Magalogs – catalogs that include elements of both editorial content and story-telling through design – help traditional catalogers build brand affinity and connections with their customers. To see an example, click here for a magalog King Fish created for PC Connection aimed at their small business customers. Retailers are recognizing the benefits of this approach, and are morphing their print to better serve customers, showcasing products in far more engaging environments. And to further demonstrate effectiveness, magalogs are also becoming digital versions, where customer shopping, referral behavior and site interaction is measured for true return on investment. Savvy marketers are starting to use this platform – and there is no reason not to – all retailers should. Build affinity, enhance shopper experience, and track results. That’s a recipe for job security.
They key to a successful magalog is producing the project with a team of creative and marketing-types that understand how to incorporate the elements that result in measurement and increased affinity. There are several applications that improve both measurement and sell-through, so be sure your content provider has a solid knowledge in these areas. A media investment should be accountable and measurable, and when executed properly, magalogs can be at the top of the ROI food chain.
GM is back in the news asking for more loans and giving the government its plan. President Obama doesn’t seem like he has much sympathy for their history of bumbling and mismanagement. Neither does the public, Gallup just released new data that says 72% of Americans are against giving GM and Chrysler additional bailout money. The sentiment is broad based across all demo groups. If the economy was good, I could see Obama saying no to more taxpayer money. However, given the delicate state of the economy, the President is giving them a shot at redemption. You could fill a book shelf with the collective mistakes of both management and the UAW, but I’ll focus on marketing and illustrate how the US auto companies, particularly GM is stuck deep the world of old media.
One of the most memorable experiences of my career was an attempt to sell auto advertising into PC Magazine in the late 90’s. I was PC Magazine’s marketing director, and King Fish President Cam Brown was then the Associate Publisher. We made it our personal mission to break the category so off to Detroit we went. PC Mag had great demos of high income male gadget/tech geeks who loved the magazine and spent two hours reading each issue. This was the perfect audience for Detroit and back then we had nearly 7 million readers and a circ of 1.2 million. However, we were lucky to get 15 minute meetings with young and clueless media planners who only cared about two things. The pubs ranking in syndicated research and how much merchandising they could squeeze out of your book. And, they made it clear that it was very hard to get on a plan if you were not already getting space.
It is hard to do justice to what a bizarre world it was, not to mention that the depressing city revolved around keeping things exactly the same. The media planners couldn’t get over the “environment” of PC Magazine. They were running ads in every special interest pub measured in the JD Power study but they could not wrap their heads around the idea of their unimaginative ads appearing next to a technology review. We could almost never get by that hurdle. We did sell a few programs (Jeep, Ford) but more often than not, no one was interested in even exploring a new idea.
When driving around the Troy/Detroit metro area you could sense that one day the jig would be up and the whole system would come crashing down. They were spending hand over fist for print and TV advertising to promote uninspired cars that people didn’t want to buy. While at the same time they were overpaying everyone involved and locking themselves into insane union contracts that make GM more of a healthcare provider than car manufacturer.
Take a look at the latest research I could find on eMarketer from this summer. We are in the new media age and GM has barely changed their spending mix. Interactive spending is up, but still a fraction of TV. The vast majority goes to the rented media channels of broadcast and print. It is common knowledge that most people start their auto shopping online, yet the overwhelming majority of their spending is on television. The government is going to ask them to change some of their business practices in return for bailout money. Maybe Mr. Obama will come across this blog on his BlackBerry so in part II I’ll have the audacity to tell GM what they are doing wrong and to fix it.
Another Oscar show is in the books and the ratings did tick up a bit from last year’s record low. While the show format is tired, it is not the real story of why it no longer holds America’s interest as it once did. The original purpose of the awards was to provide a sales boost to the winning movies and to get some PR love for the industry’s image. That is still the purpose today and it is reflected in the nominated movies and the tone of the show. This is the industry’s opportunity to show that they make “Big important movies about big important ideas”.
The nominated movies are often loaded with political messages and diversity. That is not a bad thing, but a complete disconnect with what the movie industry actually produces in large quantity today. The majority of releases are marketing concoctions aimed at the at the lucrative demo of young men and women and kids. Tad Friend wrote a fascinating article in the New Yorker about the movie marketing business. The story takes you into the sausage factory and it is eye opening. The artistic process has given way to focus groups and market testing to make sure the product resonates with the target audience. Between 25-35% of a movie’s budget is taken up by marketing efforts. Much of that money is dumped into a barrage of unmeasurable and unaccountable 15 and 30 second TV spots. Like their cousins in the auto industry, movie marketers show no signs of breaking their addiction to print and broadcast advertising that is high in cost and low in return. When it comes to “renting” media channels, the movie industry spends money with a fire hose.
The whole situation becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The added marketing costs make it harder for movies to make a profit, so they market test them and alter the film to resonate with the ticket buying young men and women. This is apparent when reviewing the top movies of 2008. The top grossing movies are mostly action and comedy films aimed at 15-28 yr old men and women. There is also a number of animated movies for the under 12 crowd. The first “adult” movie checks in at numbers 11 and 12 with “Sex in the City” and “Mama Mia”. After that it is slim pickings for the over 35 set (I could also say the over 110 IQ set, but that would be mean).
The fact that Hollywood is primarily producing products for the youth market is not a crime. They are in business to make money and those are the people who buy movie tickets. Ironically, the target audiences for their movies are the people least likely to settle in on a Sunday evening to watch an Oscar telecast that moves at the pace of a 1970’s variety show. Unlike the Grammy awards that live in the moment, the Oscars are often about the past. And, giving technical and behind the scenes awards (sound, costumes, editing) during prime time is not appealing to anyone except the families of the nominees.
There is also another factor at play in why America is tuning out the Oscars and that is political persuasion of the movie and entertainment industry. They are not shy in their support of Obama and liberal causes. This manifests itself in both financial and vocal public support. Sean Penn came through last night talking about how America elected an “elegant” man. Who knew Obama was like Fred Astaire.
This can be a turn off to the roughly 48% of the country that did not vote for President Obama – elegance and all. It is one thing to tolerate a difference in opinion from elected officials such as Barney Frank and Nancy Pelosi, but quite another to be lectured by rich, spoiled celebrities like Matt Damon. Don’t underestimate some of the hard feelings from moderate/conservative voters who got fed up with the media and entertainment industry during the past election. Nobody likes to be told how we are not doing enough about global warming and healthcare from surgically enhanced people who earn millions to stand in front of a camera and recite someone else’s words. The individuals in the movie business have every right to speak their minds, but it can be a risky proposition when you are selling a product to a broad consumer audience.
This explains some of the reasons why the Oscars are losing relevance, but what about the future of the movie industry in the age of new media. We’ll explore that next week….
I am stating the obvious, but 2009 will be a rough year for the Face to Face events business – from trade shows to custom events to conferences. I have been hearing about cut backs and cancelations from colleagues for months, and then saw this cover story in the New York Times on Vegas. Business is way down in Las Vegas, arguably the convention and conference capital of the US. Over 30,000 hotel rooms canceled last month as many shows have postponed or decided to cancel. At last month’s Super Bowl the famous Playboy party was canceled. They said a lavish party seemed inappropriate given the economy but I would wager that the only thing that was inappropriate was the lack of sponsor dollars to fund it.
The costs associated with live events makes them easy to cancel during a recession and that is really too bad. Live events are one of the best lead generation tools available and they do an equally great job with customer retention. The powers of events are enhanced when they are paired with original and compelling content created for the target audience. However, event’s benefits come with a high cost per lead due to the fixed costs of running a first class event. While there is no substitute for personal contact with a prospect or customer, there is another way.
Webcasting has been around for over ten years and is an established lead gen tool being used widely in the B2B world. The Virtual Show or Virtual Trade Show is really picking up steam this year. They have been around for a while now, but seem to be reaching a critical mass especially in the technology and life sciences markets. If you are not familiar with them here is a definition from Wikipedia:
The structure of a typical virtual tradeshow often includes a virtual exhibit hall which users enter with specific permissions and capabilities, to either attend and view virtual trade show displays in the exhibit hall or build virtual booths to exhibit information related to products or services on offer, just as they would at a trade fair in a convention center. The virtual tradeshow may have other components such as a virtual web conference, or a web seminar or a webinar, or other educational presentations. The virtual show thus results in live interaction between all the users on many levels (one-to-one, one-to-many and many-to-many) and simultaneously. Detailed tracking mechanisms allow organizers to determine the flow of traffic in the virtual tradeshow.
Because this is online you get incredible data on the visitors and the actions they take during the show. This allows you to segment and score your leads before you feed them into your lead nurturing programs. And, your sales people can interact with prospects online during the show. ON24 (King Fish is an authorized reseller) is one of several companies that provide a virtual show platform and they did some interesting research on the growth of virtual shows. They surveyed 10,000 enterprise executive who reported that 53% of their companies have begun using virtual events and 23% plan to start using them this year. The majority of these companies are also reporting that they will be decreasing their use of trade shows and physical sales meetings and training events.
If your company is struggling with your live events strategy it is worth exploring a virtual event. Be aware, it is a large undertaking with project management, selection of a platform, content creation and audience development all playing a big role in your plans. However, the rewards will be worth it when you start filling your sales pipeline with warm leads at a lower cost per lead (CPL) than a live event.
One of the consequences of the new media landscape is the marketing discipline of online reputation management. This has always been an issue, but with the popularity of social media it has reached critical mass. I recently came across a story that illustrates how ordinary people can harness the power of web 2.0 tools and make life very difficult for a company or individual. Last month while flipping channels my wife came across a show we have never watched – Wife Swap. The premise is wives from diverse backgrounds are switched for the purpose of mining entertainment from differences in attitudes towards housework, child rearing etc. They’re generally from opposing social and political strata to create conflict and comedy, and this one was off the charts.
One family was from Missouri and Middle America. Their dream is seeing their oldest boy win a paintball scholarship, though I can’t believe it actually exists. The “snobby” family was a pair of insufferable cultural elites from San Francisco who reveled in being environmentally correct and having a “World View” whatever that means. The husband, Stephen Fowler, is possibly the vilest person ever to grace American TV. He is a Brit who lives in the US of A to help us see the errors of our way. Stephen (wearing a shirt that says “Sustainability”) was mean and cruel to the wife from the Midwest to a level that was almost unwatchable. For more background check out this news video from San Francisco’s ABC affiliate.
I watched to the end because I wanted to see this loathsome man get his comeuppance, and I sorely disappointed. It just ended with him and his wife (who said she was not proud to be American) being their usual smug and condescending selves. I forgot all about the Fowlers until I read about the furor that this story caused in the Bay area and across the country. Outraged people took to the web/social media networks and started making life difficult for the Fowlers. This web site (stephenfowlersucks.com) became the hub and you can read about how their business and personal lives took a hit. Stephen tried to apologize but it was too late, even though he was “deeply” sorry. He had to resign from boards and his wife’s business, which they were promoting, was damaged. It’s a reminder that things live forever on the web and once something goes viral, it is out of anyone’s control. The internet is still the Wild West when it comes to digital rights and reputation management.
All you need to do is flip through the comments section of any news, political or entertainment site to see public people being bashed by anonymous posters. It is a real issue for companies who are seeing complaints about them rise in Google searches. When people are angry today they take to the web and create a permanent record of their grievance than can be found by any customer or prospect. I have had my challenges with Comcast cable so I typed “I hate Comcast” into Google and found almost 11 thousand exact matches. And came across the charming site named comcastsucks.org. That can’t put a smile on the face on their CMO.
Monitoring your online reputation is something all marketers need to take seriously and it should be part of someone’s job responsibility. That person needs to keep checking search engines, blogs, Facebook, twitter etc. If possible you should reach out to the aggrieved person and try to resolve the conflict or at least try and show that there are people behind your logo. Angry consumers often strike out against companies because they feel powerless and that no one cares about them. It seems simple, but show you are listening and start an interactive dialog with your own blog or Facebook/Twitter account. If there is something nasty being said about your company on the web, you want to know about it before your CEO’s son or daughter tells him about it.
The current growth rate of Facebook continues apace, passing 100 million world wide users. The growth is being fueled by both non-US users and the stampede of people between the ages of 25-55 who are jumping into the mix in huge and fast growing numbers. Much of it is driven by professional needs, but the social needs are just as strong. As the job market softens, it becomes imperative to network and keep in touch with past colleagues. Also, to promote yourself and let people in your industry know what you have been up to for the past few years. Having a Facebook account is a “must have” for those of us toiling in the media and marketing business.
We are firmly in a new world where our personal and business lives are combined, intersected and merged. Even our young President has a Blackberry, and I heard him refer to the White House as a home office in jest. Think of the Seinfeld episode where George does not want his girlfriend and friends to spend time together, because World’s Collide. I feel like that on Facebook when “bawdy” Gordon exchanges ribald jokes with High School and gym friends in the same place where I dialog with clients, vendors and co-workers. I try to be mindful of it, but others let it fly. If you are going to wade into Facebook you have be tolerant of the torrent of trivial status updates (Fran is baking cookies, Leon is heading to Home Depot, Calvin needs coffee before writing a report) and ones that are there to self promote and sell.
I have learned that given the ideological bent of the media world, it is best to leave politics off line, lest you want to receive a diatribe on the evils of George Bush or climate change (what global warming is called in the winter). Like any platform or forum there will be those who abuse it and become serial “frienders”, just looking to pad their total in some odd ego affirming exercise. Another form of abuse are over-posters who constantly regale their friends with political views, favorite articles and songs and generally clog up the works by assuming that there are hundreds of people who care about their every thought. Take my advice – de-friend them. I have done it a couple of times, it is cleansing.
Now that everyone is here the question is – how best to use this powerful tool. At this point no one has any firm answers but I do think it is valuable venue for marketing. We’ll explore your company on Facebook in the next posting, but it is certainly worthwhile for individuals. Facebook creates your own private media channel to the world. You can chose to communicate one on one, to a specialized group or in mass. It is a method to get the word out about events in your personal or professional life. It also allows you to grow closer to people you don’t see or speak with on a regular basis. I have found the ability to post links an effective way to get out the message about some interesting things we are doing as a company. Facebook also gives us a targeted distribution channel for our blog and other content we create. One of the main tenants of private custom media channels is the ability to speak to your permission based target audience with content in an environment where they will be receptive. Facebook enables you to have an interactive dialog with your audience. Social media has great promise as a marketing tool and right now we are all pioneers.