Monday, August 31, 2009

Marketfish Bets That List Customers Are Smart Enough To Buy Direct

Seattle-based Marketfish thinks it has a better list trap – namely a system where list buyers can work directly with list owners, cutting out list managers and list brokers.

The company has a patent pending on a Web interface that will let agencies and other list buyers order directly from big list owners like Forbes, Fortune, or Inc. The idea is for marketers to browse the selection of lists online and add them to a shopping cart.

Competitor NextMark isn’t buying the Marketfish hype. In fact, the NextMark blog insists that list brokers, managers, agencies, and service bureaus add value to the process.

It's a familiar argument. From amazon, to autotrader, to overstock, to zorros … sellers everywhere are betting that consumers have enough confidence in their own product knowledge to buy direct.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, August 28, 2009

Erase Me: Tips for Obliterating Your Social Media Presence

Move over, Arnold Schwarzenneger. A new kind of Eraser may be emerging -- an expert who knows how to help companies and individuals expunge their social media presence.

The J. Michael Goodson Law Library at Duke University has some great pointers for scrubbing online footprints.

A recent NextMark blog reiterates 10 privacy settings every Facebook user should know.

In late June, Christopher Lower at Above the Buzz blogged the process of ending a corporate online presence, including expunging the website, Facebook, Twitter, wordPress blog, and LinkedIn footprints. Chris says, “The bottom line is that, yes, you can deactivate your accounts and remove some material online, but it will not result in the immediate removal of all of the material from being found online. It may fade over time, like the memory of the company, but for now it is a record of existence that won’t easily go away. With that in mind, what kind of online legacy is company leaving online?”

As writer Greg Beato points out in The Joys of Brain Scrubbing, “…Now, thanks to the fact that we’ve given Google and Facebook the keys to our diaries, our most trivial, spontaneous moments are as indestructible as Egyptian sarcophagi … Thanks to the Internet, our past is the house guest who won’t leave … And it’s not just a matter of self-disclosure. Walk down a city street, and surveillance cameras hound you like you’re Britney Spears or Paris Hilton. Your drunken tirades become blog fodder for your friends. Your adventures in small claims court are easily accessible to anyone willing to pay $14.95 for a peek.”

For a different view from our GenY colleagues, check out Rebecca Thorman’s video and commentary on “Will you regret your online presence?” Rebecca and her commentators agree there will be no regrets.

Could be.. but something tells me there may be demand for a new batch of specialists who can "erase me."

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Customer Service: Be Good When You’re Big

Comcast was a thorn in my side from its first intrusion a decade ago. I needed its high bandwidth like I needed electricity and water. Back then, Comcast was the only game in town, so I went with Comcast.

Their monopoly reigned for years and the service ups and downs were legend. Once I had no reliable service for a month. Finally, I got relief by complaining to the utility commissioner. He got involved only because that particular problem featured a cable that was supposed to have been buried, but which snaked its orange way across my yard for weeks. The rest of my dozens of complaints were a crap shoot.

If you have Comcast, you know this story all too well: long waits to talk to a customer service person; dropped phone calls; distant appointments; four-hour windows in which you need to take off work and wait, followed by technicians who don’t fix the problem, or worse, technicians who don’t even show up. I had to pay my bill on time every month, of course. “You need us more than we need you” -- that was the Comcast attitude. It still is the attitude in areas where Comcast remains a monopoly. Except now there's FIOS -- and along with FIOS comes a new Comcast … a Comcast that “cares.”

How dumb do you think we are?

Frank Eliason on Twitter is one big whoop to me. Ditto the East Division Inside Sales Manager, who sent me a letter yesterday, telling me that his "#1 job is to help small businesses" like mine. Hey, Dave. I’ve got FIOS and I’m never going back. And anybody who’s ever had Comcast will leave as soon as they possibly can – permanently.

My ten closest friends and family loathe you, Comcast. I’ve talked to dozens of others over the years who burn with the same hot rage at the mention of your name. There’s a lesson here and it’s so simple it’s embarrassing. Don’t start playing nice when times get tough, because customers not only remember, they resent.

Do be good when you’re big, even if you don’t have to. Because, actually, you do have to.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

LinkedIn Is the Right Choice for Social Media Career Management

For many executives, the professional and personal don't mix in life or on the Internet.

An Office Team survey has disclosed that nearly half of executives surveyed were uncomfortable being Facebook "friended" by the employees they manage or their bosses.

Even though executives are leery of Facebook friend requests, career-focused LinkedIn draws the right line. That's good news for executives seeking to manage an online professional presence, since LinkedIn remains a professional “stop” for most recruiters. Online recruiter Jobvite reports that 95% of HR and recruiting professionals use LinkedIn to check out potential employees, compared to 59% using Facebook.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, August 24, 2009

Are Ghost Blogging and Shadow Tweeting Unethical? Don't Make Me Laugh.

Last week, Mark W. Schaefer posted an interesting blog titled “Can You Outsource Authenticity?” Mark has been asked by a number of clients to blog -- and even tweet -- for them. Early commentators to Mark’s post opposed opposed the notion of ghost-blogging, let alone shadow-tweeting. “Don’t. You. Do it.” somebody said. Another person said, “No fakers.”

Marketers need to rethink the 2009 knee-jerk definitions of authenticity swirling around social media.

Copywriters and fundraisers routinely write letters over somebody else's signature. CEOs employ speechwriters, slideshow creators, and PR people. Ghost-blogging is neither special nor different. More to the point, why would any CEO waste energies writing a blog when professional writers can draft for approval?

Shadow-tweeting isn't cut and dried, either. Actors, impersonators, comics, and even spokespersons routinely and successfully "speak" on behalf of others. A whole slew of "stand-ins" have taken to tweeting on behalf of the characters on Man Men and we beg for more.

I see social media maxims about “transparency” and “full disclosure” bending to the reality TV model where "telling all" stands in for honesty and integrity. Let's not get confused. The "Housewives" of New Jersey and Atlanta have impressively demonstrated that transparency itself can lie.

Saying "no" to corporate deception isn't brain surgery. If it smells like deception, it is. That's why, before I blog or tweet for a client, I'm asking myself two questions:

1. Am I thoroughly informed about my client's business?
2. Am I ethically and philosophically comfortable expressing the viewpoint my client wants to communicate?

If the answer is two-times "yes," I'll consider the job. How about you?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, August 21, 2009

Two Great Stops to Feed Your Business Video Appetite RIGHT NOW

The “content is king” race to dominate Internet space is spawning a theatre full of solid, on-demand business videos – all free (for now).

To see info on specific issues, you can check out YouTube. Unfortunately, you’ll find a lot of self-promotional junk there. A better bet are some of the emerging news/information websites that feature a lot of video.

American Express OPEN Forum:
AMEx calls the Open Forum their “idea hub” and I agree. This spot contains an astounding collection of interviews, commentary, profiles, and tidbits on innovation, lifestyle, managing, marketing, money, technology, and the world.
Great content site owned by CBS Interactive, which rounds up content from TechRepublic, MoneyWatch, and ZDNet. Content focuses on leadership, management, tax tips, etc.

For plain old mind expansion, check out the technology tab at the Discovery Channel’s video collection. It’s just plain engrossing.

--scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Do-It-Yourself Business Video Is Worth A Look

I’ve never used this Instant Video Presenter software, but it looks cool on the website.

The sales pitch says the software lets you use your own computer’s desktop as the background of the video you are recording. Instead of you in front of a potted plant, you get an effect similar to that
you see in weather or news reports, with somebody talking into the camera and lots of active, dynamic stuff on a screen behind. That feature sets the end product apart from so much of the homegrown, static video you see online right now. You can work with multiple, dynamic backgrounds -- videos, pictures, websites, slide presentations, applications, or anything else you can get on your computer screen.

With the exploding demand for commercial video, this product would appear to deserve a look. Ideally, though, even a project tagged as "simple" as this one probably would benefit from a producer with some film sense.

And, no, I'm not aligned with the product. Instant Video Presenter is only available on Windows machines.. no Mac version yet. Mac folks tend to be in the creative side of marketing and probably are using high-end recorders and Final Cut Pro to make their videos. Still – at $259.99 (basic) or $358.94 (professional) -- this looks like a seriously useful program to me. If I weren’t on a Mac, I’d give it a twirl.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Two More Twitter Courtesies That Tweeple Appreciate

For a great primer on Twitter etiquette, read the Top 10 Rules at Brian Swichkow’s blog. I’d like to add the 11th and 12th rules, both of which have to do with giving credit where credit is due.

11. If You Didn’t Think of It First, Retweet. Case in point: Last week, I retweeted a great post on “Rage” via @Apocalypzia, which contained the famous “mad as hell” rant from the movie Network. The next day, a gal who follows me created her own url and tweet that pointed to the same video. Maybe it was Twitter Coincidence -- after all, that piece of footage with Howard Beale is famous -- but, if not, @Apocalypzia deserved a mention.

12. Don’t Use Somebody Else’s Words and Tweet Them As Your Own. One person I used to follow appears to write brilliant tweets, until you realize that she uses the title of the article she's linking to, plus however many words from the first paragraph will fit in 140 characters -- and that’s her tweet. The original sources -- most of whom are the well known bloggers who actually wrote the brilliant words -- deserve credit in her tweets. The rest of us deserve full disclosure so we don't waste time going to a site we've probably already visited.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, August 17, 2009

Twitter: Good Work for Comics, Rappers, Copywriters

I caught an article on Taco Bell's move to social media in Advertising Age last week. What I loved was the comment left by Rodney33 from Frisco, Texas. Remember Kogi, of Korean Taco Truck fame in L.A.? Well, Rodney invited readers to check out and compare Kogi's hip website, twitter, flickr, and Facebook presence vs. Taco Bell's (which, Rodney says, now has its own "Taco Truck."

Go to the AdAge article for Rodney's full posting. What struck me was the difference in tone between Kogi's casual tweets and Taco Bell whistling in the wind. It's tough to put your teeth into, but Kogi just has more energy, more enthusiasm, more color, more devil-may-care, more humor. Examples:

• Come get ur grub CV!
• La Crescenta closing in 15 min!
• Sorry 4 late updates. TECHNOLOGICAL DISASTER!!!!
• Darth Vader's Psychic HotLine - MAY THE FORCE BE WITH YOU:

And then there's TACO BELL:
• Thanks everyone for the fun with #tacobellmovies today. Winners announced tmrw ... 1 more from us: Guess Who's Coming to Fourthmeal?
• Taco Bell supports programs that inspire teens to graduate from high school and become caring, educated, pro-active adults.
• Taco Bell for Life

The tweets aren't flowing, TB. they're just too.. well, corporate. Why not take a chance and hire one of those improv guys in L.A. to tweet for you? Or hire a consultant from Kogi. I love your food, but -- Twitter-wise -- you just don't get it.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, August 14, 2009

An Ode to the MadMen (and Women) Who Write Copy

On Sunday night, the wildly popular Mad Men will return for season three. Today seems the right moment to praise the copywriting genius that has launched many famous careers.

Joe Connelly and Bob Mosher, two copywriters who first worked together in the early 40s at the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in New York, created the Amos ‘n Andy radio show, the 246-episode TV series, Leave It To Beaver, and the less saccharine TV series, The Munsters.

Writer/director John Hughes—who was responsible for such movie legends as “The Breakfast Club” and “Home Alone”—got his start as a copywriter, too. In a tribute written upon his recent passing, Variety reported that, early on, Hughes was an advertising copywriter in Chicago, who started selling jokes to such performers as Rodney Dangerfield and Joan Rivers. Hughes later got a job at National Lampoon magazine, during which time he wrote his first screenplay.

Perhaps Herschell Gordon Lewis is the most famous of all copywriters gone to film. Tagged “the Godfather of Gore,” Lewis created the “splatter film” sub-genre. Direct marketers know him as the author of Direct Mail Copy That Sells and two dozen other books on direct marketing.

Wikipedia, which has an entire section on “famous copywriters,” notes that, “Many creative artists spent some of their career as copywriters before becoming famous for other things.

Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that Joseph Heller, author of Catch-22, whipped up a book title that has become part of American lexicon. After the war, Heller worked as a copywriter for a small ad agency and wrote at night. Suspense novelist Mary Higgins Clark worked at the same agency as Heller, though Wikipedia bills her only as a “secretary and copy editor” (after all, this was the early 50s).

If you want to understand why copywriters are masters of word and persuasion, go to Herschell Gordon Lewis’ web page devoted to “intellectual stimulation.” Here you’ll find an analysis of copy that only a maven can appreciate. Lewis writes, "What is the difference between "The competition for attention is brutal" and "Competition for attention is brutal." Dropping the article adds power. "The competition for attention is brutal" is less dynamic than "Competition for attention is brutal." Why would you prefer "I invite you to attend the seminar. It’s just for the morning" over "I invite you to attend the seminar. It is just for half a day"? "Half a day" seems longer than "morning."

Brilliant, isn't it? But Maddening.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Move Over Google, The Times Up and Went All "Searchy"

The New York Times has a digital newsletter called @Times. The tagline is “Where the conversation begins.” Since I first got the newsletter awhile back, I’ve been tossing it away. Yesterday, I read it. Maybe you’re as late to the party as I am, so here’s what I learned from my first read.

As ReadWriteWeb reported last May (yes, I'm late to the party), The Times went open source in encouraging software developers to design applications that will find, sort, and visually chart the vast information stored at The Times. What an incredible resource for writers, marketers, and researchers!

Landing at The Art of Times Developer Network page, you find an intro that reads: “You already know that is an unparalleled source of news and information. But now it's a premier source of data, too — why just read the news when you can hack it?” So, this is hacking ... This is BIG.

The current APIs (application programming interface) facilitate article search, movie reviews, congressional voting records, best sellers, etc. The Tools are super cool. For example, via the Visualization Lab "you [yes, you!] can create visual representations of NYT data using IBM's 'Many Eyes' technology." (The Grey Lady loves Big Blue. Awesome.)

Still wondering what to do with The Times APIs? Drop by the Gallery. "The Arrival of Transparency" will make you drool.

Final note: Media Bistro quoted Marc Frons, The Times' chief technology officer, about possible social media applications. Fons reportedly said, "We don't want to be Facebook. Facebook is Facebook. We'll probably do something a little bit different. We'd like it to be like the email an article [sic], only much more robust than that."

I can't help it. Seeing a newspaper -- because, you know, newspapers are dead -- challenge Google and Social Media all at once? Well, it feels gooooood.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Comfy-Looking Astroturf Hides A Slippery Slope

"Astroturfing" has been around since the 90s, but -- with the health care reform debate raging -- the term currently is littering the media landscape. In July, corporate astroturfing moved front and center, when Andrew Cuomo, the attorney general of New York, fined Lifestyle Lift $300,000 for getting employees to post fake testimonials about the cosmetic surgery procedure on various sites and message boards. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that regulators are now investigating blog advertising practices.

AP writer Jennifer Peltz reported that, among other no-nos, an internal corporate email told Lifestyle Lift staffers, "I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the Web as a satisfied client" ... Another internal message directed a worker to "put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had."

From a PR standpoint, social media astroturfing doesn’t appear to have worked out too well for the New Jersey-based company. AG Cuomo said, ““My office has and will continue to be on the forefront in protecting consumers against emerging fraud and deception, including ‘astroturfing,’ on the Internet.”

Jason Cormier posted about an experience one of his clients suffered at the hands of an irate blogger who discovered the client was commenting under a false name. The SocialStudiesBlog cites a number of ways PR folks can be tempted to “seed campaigns.”

The simple message is “Don’t.” It's definitely fake and it could be illegal.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Incident Placement Is the New Marketing Buzz

As a long-time Mac user, I’ve always noticed how many MacBook Pros show up in the films I see – many more than market share would explain. No doubt Apple has been paying for that product placement. In the viral marketing era, however, a mere glimpse at product falls short.

To promote their movie, “I Love You, Beth Cooper,” Twentieth Century Fox hired an L.A. high school valedictorian to create an “incident” during the graduation ceremony. At the end of her valedictory address, M.I.T.-bound Kenya Meija shouted to her boyfriend, “I love you, Jake Minor.” She got $1,800 for creating publicity for the film. FilmJunk reported that the effort (and the movie) bombed, but "incident marketing" looks like a new social-reality-media trend.

In late July, Proctor & Gamble hosted the Swiffer SocialLuxeLounge at the BlogHer 2009 conference in Chicago. In addition to comfort-station amenities like cell-phone chargers, attendees were invited to dress up like Lucille Ball or Marge Simpson and try out the new Swiffer mop. This effort reportedly paid off in viral tweets, Facebook posts, and Flickr uploads.

Expect lots more paid “incidents” as marketers figure out new and ever more dramatic schemes to shock the market into alert. Also expect a fair number of these efforts to backfire. Today's sophisticated (jaundiced?) marketplace appreciates a clever bamboozle, as long as the trick is on somebody else.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, August 10, 2009

Leadership Lessons from the Dog Whisperer

I’ve been studying the Dog Whisperer for several months. Like all people with core insights, Cesar Millan’s understanding of dog sociology and psychology borders on the mystical. Quite simply, like no other dog trainer or animal professional I’ve been able to find, Cesar “gets it.” He can be both man and dog.. and when he’s dog he is always alpha-dog, the pack leader.

In the dog world, Cesar understands what it means to be pack leader and demonstrates that understanding in every movement, every decision. Understanding pack leadereship holds clues for human leadership, too. Here are a few leadership lessons from Cesar Millan.

1. Above all, a leader is “calm and assertive.” Unless seriously (and stupidly) challenged, no need to growl, fight, or injure. The leader simply takes charge.

2. The pack wants to follow the leader because – above all- the pack needs the leader for its own survival. If the leader doesn’t take control, another dog will.

3. With leadership goes responsibility. The leader goes first, makes decisions, assumes risk, protects all pack members. Calm and assertive.

4. Leaders see the value of every pack member. With proper leadership, weak members can be made stronger, impetuous pack members can be calmed, over-aggressive pack members can be dominated. The pack wins.

5. When necessary – though rarely -- the leader can follow. In doing so, he accedes nothing permanent, but gains pack control advantage.

Final note: Cesare teaches that dogs are ready and eager to give humans the lead. The vast array of dog “problems” stem from humans who are weak, unwilling to assume the responsibilities of leadership, and choose “bonding” over leadership.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, August 7, 2009

Marketers Who Master Distribution Channels Will Win

Last week, Hugh MacLeod, author of the recently published Ignore Everybody, tweeted that “One thing I've noticed since the book came out. Different media makes people value the same content differently. So much for RSS....”

I noticed the impact of delivery on message, too, when a well-known blogger suggested to a colleague that her digital press release was spam, simply because she hadn’t spend 44 cents sending it. Same info, different channel.

So is that the new deal? Does “information” mean more, say more, talk better, and have gravitas only if it’s in print? Right answer, wrong question.

I keep coming back to the widely reported story of Matthew Robson, a 15-year-old kid who interned at Morgan Stanley. In a report (download the full Morgan Stanley pdf here), Robson said his friends never read newspapers, don’t Tweet, and rarely use their cell phones to actually talk. I wasn’t surprised, since my 19-year old nephew told me the same thing two years ago. According to Brian, teens don’t use email, either – which you know is true if you’ve ever tried to reach an under-22 via email.

So, yes, what any given market segment will embrace or use depends more than ever on the distribution channel.

Back in December 2007, Scott Karp blogged about “The Future of Print Publishing and Paid Content." What this insightful piece boils down to is the dramatic effect of the distribution channel on whether or not a given consumer will use the content. In writing about consumer abandonment of newspapers, Karp notes, “People are willing to pay for certain digital content, but they aren't willing to pay for the distribution — specifically, not the analogue distribution premium.”

Therefore, if Karp is right – and I think he is – a portion of teen attitudes about whether or not information is “useful” has to do with how much it costs. If it's free, it's better. By contrast, in the case of Hugh MacLeod’s readers – a sophisticated, creative, professional, affluent group – the print distribution channel, which costs more, adds value.

I did notice that Matthew Robson’s friends embrace “viral marketing,” which I think means they buy whatever their friends are buying … which also tells me that the nature of humanity hasn’t changed much, even if the distribution channels have. If so, the jury is out on what will happen when these kids grow up. Most certainly, though, their current full-out-digital preferences will influence, if not dominate, distribution channels.

Conclusion: Expect hybrid, hydra-headed distribution systems going forward and look for market opportunities therein. But chop-chop; it’s going to be a multi-rock and media-roll ride.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Lots of Questionable Emails Lately … So What?

I keep getting questionable emails from “PayPal” asking me to click on a link to update my information. Like I’m going to do that.

A recent email from “Lowe”s invited me to visit a website to “track the status of your mail-in savings submission.” Except it came from an incredibly weird url:

Lately, I even got nervous when Bank of America prods me on my credit card statement. How can I be sure the email is really from Bank of America – or from any cited source? Not long ago, I got an email ostensibly from a close friend who's name and email address I recognized immediately. The email (subject line "lvoeyou" [sic]) suggested I go to (close, but not the real url.. hey, no way I’m spreading this virus).

The bottom line is, increasingly I’m disinclined to click on any link that comes via email, especially when it has something to do with money. Which is not to say I’m criticizing the value of email. Far from it: I more or less live by email. Which leads me to wonder why some influential commentators hate direct mail so much?

Yesterday Seth Godin posted a blog piece that put direct mail – he calls it “postal mail” – on the scrap heap, along with “graffiti” and “art” – all of which he declared of “little commercial value.” Godin’s post left me speechless, but not too dumbstruck to share his viewpoint with LinkedIn’s Direct Mail Group. Quite a few people were as astonished as I that one of the most respected voices in marketing – albeit, author of All Marketers Are Liars -- would denigrate the commercial force that is direct mail. According to The DMA, direct mail drives 9.9% of America’s gross domestic product and results in 2.06 trillon dollars in sales. Even adjusted for bias, these are commercially viable numbers.

With the rising threat of cyber attacks, a lot of us may be looking back fondly on the lazy, hazy days of “junk mail.” At least USPS-charitable solicitations don’t explode in our mailboxes, try to steal our identities, hunt our computers for passwords, or spam everybody in our address books.

Look, every marketing and advertising strategy has its squishy spots -- and the bigger the tool gets (like direct mail and, now, email), the more susceptible to abuse it becomes. The problem doesn’t lie with the any particular marketing strategy, but with the bottom feeders who try to exploit all of them.

--scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Twitter’s Trash-or-Trust Treatment Goes to the Movies

Buzz has always driven film success and Twitter has put buzz on steroids. Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno, for example “tanked” from the “Twitter Effect,” becoming what Time magazine called “a One-Day Wonder.” [see opinion commentary below]

Word-of-mouth now flies at warp speed and the worst thing film studios can do is oversell a movie in hopes to rake in first-weekend money. It just doesn't work. Todd Phillips, director of Hangover (the top-grossing R-rated comedy of all time, according to Warner Bros.) told The Canadian Press that, “In the old days, it used to be the water cooler effect… Now people get on their thing Friday night when they leave [the theater] and talk to 8,000 people.”

Films may be particularly susceptible to the Twitter Effect because they release widely and simultaneously, but any new product release can falter from Twitter’s trash-or-trust treatment. Keeping expectations in line with reality is key. Jeff Otto, blogging about Hangover at MovieSet notes that, “For all the great bits they gave away in the endless WB marketing campaign leading up to this week’s release, there’s still loads of great material they managed to hide from audiences. See this one before your idiot coworkers ruin it for you at the water cooler..”

Too late for that, Jeff. They already tweeted.. and the tweet was good.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

IMHO, Sacha Baron Cohen's work is an intellectual tour de force. Above all others, Cohen takes a thorough, courageous, unflinching look at our lowest human preconceptions, preoccupations, and misconceptions. Borat was for the xenophobic and Bruno is for the homophobic. And -- even when it's distasteful and hideous to watch, which it often is -- Cohen's work is art, definitely art.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Here's WHY Direct Mail Is Alive and Well

I’ve noticed something since the recession rose to top of mind in January. I’m receiving regular direct mail appeals from 10 to 12 progressive nonprofits – both ones I’ve supported in the past and new charities committed to similar causes. For these campaigners, direct mail is working and it’s working well. This we know because direct marketers only keep mailing as long as they’re making money. Direct mail is a science.

On July 28, MAGNA released its Media Advertising Forecast. Not surprisingly, the figures predicted a fall-off in traditional advertising across the board. Only a segment called “direct online media” (search, lead generation, and Internet yellow pages) was projected to enjoy a modest boost in spending (2.9%). Every other media spend – television, newspaper, magazine, radio, directory, direct mail, and outdoor advertising – was projected to drop off.

The big surprise here is the modest decline (11.2%) projected for direct mail. Except it's not a surprise.

Actually, direct mail doesn't belong on this list at all. Direct mail is nothing like traditional advertising—it's measurable, testable, adjustable, person-to-person, delivery-targeted, multi-functional, returns-based marketing. It’s marketing that can be fixed very quickly when it’s not working. Direct mail is a science.

Some people may throw around the cute term “junk mail,” but smart marketers know this medium can do what no other advertising can: hit exactly where it’s meant to strike.

Don't worry. We're never again going to see the multi-million piece mailings that flooded households in the 90s. Today, shotgun campaigns are both too costly and too eco-damaging to be of any use to informed direct mailers. The Christmas of a Thousand Catalogs is gone as well (also, too costly). But make no mistake: we’re still going to get direct mail.

In 2009, the folks who are mailing to us know exactly who we are and what we tend to buy or believe in. We’re carefully screened before we're mailed to. And the truth is, most of us not only don’t mind, we appreciate coupons and product announcements from stores where we shop, appeals from charities in which we believe, information about service-providers in our area, catalogs from municipal governments, and -- when we have a junior in high school -- promotional material from colleges and universities.

People who hate direct mail probably think a protest of the masses killed it. Actually, the shrinkage is primarily related to external forces: the industry itself, which is focused on getting better results from fewer pieces; the severe financial troubles of the U.S. Postal Service, which have made mailing far more expensive for everybody; improvements in printing technology, which have nudged mailers to smaller, more personalized campaigns with targeted text and images; and leapfrog improvements in data collection, data analysis, modeling, and list selection and tweaking. Again, direct mail is a science.

Don’t expect direct mail to disappear. Do expect it to get better.

--scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, August 3, 2009

Self-Employed? Laid-Off? "Co-Working" Fights Isolation

As a sole proprietor working at home since 1984, lonely is something I never get. But over the years a lot of people have said to me, “I couldn’t work at home by myself. I need people around me.” With thousands of middle- and upper-management level “information workers” put out of a job in this recession, co-working is a growing trend that may also be the best of all worlds.

Co-working got its name in 2005 when software engineer Brad Neuberg organized a gathering spot called the “Hat Factory,” where people could hang-out to work independently, but side by side. A July 26 Washington Post article talked about“digital nomads" self-employed folks in the Nation's Capitol who seek the energy of other people and multiple places: the Dulles corridor, Adams Morgan, Embassy Row, hotel lobbies downtown, etc. Post staff writer Michael Rosenwald says, “They work -- clad in shorts, T-shirts and sandals -- wherever they find a wireless Web connection to reach their colleagues via instant messaging, Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, and occasionally by voice on their iPhones or Skype.”

Why go to the trouble? The Arizona Republic describes the struggle of Steven Shaffer, an entrepreneur who started his own company, but had issues with working at home. “Isolation set in and he struggled to stay focused.” For some, the answer to the work-at-home lonelies is to take it on the road.

That road could lead to WiFi retailers like Starbucks or Panera Bread, but in some communities, co-working has become more formalized. Localities like Pheonix are actively supporting communal work environments where the self-employed can gather. For example, dubbed “gangplank,” the Arizona Republic describes one idyllic meet-up in Phoenix as “... Ikea office tables dot the concrete-floor in a room filled with natural light. The building includes a research library, conference space, and a podcasting and video studio. Couches and an air-hockey table occupy an area where free small-business workshops take place each week.”

Online support for co-working is huge and growing. For example:
• Co-workers can gather srategies at the Coworking Blog, which cites ten ways to get involved;
• Google has a coworking group, as do Yahoo and LinkedIn;
Tweeple can gather at Twitter's #coworking hashtag on Twitter;
Work At Jelly helps co-workers find spots around the country where people are gathering;
• For some, the co-working movement segues with the green/eco movement—Raines Cohen bills himself as a “co-working coach," who travels to help people and municipalities set up co-working sites.
Double Happiness in New York City has announced August events scheduled at the SALT artspace (even for an isolationist like me, that's tempting).

Two decades ago, "home office" was a dirty word. In the 1990s, we heard that "telecommuting" would -- at last -- replace driving to work. This time change is, indeed, blowing in the wind. Probably we're in the Perfect Storm, brewed from the convergence of affordable, portable technology that actually works, the decline of jobs for middle and upper managers, an irreversible shift to an information economy, a weakening of the corporate stranglehold on all fronts, and growing acceptance of cloud computing, which lets us both create and back-up elsewhere.

Bring it on.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo