Sunday, May 31, 2009

Does Direct Mail Have Five Years to Live?

Borrell Associates -- a research and consulting firm that tracks local ad spending across all media channels -- slammed the direct mail industry hard when they released tidbits from their $995 report predicting imminent direct mail disaster. Says, Borrell, “We’re predicting a 39 percent decline for this Goliath over the next five years, from $49.7 billion in annual ad spending in 2008 to $29.8 billion by the end of 2013. If that occurs, direct mail will fall from
the No. 1 placeholder for ad revenue to No. 4, behind the Internet, broadcast TV and newspapers.”

For those scoffing at Borrell’s conclusion, the research company points out that it accurately predicted the decline of newspaper advertising in 2001, as well as the accelerated decline [38% ad revenue drop over five years] for the Yellow Pages last August. “By the end of the year, the bottom seemed to have dropped out, hurtling the Idearc into bankruptcy and causing it to tell investors that a 40 percent drop in revenues over the next five years was likely.”

Borrell isn’t alone it predicting curtains for mail,either. Last week, EMarketer reported on results of a 2008 joint study by MarketingProfs and Forrester Research showing that -- back in 2008 when they were surveyed -- marketers expected to spend the same amount on marketing in 2009. Notably, though, decision makers also were planning to shift a fair chunk of the marketing budget to online activities: the company website, search marketing, online video, webinars, email, social networking, etc. The big losers in this study were print and TV advertising, outdoor media advertising, sponsorships, in-person and virtual trade shows, and radio. Yes, direct mail was in for a 34% decline in budget expenditures, but it trailed print and TV advertising, radio, outdoor media, sponsorships, and both in-person and virtual trade shows and conferences.

So does direct mail really have just five years to live? No doubt the patient needs a heart transplant and its fate is closely tied to that of the U.S. Postal Service, which continues to stamp on the envelope parade. In early April, a friend who owns a successful mailshop in the D.C. area told me that her shop couldn’t keep up with the workload. “We’re crazy busy. There’s just one problem: after the May 11 postal increase goes into effect we don’t have a single job in the house—not one.” How does this successful mailshop entrepreneur cope? By wearing a night-time dental guard to control the tooth grinding.

The big aggressors against direct mail? Coupon and promotion-driven email, says Borrell. “Most of the growth in e-mail marketing will be local. We’re expecting local e-mail advertising to grow from $848 million in 2008, to $2 billion in 2013, as more small businesses abandon direct mail couponing and promotional offers and turn to a more measurable and less costly medium, e-mail.”

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here, folks. Email marketing—including enewsletters -- has its detractors, too. Some gurus make a living telling people how to manage “e-mail overload.” At my office, a great deal of what comes in goes straight to some folder on my desktop -- the digital version of the notorious "round file" -- never to be seen again. It isn't that the content is lacking; I just don't have time. Moreover -- as mobile marketing becomes more prevalent and direct mail slows -- I expect the anti-email outcry to grow.

The real problem right now is too many channels and too much marketing, period. We just haven't figured out yet how to control it for maximum effect. So I think I’m going to disagree with Borrell – not that direct mail is faltering, which it may be right now -- but that email marketing is going to replace it.

So, without direct mail and e-mail marketing, then what? I don't know exactly [surprise!], but: Rather than arguing among ourselves about which marketing method is better than another, the solution probably is nature’s favorite: the hybrid -- and that means, personalized, integrated marketing, at least for the short term. Moral of the tale: He who integrates best, wins.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, May 29, 2009

Snippits from Search Engine Strategies 2009

From the Search Engine Strategies 2009 Conference, featured these video interviews worth snipping.

Greg Jarboe of SEO-PR interviewed:

Mikkel deMib Svendsen, Creative Director,
• Get a GOOD, professional photo to post on Twitter.

Rand Fishkin, CEO, SEOMoz
• Yes, search engine optimization does have a future.
• In search social elements – direct methods of finding information like Yelp, Kayak, Facebook, Twitter – will be coming on strong.
• Expect a significant shake-up in the composition of search marketing firms (consolidation, acquisition, new people venturing forward).
• Some signals suggest that links are no longer the pac-Mac chunk of the pie chart of the algorithm or that social search is sharing space with classic SEO.

David Naylor, CEO, Bronco Internet
• Reputation management is a big thing and Twitter is big, so you need to keep ahead of it for yourself and for clients.
• Most people who have twitter also have and blogs. If they have issues with you, try to stop them on Twitter before they get to the blog side.
• Identify the negative things quickly. Take over the reputation management side of things FIRST, because it will control the negativity getting in there.
• Microsoft is the little guy, with Google as the monster; in fairness, Microsoft communicates better with consultants, and they are both business-to-business and business to consumer.

Guy Kawasaki
• Twitter is a great marketing tool for great content.
• The most objective measure is how much you’re retweeted.

Jeffrey K. Rohrs, Vice President, Marketing, ExactTarget
• The Twiteratti (those operate at the high end of content) will benefit greatly from Twitter.
• Nothing is immune to the rules of the web, and the web increasingly gives control to the consumers.
• I agree with Kawasaki: UNfollow me if you don’t like what I’m doing and saying.
• In the excitement of new medium, we need to keep our eye on good marketing practices.
Twangst is the angst created when you are away from your iphone or computer and can’t twitter, or when you fear you aren’t tweeting enough.

John Mulligan of SEO-PR interviewed:

Aaron Lazansky-Oliva of Sohnup Industries
• In the next two years the mobile platform will be quite useful for marketing.
• Twitter is a great news aggregator.
• We’ll see great increase in connectivity and marketing ability through browsers on the mobile platform.
• In mobile it won’t be about a lot of content, but toward social media optimization.
• Educate the clientele as to what goods and services can get the word out through globalization and aggregation between different populations and cultures.
• Gain the valuable insights that let me, my company, my colleagues use social media platforms and tools to get the information out there.
• Speaking of hash tags, it’s all relevant that we aren’t putting out garbage.
Bubbleguru @bubbletweet – tips and tactics for mobile marketing.

Eric Qualman, Global Vice President of Online Marketing for EF Education
• Where is the search world going? Google’s main competitors are Twitter and Facebook.
• Searching for the term “baby carriage” on Google would take about 15-20 hours; but in the future (future is now) with the Beacon tool I can search for baby carriages on Facebook and see that 30 of my friends have purchased a baby seat in the last year – and of those 30, 20 have purchased the same baby seat. And, I care more about what my friends think than what Google thinks.
• The best product will win because your friends will have the answer.
• With Twitter, Comcast and Jet Blue are answering frustration tweets within an hour.
• Some people speculate that Google might buy Twitter.
• I crowd sourced to find out which app was the biggest mover in social media, using Twitter and Facebook for voting.. Facebook was the overall winner; YouTube was second.

Byron Gordon of SEO-PR interviewed:

Hollis Thomases, CEO of
• Twitter is great way to communicate with potential and current buyers.
• If you represent the brand, you need to LISTEN.
• Whole Foods has been very informative; they have a reputation for doing good and for customer support and quality – perceptions they are reinforcing with Twitter.
• Be cautious: Twitter handles can be hijacked.
• Key twitter tools include url short names tools that give you deep metrics when used.

Brian Cray of Nearby Tweets
• Nearby Tweets is a new product designed to overcome the chaotic mess that is public Twitter, and which can reduce to a stream of nearby Twitterites.

Michael Evans of The Talent Magazine.
• People are staying home for a “staycation,” and Twitter is a big part of that
• Guy Kawasaki explains how to use Twitter as a business tool.
• Talent has a Twitter account, but is using it lightly for now.
SEO is a big thing at our company, including landing pages and how to optimize.
• It’s difficult for clients to decide which SEO consultancy is the best.

Rebecca Lieb, eConsultancy, interviewed:

Michel Leconte, SEO Samba
• Syndication is huge in terms of getting the brand out there.
RSS is good for slicing and dicing content.
• How much should you feed? Full post? Half post? You need a strategy for each blog you are posting; some should be full-feed, some not.
• Work to get technologies like Tweetfeed place.
• Make sure you use a service that gets you some analytics and measurements.
• Get in synch with the news cycle and engage in the discourse.

-- Scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guy Kawasaki Talks Venture Capitalism and Twitter

I just came across this March 2009 video interview at les with Guy Kawasaki, who chats about what venture capitalists are looking for. In the process, Kawasaki talks about Twitter, “speed-to-market,” and other marketing tidbits. Marketing Brillo thinks these are the key points:

• The most important thing is prototyping. It’s not about working two years to create the perfect product. It’s speed-to-market right now,

• The second thing: Twitter is a great marketing tool. Every entrepreneur should be on Twitter, create a following, and use that following as a marketing method. Twitter is fast, free, and widespread. Many key people are on Twitter. Got a product to sell? Prototype the hell out of it; then get on Twitter and market the hell out of it.

People make four errors when seeking venture capital.

• First, they don’t research who they are meeting with. You need to go to the website and see what kinds of investments the venture capitalist does. Know the people you are meeting with.
• Second, typical Powerpoint presentations are way too long. Ten or 15 slides is enough.
• Third, people spend too much time describing their background. Keep it short; you need to explain what you do in 30 seconds or less.
• Fourth, people argue or become defensive when questioned too closely. Don’t try to bludgeon your way to success. If you don’t know the answer, say, “I’ll get back to you.” Answer a question you disagree with by saying, “I’ll get back to you.”

• A good model for meeting with venture capitalists is online dating: Is It Hot or Not? That’s the criteria for judgment. It’s not a survey, it’s not complicated, and it’s not eHarmony. Venture capital relationships come down to: “Is It Hot or Not?”

Plenty of Fish is my hero. Marcus Frind had maybe one or two programmers working on this site, so it’s one or two people generating billions of pages. And he did it without venture capital.

• I wouldn’t have predicted Twitter or YouTube. If you’re a venture capitalist, who knows what the next trend is?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Steve Madden Gets Ecommerce Right

I fell in love with Steve Madden’s Trufle shoe (lilac) and went to order. Know how e-retailers always make unregistered customers do a whole “account set -up” thing before placing the order? Madden got the same info by simply adding a “password” registration box to the order form I had already filled out – a smart way to avoid shopping card abandonment.

Marketing Brillo loves Steve Madden.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Three Steps In Learning Brought To Us By the Digital Natives

John Palfrey, co-author with Urs Gasser of Born Digital, was on Book TV this morning. Palfrey had many fascinating observations about how “digital natives” — kids who were born into a digital world — differ from both “digital immigrants” who've had to find their way through it, and “digital settlers,” the pioneers who created the digital landscape.

He noted, for instance, that of the many hundreds of students he's observed working at the Harvard Law School library, he has never seen -- not even once -- a student with a book in hand; plenty of computers, yes -- but no books. In a library!

To paraphrase a common concern among parents and educators: How much can the information tsunami contribute to real learning? Palfrey made the first cogent argument I’d heard that digital can be better.

For example, with regard to “getting the day’s news,” Palfrey noted that the non-digital generation followed a process that began with morning coffee and the newspaper, followed that evening by some time spent with Walter Cronkite. In the digital world, news gatherers who choose to do so can have a much richer experience. “They can begin with grazing for information, which includes scanning headlines online, watching the quick newsfeeds on the bottom of the TV screen, and so on.” Some stop there, he noted—and that’s where the concern about “shallow” comes in. But for others, the learning process launches with grazing, and intensifies with what Palfrey calls the “deep dive,” clicking on links in the headlines. From the deep dive, the most energetic then engage in the participatory and creative “feedback” phase, which involves commenting on articles they’ve read, writing in their own blog, and so on.

Palfrey’s right: If you go through these three steps, digital learning is an amazing, mind-expanding, enriching experience. Marketing Brillo loves John Palfrey.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Testing Will Test Us All

This morning, I got promotions from Silverpop and Marketing Experiments. Silverpop was inviting me to a webinar series “In Search of the Ideal Email Send Time.” Bottom line promise: Reach recipients on the precise day and precise time they’re likely to be checking email and increase e-marketing returns by 30 to 100 percent. Marketing Experiments has a webinar, too: “Optimizing Your E-commece Site” focuses on test strategies that will boost revenue 56%.

All this testing is a daunting responsibility for marketers used to simply uploading e-stuff “whenever,” but testing and adjusting always has set direct marketing apart from other forms of promotion. For years, we’ve paid production experts to help us execute and measure sophisticated direct mail tests. Now we need to do the same for email and e-commerce. Our skill-set requirements are changing rapidly and it’s a bit scary, but the chance to learn something new while doing better also comes with the evolving e-territory. E-victory!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Data Visualization All Over Again

eM+C is having a webinar about “Data visualization,” a process from which marketers can gain insight into marketing data. I confess, I’d never heard of it (data visualization is the same as “enterprise tree mapping,” if that helps). Data visualization is a sort of 1990s idea, according to the DBMS2 blog, but, everybody's rush to mine data for variable data printing and imaging seems to have led to a second look. KD Nuggets lists dozens of examples of visualization software, including some free versions like Graphviz. Their cool gallery lets you see the output of some visualized data, but don’t expect pretty. For that – and for a great article showing how visualization works in graphic design -- check out PTS Blog. If it’s still too much, get out your yellow pad and doodle. That still works pretty good, too.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Citizen Journalism and Other Neuro Waterboarding

In the realm of brain washing and neuro-water boarding, I have felt the deluge of BNO News [yes, I’m late to this and every other pop culture party, but never late to a doctor’s appointment – wait, I never go to the doctor.. oh well …] From BNO, I washed up on the whole damn beach. Waterlogged as I was, I felt an immediate impulse to RSS feed myself with stories nobody else knew, earlier than anybody else knew them. But then I said, “Why,” followed immediately by “How?” I mean how much can a human brain take? [Yes, I keep asking that question. I even joined a Twibe of neuroscientists in hopes of an answer]. In the last 24 hours I’ve uploaded a background image on my Twitter page [to that enterprise I invested 3 hours before I sought to say "why?" and learned that Twitter was malfunctioning-- problem now fixed], I've added tags to my blog dating back to 2008, and am in the process of sitemapping my website. I’m on frontal lobe overload and I haven't had breakfast. Anybody out there with me? If so, Tweet me. Right now, I'm maxed at 140 characters.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Google AdSense Embraces Pork Spending

On May 2, I blogged about Smithfield, the Swine Flu, and the genius of pigs. Hey, I’m not the only one crying “Fowl!” Rolling Stone eviscerated Smithfield in December 2006. But the pork industry was apparently none too pleased with my blog. For a week, AdSense was hogging my blog with huge 4-color ads that announced “Pork Is Safe.” I think it was the work of the National Pork Board for which I don’t blame them. It’s their job and I’m sure they’re paid well to do it. But, gosh guys. I’m a vegetarian and your ads made my own blog smell like a pig pen. But I learned something: Visits from the enemy are the price of AdSense. I didn’t know it, but I accept it. I'm free to blog what I like but – since I'm trolling for dough, aka "selling out" -- my adversaries can Pay to Shout. All’s fair in the media wars ... 'cept now I know how Fox News felt when Obama ran his election ads. A little queasy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Marketing Musts in the 2009 Zeitgeist

As I continue to ponder futurist Ross Dawson’s trend map for 2009, I’m focusing on how these trends can inform marketers who stress over “what’s brewing out there?” Here’s the first five observations. Stay tuned. This Zeitgeist Hydra grows heads exponentially.

Uncertainty/anxiety demands Customer Reassurance. Bryan Landaburu cited a superb example of customer reassurance done right from electronics retailer Amidst the economic meltdown, Crutchfield's founder and CEO sent a reassuring, sincere, frank, specific, and proactive email to customers on October 24, 2008. It doesn’t get better than this. Bigger point: If you haven't walked the walk, you'll suffer a fatal fall.

Ageing demands Security. At some point, getting older gets to be less about botoxing wrinkles and more about hanging onto the edge of a cliff. Will we be able to house and nourish ourselves, afford healthcare, drive a car, take a walk, go out to lunch occasionally? Baby Boomers and Their Parents says 50-somethings are not as well-off as their "Greatest Generation" parents -- a reality that's of over-arching concern. Message to marketers: products and services for folks concerned about the harsher side of ageing must answer the security call.

Flight to quality demands Sincere Response. One of the folks at Apocalypzia remembers a time when one of America’s leading retailers (to whom he consulted on quality control issues) scoffed when customers returned branded tools for bad performance. “The attitude was: There are always new customers coming in.” Today, with vastly declining sales, that company is surviving on its real estate ownership (how’s that working for you, folks?). Bottom line: No more marketing and customer-service silos. Today's customer will move on for good, but on her way out, she'll tell 100 people on Twitter how much she hates her consumer experience. (Note: If you don't believe it, try Googling "I hate Comcast," which currently pulls up 928,000 hits. Goodbye, Frank Eliason [who rarely tells us when Comcast is down in our area or why, but yaks about other stuff, grrrrr], hello Fios.

Global connectivity demands Agility and Flexibility. In Digital Marketing: Global Strategies, authors Jerry Wind and Vijay Mahajan say new business models must focus not on profits and returns, but on rapidly building market share and leveraging knowledge. In the Domino’s Pizza model, for example, location is irrelevant, customer interaction and ordering is by phone, the value proposition is speed, and database marketing and associated analytics are critical.

GRIN technologies demand concise, catchy copy. Marketing anything related to genetics, robotics, information technology, and nanotechnology is bound to confuse, challenge, and scare a lot of people—even smart people. For this, we need a new, shorter language, the awareness of which has been exploding in Twitter’s 140-character to mobile marketing’s 160-character messaging. Got nano?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Mobile: The Next Crazy-Making, Must-Know Marketing Skill

Kim Dushinski, founder of Mobile Marketing Profits and author of The Mobile Marketing Handbook, writes that, very soon, all businesses will have a mobile marketing presence. "Mobile" includes our cell phones, natch, but also refers to any sort of away-from-home device that can access the Internet through Wi-Fi: basic flip phone to smartphone to iPhone, PDAs, sub-laptop sized computers, even gaming units.

“It’s the new technology and it’s coming quickly,” she says, noting that in Asia it’s already omnipresent (check out Digital Korea). Over half the population of the planet has a mobile phone already and in some places mobile phone use is reportedly 100% (not sure how babies are using cell phones, at least not yet). In the U.S. only about 80% of us have cell. Overall, use is growing at 42% per year and is predicted to have a $7.6 billion impact by 2013.With its importance as the Seventh Mass Media (along with print, recording, cinema, radio, TV, and the Internet), marketers will be called upon now or sooner to fit mobile into the marketing strategy.

Success, of course, will depend on our finding something of value to provide customers via mobile. Target groups who are already mobile savvy include people under 30 (born with flying thumbs), business data plan users (who cares how much it costs?), and Latinos. Busy women top the up-and-coming market. Don’t try to sell stuff to mobile users, though. Younger groups especially are wary of advertising, marketing, and anything commercial, especially spammed text messages. In this market, we'll have to figure out how to make money when we're giving it (whatever "it" is) away.

To seduce mobile users, then, we'll need to offer something that will add value to whatever they're doing at the moment. For now, top mobile marketing strategies include location-specific information (addresses, driving directions, maps, storefront photos); timely information (pricing alerts, flight info); tips to make life easier (menu options, calorie counts); a financial incentive (coupons); entertainment (games, trivia, contests, recordings); and connection (social networking like OrbitzTLC).

B2C businesses have an edge in mobile marketing so far. Social media are the natural partner to mobile marketing, though, so here’s where service-based or information businesses have an edge. “Your focus will be about building a presence and staying connected to your customers,” Duschinski says.

Getting involved will be complicated. Mobile marketing is 100% opt-in, so we've got to find a way to persuade customers to ask for what we're offering, then make it easy for them to sign-on. Curiously, the move to mobile marketing may give more traditional strategies like direct mail a renewed raison d'etre.

When we get into serious mobile marketing, we'll need to partner with vendors who provide transcoding, 2D bar codes, connection aggregators, mobile platform providers, minature website design, abbreviated dialing codes, and a plethora of other mobile-specific technology. If you haven’t heard of “short codes,” you will.

Like social media, it's going to drive us crazy, but mobile marketing is sure to spawn new marketing strategies, which could be fun. For example, location-specific mobile marketing is already employing such old-fashioned tactics as billboards or people walking around in t-shirts that feature a message with a short code. Duschinski’s book, for example, imagines a t-shirt with “Want a FREE lunch?” on the front, and “Text LUNCH to 12345 [the short code]” on the back.

Finally, whatever else we do, our text messages will have to be 160 characters or less, so there’s sure to be even more work for copywriters who can say something significant in a few words.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A 3x5 Lesson for Copywriters

bNet recently featured a piece by Sean Silverthorne, who loved the observations Alan Webber made about jotting notes on 3x5 cards. Webber says the practice made him a better listener because “When you keep 3 x 5 cards close at hand, you don’t just listen to what people are saying; you listen into their ideas.” Into their ideas: how powerful!

Webber goes on to say, “You pay close attention to the way the words work — or don’t work — to capture an idea or an argument. As an involved listener you help others frame or reframe an idea so it clicks into place: you become an idea chiropractor. You find yourself using your conversations strategically, listening to learn, and learning to make sense of the world. And each day, as you assemble that day’s collection of 3 x 5 cards, you discover new lessons that help you develop your own understanding of how the world really works, your own rules of thumb that comprise your guide to work and life in a time of unrelenting turbulence.”

Webber’s 3x5 is a fabulous tool for copywriters working on a succinct marketing message. Maybe a Blackberry works the same way. But maybe not.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Marketing in the 2009 Zeitgeist

It occurred to me that everything that happens in this country (at least currently) is about commerce -- which means that marketing is not only a dimension of all that is going on, but also a measurement of the operational efficiency of commerce in the Zeitgeist.

Before the Web kicked into high gear (pre-Web 2.0?), marketing drove the commerce train and pretty much told consumers not only what to buy, but also what to think, believe, appreciate, yearn for, and be (remember The Joneses?).

Interestingly, marketing practices-- how we buy and sell product and service -- reflects the larger commercial picture -- and by extension, the Zeitgeist itself. In other words, if it's not selling, we stop marketing that way. I'm no historian, but I suspect our traditional bent to push the message to consumers hit high points with the Sears Catalog, evolved to the Mad Men, racheted up in the direct mail boom, and has been cranking along pretty much unchallenged for the last 60 years or so. But something is different now. The Internet has made next-door neighbors of us all. Consumers now have the power to exchange viewpoints and experiences easily.

Meanwhile, the current Zeitgeist incorporates mistrust of government and authority, fear and uncertainty, exposure to global realities, an explosion of media options, getting by with "less," eco-consciousness, and a general "hunkering down" [everybody's got an opinion, of course, but futurist Ross Dawson cites the following trends for 2009: uncertainty, ageing, global connectivity, anxiety, power shift eastwards.]

How will marketers cope with this Zeitgiest? By its nature, in an effort to influence commerce, marketing will adjust accordingly. What succeeds now will be different than what succeeded then (which may be why social media with the old push/pull marketing mentality probably won't work). Maybe the new marketing involves lots more listening, lots less talking. Forewarned is forearmed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Party Rules Apply To Social Networks

A social network study released in April by NTEN, Common Knowledge, and The Port Network, Inc., reports that nonprofits are making increasing use of “commercial social networks” [defined as "online communities owned and operated by a corporation"] and “house social networks” [networking communities built on a nonprofit’s own website]. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and MySpace are cited as examples of “commercial social networks.” Presumably, house social networks” would include more traditional discussion groups where folks chitty chat.

The study shows that 80% of nonprofits who engage in commercial social networks use them primarily for “marketing.” No wonder few participants join or stay around. Marketing is a big no-no, if you talk to social media experts like Jason Baer, who keep trying tell us that the purpose of social networks is to be human and build a community. Let us not forget that a lot of the older “house social networks” [list serves and similar discussion groups] have done that brilliantly. Most of these older networks were never intended to market anything -- and, apparently, the participants like it the way. Here's a case in point.

An organization I know well launched a “bells and whistles” website not long ago – a new password-protected information center through which all industry knowledge would henceforth flow. The organization hyped the new website’s value on its 8-year-old [and beloved] list serve. A relatively ho-hum reaction ensued, except for one thing: Numerous queries poured into the list serve, each saying, “Well, how nice.. but that doesn’t mean we have to go to the new information center to access the list serve, does it?" ?

Wisely, the organization decided not to mess with the list serve (for now) -- which demonstrates, that, even with new media, the old virtues remain in place: Plan a party; invite compatible guests; keep the nourishment flowing; add some entertainment to move things along; leave the guests to themselves; and make mental notes on what worked and what didn't. But don't try to sell anything. That's a different kind of party [Tupperware, anyone?] and one to which a lot of people say, "Oh no.. I got an invitation!"

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Smithfield Is About To Scamper. Watch Them Fall Down.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Surgeon Generic, went to La Gloria, Mexico, this morning to visit "Patient Zero," a five-year boy who is reportedly the first human being to contract H1N1 swine flu. Speculation has it that the child picked up the virus from Smithfield's nearby pig plant, which Gupta and his TV entourage tried to get into, but Smithfield said no. The swine flu could not have originated there, you see, because Smithfield gives their pigs flu vaccine regularly and tests them every month for the virus. They also crowd these smarter-than-dog-or-primate animals into pens, feed them crap, and let them stand to their knees in pig excrement their entire lives. But enough of that: The Internet is full of lurid details of industrial pig farming and “fecal lagoons”, which few of us have the stomach to contemplate. But if you do, you might start here, with PETA, to which this outrage is nothing new (full disclosure: I’m a 12-year vegetarian).

Lately, Smithfield has been busy closing U.S. plants and moving to places like Mexico, Poland, and Romania. Smithfield's overseas factory workers (aka “caretakers) surely have no more time or tendency to Pig Patience, poverty-stricken and downtrodden as they themselves are. But I'm sure Smithfield has long stories about how their presence in this rural town in Mexico has raised *every*body's economic level and made life really gay (see the natives dancing?). But this is the Internet, so that’s not likely to fly. What will Smithfield do?

Well, Smithfielders, what you may have caused (and we really don't know, do we?) is probably going to out-noise your own part in this pandemic for awhile. But, soon enough, there will be hell to pay because swine flu has brought the pigs home to roost and your need for damage control is about to explode – except there is no permanent damage control – or marketing – to explain away unconscionable acts. Yikes, problem. Still, overseas, where there is no PETA and much less environmental regulation .. but where there is, believe it or not, an Internet. Oops, again!

Let me hasten to say that I’ don’t pretend to have a formula for how we’re supposed to feed the world population without industrial farming like Smithfield's (others, like the eloquent John Ikerd do, and are talking about it, thank goodness). In the meantime, swine pandemic or not, we’re seeing that current industrial farming practices -- many of which, as we noted, have been conveniently exported to more desperate Third World countries -- are not safe for man nor beast. The lid has blown off the pot.

Apologies, but I must add a final word for Dr. Surgeon Generic: Shame on you! In your voice this morning, I have heard the earnest outrage of a Lou Dobbs, which is sure to sell more TV face time for you and CNN, but this is a FIVE-YEAR old you called on, for pity’s sake ... and you showed him on camera and you used his name and you called him "Patient Zero" and his charming innocence had no idea the use you were making of him. Quite frankly, it makes me sick and I hope my outrage is contagious.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Old Marketing Got Scrubbed; It’s Not Infectious Anymore

Dan Smolen, my comrade in arms and blogger at Sturdy Roots, sent me a provocative article about how marketers are leaving eco-dollars on the counter. I told Dan that this article tapped into what I perceive as a major shift in consumer purchasing behavior, which must be accompanied by a major shift in marketing.

The trend affirms a serious lack of consumer trust. I think people are, quite simply as "Mad As Hell." After a decade of government deception, capped off by a crushing economic disaster, the ONLY thing that can cure this skepticism is transparency and truth .. which means that -- as long as consumers still have a choice -- there must be real eco-commitment and genuine value in product. When you have major brands "repackaging" or offering up their "green version" of an old brand, it builds contagious suspicion (and well it should.) Meanwhile, this also puts corporate attempts at social media on dangerous ground. Old marketing practices would conclude that blogging and Facebook are just another way to tell their story, but in a different, friendly kinda way. Wrong. Consumers don't want to hear the corporate story at all. They've heard the corporate story and they're mad as hell. They'd rather talk to a friend or a person (and now they can... oh yes, they can). It gets worse. In this soup of cynicism every teeny tiny new misstatement (no matter how artfully couched) smells rotten and has Malthusian odor contamination.

Consumers have changed since things went south. The recession has taught folks to scoff and simply not buy. This is not marketing as usual, my friends. This is something new and nobody is quite sure what it means, so long have we been the Mad Men. But, surely, the New Marketing can experiment with the truth and a real voice.. and measure the results, of course.

How Much More Than Enough Social Media Do We Need?

I just read Seth Godin’s great blog on “big enough is big enough.” I wanted to stand up and cheer! The tagline on my email says, “How much more than enough do we need?” a quote that reportedly emanated from Eldrige Cleaver, though I never could verify that.

Too big threatens to become a mainline weakness of the current social media (SM) stampede. On LinkedIn, I hooked into the “Innovative Marketing, PR, Sales, Word-of-Mouth & Buzz Innovators” group. This particular SM mash-up reportedly has 40,000 people participating. At first that seemed pregnant with possibility ... until I tried to post a query to the group. My question got in front of the 40,000 for about one minute before it drowned out in the next flood of questions, advertisements, hawkings, and job postings. Not that that's a bad thing. It just doesn't help me.

Yesterday, I read Jason Baer’s insightful blog on the Six Dangerous Fallacies of Social Media, Maybe social media gurus everywhere already knew this, but Jason Baer is the first person I've heard say it, so Jason gets the credit: “Social media is not about Facebook or MySpace or Flickr or Twitter or blogs or YouTube. It’s about having a strategy for making your company or organization more like a person and less like a machine. It’s about humanization."

The old marketing was reliant on “brand,” a vision of reality that embodied the “us and them” point of view -- static, stilted, inhuman "push marketing." Social media was born human, and the challenge now is to keep it human because this, too, can become a numbers game. For now, maybe we keep it a bit tribal and a bit small.