Monday, March 30, 2009
Entirely new genres are emerging. A recent example, below is from the University of Chicago's own version of CraigsList.
DEMON BEAN BAG FOR SALE:
Do you desire a giant, hulking blue behemoth to take up your entire living room and to leer evilly at visitors amongst your furniture?
WELL LOOK NO FURTHER! I have discovered in MY VERY OWN APARTMENT a bean bag that suits your exact needs! My bean bag is about four feet in diameter when sat upon. It is the shade of blue that you could only know once you have experienced the sort of mind-numbing terror that causes you to forget your family, your friends and yea, your very name.
Reader: if this is the sort of bean bag you are looking for, you should be astonished that I am not asking for more than a mere $25 to take it! The dark murmurings of another dimension are simply no longer fitting in with the rest of my voodoo ensemble. You have to be the one to pick it up, though.
The mash up of poetics, consumerism, classifieds, and technology qualifies as the kind of fusion that leads to entirely new forms of expression. And it engages the masses. This is what it looks like right before a renaissance.
Hat tip to Andrew Huff
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
When I posted last week from SXSW Interactive, I got some tweets and Facebook requests for more on the topic. Here's my take on the experience, a version of which appeared today in Advertising Age. SXSW Interactive wrapped up recently, leaving the new media mavens who attended a little more sober about the future despite the usual whirlwind of events and parties. Often dubbed the Sundance of new media, SXSWi is the bellwether for what lies ahead for digital culture. Here are seven unthinkable ideas from SXSWi 2009. Savvy marketers should consider these the tremors that lead to trends.
1. Vision delivers ROI. Among battle-hardened executives, the “vision” thing may feel more like a frill than a competitive strategy. But Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh (pronounced "shea") proves that having a higher purpose is more than a good idea, it creates a striving culture that delivers to the bottom line. Hsieh spoke eloquently about the true mission at Zappos: to create happiness. Out of context it may sound soft, absurd even, for an online shoe outlet. But consider that Hsieh has had to double his offer to $2,000 pay trainees to quit; too few were taking him up on it. He has mastered Twitter as an outreach tool, (he began following me the day after he spoke) and enjoys a steady flow of visitors to Zappos HQ in Las Vegas who make pilgrimages to witness the inner workings of the web-based shoe giant and then blog about it or tell friends. Steve Bezos never inspired such fervor. With revenues in excess of $800 million in 2007, Zappos was projected to earn over $1 billion in 2008. Compassion for the customer and commitment to the culture have made Zappos a success. Pricing, distribution, and many other standard operations are just details.
2. Marketing and customer experience are the same thing. In the past, customer service was considered a way to fulfill on the brand promise. Witness the rise of customer service as the chief marketing tool. Here again, Tony Hsieh made the case for redirecting what he might have spent on marketing and instead aiming those resources at intensely customer-centric business with a 24/7 call center and operators who double as shoe therapists. In an age when reputation and WOM can quickly swell from ripple to tsunami, marketers cannot afford to overlook the cycle of reciprocity that good service delivers, and elevate it in the mix.
3. Avoid stupid, stupid. Make the consumer brilliant. "Don’t bother trying to get them to think you’re brilliant.” said Kathy Sierra, cognition expert and game developer, whose keynote was one of the most heavily blogged and Twittered events of the conference. According to Sierra, in a knowledge economy people hate feeling they suck at something. Consumers like to master cognitive tasks. If your product has too many features, says Sierra, or is anything so high-concept as to be unmanageable, it will fail to find an audience.
4. You can make money from “free” stuff. So says Chris Anderson, author of the forthcoming book, FREE: The Future of a Radical Price, (Hyperion, July 2009). Anderson deserves credit for advancing the most unthinkable idea at SWSWi—that businesses can make money by giving things away. Anderson’s point is salient, that like it or lump it, the Internet has made “free” a disruptive force—deal with it or die. And when I caught up with Anderson in Austin, he was earnest in his desire to provide a useful guide for businesses to navigate free versus paying customers. Marketers coping with a phenomenon that is crushing many established businesses, especially those where intellectual property is what’s for sale, will find insights in Anderson’s rigorously researched and sharply written book.
5. Participation will be ubiquitous. Allowing consumers to voluntarily market your brand is one thing, but consumer participation will hack its way into other operations, including rarefied arenas like R&D. A representative from Kraft Foods told me that the packaged goods giant is moving toward a “participatory way for customers to share in the innovation process.”
6. Dad is the new mom. And personal storytelling is no longer a chick thing. In the Dad is the New Mom panel, dad bloggers talked about the need to get real and personal to win audiences, and advertisers. Pepsico, a prominent presence at SXSW, has begun working with the dad bloggers to win share of wallet as men take on household tasks including shopping.
7. Low overhead is the new currency--especially for start-ups. It may be very old school, but bootstrapping is back. With cash scarce and venture capital in hiding, Guy Kawasaki, author of Reality Check (Portfolio, October 2008), described how exploiting cost-saving web services will keep early stage expenses very low. “A couple of talented people, time and energy are the critical resources now. So much of the costs of hardware have been converted into services.” Kawasaki explained as we chatted in a hotel lobby. “The toughest part of bootstrapping in this environment is scaling up,” he cautioned. Walking his talk, Kawasaki continues to launch new ventures. His latest is Alltop, a rating and referral service for websites. He was there promoting it, as well, in the relentless effort to scale it up. Despite the economic climate, SXSWi is still a place where people put forth ambitious ideas. Some SXSWi veterans remarked that the tone this year was subdued. Perhaps that’s what made the unthinkable ideas resound. Any one of these ideas is enough to make a marketer understand how deep the change is we’re experiencing. But they also point the way to many greener fields of opportunity.
Photo: Susan Bratton of DishyMix Media interviews Patricia at SXSW
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Seismic shifts in the way our society creates meaning are reorganizing our work, leisure, and belief systems—in essence, our culture. In this environment, the smartest way forward is to practice the art and science of research about and within the culture to discover ways to harness it for future economic growth.
If you'd like to take the survey, click here. All participants will receive an executive summary of the findings.
Monday, March 16, 2009
Pepsico is winning hearts and minds here at SXSW by putting content creation before the selling proposition. More sponsorship models are emerging here. Look for full coverage next Monday. It stopped raining and is finally warm and sunny. At last, I can thaw my Chicago bones and maybe pick up a few freckles on my nose as I walk from venue to venue. Lah!
(Sorry for not including a photo, but I left my USB cable for my Nikon back home.)
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Guy's new book, Reality Check is a reference guide for start-ups. He cobbled it from his blog. He described the process: Guy hired a 14 year old to print and sort 1,400 blog posts. Then came the processing, synthesizing, and categorizing to fuse disparate streams of consciousness that characterize blogging. So, book blogging happens in two processes: you blog, then you massage the content into a book.
Friday, March 13, 2009
It's still cold here in Chicago. Daylight streams through my bedroom window, and I'm grateful for its warmth. I think to myself that this "what to pack" problem is superficial of me as I touch the hems of dresses and consider blouses in my closet. Today, in this moment I am safe, warm, and feeling fortunate. The rest of the world is chaos. Yesterday, Bernie Madoff plead guilty. Jon Stewart emotionally dismantled Jim Kramer on national television. Kramer, the stock picker clown who will forever embody our American illusions about wealth, looked anything but contrite. Instead, he loaded up another cart of manure about being lied to and wanting to unmask the true villains behind the collapse.
Within my inner circle, the fall out has begun to take an emotional toll. People I've helped along the way, referred business to, sub-contracted work to, are all calling looking for work. When I tell them that I'm researching my next book and getting more offers to speak and join think tanks, I can tell this is not what they want to hear. One, dear young woman whom I believed in and opened many doors for, was downright angry with me and said so, bluntly. I hung up the phone and went out for a run, sobbing more than sweating. Some people are coming unglued in this economic transition. I plan to stay intact.
Truthfully, I'm in the same boat as everyone else. I just refuse to panic. My mutual funds have plummeted. The business outlook is checkered. So why am I so content in this moment? Maybe it's because after two years of researching what it takes for a civilization to move into a period of rebirth, I am heartened by the signs that we can pull it off.
We are shedding what we no longer need. Good. Brash consumerism and competitive status are losing relevance. Fine. People want a sense of human connection. Better still. I spoke with a woman in town who runs a clothing boutique. She has begun selling more lingerie and she's thinking of creating a section in the back where it's a little more private. What did I think of that, she asked me.
We mused about what might be driving women to buy more lingerie and concluded the following: it's a secret indulgence, a modest indulgence, (meaning the price point is right) and women must be needing or wanting to be sexy. And for good reason, sex is a profound form of human connection and it doesn't cost anything.
So, clothes matter to the roles we need to play and what we hope to attract. In a small way, maybe. I toss in jeans, boots, blouses, fancy skirt, belts, scarf, blazer and pajamas No lingerie, just underwear. This is a business trip. There, I'm packed. And as an act of optimism, I pack a pair of sandals. God, I hope Austin is hot. I'll keep you posted.
Wednesday, March 11, 2009
Thanks for lowering the boom on Northern Trust for its lavish PGA sponsorship. But is a letter from you enough to reform an entire industry's marketing mentality? I'm dubious.
Your letter to CEO Rick Waddell describes the foul deed: "Your bank not only sponsored the Northern Trust tournament at the Riviera Country Club, but also hosted clients and employees at places like the Beverly Wilshire and Ritz Carlton hotels and gave away Tiffany souvenirs."Yes, it's infuriating, but not for the reasons you might think. Whether the golf tournament was on my dime or not, it's poor management. This kind of marketing serves bank executives more than it delivers results to the bottom line. In essence, deals like the one you busted Northern Trust for fall into the same category as extravagant bonuses.
Bank executives will defend their sponsorship of auto racing and professional golf as a necessary business practice to attract new customers, as did Northern Trust. The truth is that fewer than 25 percent of sponsors in a recent survey were even clear on their return on investment for such spending. In the same survey nearly half spent nothing evaluating the appropriateness of such large-ticket investments. They are spending millions based on their gut. How is that good business? Now that the public is investing tax dollars, it makes us de facto shareholders. We have a right to question management practices.
Forgive my cynicism, but can we expect that every time one of these TARP-funded banks shells out millions for a golf tournament or auto racing sponsorship they can expect a letter of admonition from Barney Frank? You seem kind of busy. And if I may say so, these banking executives are demonstrable spendthrifts--corporate jets, fancy drapes, plush bonuses. It's a little like sending in a baby sitter to keep order in a maximum security ward. I salute your questioning Northern Trust, Mr. Frank. But who will get around to investigating Bank of America's pricey deals with NASCAR? And the next deal after that? This level of oversight could keep you corresponding like Dear Abby, that is, full-time and high profile.
Something meaningful must be done to change the culture of exploitation that exists in the financial services sector. It's time to give serious attention to policy with regard to how bailout recipients spend money, including how they invest their marketing dollars. For too long a patrician apathy toward the plight of the Average Joe has allowed financial markets to wheel and deal with concern for the common good. But now, the Average Joe is footing the bill for the clean up. So it's time that the people have some say in how banks operate. We now have our own investment to protect.
Expecting the public to trust banks stretches the bounds of prudence. Who could possibly trust the very perpetrators of the swindle that brought down global markets? You are correct, Mr. Frank, when you say in your letter to Northern Trust that, "Federal taxpayers should not and will not stand for such abuses." But in the next line, instead of landing a blow you wag your finger: "We will insist that any future Treasury support for Northern Trust be conditioned on a thorough reform of your company's policies and practices." Such as? This is Chicago. Where's the beef, sir? What specifically are you expecting the bank to do, now, and in the future?
On the matter of financial services firms, not to mention automakers, receiving bail out money, their use of sponsorship marketing dollars should be clearly spelled out:
1. A 20/20 policy whereby 20 percent of all sponsorship marketing dollars from bail-out recipients will be invested back into communities. Those events that draw people together help them learn new things, foster creativity and collaboration so that communities can thrive in an increasingly idea-driven economy should be standard, not voluntary. Imagine if the $30 million it takes to sponsor a NASCAR team could be invested directly into activities proven to drive economic development, rather than contributing to enlarging the carbon footprint.
2. Demand full transparency among TARP recipients about their sponsorship investments.
3. Keep separate the marketing dollars from philanthropic dollars. Years ago, many marketers began associating sponsorship with sports marketing as a way of distinguishing that spending from community good will gestures. Since then, many local zoos, aquariums, after-school activities for youth, public concert series and museums have developed more sophisticated sponsorship programs that deliver comparable return on investment for sponsors. Those should have equal presence in a TARP bank's portfolio.
4. Create a simple system of oversight. Online or offline, these investments can and should be reportable and simple to audit.
5. Reward good behavior. Some bank branches and auto dealerships have done great work in their local communities already--making this a shovel-ready idea! Creating policy that gets marketing dollars aimed in the direction of economic growth should carry with it a Presidential Award program for those companies fostering a culture of integrity and investment in social capital.
Handing more money over to banks to spend on golf tournaments is clearly not in anyone's interests, save a few elites who get a head rush from meeting Tiger Woods. But allowing one or two letters like the one you sent to Mr. Waddell over at Northern Trust to substitute for policy is a finger in the dyke. If we are going to change our country for the better, we need to sponsor the world we want to see. Not the one we've always had.
Tuesday, March 10, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Now more than ever, sponsors want media exposure. Both public relations and paid media exposure fit the bill. In fact, now that the sponsorship industry is maturing, properties without a paid media campaign will find it difficult to compete for a sponsor’s attention.
Sponsors also look for names and logos that confer a benefit in public relations or increased visibility when linked to the sponsor’s name. But be realistic about the value of your organization’s name and logo. The more established a property, the larger its scope and reach, and the bigger its identity in the marketplace, the more potential it has to be sponsored. Such properties command significant sponsorship fees, and their names and logos are prized.
Properties that are new to the market and events or organizations with limited reach are not so lucky. If your property or event falls into the latter category, avoid loading benefits that don’t ring true into the proposal. “It was a joke to get a proposal from a property we had never heard of before, and they were offering the right to use their marks and logo,” commented a seasoned marketing director from a financial services company. However, when Rock the Vote was just an idea on a whiteboard, its producer made a case for the value of its marks by discussing its relationship to MTV, which guaranteed significant airtime to make it a high-profile project overnight.
Be honest in your proposals about where your value lies. Highlight your strengths.Trumping up hyperbolic value will get you nowhere.
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
More on the event here...
Hat tip to University of Tampa for sponsoring the business forum, and especially Dr. Ron Vaughn, a true visionary and president of UT.
Tuesday, March 3, 2009
According to a new study from the Scarborough Kids Internet Panel, teens dig the new Prez. In fact, 75% of teens said they are optimistic that the new administration will help solve current economic problems. African-American and Hispanic teens appear to be more optimistic than Asian and Caucasian teens, with 46% of African-American teens saying they are "very optimistic" about President Obama's ability to help the economy, along with 31% of Hispanic teens, 24% of Caucasian teens and 20% of Asian teens.
The vote of confidence is timely. Teens are feeling the impact of economic conditions, piled on top of the broader legacy issues they know they will inherit, namely global warming. Young people are feeling the pressure. The survey found that 74% of teens said that they are worried about the economy, including 23% who are "very" worried and 51% who said that they are "somewhat worried." Twenty percent are "not very worried" and 6% "aren't worried at all."
Eighty-six percent of teen respondents think their parents worry about economic conditions, and 70% have discussed the economy with their parents.
- 47% said that they would like to talk to their parents more about the issue
- 64% of teens stated they were discussing the downturn with their teachers at school
- 81% percent of teens are interested in understanding more about the causes of the current problems
Government agencies and corporations alike hoping to convey messages in these times should aim at the psychographic of “concern” and continue to offer hope. Moreover, ensuring there are programs for young people in the stimulus package to roll up their sleeves and get to work on solving problems will convert entire households, since parents and their teens are pulling together to keep their families afloat.
Monday, March 2, 2009
Goal: Help The Sponsor See the Fit Between Your Offer and the Person Who Buys Their Product
Is your audience the right audience? Sponsors want a tight match between your audience and their target audience. Demographics and psychographics are impressive to sponsors and help them see the fit. This is how they judge all marketing initiatives. Also, presenting current data on your audience proves that your organization cares about tracking information.
Going beyond statistics, you might also offer profiles of your audience as people. This proves that you have insight the sponsor can tap into. Sponsors throw away proposals every day that are little more than demographic charts and tables. The proposals with stopping power define the nonprofit’s audiences in both factual and emotional terms, as this description of PTA moms does:
PTA Member Profile:
Who is the new PTA mom?
• Busy contemporary woman with traditional values
• Volunteers for 2 or more activities to “belong”
• Drives a 5 year old mini-van
• Shops with coupons
• Budgets the family money
• Does research for purchases over $50