November, 2011

How To Avoid Social Network Marketing Disasters

Like a loaded gun in the hands of a three-year-old

More and advertisers — from local Richmond ambulance-chasing personal-injury lawyers to worldwide brands– have succumbed to the dogma that all it takes to win big-time in the marketplace is a blog, a Facebook page and a Twitter feed. Back in March, we highlighted two national examples of how misguided this belief can be — the 2010 Pepsi social media campaign that rocketed their brand all the way from second in its category to third, and the Burgeer King social media campaign that produced a 2/5% sales decline while McDonald’s sales grew 4.4%.

Pepsi and BK were lucky. They just lost sales. A social media campaign made international headlines this week because it cost the advertiser not only sales, but also its reputation.

Watch what you say

The first reason for this and similar debacles was the advertisers didn’t realize that the audience they were reaching was, basically, everybody. “[W]ith every person on the planet who has an Internet connection now armed with the power to freely publish information one to many across sites on the web,” writes Emma Barnett in the (UKTelegraph,“…companies have never been more held to ransom by the customers.”

QUANTAS airlines learned this the expensive way.

Coming off a bitter lockout and a string of safety failures that grounded their whole fleet and stranded passengers around the world, Read more →

While You Eat Turkey, Major Retailers Play Chicken

Only a few shopping hours left till Christmas!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving dinner early this year. Or, better yet, turn it into a picnic as you camp out on line at Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Target, HHGregg, Kohl’s, or the Richmond big-box retailer of your choice. Black Friday’s going to be a little early this year.

From Black Friday to Black Midnight

In case you didn’t know it from all the advertising activity — the spam, the coupon ads and direct mail, the JCPenney “plan your attack” previews, the return of Target’s obnoxious holiday shopping spokeswoman to television — retailers are trying to grab as many of your gift dollars as early as possible.

To that end, opening times, usually scheduled around sunrise, have now moved to zero-dark-hundred, with many being as early as midnight.

And you’re going to be seeing even more of the Target shopping lady because they’ve doubled Friday, making it two days long.

Apparently, it pays to advertise

According to the NPD group, consumers are responding. They project that 17% of consumers plan to start their Christmas shopping, up from 12% last year. Some 74 million say they’ll definitely be shopping, while another 77 million say they’ll wait to see if the bargains are good enough to justify battling the crowds. And crowds there will be. Read more →

Internet Advertising’s Latest New Thing: Rehashing Old Ad Metrics And Formats

Digital advertisers are souring on metrics and techniques they created.

Once upon a time, the whole breakthrough of Internet advertising was the promise of targeting prime consumer prospects more precisely than ever dreamed of, without the slop and waste of mass media. But a funny thing happened on the way to advertising utopia.

“[D]espite all the bravado of the new media world that was going to disrupt and disintermediate the traditional media model,” says Antony Young, CEO of Mindshare North America, “all it’s done is reinforce it.”

  • Facebook is now building its financial future on selling display ads — clickable, miniature versions of the kind of billboard advertising you see along I-64.
  • The fastest-growing digital advertising medium right now is video — in essence commercials like those you’ve been seeing since channel 6 was the only television station in Richmond, Virginia and the South (and about the same size as on those early television screens).
  • Editorial content on iPads is now interrupted by print or video ads, just like, in principle, articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch or any magazine.
  • Pandora founder Tim Westergren told advertising executives that his online-music service (interrupted by radio-like commercials) was just like radio, and it needs to be measured like traditional radio, with an Arbitron-like ratings system — the system WRVA, K95, Lite 98, and Richmond’s other commercial radio stations use to sell ad time — to compete on equal footing with traditional radio stations for radio advertising budgets.
  • The Interactive Advertising Bureau, of all organizations, is working to get the industry to switch from unique visitors and time on site to — are you sitting down? — reach,  frequency and ratings.

Why the Great Leap Backward?

So what happened to what Young calls “this ever social media world of participation and personalization”? Maybe it got mugged by reality — several realities, in fact. Some of them have to do with the way the medium works, some with the different ways that digital and traditional advertising tend to work, some with how audiences work, and some with unrealistic expectations.

Measuring the unmeasurable

One of the reasons digital audience metrics are so hard to sell to advertisers is that they’re so hard to calculate. John Trimble, Pandora’s Chief Revenue Officer, says his people have had to do manual calculations to turn unique visitors and time spent into average quarter-hours, among other measurements. “It’s been a bit of an inhibitor for us,” he (under)stated.

Waste, not precision

Pioneering retailer John Wanamaker once said, “Half my advertising is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which half.”

According to Econsultancy Digital Marketers’ 2011 Email Marketing Industry Census, 55% of e-mail marketers don’t test regularly for effectiveness, 43% don’t even do landing page testing, and 13% never test at all. Only 12% of companies know how many of their e-mails are wasted through nondelivery, and that percentage has been declining each year.

Technicians, not persuaders

Too much of digital marketing’s manpower and mindpower has been devoted to gaming the search-engine algorithms, at the expense of figuring out how to persuade consumers once they get to your site. Unfortunately, search engines don’t spend money to buy your products or services. People do. (See here and here.) Getting them to buy requires capturing and maintaining their attention and persuading them with carefully thought out sales arguments about what’s in your brand for them — techniques which social-media and other kinds of non-display advertising practitioners seem to have discarded.

Ignoring how people work in the marketplace

The whole rationale for social-network marketing is that you could more efficiently and more effectively sell to people by establishing long-term, meaningful dialogs between them and your brand, or by posting games and polls and other participatory devices that would build lots of clicks and likes. Things haven’t worked out that way. Clicks and likes don’t automatically turn into sales, and ongoing meaningful dialogs take lots of time — calendar, not just clock, time. Consumers are habituated to getting their brand information in quick, telegraphic bites. They want to learn about benefits of brands they’re considering, not establish meaningful dialogs with them. When they see an ad or commercial — in digital or online media — they know how and whether to absorb what each is telling them. For the most part, they lack interest in long-term wooing through dialog and often fail to connect promotions, charity drives or whatever with what your product will do for them.

People aren’t necessarily looking for friendships with and personal communications from a brand. They’re fine with impersonal communications from an advertiser. Often they resent pseudo-personal form communications from the same organizations whose commercials they like to watch.

This is not to say that digital advertising can’t be a powerful medium. It can be and sometimes is. But it works best when it learns from its older brothers.

We Get Results? Usda Officially Cancels Chritmas Tree Ad Tax

A federal program almost paid for their advertising.

Christmas will be a little merrier this year.

In a ruling just released in today‘s (November 17) Federal Register, the US Department of Agriculture officially rescinded the 15¢-per-tree tax on natural Christmas trees and aborted the federal Christmas Tree Promotion Board which would have burnt up tax dollars collecting and administering it.

I wish I could say it was the power of this blog,or this article.

But a little help from ABC News, the Chicago Tribune,,, Fox Business, Fox News, the Heritage Foundation, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer,, and Time magazine didn’t hurt.

Should Your Tax Dollars Pay For Christmas Tree Ads?

Maybe you were too distracted last week by trivia — like the changing control of the Virginia State Senate,

A federal program almost paid for their advertising.

the Commonwealth Attorney election upset in Henrico, the accident that killed three people and tied up traffic all day on I-85, or the UN report confirming that, yes, Iran has been working on the bomb all along — to notice a horrendous right-wing plot to victimize a deprived minority, namely America’s beleaguered and discriminated-against Christmas tree growers.

But don’t worry. Kerem Ozkam, of Advertising Age, wasn’t.

An American tragedy

Last week, November 8 to be specific, the US Department of Agriculture announced the formation of a federal Christmas Tree Promotion Board, whose function would be

to run a “program of promotion, research, evaluation, and information designed to strengthen the Christmas tree industry’s position in the marketplace; maintain and expand existing markets for Christmas trees; and to carry out programs, plans, and projects designed to provide maximum benefits to the Christmas tree industry” (7 CFR 1214.46(n)).  And the program of “information” is to include efforts to “enhance the image of Christmas trees and the Christmas tree industry in the United States” (7 CFR 1214.10) Read more →