Posts Tagged ‘Marketing’

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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News outlets make news. But to make money, they wrap that news in advertising.

Anybody else see a disconnect?

As we all know, advertising revenues are down as advertisers shift their dollars to more attractive media channels. And not every newspaper, least of all the NY Times, will be saved by the influx in erotic advertising that is resulting from Craig’s List’s ban described in this article on Adotas.

So I have a suggestion. Newspapers should climb out onto the leading edge of the micro-payments industry in this country and charge us for the news we so desperately need the same way they used to pay their reporters:  by the word.

I wonder what would happen if the NY Times wrote an open letter to all its readers in all formats (print, online, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) explaining that the old advertising model no longer supports the costs of news gathering, and asking us to opt-in to a micro-payments structure that has users pay for content by the word or article.

After all, we pay for our music by the song or album at iTunes and Amazon. Users pay for their apps, too, at the iPhone store.

Maybe our news will cost us 100th of a penny per word — I don’t pretend to know — but there’s a number that would be worth paying to get accurate, valuable journalism, fed into our brains by whatever method we choose.

Faced with the alternative — disappearing like The Rocky Mountain News, turning into an online blog like The Tucson Citizen, or going Chapter 11 like the Chicago Tribune — would the stakeholders of the Times keep the “Old Gray Lady” afloat?

Advertisers could play along too. They could buy prepaid content credits that they would give to their target consumers  — as premiums, promotions, free-downloads, usage credits, rewards points, membership discounts or rewards. When a reader used credits, if they were sponsored, they would see their sponsor’s message.

From a reader’s perspective, it would look like this: Whenever I logged onto the Times website (or followed a Twitter link (A Twink?) etc.) I’d get a screen with that day’s advertisers’ offers. I’d pick a sponsor, they’d pay, I’d get my news, and they’d get my eyeballs. Maybe by the article, maybe by the day, maybe by bandwidth, whatever. (Hey, if Bank of America brought me my NY Times content for free, I’d gladly sit through their pre-rolls.)

These prepaid blocks would represent reliable chunks of income that could be sold through a digital auction model or on an upfront basis, or a combination of both (digital auction for the any inventory left over after the up front sales). A major advertiser could work out a promotion with Amazon that every large format Kindle would come with a sponsored year-long subscription to the Times.

Forwards to a friend could represent extra eyeballs for the advertiser, or extra charges, depending on the media buy.

It is frequently said that people don’t value what they get for free. While that may not always be true, it is true that the Internet has changed people’s cost/value perceptions as it pertains to news.

I am a news junkie. I stopped reading printed newspapers long ago, mostly because they’re outdated the minute they’re printed. And I’m ingesting more of my news online or on my phone rather than be continuously disappointed by cable and network news (which I am watching less frequently). Online, I can get better news faster. And much of that news comes from the NY Times. But I usually only notice the publisher after I’ve read the article, if at all. I frequently don’t even notice whose article it is I’m reading on Google News. Or Digg. Or a tweet.

So, in my desperate search for news, would I be willing to pay for that NY Times article? I would if, like E-ZPass, it was effortless to do. Would I sometimes choose an article from the competition if it were cheaper? Depends on the organization. (After all, I have always had the option to buy a Post or Daily News rather than a Times, and yet rarely did so.) More importantly, would I sit through ads for the sponsored version if it were free? I would.

Format-wise, news gathering and dissemination is wonderfully adaptable to large-format Kindles, Twitter, Facebook, SMS, and more.

But what will happen to the dead trees, and all the personnel associated with their destruction, rebirth, and delivery as newsprint?

Since we’re attempting to reinsert value into the equation, let’s look at it in those terms. Would people find enough value in the printed version to pay more for it? Might the printed version of the Times became such a status symbol that some people would happily pay more to make a conspicuously consumptive statement?

Where is the tipping point? Could the Times sustain a print edition at $10 per copy? Remember, under this model they’re already paying for news-gathering and editing with micro-payments. The printed version just needs to carry its own weight. And if it can’t, then I’m sorry for all those workers along the non-value chain, but it’s time for retraining.

So what do you think? Am I crazy, or could this work? And if so, can someone please explain to me why the NY Times isn’t already doing it?

In honor of Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday yesterday, I’d like to talk about survival of the fittest and the evolution of the media landscape.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post called The Magazine as Metaphor. I talked about the three segments of magazines that added the most new titles in 2008, with Regional magazines in second place with  24 new titles.

Well, MediaFinder.com (as reported here on Marketing Charts.com), the place where I got my data, just reported that regional magazines also lost the most titles last year, losing 33 titles. Overall, 525 titles folded in 2008.

The Theory of Evolution says that the species best adapted to its environment is more likely to survive than those that are less well-adapted. In nature, this happens through natural selection and genetic mutation.

In marketing, it does too. You see, environment is a combination of factors, and sometimes the most obvious ones are not the most important ones, evolutionarily speaking.

Let’s look at Domino, the most recent home furnishings magazine to get thrown out with the trash. And thrown out it was, by Conde Nast.

You see, Domino seemed to be doing everything right. It had growing paid readership, newsstand sales were increasing, it had an integrated online presence, a thriving fan base that built blogs, social networks and even real-world social groups around it.

Domino appealed to the vast majority of Americans who shop in Target and want to live with style without selling our souls to afford it.  (For the whole story, see this great NY Times piece by Penelope Green called “A girl world closes, and fans mourn” here.)

One would think that Domino was perfectly suited to survive and thrive in the changing media environment.

But alas, it wasn’t Domino that was unfit to survive. It was its prehistoric business model that depended on ad pages to survive. And ad pages were down 26%. More importantly, it pulled in only half the advertising dollars that Architectural Digest gets.

For those of you who don’t know, now that House & Garden and Domino are gone, Architectural Digest is Conde Nast’s only remaining shelter book. If you didn’t know that, it’s forgivable. AD has a median readership age of 50, and if you can afford to emulate the lifestyles in that publication, you’re a bit above me and my friends on the socio-economic scale.

Just a few months ago, before the announcement to close Domino, Conde Nast was telling the world how successful the publication was. It was, to all appearances, healthy, on top of the world, the masters of their environment. Just like the dinosaurs may have seemed just before they all died.

It seems wrong that an otherwise healthy and thriving publication was brought down by dropping ad sales, especially in this era when ad dollars are plunging across the board.

But that’s the point. Evolution is heartless. Survival of the fittest is frequently determined after the fact. The advertising supported publishing model is dying, and while some dinosaurs may last longer than others, they are all doomed, in the end.

Maybe it’s size that is the defining factor. In this era where we’re discovering that “too big too fail” applies to more than just dinosaurs, banks, airlines and auto manufacturers, is small the new key to success?

Or are blogs the tiny, furry upstart mammals that will become the next dominant species in the media environment? Aren’t the best of them also dependent on advertising dollars to survive? Is media always destined to be chasing ad dollars, and it’s not the media that is at the top of the food chain, it’s the almighty ad dollar?

Even ad dollars are subservient to a greater force: the consumer. Ad dollars are spent chasing one thing: consumers. And consumers are finally beginning to realize how much power they really have.

They’ve saved television shows that were slated to be canceled. They’ve killed movies and products that were supposed to be the next big thing. They’ve put Hulu on the map. They’ve been the building force behind Google and Facebook and Twitter.

And they’re why even though Domino is gone, it’s spirit will live on online in blogs like Apartment Therapy.com, the 3,196th most popular site on the web with over 900,000 monthly unique visitors according to Quantcast. Which, by the way, is higher than Domino’s paid circ of 850,000.

But still, it’s sad that Domino is gone. It is possible that it could have been saved if Conde Nast hadn’t thrown the baby (Domino) out with the bath water (ad sales).Magazines and newspapers are going extinct all across the land even when they have loyal fans who want to devour their content.

So can someone please explain to me how many more otherwise healthy content providers must die before prehistoric publishers realize that it’s the ad sales based model that’s killing them and that it’s the publishers, not the magazines, that must evolve or die?

Like many other marketers, I think candidate Obama’s marketing was exemplary. Which is why I was surprised at President-Elect Obama’s choice of bible for his swearing in.

I get the significance of Obama using the Lincoln Bible. I see the connection between the man who freed the slaves and the first black president. I understand that President Obama is inspired by Lincoln, that he’s a big fan, that he’s been reading up on Lincoln and even that his cabinet and administration is, like Lincoln’s, a team of rivals.

I just think there were better choices out there.

Sure, he got plenty of press coverage about his choice. But wouldn’t he have gotten just as much press if he’d used a bible owned by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.? Wouldn’t it also have been significant and symbolic?

But more importantly, now there will be no Obama Bible.

The Lincoln bible will always be the Lincoln Bible, no matter who uses it.  But if Obama had used a bible of Dr. King’s, there would forever be an Obama Bible.

Doesn’t the first black president of the United States deserve a bible of his own?

For the record, most presidents do not use other president’s bibles. Eisenhower used Washington’s, as did the first Bush. The second Bush wanted to, but inclement weather (or the hand of God?) intervened. Here’s an interesting list of presidential bibles compiled by the Architect of the Capital, who is “responsible to the Congress for preserving, maintaining and enhancing our national treasures.”

In marketing and advertising, we call what President Obama did “borrowed interest.” Instead of capitalizing on his own unique brand attributes, Obama cashed in on Lincoln’s.

Wouldn’t using Dr. King’s bible also be borrowed interest? Sure, for today.

But for tomorrow, for all the tomorrows to come, that bible would be the Obama Bible. When some future president-elect wanted to use that bible, they would refer to it as the Obama bible, used to swear in the first black president, which was originally owned by Dr. Martin Luther King, the greatest civil rights leader in American history.

That’s good branding…and good marketing.

Which is why I’m so perplexed. Everything about this campaign’s marketing has been so intentional, so purposeful, so savvy, that there must be a reason I’m missing.

So can someone (preferably named Barak) please explain to me why President Obama chose to borrow interest from someone else’s brand as opposed to firmly establishing his own?

There’s a spot in New York City, on 5th Avenue between 51st and 50th Streets. If you go there late at night, or early on New Year’s Day, you can actually stand in the deserted center of one of the busiest avenues in the city.  The spot itself isn’t remarkable — it’s what’s around you. To your left is St. Patrick’s Cathedral and to your right is the statue of Atlas in front of Rockefeller Center.

In other words, you are literally standing between one of the world’s greatest expressions of faith and one of mankind’s most enduring symbols of science, technology and rationality.

Whenever I’ve stood in this spot, the juxtaposition of life’s two great themes has added valuable clarity into the confusion of my choices and challenges.

As we begin a new year with its delineation, both artificial and realistic, between what came before and what comes next, I think it is important to keep these two themes in their proper place.

The challenges of business, marketing and our personal lives and finances which this new year will bring will seem unexpected and insurmountable to some, expected and easily addressed by others.

When you look at life as a continual set of challenges and opportunities, when you have a method for addressing problems rationally and intelligently, applying the right tools or the right processes and then testing the outcome before moving ahead, this year’s challenges are no more daunting than last year’s.

When you have faith in your own abilities and in your own ethical core, you have the strength to face any new challenges and opportunities because you have the sure knowledge that you are up to the task, and that even if you fail at times, you will not give up and eventually will find the answer or solution.

It is only when we confuse faith and rationality, and attempt to use faith as a tool to reach our goal, that we are doomed to failure. Faith is a feeling, not a tool.

I had a client who attended a Small Business luncheon and was told by an expert consultant that she needed a blog and that it would help her business. She believed the speaker, and came to my agency and said, “I need a blog.”

We discussed why she wanted a blog. We rationally explored who would be interested in reading it, and came to the conclusion that the way in which her customers find her business and what they want out of it would not be enhanced by a blog. We discussed the amount of time and effort it takes to maintain a blog, and compared it to other expenditures of effort which could have a direct impact on new customer acquisition and repeat business.

When we were done, her belief that she needed a blog and her faith in the speaker/consultant was replaced with a rational assessment of blogs and their ability to deliver ROI for her business at this time.

The conversation reminded me of the now classic, cliche conversation from the mid-90’s:

“I need a website.”
“Why?”
“Everybody else has one.”
“What do you want the site to do for your business?”
“I don’t know. I just know that I need one.”

We all know how well that turned out.

Now is the time to have faith in our ability to use our rationality to navigate the challenges ahead and come out of them stronger, smarter, and more able to succeed at the hard tasks at hand for our nation, our businesses and our selves.

It is not the time to reignite the war between faith and rationality that has divided and handicapped us for centuries.

So can someone please explain to me why something that’s so easy to see on 5th Avenue is so much harder to see in our own lives?