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Friday, September 9 2011

What's There to Like About 'Likes'?

With all the talk these days about consumer insight, we sometimes forget that demographics matter.  The Facebook agency SocialCode just reported some findings relating gender and age to Facebook ad clickthroughs and "likes." 

Since last Fall up to August 2011, SocialCode analyzed Facebook ads for 50 clients and focused on those that included an image, text and a “like” button. The study analyzed how many consumers clicked on the ads, and from there, how many went on to “like” the company’s page.

Though the results are not exactly striking, the study revealed women to be more likely to click on an ad on Facebook, though both men and women are about equally likely to then click “like” once they’ve done so. The average clickthrough rate for women of all ages was 0.029%, compared to 0.026% for men of all ages. The “like” rate among those who clicked an ad was 39% for women and 38% for men.

In terms of age differences, older consumers were more likely to click on a Facebook ad, with clickthrough rates increasing from 0.026% for the 18-to-29 age range, up to 0.033% for the over-50 group.  As I said, not exactly striking, but there it is.  Moreover, consumers under the age of 50 were more likely to then “like” a brand, with 18- to 29-year-olds and 40- to 49-year-olds doing so 40% of the time. Those ages 30 to 39 had a 38% “like” rate, while only 36% of those over 50 hit the “like” button.

The conclusion?  According to eMarketer, 'Marketers can leverage these data to create Facebook ad campaigns that resonate with their target audience, and thereby increase “likes” and clickthrough rates. For example, in order to reach an older audience, brands should optimize their landing pages so these consumers can learn more about brands without necessarily clicking “like” right away. If brands are targeting a younger, more male audience, in particular, they would be well-served to focus on the “like” button within the ad.'

Good advice, but how did 'Like' become such a central benchmark of anything in marketing?  'Like' just sounds so milquetoast, kind of like having your date tell you that you are a 'nice' person, but he/she wants to start seeing somebody else.  If you're such a nice guy, for example, wouldn't she want to keep seeing you?  Or is it that she 'likes' you, but can live without you?  See what I mean?  It's pretty easy to be mildly amused by a humorous message and quickly click the thumbs-up 'like' button.  Ten seconds later, you are likely to have forgotten the brand and the message.  Who wants that?  As an attitudinal reference, I'm not sure 'like' taps any lasting evaluation.  Pringles has garnered nearly 15.5 million 'likes' for its Facebook fan page.  It's a pretty decent page, with nearly 100% response to consumer posts, plenty of short, amusing videos, etc.  How many of those 15.5 million 'friends' return to the page on a regular basis or truly appreciate the product?  'Like' - Just a passive measure of an increasingly passive culture.

Friday, June 17 2011

Connecting With Consumers Via High Tech

I've copied below an excerpt from an interesting article in The New York Times today, penned by John Grossman.  You can read the entire article at this link, but I thought the discussion about Q.R. codes - that is, quick response bar codes, which can be scanned using an iPhone's or Android phone's camera - provided some good insight into how even small businesses can connect with consumers via new technology.  The Q. R. codes rely on an app that translates the code into an advertisement or takes you to a related Web page.  The codes also offer an intriguing channel for getting closer to customers, sharing recipes and coupons, inviting feedback, and so on.  Here's the excerpt:

Nothing is old school about this or a wave of other high-tech customer service initiatives being adopted by a vanguard of small businesses.

In some instances, such as at Zingerman's, a delicatessen, restaurant, mail-order food seller and business seminar host based in Ann Arbor, Mich., the digitally driven service enhancements remain internal and invisible to customers.

For the last dozen years, Zingerman’s has captured customer comments as either code red (complaints) or code green (compliments), but until recently they were captured on paper forms.

Storing comments digitally makes it much easier to analyze them, said Maggie Bayless, managing partner of ZingTrain, the business seminar division.

“We can now sort by types of complaints, customer name or period of time,” Ms. Bayless said. “For example, as we go into the holidays, it’s possible to pull the data for the holiday season a year ago and see what problems we were having and identify: What do we need to remind people to watch for this year?”

By contrast, the highly visible brand of high-tech customer service offered by Culinary Twist is activated by so-called Q.R. codes on its product labels. Short for Quick Response, these bar code cousins, when photographed by an app-enabled smartphone, offer a wealth of service opportunities.

Potential buyers can view a recipe, say, for pork ribs in Baja sauce when they are steps from the meat counter. Soon, Ms. Milos said, they will be able to call up on their hand-held devices a discount coupon that can be scanned at checkout. And with help from OpinionLab’s back-shop capabilities, Ms. Milos can also receive recipe suggestions, insights or even notification of a problem at a particular store — be it a missing favorite or filthy display shelves.

She expects more of the kind of helpful feedback received in an early store demo that led to a relabeling of the Bora Bora sauce.

“We had so many people say they didn’t know what tamarind was, or dates, that we decided to take those words out of the subscript and change it to more about the flavor and how the product was used,” Ms. Milos said. “It now says ‘Sweet Spice Grilling Sauce.’ That’s another piece to the Q.R. code and serving the customer — just listening to them.”

The Q.R. code enhancements to the labels cost about 15 cents a bottle. Rand Nickerson, OpinionLab’s chief executive, puts additional costs for his company’s services at pennies per consumer comment.

“It’s not true anymore that only the Procter & Gambles of the world can afford to do this,” he said. “You don’t have to run a wave of $100,000 focus groups across the country to learn things anymore. The most successful companies in the future, I believe, will be those who become progressively more and more customer-driven.”

Tuesday, June 14 2011

Rules of Consumer Engagement

Eagerly anticipating the copious food and endlessly flowing wine at the recent European Marketing Academy (EMAC) conference in Ljubljana, I knew I was in trouble when they first shuttled everyone into an auditorium and presented some local flavor in the form of a Slovenian playing what was proclaimed as a '6,000 year old whistle.'  Miles Davis he was not, but then I imagine there's not much you can do with a 6,000 year old whistle except to marvel that anything 6,000 years old can still carry a tune.  The whistler was followed by a representative of the global management consulting firm, McKinsey&Company, who began with a breakthrough discovery:  "Consumers are more connected than ever before in history."  Really?  I didn't know that.  For the next 20 minutes, the audience was presented with an oratory about what a great company McKinsey is, which I am sure is very, very true.  But as stomachs started growling, I think quite a few attendees had come to the conclusion that if we weren't yet going to be fed, then it would be better to get that 6,000 year old whistle back on the stage.  Anything but more McKinsey self-plaudits.  Better to get off the stage and get back to issuing pithy and terse reports, like its May 2011 Consumer and Shopper Insights paper on consumer engagement, penned by David Edelman, Patricia Ellen, and Christoph Erbenich, available at this link.  

To make a long story short, McKinsey developed a "Consumer Decision Journey" (CDJ) model in 2009, which incorporates four steps that organizations can follow to engage consumers at each step of the consumer journey from the initial purchasing consideration to the creation of brand loyals: Align, Link, Lock, and Loop.

ALIGN:  Invest marketing resources where consumers spend their time.  This likely will involve shifting resources from the 'consider' and 'buy' stages of the CDJ to the 'evaluate' and 'advocate' stages.  For many companies, investments will have to shift from paid media (channels owned by other companies, like print or online newspapers) to self-owned media (like the brand's Web sites) and earned media (such as customer-created channels like brand communities).

LINK:  Messages must reinforce each other, a daunting task in light of the proliferation of channels.  This doesn't only pertain to promotions, but also to product model numbers and descriptions, images, etc.  Edelman et al.  point to Apple's effort to eliminate jargon and maintain consistency in its product descriptions, creating a rich library of explanatory videos, etc.  Consistency, accuracy, and accuracy across touchpoints is critical.

LOCK:  Keep customers attention.  This requires the development of direct, opt-in channels, including email promotions, Twitter and Facebook feeds, and apps.  For example, McDonald's targeted millions of Japan's mobile-savvy consumers to sign up for mobile alerts with discount coupons, opportunities to participate in contests, special-event invitations, and other brand-specific content.  Keep it coming, keep it fresh, and offer consumers something they value, and I bet you don't lose their attention.

LOOP: Focus on consumer and expert created content for insights into customers and the brand, and use data collected about customers to create content that will engage them.  As I emphasize in my book Connecting With Consumers, it is critical to listen to consumers, but if you don't then apply those insights to better connect with customers, what's the point?  Edelman et al. give kudos to Amazon in this regard - the company invites customers to rate products and then makes the ratings available to shoppers.  But Amazon goes further - it also uses the data to decide how it presents its products.  This is what is meant by an information-rich loop, which goes from data to content and back to data, all contributing to product development, customer support, and personalized communications.

A Brief History of Advertising

Well, not really a brief history of advertising, but a quick glance at some insights into the advertising process that I gleaned while working on my next book, The Psychological Foundations of Marketing (Routledge, due 2012).  According to research, each successive generation since the 'silent generation' (those who came of age during WWII and the Great Depression) through the 'millennial generation" (those born after 1985), when asked "what makes your generation unique" says "smarter".  We have the Internet, so we must be smarter!  But check out these early quotes on advertising - they're pretty well known in the advertising profession:

Slide 69

Advertisements are now so numerous that they are very negligently perused, and it has therefore become necessary to gain attention by magnificence of promises, and by eloquence sometimes sublime and sometimes pathetic. Promise, large promise, is the soul of advertisement...” 

Source:  Samuel Johnson, 1759  ("The Art of Advertising Exemplified", The Idler (A series of essays in Universal Chronicle, #40).

The first time people look at any given ad, they don’t even see it.
The second time, they don’t notice it.
The third time, they are aware that it is there.
The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they’ve seen it somewhere before.
The fifth time, they actually read the ad.
The sixth time they thumb their nose at it.
The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
The eighth time, they start to think, “Here’s that confounded ad again.”
The ninth time, they start to wonder if they’re missing out on something.
The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they’ve tried it.
The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is paying for all these ads.
The twelfth time, they start to think that it must be a good product.
The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can’t afford to buy it.
The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
The seventeenth time, they make a note to buy the product.
The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
The nineteenth time, they count their money very carefully.
The twentieth time prospects see the ad, they buy what is offering.

Source: Thomas Smith, 1985 (Successful Advertising: Its Secrets Explained)  

Saturday, June 4 2011

So Many Videos, So Little Time

Hard to believe that YouTube is a mere six years old.  Why is it that it seems to have been around forever?  Way back in 2007, a mind-boggling 8 hours of video was uploaded every minute.  Today, that figure has jumped to 48 hours of video is uploaded per minute, or 69,120 hours per day.  And yet there are still company representatives who have the audacity to say, "We've uploaded a viral video to YouTube!"  And I say, "good luck."  Hard to tell which is more difficult - having your television advertisement stand out and become memorable or having a YouTube video go viral.  As WOMMA's Pat McCarthy observed, "We’re entering a validation era where content needs to come from trusted sources and be easily digestible."

From Courtenay Bird's Tumblr site:


Wednesday, June 1 2011

Introducing the Hot New Social Network, PhoneBook

I couldn't resist - this published verbatim from The Borowitz Report, 9 February 2010.  It's dated, but for some reason, it just seems more and more relevant.  As I continue to bump into people poking at that little rectangular box in their hands as I walk the streets of Paris, I can't help thinking that those people are in that little box and not in Paris at all.  Maybe's there's something to the PhoneBook concept afterall.  Or better yet, to quote from Trainspotting, 'choose life.'

By the way, if you like the PhoneBook installment, check out Borowitz's current posting on the US Republicans' plan to replace Social Security with Groupon.


A new social network is about to alter the playing field of the social media world, and it’s called PhoneBook.

According to its creators, who invented the network in their dorm room at Berkeley, PhoneBook is the game-changer that will leave Facebook, Twitter and even the much anticipated Google Buzz in a cloud of dust.

“With PhoneBook, you have a book that has a list of all your friends in the city, plus everyone else who lives there,” says Danny Fruber, one of PhoneBook’s creators.

“When you want to chat with a friend, you look them up in PhoneBook, and find their unique PhoneBook number,” Fruber explains.  “Then you enter that number into your phone and it connects you directly to them.”

Another breakout utility of PhoneBook allows the user to arrange face-to-face meetings with his or her friends at restaurants, bars, and other “places,” as Fruber calls them.

“You will be sitting right across from your friend and seeing them in 3-D,” he said.  “It’s like Skype, only without the headset.”

PhoneBook will enable friends to play many games as well, such as charades, cards, and a game Fruber believes will be a breakout: Farm.

“In Farm, you have an actual farm where you raise real crops and livestock,” he says.  “It’s hard work, but it’s more fun than Mafia, where you actually get killed.”

Sunday, May 22 2011

The Real Cost of Social Media: Infographic

Here you go, a very insightful infographic shedding light on the value of social media for firms.  This is based on research conducted by Syncapse, including a comparison of 20 brands to assess the economic potential of having fans on Facebook.  Thanks to WOMMA's Pat McCarthy for bringing this to my attention.

Thursday, May 19 2011

Smoke Signals

Wireless connecting is great, I'm lovin' it.  Everything is getting smarter - computers, tablets, phones, cars, refrigerators.  Which isn't to suggest that people are getting any smarter.  Case in point: the e-cigarette.  Pioneered by Blu, electronic cigarettes release a nicotine-laden vapor instead of smoke, and the packs are equipped with sensor devices that emit and receive radio signals that let users know that other e-smokers are nearby.  When an e-smoker gets within 15 meters of another e-smoker, the packs vibrate and flash a blue light.  The packs, which sell for about US$60-$80 for five reusable e-cigarettes, can be set up to exchange information about their owners that can be downloaded onto PCs, like contact information on social networking sites, smoking history, IQ score, favorite Lady Gaga song, whatever.  Even better, the packs vibrate to inform their owners that they are near a retail outlet that sells Blu cigarettes, so that they can blow more of their hard-earned American greenbacks.  Blu researchers have not yet perfected the pack to cough along with the vibration, and I'm not holding my breath.

There you have it, social smoking for the social networking era.  According to Blu founder, Jason Healy, "You'll meet more people than ever, just because of the wow factor."  As in 'Wow, you look so cool puffing on a fake cigarette and blowing out blue vapor!"  The key advantage, and I don't deny it:  they allow users to avoid smoking bans in public places because they release water vapor instead of smoke.  And supposedly they have practically no ill health effects, although the jury is still out on that claim.

Later versions of the e-cigarette promise the possibility of tethering the device to a smartphone through an app, allowing for more real-time communication, and there are plans to develop a monitoring system so that the packs will report back to e-smokers (and perhaps their doctors) about how much they are smoking.

If you want to see a Blu e-cigarette in action, check out Matt's You Tube video.

I don't know, try as I might, I just can't identify with Matt.  Is this the typical e-smoker profile: young, impressionable, male, and a marketer's wet dream: "I got sucked into marketing...look at this [package], how beautiful it is"?

I can understand how a product like this might be appealing to those trying to kick the real thing, but I just don't get the social connection element.  And apparently I'm not the only one.  Forrester analyst Charles S. Golvin, who has studied connected devices, such as Nintendo's new hand-held 3DS gaming devices that communicate with each other when brought into close proximity, believes that the Blu idea reveals how digital connections can get ahead of the reasons for connecting:

The way that groups of affinity are conferred just by physical proximity makes a bit of sense.  If someone walks by with a Nintendo, great, I share a common interest.  The fact that I walk by a smoker?  Seems like a weak link."

Adam Alfandary, a 24-year-old tech start-up employee also was skeptical about the e-cigarette, suggesting that the reason he lights up the real thing in the first place had to do with its social aspects. Mr. Alfandary scoffed at the idea that a cigarette device would do the social connecting for him: "I think that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life.  And I'm saying that in full acknowledgment that smoking is one of the dumbest things I can do." 

I think e-cigarettes are just the beginning.  Imagine the possibilities - e-ankle bracelets, so that people under house arrest can connect with other people under house arrest.  Dominique Strauss-Kahn would never be bored again!  And what about e-umbilical cords, so that newborn babies can connect with other newborns sharing their birthday?  The possibilities are endless.

Source:  Joshua Brustein, The New York Times, 10 May 2011.

Wednesday, May 4 2011

Connecting With the Crowd

In my book, Connecting With Consumers  I discussed two of the iconic examples of crowdsourcing, as employed by Dell (Ideastorm) and Starbucks (My Starbucks Idea).  Crowdsourcing, is the term that most commonly refers to mass collaboration - in essence, the outsourcing of tasks traditionally performed by employees or contracters to consumers through an open call or challenge.  Incorporating consumers' ideas into product or service design promotes the feeling among customers, followers, and fans that they have a vested interest in the offering's success and are thus more willing to support it.Slide 97

Take PlayStation.  If you check out the enormously popular (at least with gamers) PlayStation Blog, you'll find a link in the upper left corner to PS.Blog.Share, where fans can share their ideas with the company.

Has this program effectively engaged PlayStation gamers?  The numbers speak for themselves:  to date, PlayStation has received 5,371 ideas submitted by the community.  Those ideas have generated 77,773 comments and prompted 1,694,413 total votes.  PlayStation has put 62 community-generated ideas into action.

A couple more recent and noteworthy variations on crowdsourcing, this time coming out of Europe, are described at Real Business.co.uk.  The summaries below are largely lifted from that site:

  • Made.com: the online furniture business is stripping out the middlemen and connecting its customers with the furniture makers directly to cut the cost to the consumer by 50 - 80 per cent. The company’s product range is determined by a customer voting system to identify “favorites”. With a 10 day countdown period for orders where customers commit to pay upfront, Made.com only orders the exact number required from the manufacturers, avoiding the need for a warehouse as orders are delivered direct to customers’ homes.
  • Naked Wines strips out the middlemen.  According to Naked Wines CEO Rowan Gormley, “Historically most winemakers had to spend more time and money selling wine rather than making it. Bonkers! Good winemakers want to invest in quality – they don't want to waste their funds on slick marketing campaigns."  To get around this, Gormley has rapidly built a customer base now numbering ~100,000, of whom a large proportion are “angels” investing £20 a month in advance for their wines. This creates a virtuous circle where the wines selected are the ones the angel community identifies as their “favorites”, orders are aggregated in advance and “the winemakers get to know their wine is sold before they've even grown the grapes... so they can spend all their time in the vineyard crafting delicious wines, and give you the money they would have wasted on selling!”

Active on Facebook and Twitter, eliminating the middle man and passing on savings to its customers, Naked Wines is all about connecting with consumers. 

Monday, May 2 2011

The Mobile Movement

Thanks to my ESCP student, Jalita Aspelin, who is Assistant Product Manager at Agence France-Presse (check out her New Trends website) for this link to a video promotion for Google mobile ads:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CjUcq_E4I-s&feature=player_embedded

As is typically the case with these sorts of pithy videos on social media and new technologies, the video is replete with phantom percentages, source and method unidentified.  Nonetheless, the basic points of the video can't be denied - smartphones are indeed serving to make consumers smarter shoppers and are facilitating the shopping process, usurping many of the functions of traditional media and computers.  Is it just me, or does it seem that in the near future, the desktop computer is going to look as much as an antique as the typewriter?

Wednesday, April 20 2011

The Journal of Marketing Communications Wants You


Journal of Marketing Communications

Special Issue:  Word of Mouth and Social Media

Editors:  Allan J. Kimmel and Philip J. Kitchen



The Internet and mobile devices have come to occupy a central role in the transmission of word of mouth (WOM) and the spread of marketing buzz, an impact that has shown phenomenal growth over the past decade with the emergence of blogs, Internet forums and discussion groups, text messaging, email, and the like.  In fact, the most powerful media form is WOM and it is no longer limited to face-to-face encounters. Moreover, WOM today can spread with lightning speed to reach countless numbers of consumers.  As marketers strive to adapt to these rapidly evolving technological and social developments and keep pace with their markets, researchers have followed suit, as evidenced by the growing body of scientific literature on various aspects of WOM communication (i.e., the act of a consumer creating and/or distributing marketing-relevant information to other consumers) and related personal influence phenomena (e.g., brand communities; brand ambassador programs; product seeding campaigns).  Nonetheless, to date, relatively little academic research scrutiny has been devoted to WOM as it relates to social media and other web-driven consumer-generated phenomena, such as blogs and consumer Internet forums. Moreover, there is a paucity of academic research relating to the strength of consumer-to-consumer communications as compared to B2C and B2B.  There is evidence of resistance by marketers in staying with the time-worn, but tested and tried traditional types of communications.


This special issue of the Journal of Marketing Communications is intended to bridge this knowledge gap by providing an outlet for innovative and timely contributions pertaining to online WOM, as disseminated through the broad array of social media (a category of online media where people are talking, participating, sharing, networking, and bookmarking, including social sharing sites such as YouTube and Flickr; social networks such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook; online forums; and corporate and consumer-generated blogs.   


Topics for the special issue include but are not limited to:

  • methods of using social media for generating WOM
  • comparisons of online and offline WOM dynamics and consequences, including the interplay between these various forms of WOM
  • the conversational, as opposed to dyadic, nature of online WOM disseminated through social forums
  • antecedents to and conditions facilitating online WOM
  • the impact of negative online WOM and complaint behavior
  • the impact of online WOM on sales
  • the dynamics, spread, and consequences of marketing-relevant online rumors
  • rhetorical analyses of online WOM conversations
  • brand-related storytelling in blogs and online forums
  • segmentation analyses of online WOM participants
  • the integration of WOM with other on- and off-line techniques
  • where WOM fits in terms of integrated marketing communications from an organizational or consumer-based perspective.


Submissions to the special issue should be original empirical or theoretical contributions and should not be under simultaneous consideration for any other publication.  Online WOM should not be treated as a peripheral aspect of the paper, but must serve as a central focus.  As a guide, papers should be between 4000 and 6000 words in length, including an abstract of no more than 200 words.  Manuscripts should be submitted electronically in Microsoft Word format to the guest editors before 1st May 2012.  The format of the manuscript must follow Journal of Marketing Communications guidelines.  For the Author guidelines, please visit http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/titles/13527266.asp


All questions regarding the suitability of manuscripts should be sent to the Editors.



Dr. Allan J. Kimmel                             Dr. Philip J. Kitchen

ESCP Europe                            The Faculty of Business

Marketing Department                 Brock University

79 avenue de la République         500 Glenridge Avenue

75543 Paris, France                    St Catharines, Ontario, Canada L2S 3A1

E: kimmel@escpeurope.eu           pkitchen@brocku.ca




Monday, April 18 2011

Pretzel Crisps' Social Sampling and Twitter

On the heels of my recent Pretzel Crisps' and Facebook campaign excerpt, I heard from Pretzel Crisps' PR Director Jessica Harris - another example of how the makers of an everyday snack product really understand how to resonate with consumers through social media - they listen and they connect.  Ms. Harris provided a summary of Pretzel Crisps' so-called "Social Sampling" program, along with a window into how the firm uses Twitter to generate brand awareness and consumer conversations.  I've presented the campaign summary verbatim below.

Pretzel Crisps’® “Social Sampling” Program Rethinks How to Connect with New Consumers




Pretzel Crisps® wanted to introduce the brand to new consumers in a targeted and high-impact way.  “We needed a groundbreaking, cost-effective way to raise brand awareness and attract new users,” said Jason Harty, Director of Field & Interactive Marketing for Pretzel Crisps and recently referenced in the newly released, Listen First! Turning Social Media Conversations into Business Advantages, by Stephen D. Rappaport.  “By listening to the cloud of conversation and engaging with consumers in relevant dialogue, we could build increased interest in the brand and move Pretzel Crisps from an overlooked brand to a must-have brand in the competitive snack food category.”




As a humble pretzel cracker, it’s a pretty lofty goal to become a catalyst for social conversation, but that’s how they started.  By listening to and engaging in relevant conversations online, Pretzel Crisps delivered just-in-time product sampling to unexpecting new consumers.  The brand refers to their innovative marketing tactic as “Social Sampling.”




The Social Sampling tactic has innovated Pretzel Crisps’ field marketing approach and helped to bring new users into the franchise.  Since the launch of Social Sampling, the brand has used Twitter to: bring the idea of being a catalyst for social conversation to life and manufacture significant media impressions.  By measuring the number of impressions generated from each social sampling interaction and the resulting reach through each user’s following, Pretzel Crisps has been able to garner 2,877,000 earned media impressions since July 2010. 


Social Sampling delivered earned media via tweets, blog posts, reviews and comments.  While the brand has not been able to measure the specific sales lift resulting from their Social Sampling program, the brand is confident that this hyper-targeted, high-impact sampling is creating new consumers each day.

Sunday, April 17 2011

Below the Belt Marketing

This guerrilla campaign for New Zealand's Superette represents advertising that literally leaves an impression.  This is not exactly what I have in mind when I advocate how companies should connect with consumers.  And you wonder why people hold negative attitudes towards marketers and marketing. 

A logical extension of assvertising, this campaign was employed in inner city and fashion district bus stops, mall seats and park benches, and what with warm weather months approaching in other parts of the world, I imagine more and more consumers will be looking down for the next big deal.  (Source: geekologie

Thursday, April 14 2011

Pretzel Crisps - How to Double Facebook Fans in 36 Hours

'If you build it, he will come.'  - Ray Kinsella, Shoeless Joe Jackson

Kinsella's prophesy may or may not be an apt one for baseball, but it definitely doesn't cut it for social media.  As Carlos Diaz (Blue Kiwi) astutely noted in his social media maturity model, setting up corporate Twitter accounts, a Facebook fan page, and YouTube channel, in maturity terms, means you're an adolescent, stuck in the 'Connection' stage.   Connection sounds impressive, but it's not engagement.  And there are a ton of companies out there making a lot of noise: 'Look at us!  We're so active in social media!'  According to Diaz, that's just a lot of blablablah.

So it is with Facebook.  In her early survey of killer Facebook fan pages, PR and social media expert Callan Green noted:

Sure, anyone can build a fan page in under 10 minutes, and some big brands may even attract fans without any real effort. But even if you have 3 million fans, if the extent of their involvement with your brand is that at one point they “became a fan,” is that really benefiting you?

The fan pages that are doing it right are the ones that are actively engaging with their fans. These pages have creative content, two-way communication, active discussion boards, videos and images, and a fun and casual tone to match the medium.

These comments must have been taken to heart by the folks behind the recent Pretzel Crisps campaign to drive fan growth on their Facebook page.  With the assistance of Buddy Media, the campaign centered on product trial through the use of coupons.  According to Pretzel Crisps' Jason Harty, "One of the our first priorities was to give value to our fans, and use this added value to bring in new fans."  By offering coupons to encourage product trial, the campaign offered fans an enriched experience and a reward for becoming part of the Pretzel Crisps fan community.

Here is Steve Hall's account of what happened next:

Pretzel Crisps launched a $1 off coupon on Facebook during the last week of February, 2011, and saw fans grow from 5,000 to 12,000 as a result.  Then, on March 15th, 2010, Pretzel Crisps switch the $1 off coupon to a "buy one, get one free" coupon. And as an experiment, Pretzel Crisps didn't tell anyone about the promotion. They wanted to see if it would spread with literally no push behind it - no status update, no advertising, no PR.  Within 36 hours, Pretzel Crisps had doubled their fan-base on Facebook. They now have more than 45,000 fans on Facebook and have seen these fans remain engaged on their Facebook page.

In essence, a basic coupon distribution promotion boosted sales and built up a fan base in the process, which can in turn be leveraged for future promotions.  More and more brands like Pretzel Crisps seem to be getting the idea - setting up a Facebook fan page won't automatically lead to engagement if the brand behind the page doesn't do anything with it.  The Cone social media agency reported that last January that their research revealed that 77% of social media users want brands to offer them incentives online.  Check out this screen shot from Victoria Secret's Pink Facebook page, with the blue circles highlighting the added value Pink offers its fans:

While I'm at it, I might as well add some value to this page, by showing something else Pretzel Crisps offers its fans - killer recipes:

I'll have much more to say about effective Facebook marketing in coming weeks, maybe even some more recipes, so stay tuned.  Starbucks gets it.

Tuesday, April 12 2011

Social Networks Scorecard

Another piecemealed infographic on the current winners and losers among social networks, from Mashable via Ignite.

Needless to say, social networking preferences vary according to gender, age, educational level, and geographical location.  Plaxo is the preferred network for elderly online users (over 65 years old), Facebook is more popular with women, whereas Digg and Reddit attract more men. Plurk outperforms LinkedIn as the preferred network for well-educated users who hold graduate degrees.

Interesting findings, but it's important to bear in mind that these are snapshots of social network usage at a particular moment, subject to change.  A good bet is to regularly check on social network profiles where they are regularly monitored, such as Quantcast's 'People' (which tracks the profile of site visitors) and 'Visitors' (which provides measures of site visits, but doesn't always match Google's Analytics 'Actual').  Here are a couple snapshots from Quantcast's latest evaluation of American Facebook usage:

Slide 10This charts provide further evidence that Facebook skews towards female youth, although 53% have children and earn a salary of over US$60K per year.  Not surprisingly, 50% of users are university students.  These trends are changing as the university market becomes saturated and as more moms come onboard. 

Tuesday, March 15 2011

More Exaggerated Claims

I'm an avid surfer of social media sites, and there are some great ones out there - Mashable, for example, definitely merited a place on my 43Marks homepage.  Yet it never ceases to amaze me how many unverified stats end up at such sites, reported, cited, quoted, retweeted, what have you, without question.  So, when I noticed the headline, "80% of Children Under Age 5 Use the Internet" by Sarah Kessler, my bullshit detectors were maxed to the limit.  Just off the top of my head, I reasoned that many children under the age of 5 can't bloody read, so how do they log on, and what sites do they visit?  Okay, no sense nitpicking, but try to figure out the following graphic:

Now if I'm reading this chart correctly, we are expected to believe that 75% of 0-2 year olds use a computer and nearly 60% a cellphone?  This is difficult to accept even for 2 year olds, but what about 3 month olds?  And what are they doing on the cell phone - talking?  Before they learn how to talk? These stats supposedly come from Sesame Street Media Utilization Studies - that sure sounds impressive to me, until Kessler's link takes you to the Sesame Workshop site which hardly looks like a repository of rigorous research.  I consulted one of the SSMS reports, and found the following definition of 'media use', supposedly the measure plotted on the graphic: 'The amount of time spent actively consuming a given medium.'  So I guess that means we can rule out the possibility that the participation percentages include cases where a mother surfing the Internet is holding her baby, who happens to drool on the keyboard. 

Throwing out a bunch of head scratching statistics is nothing new when it comes to hyping social media - those Social Media Revolution videos are fun to watch and creatively produced, but replete with questionable statistics (e.g., '96% of Millennials have joined a social network').  Which is why I always cringe when my students start off a presentation with one of those videos. 

Moral of the story: just because the stats appear on an otherwise credible website or in a brilliantly produced video, it doesn't mean that they are accurate.  Seek verification and demand to know what method was used to acquire them.

Sunday, March 6 2011

Blogging Is Not Dead

Despite recent suggestions to the contrary, written words online - beyond the burgeoning 140-character attention span limit - continue to represent a useful means for companies to connect with their targets. Recent musings about the demise of blogs tend to center on the argument that the new online conversational tools like Twitter, Quora, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, and so on, have rendered blogs as essentially superfluous, redundant, and more time consuming than necessary.  Despite my beliefs to the contrary - my modest Paris Restaurant Reviews and Beyond blog continues to welcome an average of 60 visitors per day - I would probably be the first to agree that the blogosphere is littered with countless blogs, abandoned by their creators who quickly learned they bit off more than they could chew, or discarded like space debris once it was realized the blogs served no more useful purpose.  From the blogger's perspective, to maintain a fully-functioning blog, regularly updated with informative, engaging new content and maintaining a two-way conversation with commenters, well, it's a full-time job (which, for personal bloggers, only pays for the very lucky).  Yet, from a marketing perspective, just look at the evidence - more and more companies are taking advantage of the tool and claim that the outcomes more than offset the effort (at virtually no expense).

In terms of payoff for firms, check out the following results from HubSpot's Rick Burnes' 2009 analysis of 1,531 HubSpot customers (mostly small- and medium-sized businesses; 795 of which blogged):

In a nutshell (but more than 140 characters), Dreamgrow.com's founder and CEO Priit Kallas offers the following reasons why blogs are important:

  • Create an image of an expert
  • Interact with clients and prospects
  • Improve search engine rankings
  • Spread the word
  • Talk about more than just products and services
  • Solve client’s problems
  • Build trust
  • Stay on top of your field
  • Build brand
  • Exercise your creativity
  • Put a human face on your brand
  • Proving ground
  • Foundation for social media activities
  • Differentiate from competition
  • Educate clients, prospects, stake holders
  • Increase traffic
  • Make money

Still not convinced?  Then check out this little graphic from  Jonny at Technobabble 2.0:

Technobabble's blogging vs. Twitter assessment recalls my casual comments above:

Writing as a blogger, I an confirm what many people know, in that it takes a great deal of effort and dedication to compose a blog post. it’s not like twitter where brisk thoughts can be jotted down in 140 characters – instead a blog is a place where context is added to headline, where ideas are fleshed out and where structure is given to a proposition. Twitter and Facebook are not the right platforms for this – this is where a blog shines and becomes a library of all your thoughts and ideas. In essence it is where ‘idea starters’ reside.

But it's all relative, or should I say, connected?  Another finding from the HubSpot analysis:

In other words, the more meaningful and informative your blog content, the more interesting you will be on social networks like Twitter, Facebook, FourSquare, etc.  Easier said than done, but The Next Web offers a great start:  21 Tips to Create A Brilliant Business Blog.

And here are some suggestions as to how to draw a crowd, thanks to Problogger's Darren Rowse:

I hope to offer some more tips based on my own blogging experience at a later date, but you know, it's tired and I'm getting late.
I would love to hear from you, though - consider this a call for blogging tips and ways to keep building your follower base.

Saturday, March 5 2011

Connecting With Teens

I remember our first TV - a monstrous Zenith black and white box with an essential horizontal hold button, rabbit ears antenna, and three channels.  No HDML ports, no USB or ScanDisk inputs, no remote control, and I don't even think the word 'computer' had been invented yet.  If you're a teen today, that mini-techno-biography must send shivers up your spine.  Because you've grown up with laptops, the Internet, smart phones, and remotes up the wazoo.  You are the avant-garde of new technology.

A recent eMarketer report estimates that by the end of this year, 96% of US teens between the ages of 12 and 17 will go online monthly, compared with 74% of the total US population.

Regarding social networks: more than 4 in 5 teens are expected to use social media this year (vs. 64% of all Internet users) and 75% will use Facebook monthly. 

And texting is so second nature to a teen that it has just about relegated most email accounts to the trash bin.

The online social connectedness of teens for retailers is pretty phenomenal according to a new report, 'Teen Girls: Always on a Social Shopping Mission.'  According to eMarketer analyst Tobi Elkin, who authored the report, "Peer influence is the key driver in teen girl shopping behavior."  Although more than 4 million US teen girls purchased items online last year, shopping in the bricks & mortar context is still a major element of teen consumer behavior, as Elkin writes in her report:

"Teen girls are intrepid social shoppers who eagerly embrace digital and mobile tools. They enjoy hunting for clothes and accessories online and offline. Most thrilling, however, is the experience of shopping and buying in physical stores with close friends by their side."

"While they are price-conscious and driven by a great deal, teen girls weigh these factors against the all-important consideration of whether peers will approve of their purchases."

Still waiting to see how all this compares to teens outside the US.  And whither the teen boys?
Just have a look:

Sunday, February 6 2011

You Say You Want A Revolution

'My goal is to simplify complexity.'  So said Twitter creator Jack Dorsey, in a recent interview with Charlie Rose to explain his new C2C credit card project, Square.  Well, you sure don't get much simpler than 140 characters, and in an increasingly complex world, who doesn't crave simplicity?  Yet revolutions are anything but simple events, and anyone who has been pointing to social media like Twitter and Facebook as the underlying mechanisms to explain the recent uprisings in Egypt and other Middle Eastern states is sorely mistaken.  And if anyone has been doing the job in perpetuating that myth, you simply have to look at traditional media outlets. 

The role of Twitter in fomenting the mass anti-government protests in Egypt was initially questioned by Malcolm Gladwell, in his recent The New Yorker blog:

Right now there are protests in Egypt that look like they might bring down the government. There are a thousand important things that can be said about their origins and implications: as I wrote last fall in The New Yorker, “high risk” social activism requires deep roots and strong ties. But surely the least interesting fact about them is that some of the protesters may (or may not) have at one point or another employed some of the tools of the new media to communicate with one another. Please. People protested and brought down governments before Facebook was invented. They did it before the Internet came along. Barely anyone in East Germany in the nineteen-eighties had a phone—and they ended up with hundreds of thousands of people in central Leipzig and brought down a regime that we all thought would last another hundred years—and in the French Revolution the crowd in the streets spoke to one another with that strange, today largely unknown instrument known as the human voice. People with a grievance will always find ways to communicate with each other. How they choose to do it is less interesting, in the end, than why they were driven to do it in the first place.

Perhaps even more damning was this Sunday's simple observation by The New York Times' op-ed columnist Frank Rich, that at no time were the protests last week more intense and populated than the day immediately after the shutdown of social media sites by Mubarack and his gang:

The social networking hype eventually had to subside for a simple reason: The Egyptian government pulled the plug on its four main Internet providers and yet the revolution only got stronger. “Let’s get a reality check here,” said Jim Clancy, a CNN International anchor, who broke through the bloviation on Jan. 29 by noting that the biggest demonstrations to date occurred on a day when the Internet was down. “There wasn’t any Twitter. There wasn’t any Facebook,” he said. No less exasperated was another knowledgeable on-the-scene journalist, Richard Engel, who set the record straight on MSNBC in a satellite hook-up with Rachel Maddow. “This didn’t have anything to do with Twitter and Facebook,” he said. “This had to do with people’s dignity, people’s pride. People are not able to feed their families.”

Citing Evgeny Morozov's new book, The Net Delusion, Rich reminds us that there were only 19,235 registered Twitter accounts in Iran at the time of that country's American-dubbed 'Twitter Revolution.'  That's .027% of the Iranian population, hardly enough to create a groundswell.  And, of course, there is the growing likelihood that authoritarian regimes will put digital tools and technology to their own malevolent purposes, to spread propaganda and trace dissident networks.

 Like Rich, I would not begin to deny the power of social media for 'organizing, publicizing and empowering participants in political movements' around the world.  Certainly there is great potential there - when mainstream journalists quote unidentified tweeters, this enables getting word from people right where events are happening - but unless you know the source, and the overall context of the situation, what does it mean?  As the technology evolves, so too will the impact of social media.  For example, early last week, Google and Twitter unveiled a new speak-to-tweet service (@speak2tweet) that lets anyone with a voice connection upload a tweet, even without an Internet access. But to attribute such historic movements to social media alone is simplifying matters to such an extent that I doubt that even Jack Dorsey would approve.

Saturday, January 29 2011

The Evolution of Social Media - Catch It If You Can

It's not only that you can't stop progress, it is getting to the point where it has become way too difficult to keep pace.  When I was writing Connecting With Consumers, just as I had begun to nail a description of some state of the art connected marketing tool, my email inbox would begin to fill with latest updates from WOMMA, Marketing Power, Knowledge@Wharton, Marketing Sherpa, Adrants Daily, Mashable, etc.  That's not a problem when you're maintaining a blog about this stuff, but when you're writing a book that is rapidly approaching your publisher's deadline, well, you want to get that last word correct, even if it is correct for only 30 seconds. At any rate, thanks to OnlineSchools.org, we now have an infographic summarizing the nearly four decade history of social media.  In their view, the transmission of the first email got it going, and as we know, social media has evolved dramatically over the ensuing years, particularly when you consider the snail's pace by which other communication technologies evolved (see the timeline of communication media below, courtesy of eudemic.com ).

As Ray Kurzweil has pointed out, technological change is exponential.  In his book The Singularity is Near, Kurzweil demonstrates how evolution 'creates a capability and then uses that capability to evolve the next stage.'  Think about the development of the computer and, subsequently, the Internet, and that makes a whole lot of sense.  Thus, perhaps it was tongue and cheek that the infographic ends with 'The End,' when in fact, it more appropriately should read 'Only The Beginning.'

Note: I've chopped the infographic into three slices to facilitate copying and use for presentations.  One glaring omission among many is June 1999 and the launch of Napster by Shawn Fanning and Sean Parker - a platform that turned the music industry on its head and provided a key stimulus for peer-to-peer file sharing.  Once legal snafus doomed Napster as a free application, it was quickly followed by one emerging alternative after another, including my personal favorite, the epic Audiogalaxy.  Ah, those were the days.  Nowadays, there are bit torrents and uploading to storage sites.  The legacy of Napster's historic impact lives on in 'The Social Network' and Audiogalaxy has reappeared, albeit in a different Cloud-based guise.

Obviously, the OnlineSchools infographic creators have a pretty limited conception of social networking and thus what follows is dramatically oversimplified.  For a more complete single-slide history of social media, check out the one at crenk.com.   

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