency that helps brands determine their appropriate media mix; one brand executive praised Naked's "media agnostic" mindset and said it was a fresh approach to "not presume that you have to have a 30-second TV spot.”

In May, Forrester released a report that showed that consumers ages 18 to 27 are spending less time with television and more time online. The reported showed that in just three years, time spent using the Internet has risen 80% while time watching TV is down 15% among this demographic.

In June, MediaPost shares a study from Ipsos MediaCT revealing that among those who have streamed or downloaded video content, which is 52% of Americans age 12 and older, the share of video viewed on television dropped while the video viewed online had grown from 11% to 19% in just one year. The study found that consumers age 12 to 17 view just 55% of their video on TV and 24% on a computer. Also in June came a report from Magna Global USA that noted that even though just 25% of TV homes have a DVR, "the current impact of DVR viewing on ratings is twice as high as the impact of VCRs when they were in 90 percent of TV homes." What this means is that ad-zapping DVRs already account for 9 percent of the Big Five networks’ TV ratings, and 15 percent of viewing by adults 18-49.

The adquake continues this month with a study released by Magna Global that demonstrates TV is no longer within its own target demographic. Television has long bragged about its ability to reach the 18-to-49-year-old demo, but "the five broadcast nets' average live median age (in other words, not including delayed DVR viewing) was 50 last season". (The median age for U.S. households is 38.) Such is the impact of gaming, the Internet, cable, and DVRs, that network television is losing its ability to reach its traditional core audience.

The adquake is already being felt in the network's pocketbook. The big network's ad revenue fell two percent in 2007 while all ad spending was up slightly (0.2 percent). Internet ad spending was up 15.9 percent last year, but the shift in media spend is nowhere near complete. Despite the demographic and TV viewing changes noted above, ad spending on network television was 135% greater than on the Internet, and the ad revenue for all television was almost seven times that of the Internet.

The adquake presents real challenges for marketers. As has been noted on this blog, online display advertising isn't much of an answer for marketers seeking to shift dollars out of TV advertising. Online ads are seen as untrustworthy, annoying, and ignorable; plus, ad blocking software threatens to decrease ad viewership on the Internet in the same way the DVR is used to screens ads by those who time-shift their TV.

Despite the challenges both online and on television, I think these are exciting times for marketers. The old way of marketing had become stale and--let's face it--boring. There were few challenges to advertising on TV and in print; with demographics, media outlets, and technology stagnant, the focus was entirely on the message and not the medium. There was a belief back when I started in marketing that a brand only needed to find the right tagline to create relevance to an audience.

But today, marketing is so much broader and deeper than it was 20 year ago. Rather than focusing on just the graphic, headline, or copy, we marketers have become as creative as film makers, theme park designers, and game developers. Successful campaigns aren't simply about finding the right ad to place in the same old spots; it's about finding the right combination of strategy and experiences to engage consumers in fun, interactive, and fascinating ways.

We've gone experiential, and its a change to be embraced! The adquake will continue for years to come--probably for our entire careers--as mobile, social, and other media we cannot yet imagine change consumer media habits, expectations, and relations to brands. The marketers who succeed will be the ones who learn to shift as quickly as the adquake changes the world around us.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Gen Y's Continuing Media Shift and What It Means to Marketers

It's no secret that consumers are spending less time with traditional media, and it's certainly no surprise that consumers--particularly younger ones--dedicate a good chunk of their lives interacting with digital media. But sometimes you see the cold, hard data confirming what everyone "knows," and it's startling.

The data I found expected yet still somehow surprising came from Forrester's report, "Building Gen Y’s Multichannel Media Profile." Is it flabbergasting to find that consumers ages 18 to 27 are spending less time with television and more time online? Of course not, but the speed and breadth at which the changes are continuing to occur are striking.

Consumer leisure activities tend to change very slowly over time, unless some important societal factor intervenes, such as during times of war. But there's been no seismic societal changes over the past four years--the Internet is no longer new, and the biggest digital changes we've seen since 2004 are the growth of broadband, a wider adoption of digital music, and increases in the capabilities of Internet-enabled cell phones. (Yes, I know we're in a time of war, but let's not not get started on how little attention this war gets or how little sacrifice it is demanding from the American public, okay?)

But with just minor changes in the online and media landscape, there's been a significant shift in the media consumption of Gen Yers in the past three years. Time spent using the Internet has risen 80% while time spent listening to the radio has fallen 26% and time watching TV is down 15%. Those are profound changes in just 36 months.

Of course, it's not difficult to understand why this is happening. The younger Gen Yers don't remember a time before the Internet existed and have grown up with email, the Web, chat rooms, e-commerce, and online games. And even for the oldest of the Gen Y generation, the Internet was a vital part of their high school and college experience.

Still, it's interesting to note that the digital media habits of this group are still evolving. They aren't simply taking consistent online habits with them as they age; they're continuing to adopt to a new lifestyle of "living online." Three years ago, they spent 60% more time watching TV than being online, and in 2007 this demographic dedicated 1.6 more hours to their Internet time than to television.

The marketing implications of this continued shift away from traditional media and toward digital media are significant, and made even more so by the fact Gen Y's income will skyrocket in the coming years. According to eMarketer, Gen Y's annual income will rise from $1.89 trillion to $3.48 trillion in the next ten years, growing to near Gen X's income ($4.2 trillion in 2017) and eclipsing Boomer's ($2.96 trillion).

What happens when a large group of consumers see swift increases in discretionary income and rapid changes in their media habits? Marketers' worlds change very, very quickly.

We already know that marketing budgets have been shifting away from print, TV, and radio towards online tactics, but it's apparent this shift is just getting started. With the ROI for display and search advertising already getting squeezed by increasing demand and cost (and consumer indifference), and with Social Media continuing to prove an advertising challenge, the ways in which marketers can invest their budgets in online media are going to continue to change and get ever more creative (and experiential).

The marketing challenge of the next few years won't primarily be one of how to allocate dollars to different online ad types (search versus display; banners versus skyscrapers; ad network A or B), but instead will be how to engage consumers and provide real value. It will become even less about campaigns and more about consistent relationship building. How a brand looks will be far less important than how it acts. What you say won't matter; who you are will.

These years will be heady times for marketers in organizations that are marketing centric and consumer focused where being transparent, agile, open to change, honest, confident, and willing to experiment and take risks is a way of life. For everyone else--companies that focus on campaigns and advertising and not consumer experiences; that believe they can be one thing but brand themselves another; that strive for control; and that lack respect for and trust in their consumer--the next five to ten years will be confusing and threatening.

Within a few years, Gen Y will be spending twice as much time online as they do with television. They'll be learning more about brands from each other than from your advertising. Will you be part of the conversation and creating the sorts of experiences that will get consumers saying positive things about your brand? Or will be more concerned about whether you get better clickthrough from a 468-x-60 or a 120-x-600 ad unit?

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Short Takes: 5.27.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:


  • Video Viewing Surges: This week's least surprising interactive news story comes from Mediapost, which reports that online video viewing continues to rise. According to comScore's Video Metrix service, U.S. Internet users viewed 11.5 billion online videos during March, 2008, representing a 13% gain versus February and a 64% gain versus March 2007. Continuing the unsurprising news is that Google sites (primarily YouTube) are the most popular video sites, accounting for 38% of all video viewing, up 2.6 points from the prior month. With so many consumers surfing for video entertainment, you'd have to figure somebody (probably Google) will eventually figure out how to make advertising in or around video clips relevant, welcome, effective, and profitable, wouldn't you?

  • Yahoo On Top; Google Nowhere in Sight: It's not often you can see a category list of top online destinations and not find Google in or near the #1 spot, but in this case they're not even on the list. MediaPost published a list of the top sites for financial news and information; Yahoo leads the list, and Google is notably absent. The search giant has a decent finance site, but for some reason it's never gained traction unlike just about everything else Google touches.

    Another unusual thing about the financial site data is the demographics. How often do you see a demographic breakdown of online users and find less than 10% under the age of 25? This group is older (with a mean around 40 years old) and wealthier (with mean HH income between $75k and $100k). On this blog, I've shared information about how affluent Web users feel (and are) ignored to some extent by online advertisers, so if you're seeking the affluent online, all you need to do is follow the money news.

  • Viacom Threatens the Internet: I normally have little patience for hyperbole, but this time it seems warranted. Google filed court documents that claim Viacom's suit against Google's YouTube, "threatens the way hundreds of millions of people legitimately exchange information," and they're right. Viacom is suing the video sharing service for its inability to keep copyrighted material off its site.

    While any owner of Intellectual Property can sympathize with Viacom as it combats the tidal wave of consumers posting its content to YouTube and other video-sharing sites, there seems little chance Viacom can win this suit. According to MediaPost, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) provides "safe harbor" that protects YouTube from liability for copyrighted material posted by users, and Groklaw notes, "Viacom is essentially asking the court to rewrite the DMCA safe harbor provision, and rewriting the law is exactly what courts are not supposed to do."

    Google has vowed to fight to the Supreme Court if necessary, and with implications that could impact some of the most popular sites and online activities, this case is worth watching.

  • What Makes an Agency "Up and Coming"? According to this interesting article from Mediaweek, the agencies to watch are getting noticed with a focus on search, online experiences, viral content, and social media. Given those are the hottest marketing trends, I guess that should come as no surprise. Check out the brief but informative profiles of five up and coming interactive agencies: 360i, Big Spaceship, Deep Focus, EVB, and Schematic.

    What is interesting is how often in this brief article it is mentioned that an agency leader doesn't think in terms of advertising. Quotes include, "I think the interactive space is moving from media buying...", "When (he) thinks of the model he wants his agency to follow, he talks about architecture, not advertising," "(He) is rethinking the primacy of the ad campaign, which social media is rendering irrelevant," and "(He) has never considered himself an adman." Advertising is dead; long live advertising!

  • Experiential Billboard: Periodically, I run across an Out Of Home execution that really rises above the clutter of ignorable billboards. From Adland comes this Saatchi & Saatchi campaign for Kill Bill featuring a blood-drenched billboard, street, and cars. You may love this or hate it, but you have to admit it's tough to ignore. If a consumer is grossed out by the OOH campaign, they probably weren't a good target for the bloody film in the first place.


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Short Takes: 5.15.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • "C Suite" is Wired: It's 2008, so it really should come as no surprise that highly-compensated, powerful folks are using the Internet. A mail- and online-based questionnaire that was completed by 2,390 of "America's elite business executives" indicates they're hip to technology. 54% now depend on email newsletters as their primary source of media industry news, about half have streamed or watched broadband videos from websites on their computers, and 30% read blogs.

    I can't imagine any B2B marketers focusing on C-level execs were holding back on exploiting the Internet to reach this audience, but if you thought all those MBAs in the corner offices were computer illiterate, here's the evidence that says otherwise.

  • Facebook Failing at Advertising: Just the other day, we saw MySpace admitting that it was advertising challenged. Today it's Facebook's turn. Fortune says that Facebook is "is showing cracks in its foundation". User growth remains impressive, but users, developers, and advertisers are all questioning the current reigning champ of social media. Despite its huge traffic, Facebook earned a minuscule $145 million in revenue last year, much of it from an ad deal with Microsoft, which owns a chunk of the social site. Facebook ads can sell for as little as 15 cents CPM compared with the estimated $13 on Yahoo, and "even at those bargain prices, marketers are reluctant to spend money on a venue where users aren't paying attention."

    Interestingly, the buzz in recent weeks is about data portability, which will permit consumers to take their data from one site and use it on others. It's hard to imagine how sites that can't make money off of traffic today will find a way to profitability when they become little more that online databases to host consumer data aggregated across the Internet. All of this is a reminder that while social media is hot, it's still in its infancy.

Friday, April 11, 2008

I Have A Dream, and It Isn't a Black Search Engine

Mediaweek is reporting on a new search engine focused on African Americans. IAC and subsidiary Black Web Enterprises say that RushmoreDrive.com is the "first-ever search engine catering specifically to African American interests." The site works on a patented algorithm that determines which Web sites are most frequently visited by African Americans, then merges that data into a mainstream search crawl.

I am deeply conflicted about this new site. On the one hand, focusing on the needs of a group of people with similar surfing habits and information goals simply makes sense. But we're not talking about a content site here; we're talking about a search engine.

The key to success for search engines is to provide the most relevant results, and I suppose if RushmoreDrive provides results that are viewed as being more relevant to a portion of the Internet audience, more power to it. But when a user enters search terms such as "New York Giants," "Internet Marketing Job Openings," or "Beyonce," does the race of the searcher really matter? It's hard for me to imagine that the way we search and the results we expect are related to the color of our skin.

Maybe the problem I have with the concept has nothing to do with marketing and much to do with my world view. Martin Luther King Jr. said in his famous "I have a dream" speech, "With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day." Apparently we just can't search and use the Internet together.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Short Takes: 4.8.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • Gray, Affluent and Online: A couple weeks ago I shared a report that revealed affluent consumers are "flocking" to online social networks. Today's MediaPost reports that older, affluent consumers continue to grow, online and off. The group, which they label "graying and affluent," has grown from 13.1% to 15.7% of all households (in the 80 metro markets surveyed) since 2004. Almost two-thirds of these people reported making an online purchase in the last year, up from 50.2% four years earlier. And though it seems redundant to note this about a group that carries the label "affluent," these folks have cash: The households with liquid assets of $100,000 or more increased from 49.5% to 53.6% of this group and those with $250,000 or more increased from 25.2% to 30.2%. You'd think people with high discretionary income would draw more attention from marketers, but evidence shows this group is not getting marketing focus proportionate to their numbers online.

  • Online Focus Groups: In an article entitled "Focus on Blogs," Adweek labels just about everything a "blog" and everyone a "blogger." It's at first confusing, but once you realize they are talking not about bloggers but about participants in focused, moderated, short-lifespan communities, the article becomes an interesting read on how companies are overcoming some of the typical problems of in-person focus groups (short duration, overpowering members, etc.) using online communities. One company specializing in these sorts of extended, online focus groups recruits people who can participate once or twice a day over a period of a couple of weeks. Agency employees help to initiate discussions, interject provocative ideas, add new questions and "know when to step back." Says one exec, "You are not there to moderate a discussion between the participants and yourself, you are there to moderate a conversation among people." Check out the entire article on Adweek.

  • Starbucks Not Talking to Consumers Over Their Cup of Coffee: I've mentioned the My Starbucks Idea site several times. Starbucks is one of the first companies to turn the old suggestion box into an online social community, and the success or failure of this site is being closely monitored by other brands. Going Social Now has some worthwhile criticisms of the effort. Shiv Singh notes, "Starbucks doesn't participate in the conversation. That's disappointing. If you expect your customers to help you, you should be willing to participate in their conversation. Not stand by silently or only speak from a pulpit." As noted here on on E:TB, social media is interactive; Starbucks is giving consumers the means to interact without committing any of themselves to interacting.

  • Become a music mogul, $10 at a time: A couple weeks ago I wrote about an artist who took her own "minipreneurship" approach to raising funds for her new album; today's TechCrunch has an article about a site bringing this approach to other up and coming bands. Sellaband, which just received $5 million funding, permits music fans to invest $10 in an artist they want to back. If the artist gets to 5,000 ‘believers,’ the artist receives $50,000 to record an album and each fan gets a limited edition CD. If the artist doesn’t reach $50,000, the fans can get their money back or give it to another artist. It's a smart idea and I certainly appreciate the populist approach to music financing, but it will be interesting to see if enough fans are willing to pony up.

  • The Four I's of Engagement: I'm not sure it really advances the discussion of what engagement is or how to measure it, but Forrester has a thought provoking blog post about the Four I's of Engagement: involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence. They describe each at a high level, but even though they call these "metrics," there is little indication how these four categories are measured or work together. Perhaps the full Forrester report contains more, but even without the membership required to access the details, you may find this an interesting framework for exploring the topic of consumer engagement.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Short Takes: 4.3.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • iMedia has some interesting observations about the U.S.'s third largest advertiser announcing it will shift half of its advertising budget to digital in the next three years. The announcement that GM is making this seismic change isn't really surprising, considering how integral the Internet has become to shopping for a new car (or to any other part of daily life.) But as the article points out, "GM will need to go beyond simple search and display, and that means one of America's biggest brands may have to start thinking small." If GM only thinks of the Internet as an advertising medium and doesn't use its considerable budget to explore social media, viral and WOM marketing, microsites, games, and other online experiential techniques, this bold move won't help them reverse their slide.

  • The L.A. Times has an article about how some beauty brands are targeting high school cheerleaders because, "they are often the girls others look up to." I'm not sure how I feel about this. On the one hand, finding and impacting influencers is an established marketing tactic; on the other hand, I question if this is an ethical tactic. Maybe it's just my inner teen geek speaking, but I can't help but wonder what kind of world it would be if teens looked up the smartest, hardest-working peers rather than the ones enhanced with free beauty products provided by marketers. Cosmetic brands have as much right as others to reach the teen market, but I don't have to feel good about this tactic, do I? (Interestingly, the company that hooks brands up with cheerleaders has turned down medicinal and meat products--indoctrinating young girls to the cosmetic industry's standards of beauty is okay, but eating protein crosses the line?)

  • And here's another marketing article that left me feeling uneasy: The New York times reports on a campaign by tobacco giant Reynolds American to attack legislation that would give the FDA power to regulate the tobacco industry. Their ads show a man portraying the FDA, trying to keep too many plates spinning; “Their own scientific experts warn that the F.D.A. can’t do their job properly and warn that lives could be at risk,” the ads say. This sort of disingenuous marketing hurts all marketers. Did Reynolds previously express concern that the FDA was overtaxed? No. Does it make sense that a company in an industry responsible for the leading preventable cause of death in the United States would suddenly be concerned about "lives at risk"? If they were, they'd put themselves out of business. You can argue that cigarettes are legal so campaigns like this are fair game, but it is patently obvious they care more about undermining proposed Federal regulations than saving lives. This sort of clumsy and insincere marketing only causes consumers to distrust all advertising.

  • You could see this post on the Buzz Machine blog being just another diatribe about Wal-Mart, or you might gain insights about why corporate culture matters. Jeff Jarvis' contention is simple: In a world of social media and increasing power in the hands of consumer, "No amount of PR and no number of company blogs can make a bad company look good — or smart." Wal-Mart recently made headlines for suing a severely brain-damaged employee who was hit by a truck; they wanted to claim part the money she won in a lawsuit. As Jeff points out, Wal-Mart cannot make a positive change to their brand in the new age of social media if they have "no moral compass." The blog post goes on to imagine what would happen if Google, with their famous "Don't be evil"motto, took over operation of Wal-Mart. Jeff is right--in a world where consumers control more and more media, you cannot hide who you really are.

  • Now this is experiential marketing: Taco Bell and Sports Illustrated have combined to let you be the photographer on a swimsuit shoot with model Daniella Sarahyba. It's a fun microsite, but I have to wonder what this does for Taco Bell. To me, this seems like plug-and-play advertising--Taco Bell tries to make a brand association between the hot model and their "really hot" Fiesta Platters, but the linkage is weak at best. SI might've been better of finding a camera brand to sponsor the site, or perhaps a tourist destination might've turned the model's local travels into an enticing travelogue. Marketing experiences are only as good as what they say about the brand, and while this site is fun and well executed, it doesn't really say much about fast Mexican food.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Short Takes: 4.1.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • Hot teen trend--or April Fool's joke? eMarketer had me going for a second. They report on a study that found teens are turning away from their PCs, game consoles, and cell phones to seek more quality time with parents. I believed it for a bit, but when they reported parents declining their children's friend invitations on MySpace, I got suspicious. The last straw was the finding that 98% of teens surveyed said they would respond to a marketing promotion involving "A Long Bus Ride With Your Parents." Nice try.
  • The Non-Traditional Advertising Blog has an informative article about RedBullSurfing.com. The site makes use of Immersive Media's 360-degree technology to give visitors a sense of riding a surfboard into a break. The tiny video window rather undermines the experience, but the ability to control the video in all directions provides an excellent online experience. The sport, the site, and the technology work well in combination for the brand.

  • No matter how good a concept, someone's going to find a way to twist it to no good. Take social media. Marketers are taking flack for flogs (fake blogs), MySpace corporate profiles, and PR Twitters, but at least they're not criminals. A couple of enterprising thieves found a way to turn social media into social crime. To cover a robbery, they posted a fake Craigslist post giving an address and announcing the belongings were free for the taking. The victim returned home to find people making off with his possessions. The couple responsible for the theft and the post are now behind bars (where they hopefully will not be given access to the Internet.)

  • One way to go viral is to piggyback on something else that has gone viral. A rather brilliant if somewhat offensive viral video comes from LoveMe.com, a site where lonely men find beautiful Russian mail order brides (if the video is to be believed). Taking off on the famous Dove Evolution campaign, this video claims Russian mail order brides start beautiful and thus don't need the retouching seen in the Dove's viral video campaign. If you're the kind of man who would consider a mail order bride, you may just believe it.

  • If you thought the social media space couldn't get more crowded or that the world doesn't need yet another social networking site, here's one that make sense: weplay, a social network for youth athletes and their parents and coaches. Kids can set up profiles, brag about their stats, link with friends, talk to coaches, check schedules, and interact with pro athletes. Making sure parents aren't left out, the site offers a forum to manage car pools, find out about equipment, get up-to-date scheduling information, and communicate with other athletes' families. weplay is doing social media by the book: focusing on the needs of a defined group and giving them the tools they want and need. We'll be watching this site.

  • Old media is finding a way to make digital media work for them, rather than against them. The Wall Street Journal features an article about magazines that are buying and partnering with digital properties to keep readers involved and advertisers happy. One interesting use of social media is Condé Nast's collaboration with Dillard's. A promotion launching next week will use tools from news-aggregation site Reddit, which Condé Nast bought in 2006, to let visitors to Dillard's Web site vote on merchandise to be featured in online ads. I'm not sure if online shoppers will find this a worthwhile interaction, but I respect Condé Nast for trying something innovative and interesting.

  • Here's a recent TV ad that made me stop and take notice. Even in a bar with the sound off, I could immediately recognize the brand and the message (which is one way to identify a great ad). The ad is for Travelers Insurance, and the use of striking visuals with the protective umbrella that is their logo made this one stand out. Would you agree?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Short Takes: 3.30.08

Here are some interesting XM and online marketing news items and links for your perusal:
  • Movie theaters are going to new lengths to try to stay relevant. For example, so-called "Red Band" trailers, which feature R-rated scenes from mature movies, have long been banned from most movie theaters, but now Regal Entertainment, the nation's largest chain, will be permitting the edgier previews. It's all part of an attempt by movie theaters to provide customers with a better experience. This article from BrandWeek also shares info on the growth of 3D movies, pre-movie trivia contests entered by text message, and National Cinemedia's technology that turns moviegoers into "human joysticks" to play an on-screen game. With consumer video technology creating better movie experiences at home, theaters have to remember they are in the entertainment experience business, not merely the movie-showing business.

  • Old media is taking a page or two from the new media playbook. Last month, NBC tried to take an internet phenomenon and turn it into a TV show. quarterlife was a popular scripted net-only show consisting of 8-minute segments. As a 30-minute show on broadcast TV, quarterlife failed in a spectacular fashion, providing the lowest ratings the network had seen in 17 years. Some felt this called into question the strategy of moving content from the Internet to TV, but I believe differently. I think the problem was that 8-minute segments was what young audiences wanted for this kind of content. Now MTV is trying alternative-length programming on its network. Learning from the success of Robot Chicken, the net is airing original series with run times of just two to six minutes. For some types of entertainment, brief content is the experience that matches the brief attention spans for Internet-weaned youth.

  • Wine is an experience unto itself, but what about ordering wine? That process hadn't changed in years, until Adour, a restaurant in New York's St. Regis Hotel, opened. Looking to differentiate itself by making selecting wine an experience, Adour has a new touch-sensitive, interactive wine experience. Wired calls it, "Minority Report meets Sideways." I find this an interesting way for a restaurant to create an experience that customers will remember!

  • The "Got Milk?" campaign, introduced back in 1994, is rolling out the 2008 iteration, and this time it's going social. Aiming for teens, the campaign will use a MySpace profile to introduce milk-enhanced rock star, "White Gold," who sings about his love for milk. I'm not sure how this will work--first of all, the 70s-era hair band approach seems more likely to appeal to folks older than their teens. Also, the song lyrics are funny but heavy handed. Gauge for yourself with the music video below.

    (It's funny: the
    creative director at San Francisco-based Goodby, Silverstein & Partners brags about 100,000 people having seen the YouTube video in the past month; meanwhile, this inane video for HotRoast.com has been seen almost half a million times in two days! In viral marketing, everything is relative.)