Tuesday, November 29, 2011

What Brand Marketers Want From FB this Holiday Season

It is widely understood that the evolution of Facebook’s platform inevitable. Despite the [ongoing] opposition from marketers, with threats to bring their social networking business elsewhere, they need to realize that Facebook will not, and perhaps cannot, retreat from its justified progression. Digital Technology changes, new regulations are implemented and the opportunities to capitalize on the business continue to emerge. But this reality doesn’t stop brand marketers from making wish lists for FB this holiday season. I will summarize the complaints/suggestions that marketers hope FB will respond to this holiday season.

First, they want more control over brand status updates. Although FB developed the Insights tool to target this exact issue [by providing analytics which measure the impact of brand pages], they want to be able to communicate and understand their increasing number of ‘fans’. Brand marketers want to: target fans through geographic locations, specific relationships (buyer or prospective buyer), and psychographic groups (moms v kids). Recent GPS technology and mobile opportunities are a good sign that FB can capitalize on this desire.

Second, marketers want to understand the impact of their investment. How successful are these campaigns? How did they impact page interaction, attrition rates, application engagement and purchasing? Are they bringing in new fans or simply retargeting old ones? This is an important service that will not only help brand marketers determine the success of their marketing dollars, but also measure the quality of fans that they are attracting, from one campaign to another. If FB does offer this service, they can further capitalize on its benefits and drum up more business based on concrete results.

Third, brand marketers are looking for ways to control the frequency of ads, on a user level. Unlike typical display advertising platforms, FB advertisers cannot set an exact frequency for ads, which is frustrating. Although the network does have its own algorithm and tool to prioritize ads based on click through rates (CTR), marketers want more.

Fourth, brand marketers want to include their own tracking URL within their display ads in ‘social contexts’. Social ad opportunities are a great way to engage directly with ad units since they incorporate users’ friends while providing word of mouth opportunities, however their inability to include third party tracking makes it difficult for brands to track downstream actions. The blogger recommends using a hybrid that serves the dual purpose of keeping users within FB while allowing brands to track activities on a brand page.

Lastly and perhaps most importantly, brand marketers want competitive separation. Like in display publishing, marketers want the ability to exclude competitors ads from the same page as their ads. They argue that seeing a Honda ad on the same page as a Toyota ad defeats the whole purpose of an ad. Currently, FB marketplace cannot control this, but there is hope that they will incorporate some capabilities to support this need in the future.

In fact, the blogger is optimistic that if Facebook continues to innovate, marketers will get most of their wish list in 2012. But of course innovation means evolution, so if you marketers want more services, you’re going to have to accept [and embrace] the progression of Facebook.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Driving Impulse Purchases in the Digital Age

A key dynamic that has changed for retailers with the advent of online shopping is the impulse buy. In the past, retailers stood to gain signifcant revenue from shoppers who entered a store and ended up purchasing many more items than intended. Compounded with changed habits due to the recession, the impulse shopper has morphed into the 'mission shopper.' Shoppers now do more purchasing online, and if they do enter retail outlets, they are more efficient with their purchase. They find their item and checkout, with little browsing involved.

Retailers have updated strategies to drive additional sales with the changing retail landscape. Tablet devices such as iPads are used at many stores to help shoppers put together an outfit or order out of stock items. Retail will continue to change with the growing presence of online commerce, however in-store integrated digital strategies will help to ensure better sales wherever the shoppers are.



What makes mobile campaigns successful?

It cannot be contested that the race to innovate in the mobile technology space is imperative for many companies. A recent article in imedia highlights three of the best 2011 campaigns thus far. The first example include Starbucks which turns an iPhone into a Starbucks card, allowing customers to check balances, reload their cards and even pay with their phone. Second, JCPenney has integrated its mobile strategy to include SMS couponing that also uses scannable codes. Finally, Target was one of the first big-box retailers to implement mobile barcode scanning in all its locations nationwide. It has also developed e-circulars, a RFID "tap and pay" service, and an entire mobile preference center aimed at creating a 360 degree customer experience.

What clearly defines a successful mobile campaign is if it is integrated into the entire marketing strategy. Companies need to view it as part of their multi-channel approach in order for it to work. It must be deemed useful and garner repeat visits. For example, American Express had a travel mobile application for its Platinum Cardmembers that offer flight alerts and information about airport lounges that come as a benefit with the card. However, it did not gain much popularity as it wasn't enough of an added benefit for Cardmembers to continue using the application. However, when Amex launched its Foursquare application as part of an integrated campaign that offered automatic rebates when purchasing with certain retailers, it was an instant success. The mobile campaign integrated a core benefit to the actual product and was marketed as an additional value proposition. Mobile applications need to make sense and benefit the user in some way - whether it be through increased efficiency or entertainment, the mobile campaign needs to focus on the end user. It will be interesting to see how mobile campaigns evolve in the future as the space becomes more saturated.

For more details on the Starbucks/JCPenney/Target campaigns go here:


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Bank of America's Attempted Reputation Restoration

After our discussion last week about "online reputations," I was interested to see this recent article on BNET.com regarding Bank of America's efforts via facebook to restore their brand reputation after the $5 Debit Card charge fiasco.

Curious, I logged into facebook to see the state of things. Interestingly, BofA does not have a corporate page and exclusively uses a "Building Opportunity from BofA" platform to communicate with their audience. The page communicates nothing of value about the company's products and services and instead features anecdotes on BofA's community volunteers and community initiatives. A particularly frustrating post encouraged followers to contribute to feedingamerica this holiday season...it was followed by a barrage of comments to the theme of "if BofA wasn't so greedy, maybe I'd have money to share."

BofA's facebook strategy seems incredibly weak: they are duping their followers with a less-than-transparent invite, and they page doesn't seem to be well tended to...there are certainly comments I wouldn't want unanswered on my company's page. Their twitter presence is a bit more controlled, though the reach is much smaller (less than 20K followers of BofA_Help, and 16K followers of BofA_News). Facebook's BofA hate sites approximate a total of 15K fans.

I found this Social Media Triage chart to be interesting when considering a company like Bank of America. It seems like they are using the "distraction" technique to boost their reputation...it's hard to tell whether this campaign will work in the long run...but it seems certain that people need a forum to share their perspectives and that BofA is skirting the issue, forcing people to air their grievances on BofA's fluffy "do good" page where the comments are not monitored, cultivated, and recognized in a constructive manner. They would do better to have one BofA facebook presence that incorporates all communication strategies: help conversation, "do good" updates, and banking service news and information. By segmenting these conversations on twitter and not fully embracing them on facebook they are limiting their reach, confusing their audience, and stifling their message.


Tailor Stuff to Me!

As marketers we are all keenly aware of how much customer data is available on the web. We also know how valuable it is to harness that data and properly utilize it sell a product or send a message to our potential customers. I know that I've been the recipient of a gorgeous pair of shoes or a bookcase following me around from site to site. And, I've personally used the recommendation engines on sites like Pandora and Amazon. I find the recommendations based on my purchases and interests to be extremely helpful as a consumer.

Now there are a few startups that are putting their own twist on customer data. Startups like Singly and Personal are developing ways that customers can personalized what online data is associated with them and who it is sold to. Essentially instead of companies thinking that you are a new mom, since you've recently bought a baby present online for a friend, you can tell them that you are married without kids. Or, if you are in the market for a new refrigerator, you can identify that you are interested in "green" or energy savings products. Soon the products that appear in banner ads and in recommendation engines would be more tailored to your tastes. It will be interesting to see how these startups monetize this information and how they price accordingly. I can only assume that my interest in high priced jewelry should fetch more on the open market than a pair of running shoes. This marketplace between marketers and customers should shape up to not only interesting but also a whole lot more relevant... my wallet should be very wary!



Photography of a Different Lens

After a recent trip to South Africa, I've been noticing the varying degrees of photography that my classmates have posted. Some are pretty pathetic (those would be mine!) compared to some other folks that have simply breathtaking shots of wildlife, landscapes and people. Photography has come a long way since traditional Kodachrome shots including the photo app. A recent article in TechCrunch explores the popularity of Instagram and the fact that it's not just a social media play but also an artform.

Instagram is successful for three main reasons: 1) The photos are actually a pretty decent quality, especially considering they were taken on a phone. 2) There's a wide audience of people that are highly engaged with the app given the ability to see some far out images as well as share on multiple social media platforms all at once. 3) The single photo viewing experience means you are a more captive audience. And in this day and age, that's pretty rare.

Check out the full article: http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/27/why-instagram-is-so-popular/


Social Proof Is The New Marketing, Especially Online

All marketers are constantly battling for consumer attention, especially online, but with the caveat of being cost-effective to their companies. Author Aileen Lee proposes that the most effective form of online marketing is using a concept called social proof, originally a psychologists’ tool. In its basic form, social proof is “the positive influence created when someone finds out that others are doing something. It’s also known as informational social influence.”

Social proof observed in our everyday settings, such as people standing behind a velvet rope, waiting to get into a club and thus making people walking by curious about what the wait is about, can be effortlessly translated online such as the invite-only launches like Gmail, Gilt Groupe, Spotify, and Turntable.fm.

Lee highlights five types of social proof, especially related to helping a digital startup find success with examples of how the social proof has helped leverage the business. I have listed out the types – the full list is available on the link

1) Expert social proof – Approval from a credible expert, like a magazine or blogger, can have incredible digital influence.

2) Celebrity social proof

3) User social proof – Direct TV marketers are masters at sharing user success stories.

4) Wisdom of the crowds social proof – highlighting popularity or large numbers of users implies “a million people can’t be wrong.”

5) Wisdom of your friends social proof

The benefit of using social proof online is being able to test, learn and iterate quickly to find what works best. However, the author again adds a caveat that social proof only works when the product is actually credible.



Fast food Industry and digital Media

The fast food industry spent more than $4.2 billion in 2009 on TV advertising, radio, magazines, outdoor advertising, and other media. McDonald’s and Burger King have pledged to improve food marketing to children. However, both restaurants increased their volume of TV advertising from 2007 to 2009. McDonald’s and Burger King created sophisticated websites with 60 to 100 pages of advergames and virtual worlds to engage children (McWorld.com, HappyMeal. com, and ClubBK.com). McDonald’s thirteen websites attracted 365,000 unique child visitors and 294,000 unique teen visitors on average each month in 2009. Nine restaurant Facebook pages had more than one million
fans as of July 2010, and Starbucks boasted more than 11.3 million fans. Smartphone apps were available for eight fast food chains, providing another opportunity to reach young consumers anytime, anywhere.

At the end of the day, Restaurants have an important role to play in creating a food marketing environment that supports, rather than undermines, the efforts of parents and other caregivers to encourage healthy eating among children and prevent obesity.

Source: http://fastfoodmarketing.org/media/FastFoodFACTS_Report.pdf


BMW and Digital Marketing

This article talks about digital marketing efforts within Auto Industry

BMW, an industry leader, is using digital marketing to reach out to its customers. BMW is using “iAd” that allows users to build their own Cars online. BMW also launched iPad Experience for Consumers at Major American Auto Shows. BMW is also using JAG TAG program, which create videos to share experiences with customer. Each video is approximately 20-25 seconds in length and cover topics like xDrive, safety awards, Ultimate Service and more.

Source: http://www.bmwblog.com/2010/11/06/bmw-digital-marketing-iad-ipad-and-jagtag/

Thanks Mo


Saturday, November 26, 2011

Voxer : walkie-talkies make a comeback?

Voxer is an app, which functions in a similar manner to old-fashioned walkie-talkies. I was a little surprised by the popularity of this app, as it is difficult to imagine how that style of communication could still be relevant. According to a Techcrunch article http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/23/viralvoxer/ it has jumped to #6 on the app store’s social network category. Although, promoted as a walkie-talkie application, Voxer has many other features beyond push-to-talk, it can be used to send text messages, create groups, shares photos, location etc. In essence, it is yet another social network; in many regards, it is identical to Whatsapp, except that it is being marketed it as a walkie-talkie app. In all fairness, the audio capabilities are more user friendly than in other apps that incorporate voice messaging, but other than the retro feel of push-to-talk, it does not offer any obvious advantage over similar apps.

It would perhaps be more interesting if Voxer was more similar to Bubbly, (a twitter like voice messaging network) http://www.bubblemotion.com/, as the walkie-talkie style is perfectly suited for that type of communication.


What is Google’s Innovation Strategy?

An article I read on BBC Technology discussed that recently, Google decided to drop seven of its products to simplify its range of services. Some critics called this move “out-of-season” with the removal of services such as Google Wave, Knol and Google Gears; this will also be the third effort to “simply” its products because they have failed to gain popularity. Critics have also indicated that this pattern of launching and terminating new products and services may have a detrimental long term effect with users being detracted from signing up to any potential new offerings it may have in the future. Google’s Vice President of Operations justified the termination by stating that they were removing products "which haven't had the impact we'd hoped for…overall, our aim is to build a simpler, more intuitive, truly beautiful Google user experience," a goal which seems to be a process of iteration rather than a measured process.

The following projects will be removed from the Google brand, some of which were not even publicized to begin with:

  • Google Wave - an attempt to combine email and instant messaging for real-time collaboration
  • Google Bookmarks List - a service which allowed users to share bookmarks with friends
  • Google Friends Connect - allowed webmasters to add social features to their sites by embedding a snippet of code
  • Google Gears - much-hyped effort to maintain web browser functionality when working offline
  • Google Search Timeline - a graph of historical query results
  • Knol - a Wikipedia-style project, which aimed to improve web content
  • Renewable Energy Cheaper than Coal - a project which aimed to find ways to improve solar power

Although innovation is to be celebrated, Google is aware that it needs to proceed carefully with new products in the future. Often products are too hyped-up, especially in lieu of any potential competitor launching a similar service and consumers don’t understand the substance of the product itself. However, some critics have suggested that this measured ‘streamlining’ is in order to concentrate on its Facebook rival Google+. Although the network gained 10 million users within the first 16 days after its private launch, and 40 million within the first 100 days, making it the fastest-growing social network in the history of the web, there is much skepticism around the success of the service long-term.

However, the process of innovation at Google still remains unclear—they recently launched an Android-based online music store, adding again to their list of products and services.




Friday, November 25, 2011

6 Pro Tips for Marketing to Digital Natives

It’s a dilemma that faces almost all organizations with a product to sell or a brand to enhance: how to get the attention of the wired Millennial generation, that tricky demographic in the 17-34-year-old age range. Our cohort of Millennials is more connected than any generation before, with almost three devices per person and a canny sense of identifying the cheesy marketing ploy. Therefore, it takes a specific plan of attack to create a marketing campaign that will appeal to this group.

This article from Mashable.com lays out six different tips for making yourself relevant to the Millennials and successfully grabbing their attention. Each tip has an accompanying video of a good use of that tip, so be sure to check it out. Some are really fun!

1. Cater to their needs
Millennials need tools that are useful and that are able to push through the crowded browser windows and various social media updates to provide functional applications. We also like to be entertained and informed and we definitely want to receive some sort of award. Brands can help build Millennial loyalty be bringing the messaging down to a personal level and recognizing the work of this generation or just saying thank you for their loyalty. A little bit can go a long way.

2. Don’t be conventional
As ads infiltrate our lives from every corner, it’s important that a brand create an advertisement that will stand out and capture our attention. When we have the option of fast-forwarding through a commercial, we almost certainly will every single time. Brands need to create content that makes Millennials want to watch instead of skip through.

3. Gamify with Friends
This one doesn’t really take much further explanation—Millennials like to play games, especially when they can compete with friends. There are ways that brands can incorporate some friendly competition similar to creating a fantasy football league to encourage interaction.

4. Give them ownership
This tip is about giving millennials a chance to have a say in the creation of content as a way of engaging them in the development of a brand.

5. Let them discover
We always want to be the first to discover that next great band or song, which helps explain why programs like Pandora and Spotify that allow users to share on Facebook exactly what they’re listening to have become so successful. Some cool new marketing campaigns are allowing audiences to help discover the next big thing, and then hopefully share that with their friends, thereby increasing brand identity and loyalty.

6. Be Everywhere
The importance of a good SEO strategy is stressed in this point as today, more than ever, people are searching for information in the unlikeliest of places.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Chinese "Buying" Zombie followers and networks

According to a recent article in ChinaDaily, sites in China including Sina.com, Weibo.com and other popular social networking and community engagement sites are growing with faulty data.
"Zombies" are online followers that can be bought and sold for as little as 4 yuan ($0.63) per thousand. Thus, many people with online profiles and potentially millions of followers may have the appearance of a strong, legitimate, online presence, yet most or all of it can be, in fact, fake. Some companies in China are actually boasting that they provide software tools to build followers, friends, and similar network community contacts. The cheaper options include basic friends/followers with account names, and generic location and identity information. More expensive options can use this software to actually build random demographic data for followers, including photos, occupation, income, location, and likes/dislikes. In a country where copying and counterfeiting is not discouraged boy society or punished by the law, it is no surprise that many people *stifle* their creative talents by not being creative or focusing on innovative, new ideas. Instead, they use their energy coming up with unique ways to copy what others have done, and ridiculous methods to give the "image" of a strong, beautiful storefront with great products and many shoppers . . . until you step inside and realize the storefront was all a scam and inside the store is nothing but emptiness. Disappointing to see this in a country that claims to be encouraging innovation, collaboration and cooperation with international business standards because stories like this display that they are moving in the opposite direction.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How effective really are daily deals sites?

Why the up and down nature of daily deals sites? customers seem to be noticing that many of the daily deal sites they frequent, i.e. Groupon, Living Social, etc, do not live up to their expectations when purchasing what seems like a phenomenal deal. Many merchants go out of business, treat users like unwelcome patrons when redeeming coupons, etc. Yael Gavish, founder of the coupon resale website Lifesta.com, says about 20 percent of daily deals are never redeemed. Often, the culprit is buyer remorse. Lifesta and similar sites offer a marketplace to sell unwanted vouchers to willing buyers.
Often times, daily deal offers are not enough to keep customers returning to the merchant. So why do businesses use these daily deals? usually struggling businesses will use them as a last effort to get customers through the door.

Most sites send reminder emails when deals are nearing expiration, and Dealradar keeps track of deals from various sites in a single email. Other options include setting a reminder in your cell phone, as Rome does, or marking expiration dates on a calendar or planner.



Monday, November 21, 2011

What target audience is the most tempting for advertisers?

Professional networking is a stream that has been very important for a long time especially in the US. Usually networks varies by type of job and/or interest, companies, income level, degree obtained etc. Almost every feature of a human being can be a determinant of a network 'headline'. So once we get into a certain network or are planning to choose it we define ourselves as representatives of a community. Lately the latter got an addition determinant which is sexuality.

A new website called dot429.com was designed specifically for LGBT community networking. Although this is not the first networking platform for gays it has become increasingly popular. The reason for such recognition became the fact that the website could attract well-known brands (e.g. Wells Fargo, Fiat, David Yurman, Saks Fifth Avenue, General Motors) to post their advertisements and even become dot429 sponsors. For such a young platform partnerships with companies mentioned above is a great success. Advertisers also think that attracting LGBT communities should be promising. First, families where both members are men make more money on average. Second, they also tend to spend more money on aspirational and luxury products, thus can be a good set of potential clients for, lets say, car companies. Third, gay couples tend to be more successful than straight people which also plays in favor of LGBT community.

Another advantage for companies to target gays is the fact that although some families have or adopt children, still most of them tend not to do so. Thus, they have a bigger disposable income and more 'disposable' time to spend on travel and entertainment. Another point is that LGBT communities have very strong trend-setters and trend influencers who can actually be hired by companies to advertise products.

These and many other reasons make gay communities so attractive for 'pricy' brands and advertisers in particular who can convert free rich and successful homosexuals into loyal customers who will pay for luxury; so professional gay networking has widely spread among LGBT communities as a source of target audience as well as a 'search engine' for 'recruiting advertisement'.


eBay buys Hunch to improve long-tail shopping recommendations

In an effort to improve its recommendation algorithms and close more sales at the end of the long-tail, eBay has announced its acquisition of startup Hunch (http://techcrunch.com/2011/11/21/ebayshunch/).

Hunch's site (www.hunch.com) describes it as a social media-enhanced recommendations engine. Users answers basic questions and link their Facebook and Twitter accounts to Hunch. It learns what you like and makes recommendations based upon your friends, who you follow, your question answers, etc. If you haven't tried it out, you can sign up and get started using the service in about 2 minutes.

Hunch seems to be following a common pattern and trend towards more social media-influenced and curated content that helps users better digest information and receive recommendations for books, movies, shopping, etc. using what they call a "taste graph."

As the company began to explore the value of its technology for other companies they met up with eBay and, it appears, found a good synergy with the auction site. The rumor is that Hunch was acquired for $80M and turned down and offer from Google last year for $60M.


Consumer engagement - brilliant strategy from Domino's?

It seems that Domino's Pizza has figured out a brilliant way to engage with iPad owners. The company has developed an iPad app that allows consumers to create virtual pizzas on screen and then order their creations and have them delivered: http://mashable.com/2011/11/21/dominos-ipad/.

The app is called Domino's Pizza Hero and it brings together the craze in social gaming, with players able to compete against their friends and share scores via Facebook and Twitter, every brand's desire for consumers to engage with their product/service, and ties it all into an actionable revenue source. No doubt many of these pizzas will be created and remain virtual, but the end result will likely be an increase in actual revenue in pizzas sold, brand recognition and engagement.

Interestingly as well, the app demonstrates that pizzas are made by hand (which I never would have guessed) http://dominospizzahero.com/. Consumers playing the app get a bit of a virtual experience as to what is involved in the creation of the actual pizzas they end up buying, thus linking them with Domino's employees and with the production process in general, creating additional engagement.


The sea of opportunity called Mobile

Recent ComScore data has shown that of the 250million US mobile users, only around 70 million have smartphones. Of that market, Android currently has the highest share (about half the market) followed by Apple (at 26%). However, a Mashable article thinks that the windows platform is actually the best kept secret out there, and here is why.

The mobile interface allows for one tap access that brings out a well thought out ecosystem that is largely driven by your Windows live or Hotmail account. It then brings in all contacts from your account and weaves it into other phone services like Facebook/Twitter/LinkedIn. Office files saved on the phone are saved to your SkyDrive (cloud). Simplicity is the name of the game and all phones have a Windows Phone home button, Bing search button, and the ability to bring the camera simply by holding the physical camera button for a second or so. Tapping each picture allows you to automatically share it on Facebook, Twitter, or both. The user experience is smooth and rivals that of the iPhone.

As I look to upgrade my smartphone to the latest and greatest, a few dilemmas come to mind. The iPhone currently has the largest and most current applications. Developers tend to develop the application for the iPhone first followed by Android as a close second. The user interface is sleek and the brand identity that comes with Apple is undeniable. The Siri application is an added plus. However, in terms of user interface and processing, the iPhone 4S does not compare to some of its competitors. It is behind Samsung in some of the latest technology and is on the Apple iOS platform that is not open sourced like the Android. In my decision I also ponder the fact that I will always be a laggard when it comes to mobile as the landscape changes so quickly. In the fight between the Android and Apple platform, perhaps the Windows platform will emerge the winner in two years. If that is the case, I will once again be out of date.

For more information on the Windows phone platform go here:


CMP.LY Keeps Social Media Marketing Legal

Social media marketing has clearly become a top contender in receiving and utilizing digital marketing dollars from companies, however the legalities concerning its use have always been vague. Enter CMP.LY, a New York based startup that works with agencies to offer solutions to automate compliance and keep brands on the "right side of regulations". After two social media campaigns were stopped for violating FTC regulations (Ann Taylor blogger program and Legacy Learning Systems), although they weren’t severely punished, CMP.LY insists on the need to incorporate legal strategies in order to avoid such ramifications.

Since these regulations have thus far been largely ignored, the concept of CMP.LY remains uncertain and new. But is this firm the first of many similar companies to pop up and offer support and guidance to agencies that integrate social media campaigns? Will the FTC take more serious action against violators and inevitably begin a new era in social media regulation? How important is CMP.LY today? For years, the laws on social media and the digital marketing, in general have been vague (i.e can we use licensed music to promote a brand on youtube or on a website), but these questions may be far behind us.

I can’t help but wonder how the FTC will affect small firms or start ups that may not have the funds to work with companies like CMP.LY. Perhaps the laws and regulations will be more transparent and understandable to 'regular' business owners that need to learn the nuances of social media marketing from the start. We will need to learn new practices and legal solutions if our companies plan to work within the system. Perhaps companies like CMP.LY should develop software or teaching tools to sell to the mainstream market so smaller firms can take advantage of their services.

I believe this is only the beginning of the crackdown on social media marketing and we need to take action to protect ourselves.