Archive for the ‘Business’ Category

Magazines come and magazines go. In the first 9 months of 2011, 110 new magazines began publishing while 127 closed up shop, according to this Oct. 11 press release from MediaFinder.com. (Both numbers are down from the same period last year, when 259 launched and 383 folded.)

But of all the new launches this year, the breakout title for me is Inspire, the magazine of al-Qaeda. It’s published in English out of Yemen and edited by a 24-year old Pakistani American from North Carolina, Samir Kahn.

The cover for the second issue of Inspire, Fall 2010

With catchy articles like “Make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom” and instructions for turning your pickup truck into a steel-bladed “mowing machine” for mowing down enemies, the magazine is sure to deliver a unique audience.

Good for Inspire. One of the only ways a magazine can succeed in the post-print era is by delivering eyeballs nobody else can reach. Find an under-served niche and exploit it. (Speaking of which, please don’t confuse Inspire with InSpire Magazine, the woman’s magazine published by, I kid you not,  Niche Publications LLC)

Does anybody know if Inspire sells ad space?

After all, there are plenty of companies that would want to reach terrorists and zealots. Fertilizer manufacturers, truck rental companies, used car dealers, explosive shoes, box cutter suppliers and backpack makers come to mind, but I’m sure there are others. (Quite a few of the magazine ad sales people I’ve known would sell their own mothers for the commission, so I can’t imagine they’d have a problem with this.)

I wonder what kind of added-value the magazine offers to its advertisers? Laminated copies of the ads with the words, “As seen in Inspire” slugged into the upper right corner? Free advertorials? Survey cards?

Maybe they let advertisers rent the subscriber list at a discount?

If that’s the case, can someone please explain to me how I can get my hands on that list? I can think of a Navy S.E.A.L. team that would love to hand deliver a special promotion to the readers.

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I was at SMX East Tuesday and attended a session on Facebook advertising. The experts on the panel were talking about how, in order to actually get useful results out of advertising on the world’s largest social network, they had to change their Facebook creative as often as 4-5 times a day to combat blindness, fatigue and annoyance.

Swapping out ads every few hours? Optimizing banner campaigns and paid search and websites on the fly? Managing brand reputations that can change in hours thanks to a viral video or a negative blog post?

When did advertising get so hard?

It used to be, you ran a TV spot on Must See TV and the whole world knew about your product.

It used to be, you rented a great mailing list, sent out a juicy catalog half the size of a phonebook, and watched the orders come rolling in over the phone or in the mail.

It used to be, you did your keyword research, put up a bunch of paid search ads in Google AdWords, and watched people come to your site and buy things.

It’s not like it used to be.

Advertising has gotten really tough. And it’s gotten tough because our target audiences stopped being targets and started being participants.

Now, you have to listen to them – but if you do, you can learn what you need to succeed.

Now you have to engage them – and when you do, they’ll reward you with the real version of the brand loyalty you thought you had before.

Now, you have to treat your customers like a Facebook Friend, a Twitter Follower, an engaged stakeholder – and if you don’t, they’ll find a company who does, but only after they tell everyone how shabbily you treated them. (5 years ago, if you said this to a client, they would have called you crazy and shown you the door.)

The bad news is that there are more channels, more touchpoints, and more tools than ever before, and they’re labor intensive, difficult to quantify, and constantly changing. (Just keeping up with the changes to Google is a full time job!)

The good news is that there are more channels, more touchpoints, and more tools than ever before at our disposal to change the way we relate to our customers.

So can someone please explain to me why, rather than change their methods to get the most advantage out of these newly engaged and empowered customers, so many advertisers are just trying to find a way to make the new mediums work like the old ones?

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I just saw “The Social Network” and I loved it. Aaron Sorkin proved once again that he is the best dialogue writer in Hollywood (followed closely by Quentin Tarantino and Diablo Cody, IMHO). His words, and director David Fincher’s skill, kept the movie flowing and riveting, never once sounding anything but utterly real and believable.

And Jesse Eisenberg made Mark Zuckerberg into an everyman for our generation.

In the first scene, Zuckerberg tells his girlfriend that there are more geniuses in China than there are people in the US. We begin to see Zuckerberg as an everyman: even though he’s a genius, and knows it, that doesn’t guarantee entry into the members-only clubs where the cool people hang out.

“The Social Network” is about us, all of us, trying to fit in, looking for a place to belong, and finding our voice: collectively and individually. It’s a messy process, and there will be sins of commission and omission along the way.

I heard a reviewer on whatever cable channel was on at the time saying that this movie isn’t just the movie of a decade, it’s the movie of the generation, and that got me thinking.

We live in a time that future generations will look back on as revolutionary. And it’s not revolutionary because men like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg built products and companies that changed everything: it’s revolutionary because society was ready to embrace the new world their creations helped birth.

That new world is the world of virtually simultaneous, planet-wide shared awareness, perception and discussion.

Think about it. How do you get your information now? How do you experience the world? And most importantly, how do you share it, and what’s the lag time between discovery and dissemination?

I used to be a newspaper junkie. Then a Google News Junkie. Now, I have a News list on Twitter that gets the latest updates from the WSJ, The NY Times, Huffington Post, CNN, Mashable, Techcrunch and more. (The WSJ alone has dozens of Twitter feeds.) Now I can finally scan the news quickly and easily and know what’s going on everywhere instantly.

A few days ago, the shooting at the University of Texas was first reported on Twitter by students on campus. And as the situation developed, the local police were sending out their “official updates” to the news networks via Twitter.

The implications for Marketing and Advertising are sweeping. Because in the new era, ideas don’t spread because you throw money into spreading them. An idea spreads now because the wired-together world likes it and tells itself about it. The internet is littered with the corpses of bad ideas drenched in the blood of wasted marketing dollars.

Yes, getting heard among the rising background noise is hard. And at its most basic level, if you don’t know how to use the tools of social media, or don’t have the time, then marketers and advertisers can help.

But make no mistake: the ultimate success or failure of an idea, a product or a service is now dependent upon the quality of the idea, the product or the service. If people like it, they tell others. If they don’t, they don’t. And the way people find out about things these days is through a connected, always-on social network that exists online and off, via text and email and word of mouth across mobile phones and smart phones and laptops and computers, via Facebook and Twitter and Google.

It didn’t used to be that way, and that is sad for the good ideas that died stillborn and unheard, for lack of money or wherewithal. But I say, good riddance to the old world, and welcome to the new.

And yet, there are still those who resist the tide and cling to the ways they’ve always known, who look at multiple channels and only see fragmentation, who look at millions of people talking about what’s important to them and only perceive self-indulgent and distracting noise.

Can someone please explain to me how anyone can look at this time as anything less than a revolution, as the dawn of an era where a world of billions of individuals finally came together to know itself as a whole community greater than the sum of its parts?

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I can’t remember the last time I got a personal letter. Even my birthday and anniversary cards are likely to come via email these days. But my daughter got a postcard yesterday from her soon-to-be First Grade teacher telling her how excited she was to meet her when school starts in a few days. Not only was it totally unexpected, but the look on my daughter’s face has already sent the teacher’s Brand Perception through the roof in our family.

My daughter is not alone in responding favorably to Direct Mail. According to the August, 2010 Consumer Channel Preference Study by Epsilon Targeting, 18-34 year-olds overwhelmingly prefer to receive information via postal mail compared to any other medium across a wide variety of categories, with one exception (Travel). (You can download the full study here. And thanks to the TM Tipline newsletter for tipping me off to the new study.)

As you can see from the following sample of products and services, the preference for direct mail over email is staggering. In no case is it less than 2 to 1, and in one case, direct mail beats email by nearly 6 to 1.

Product/Service Mail Email
Sensitive Health 43% 9%
Prescription 41% 11%
General Health 37% 11%
Personal Care 37% 10%
Food Product 36% 11%
Cleaning Product 34% 9%
Financial Services 40% 7%
Insurance 38% 8%
Travel 28% 13%

There’s more in the survey. For instance, when it comes to household products, Newspaper Inserts are in second place, preferred 2 to 3 times more than email. For health related products, information from friends, family and doctors is more desirable than email, although still not as desirable as direct mail. (Maybe that’s because direct mail can be more private and less confrontational than asking your best friend, lover or doctor about a medical need?)

The survey also assessed trust, and found, as expected, that for health care, medical professionals are most trusted. For everything else, friends and family are at the top. The next most trusted source is newspapers, followed by company websites. Social Media like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are in the basement at 7-8%.

Source Trust
Doctor/Nurse 80%
Friends or Family 57%
Newspaper 26%
Company Websites 22%
Television 20%
Direct Mail Brochures or Flyers 18%
Radio 16%
Email 12%
Other Online Sites 11%
Cell Phone 9%
Blogs 8%
Facebook 8%
Online Forums 8%
YouTube 7%
Twitter 7%
Other Social Media 7%

So what are we to derive from this survey? Well, aside from the premise that more people prefer and trust dead tree communications (direct mail, newspapers) over electronic ones, I think the big lesson here is that you can’t put all of your communications in one basket. At its best, direct mail only reached a 43% preference. That means that 57% of potential customers want to be communicated with through a different medium.

As the Director of Integrated Marketing at Tanen Directed Advertising, a channel-neutral direct marketing agency, this is good news to me. It supports what I’ve always believed: combined arms tactics beat single tactic strategies every time.

It also means you can never stop testing. What works today may not work tomorrow. Just a few years ago, email was outperforming direct mail. Adults 18-34 may prefer direct mail now, but what will that cohort prefer when it’s made up of today’s tweens and teens? Will people who’ve never even read a newspaper trust one?

Media channels may rise and fall in popularity and effectiveness, but I think it’s safe to say that in the rapidly changing world of advertising, there are no silver bullets, no perfect answers. A multi-channel strategy gives you the best chance of success. More importantly, communications across each channel often reinforce each other, creating synergies you can’t get with a single communication.

Even some of the most successful “social media” campaigns in recent memory have been multi-channel. As Scott Monty, Ford’s head of social media has said,  “If your customers are there, you need to be there too… You need to listen… see how they behave and act similarly.” He was talking about social media, but I say his insight applies to all forms of marketing and advertising.

People live multi-channel lives. They want some information one way, and other information a different way, sometimes at the same time. So can someone please explain to me why there are still some advertisers who operate with a one-channel-fits-all mindset?

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Did you ever have the feeling that you’re being followed?

I do. In fact I’m being stalked this very minute.

You know what I’m talking about:  you’re wandering around the internet, minding your own business, when suddenly, you see a banner ad you could swear you’ve seen before. But you think it’s just your imagination, and go on with your life.

And then there’s that banner ad again, and now you’re on the lookout. The advertiser has penetrated your banner blindness. You make a mental note to notice this particular ad again if it shows up, and go back to your life.

Soon enough you see the banner again… and again… and again.

What’s going on?

Well, in case you didn’t know, it’s a form of Behavioral Advertising called Retargeting, and it’s just one of the ways that advertisers get you to buy their products. It’s actually a pretty successful tactic, and one that our clients have used to great advantage.

The way it works is pretty simple, really. If you visit a website and then leave before making a purchase (or any other type of conversion), programming code on that website allows ad networks to tag you so that wherever you go throughout that ad network, they can reach out to you over and over and serve you ads. Retargeting doesn’t just have to target people who visited a site. You can retarget based on search engine results, or even if somebody merely saw your ad on a site within the ad network.

The reason it works is that advertisers have learned that frequency is a critical part of the formula for making a sale. The more times people are exposed to a message, the more likely it is that some of them will buy. And if someone has already come to your website, or searched for you, they have already expressed some interest, so it stands to reason that they might be more easily converted than a total stranger. Even if they’ve just seen your ad on some other website, retargeting to them is a way to ratchet up the frequency. You can even change the messaging so that the target sees different, even sequential messages, attempting to push them closer and closer to a conversion.

Now I don’t usually notice when I’m being retargeted. In fact, while I’m sure it’s happened more than once, the only two of these interactive stalkers I’ve ever really noticed are Trump University and myFico.com. The Trump retargeting went on for quite some time, but I can guess why:  Trump University was my client, and I kept visiting the website without buying anything, and I guess I kept retriggering the retargeting. (They must have really thought I was playing hard to get.)

But it’s different with myFico.com. I was doing research on social media success stories, and myFico.com is an example of a company that used social media to decrease the cost of customer support and increase sales. They’re so good, they won the 2009 Groundswell Award for B2C Supporting. (Their online community members spend an average of 66% more on credit reports and products after joining the community. And thanks to the community, customer service inquiries declined by 1%, compared to the previous year when they increased 23%!)

I know the day I first went to myFico.com from my work computer:  Tuesday, July 20th. I’d been there from my home computer the day before, but that was it. I didn’t go there because I wanted to buy anything. I went there for research, found what I needed, and left, happy and satisfied.

A few days later I started seeing banner ads from myFico.com like this one:

MyFico.com banner ad that's been following me for 3 weeks!


And I’ve been seeing them ever since. In fact, this morning, I saw these:

Are you following me? myFico.com ads on PissedConsumer.com

Now I’m not one of those people who has a problem with behavioral advertising, as long as it’s done ethically, which for the most part it is. I know there’s been a schism about it since the Wall St. Journal article the other weekend (and there’s an excellent post about it, and the reactions among the advertising community, here on Scott Rosenberg’s Wordyard blog).

If Behavioral Targeting has one weakness, though, it’s that it’s difficult to really know why someone comes to your website without actually asking them. If I go to a website that sells baby clothes, or even a dozen websites, did I go there because I am having a baby, or buying a gift for a friend who had a baby, or some other reason entirely. Intention makes all the difference here, and behavior can be misleading.

No, my problem has to do with the actual execution of the retargeting advertising campaign myFico.com is running.

The way advertisers make sure that they don’t show the same person the same ad too many times is called Frequency Capping. There tends to be a sweet spot in terms of frequency: 3 times is probably too few, and 10 times is often a victim of diminishing returns. By then, if they’re not going to buy, they probably never will.  (BTW, if you had to guess, without testing into it, you could do worse than a frequency of 7. But you didn’t hear that from me.)

I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure I’ve seen these ads at least a dozen times over the last 3 weeks. Now maybe myFico.com has tested it, and they’ve learned that their sweet spot is 13. Maybe they’ve learned that people keep saying no until the 13th time they see the ad, and then they magically click on it and buy a credit report.

But somehow I doubt it.

So can someone from myFico.com or their ad agency please explain to me why I’m still being stalked by their ads, and how long this unhealthy relationship is going to drag on? Because no matter how many times they ask, or how nicely they put it, no matter how much money it costs them to keep retargeting me with their ads, my answer is still going to be the same: I like myFico.com, but I just want to be friends.

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Have you seen the recent Hyundai commercials? The friendly announcer says that recently, Hyundai put cameras into vehicles at dealerships and, according to the company’s press release, “captured the unscripted, unedited remarks of drivers as they tested various Hyundai models.”

Do you believe them?

I don’t.

Over time, anyone who’s ever shopped online and read the customer testimonials has learned how to tell fake reviews from real ones. The fake ones are usually really good or excusably bad (or really bad if they’re fakes created by competitors). Some sites don’t even bother sprinkling in a few negative reviews with the positives, but all positives are a sure sign the reviews are faked, or at least, selectively edited.

Enter Hyundai, with their “Uncensored” commercials. Not a negative comment to be heard. Well, except about Honda, Toyota and other cars. And of course, from people posting comments on their YouTube channel, such as:

laughingcrows (1 week ago)
Give us a break, your “hidden” camera commercials are really insulting.
Don’t lie to us. The American public isn’t that stupid. Or are we?

Censorship isn’t merely a sin of commission. It can be a sin of omission, too. So even if you equate uncensored to unedited, which would be a mistake because the commercials are clearly edited, the choice of only showing positive experiences and comments is in itself an act of censorship, where the negative ads are merely not shown at all.

Uncensored? Hardly.

I can’t help comparing this to the Ford Fiesta Movement, where Ford gave 100 social media storytellers Fiestas to talk about, however they wanted, on their own blogs, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Their campaign was also met with skepticism on blogs, but to his credit, Scott Monty, head of Social Media for Ford, engaged with the negative comments and addressed them head on. So did some of the Fiesta “agents” who defended their abilities to give honest reviews, good or bad, and the freedom Ford gave them to do it.

The recent Ford Fiesta movement is considered a watershed in automobile marketing. With $0 in traditional advertising, the Fiesta, a car available only in Europe, with no history in the US, and Ford’s first subcompact car in over a decade, achieved a stellar a 58% awareness pre-release (exceeding the Ford Fusion after 2 years and hundreds of millions in traditional marketing). It garnered:

  • 11 million social networking impressions
  • 11,000 videos on YouTube
  • 6,000 reservations 4 months before the car was even available
  • 10,000 units sold in the first 6 days of sales.

All for a fraction of what a typical national TV campaign would have cost. I wonder what Hyundai spent on theirs?

Taking another play from the Ford Fiesta Movement playbook, for what they’re calling the “experiential” component of their campaign Hyundai is giving 100 cars out to people who will then discuss their experiences via social media, again ostensibly “uncensored.”

Social Media marketing is about engaging in the conversation, not editing it. It’s about being honest and earning trust. And above all, it’s about disclosing your relationships, so even if you have a bias or financial relationship, you’re not hiding it and people can judge for themselves. (Full Disclosure: I have never owned either a Hyundai or a Ford, although my parents love their Hyundai and in college I made out with a girl in a Ford Mustang.)

The Social Media marketing landscape is littered with the corpses of  unsuccessful campaigns. In the end, many of them failed because they were disingenuous, misleading or downright dishonest.

I found this interesting post on the Dennis Hyundai blog for a Hyundai dealer in Ohio.  It says:

Have you seen the new Hyundais? Come to http://www.dennisimports.com and click on our Hyundai Uncensored Logo, tell us what you think about the new hyundais! If we choose your comments to use in our advertising, we will pay you $1,000!

The post was dated July 9, 2010, about a week after the corporate commercials began running. I’m not implying the original Hyundai Uncensored commercials were “incentivized,” but I’m willing to bet that for $1,000, Dennis Hyundai isn’t going to be using very many negative comments in their ads.

If you’re going to pursue a social media strategy, you have to be authentic.  In discussing social media, business and authenticity in this Wisdom 2.o interview, Tony Hsieh, founder of Zappos.com, said:

“I think that is the only way you are going to succeed. Transparency is going to happen whether you embrace it or not, so you might as well embrace it. I think that is one way to develop a personal and emotional connection.”

So can someone please explain to me what kind of connection Hyundai thinks they’re making with consumers with their Uncensored campaign? Feel free to respond honestly… I promise I won’t censor your comments.

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In social media, it’s not the size that matters.

Here it is, June 2010, and I’m still hearing things like this:

“We’re not one of your big clients. We have to focus on the basics:  direct marketing, email blasts, you know. We don’t have the time or the people for social media.”

And…

“It’s not like we’re a local mom and pop business,  we need scale. Sure, we like the idea of Facebook fans, but really, how much can we move the needle on Facebook?”

Can a company really be too small or too big to benefit from a social media strategy?

David and Goliath comparisons don’t get any clearer than Pizza Hut vs. Naked Pizza. Big vs. small.  Old vs. new. Mass produced, pre-made, highly processed fast food vs. healthy, natural, hand-made fast food.

And yet there’s something both of them can agree on.  One of the biggest ingredients to their recipe for growth is social media. Social media, with its low cost of entry both in terms of cost and required skills (anyone can have a free Facebook page, and with nearly 400 million active Facebook users, nearly everyone does) works especially well for really small, local companies, so let’s start with David:  Naked Pizza.

Naked Pizza, a franchise started in post-Katrina New Orleans in 2006, has embraced Twitter fully, down to putting a huge Twitter sign outside their store. Last year, they ran a Twitter-only promotion they credited with 15% of their day’s sales. A month later, nearly 70% of the customers calling in for orders were Twitter followers. They’ve got 5 new locations opening soon, and another 17 franchises awarded across the country, with reports of 40 new locations planned in Florida alone.

So what about Goliath?

This year Pizza Hut expects to hit $2 billion in online orders this year, according to a recent article in Chief Marketer. Papa Johns did that much in 2009, comprising 25% of their global business. 30% of Domino’s sales are online.

Fueling much of Pizza Hut’s growth is due their social media strategy. As of today, Pizza Hut has 1,393,776 million fans on Facebook. Last year they ran a national campaign to hire a Twintern, a summer Twitter Intern, whose job was to promote the company on Twitter and Facebook and handle online reputation monitoring. The winner, Alexa Robinson (@pizzahut), has been credited with helping grow Pizza Hut’s Twitter followers from 3,000 to 30,000. Robinson was so successful she was hired as Pizza Hut’s Tweetologist, a full time job that has expanded to include public appearances at events in New York City, Philadelphia, Little Rock, Richmond, Va., Columbia, S.C., and Des Moines, Iowa. — all tracked on Foursquare, of course, with pictures on Flickr.

Two companies, one big, one small, both benefiting from social media. It seems pretty clear to me, at least in this case, that it’s not the size that matters in social media, it’s what you do with it.

Does your company have a social media strategy? If not, can someone in your organization give me a call and please explain to me why you don’t?

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Have you ever seen a monkey riding a dog herding sheep?

I have.

I was at the Angola Prison Rodeo in Angola, Louisiana, helping my friend Marrus celebrate her 40th Birthday.

What’s the Angola Prison Rodeo, you may ask? (Unless you’ve seen Stir Crazy, of course.)

Well, it’s a rodeo, only the cowboys are prisoners and Angola is a maximum-security penitentiary and so they go at it like they’ve got nothing left to lose. And maybe they don’t, given that Angola’s nickname used to be “The Bloodiest Prison in the World.” Actually, they’re competing for Commissary money, which I was told translates to better food and maybe cigarettes, so, well, you get the picture.

The Angola Prison Rodeo is the longest running Prison Rodeo in the country. One of the crowd’s favorite events is called Convict Poker. 4 prisoners sit around a table, they let loose a bull, and the last one sitting wins. First time they did that, the bull came in directly behind one of the prisoners, and hit so hard all 4 prisoners and the table went airborne.

And yet, Convict Poker was not the most amazing event I witnessed that day. Nor was Wild Cow Milking, Buddy Pick-Up or Guts & Glory.

Because, you see, I saw 3 Capuchin monkeys riding on 3 Border Collies herding a bunch of sheep. And pretty much simultaneously each and every one of The Marrus Pranksters turned to each other and said, “Now I’ve seen everything.”

From our nosebleed seats it was hard to tell if the monkeys were strapped on, drugged or the best darned Border Collie-ridin’ monkeys this side of the Pecos. But I developed a strong opinion when one of them kind of slipped and was sideways to the dog. His little hands were flailing trying to fend off the ground against which the Border Collie seemed determined to bounce him. The trainer came out and righted the monkey, so I’m betting definitely strapped and quite possibly drugged.

We left Angola prison, safely aboard The Hoosegow Express, and took the hours long ride back to New Orleans. The ride was made more enjoyable by mixed drinks and incredible conversation. And every once in a while, someone would blurt out “Holy shit! I just saw monkeys riding dogs herding sheep.” or something to that effect, and then go back to their conversation.

I pulled out my souvenir program to read about it and found, much to my surprise, not a single mention of monkeys riding dogs herding sheep. No pictures. Not even listed on the program. And it’s not the first time they’ve had monkeys riding dogs herding sheep at the Angola Prison Rodeo, according to one of The Marrus Pranksters who’d been there before and accidentally “forgot” to tell us about the spectacle in advance.

In fact, the website doesn’t mention it either. Or the posters. Or the videos. Or the press release. Or the Advertising Opportunity page on the website.  Of course they sell advertising. The rodeo attracts over 70,000 people annually, who spend their money on inmate-created crafts and feast on delicacies like Fried Coca Cola and Alligator Po’ Boys.

And yet, what do you think the first thing everyone who went to that rodeo tells their friends about? What do they tweet and blog and Facebook about?

Monkeys riding dogs herding sheep.

What if it were your business? What if you had something utterly remarkable, a true Seth Godin-worthy Purple Cow? Would you never mention it in any of your marketing materials? Never once discuss it in a press release?

I hear some of you whispering about the practice of not advertising certain off-menu secret items at places like In ‘n Out Burger, and maybe you’ve got a point. Sometimes not talking about something is cooler than talking about it. But I don’t think that’s the case here. And besides, as compelling as Gummy Bear Smoothies at Jamba Juice or Mochi topping at Pinkberry may be, they’re not as remarkable as what we all saw at Angola Prison that day.

So can someone please explain to me why in blazes the Angola Prison Rodeo doesn’t tell people that if they just come on by they’ll get to see monkeys riding dogs herding sheep?

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Sometimes, in the afternoon, between cups of coffee, when my eyes droop and I drift off, I daydream of a world where the roads are paved with golden bricks and I know exactly which advertising channel to credit for a sale or a site visit. Did the billboard with a URL lead to the sale, or the tweet with the bit.ly short link, or the hyperlinked news story (press release) on the newspaper website, or the ad in the magazine, or the postcard, or the TV commercial telling you to “Text ‘Ruby Slippers’ to 526727”, or the natural search listing or the paid search ad or the dozens of mentions in the dozens of blogs or the lions and tigers and bears, oh my…

And then I wake up and remember that as the Director of Integrated Marketing at a direct marketing focused agency, (albeit in Connecticut, not Kansas) it’s my job to attempt to give credit where credit is due, and I smile because yesterday, thanks to Google, my job got easier.

Yesterday Google announced the beta testing of their AdWords Search Funnels. Currently, the last search ad clicked on gets credit for a conversion. But the fact is that many people perform more than one search before they finally click on an ad and then convert, sometimes over the course of days and even weeks. But with Search Funnels, Google can tell you which keywords contributed to the conversion, and which didn’t, for up to 30 days. It will show you how many clicks and impressions happened before the conversion, as well as time lag from first to last. I’m not part of the beta test, but when Google rolls out the product I’ll have a much better sense of which parts of my search campaigns are helping, and which aren’t. Who knows how many keywords I’ve paused erroneously, actually hurting my conversions, when I should have given them credit for an “assist.”

Google’s Search Funnels will help you go beyond the last click, but Microsoft’s Engagement Mapping is even more transformational. At a panel I attended at this year’s AdTechNY, Microsoft discussed their initiative to get beyond simply crediting the last click in order to help advertisers more properly attribute the impact of all advertising, not just search, on a conversion.  Engagement Mapping was developed by the Microsoft Advertising Institute, whose recent research showed that “searchers clicking on a result are 56 percent more likely to convert if they have been exposed to online display ads.”

I remember when DoubleClick (now owned by Google) first released “View Thru Conversion” statistics that showed that the impact of banner ads persisted well beyond their first impression, and that many people who didn’t click the ads converted later. DoubleClick could only do that because their ad serving technology and tracking mechanisms gave them a vast data pool to look at, and it breathed new life into online display advertising.

It’s important to know which advertising efforts should get the credit for the sale, because without it how can you truly determine ROI?

Think about it this way. A friend tells you about a movie. You read an interview with the director in Entertainment Weekly. You see the preview in a movie theater. And on a video rental. And online. You fan the movie on Facebook. Another friend tells you about the movie. Someone sends you a promotional clip from YouTube. And then your significant other says, “What movie do you want to go see tonight?” and you go to Google or Bing or Yahoo and type in NYC Movie Times and there’s the movie you heard about and then you check out RottenTomatoes.com real quick to make sure it’s not a dog and then go to Fandango and buy your tickets.

Who would you credit with influencing your choice? In the world of “last click gets the credit” the winner is a rotten tomato.

True direct marketers don’t know, they test. We try to base our decisions on data. We have so much more data than ever before, and the more we learn, the easier it becomes to fill in the gaps and make better assumptions. Better assumptions lead to more successful tests which lead to better results.

Sometimes, like with Search Funnels, the new data teaches us that we didn’t know what we thought we knew, or what we thought the data was telling us. And sometimes, when we look behind the curtain, the wizards dispensing that data turn out not to be wizards after all.

So can someone please explain to me why some people seem more eager to trust a wicked witch who promises them an unrealistic certainty over a good witch who only promises to do her best?

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Forgive me friends, for I have sinned… it’s been over a month since my last news update on Facebook.

How did it happen? Why did I lapse? Where did my Facebook faith go?

I remember those first zealous days of discovery. The joy of reconnecting with old friends… and co-workers and high school classmates and college buds… and ex-girlfriends, in-laws, business associates, guys I played D&D with while Reagan was still president, friends of friends I met at a party once, and even the siblings of  schoolmates from elementary school.

I proselytized, I evangelized, I got my friends and family to join.

I spent lunchtime on Facebook. I went on at night after my wife went to bed.

And then something happened.

I discovered Twitter.

I didn’t intend to convert. I avoided Twitter as long as possible. Josef Katz (@directmaestro)  said I should tweet, and I resisted. Eleanor Haas (@EleanorHaas), one of the most forward thinking marketing professionals I know, started tweeting and still, I resisted. But then Stephen Colbert (@StephenAtHome) tweeted while interviewing Twitter founder Biz Stone and I was hooked. It was all just so meta.

So I started tweeting.

For a while I did both. I even thought about connecting my Twitter (@jlsimons) to my Facebook.

But my Tweets tended to be about marketing and advertising, and that wasn’t really what Facebook was all about for me. Facebook was about reconnecting with friends, and Twitter was about business.

At least, that’s what I told myself.

But that wasn’t the truth.

It’s time to face the truth.

Twitter is just plain easier. Twitter doesn’t miss me when I don’t tweet, or at least, I don’t feel guilty about not commenting on every tweet I read. Twitter rewards me when I’m relevant… and challenges me to stay relevant.  Some of the most interesting articles I’ve read recently I found because someone I follow tweeted them.

I’m not the most prolific tweeter. The total of my tweets wouldn’t add up to a single week of Kevin Smith‘s tweets (@ThatKevinSmith). Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) gets more followers in an hour than I’ve gotten in almost a year.

And still, I tweet. When I find something I think people will appreciate, I tweet it and I feel like I’ve added something useful to a conversation I want to be part of.

When I post a new post on my blog, I usually tweet it. Heck, I might even tweet this.

I almost never tweet about where I’m going or what I’m doing. I never tweet about what I’m eating. I know some people do, and I respect their right to do it. Tweet and let tweet, I always say. (Well, actually, that was the first time. But I’ll probably say it more often now.)

Sure, sometimes I still go to Facebook, but it’s not the same for me anymore. I can’t tell you why, or maybe I just don’t want to know, but I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with the fact that Facebook is now the most popular site on the web and gets more visits than Google.

That would be silly, right, avoiding something just because everyone is doing it? Because then, someday, I’d have to give up tweeting for the same reason.

I’m not the kind of person who does things just because they’re new and shiny. Really I’m not.

But just in case I’m wrong, can someone please explain Foursquare to me?