Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The New Zipcar App Is A Windshield Into 2011 Marketing

Yesterday, Zipcar, Inc. – the popular car-sharing service – released a new App for the iPhone and iPod. This maneuver is target marketing at its best.

"Like so many urban dwellers today, more than 25 percent of Zipcar members live their life from their iPhones," said Scott Griffith, Zipcar chairman and CEO. "The new Zipcar App is a simple, fun and self-service technology that now allows millions of iPhone and iPod touch users to have on-the-go access to Zipcars around the globe."

This particular App underscores another marketing tenet, too: mobile marketing innovations can drive market share even as the market drives App development. In all cases, the iPhone and other smart phones win.

For example, the Zip App is so useful that Zipcar drivers who don’t have an iPhone will probably want one now. Meanwhile ease-of-use issues that may have stopped some eco-conscious urbanites from adopting the Zipcar life have been resolved. Users can get directions to their Zipcar. They can easily find a reserved car by telling the horn to honk. To get help during a reservation, just tap the App. For those who have not yet Zipcar-ed, no angst: even non-Zipsters can download the app and take it for a test drive.

Marketing Brillo thinks Mobile/Life interface technology like the Zipcar App will dominate the consumer marketplace within two years. So, hurry up and add "brainstorm an App" to your next marketing agenda. And while you're at it, get ready to "Draper that stuff" because that App could be your next market penetration breakthrough.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Direct Marketers: Are We Witnessing the Slow Death of The DMA?

Gerry Pike who sits on the board of directors of the Direct Marketing Association (the DMA) sent an angry email to members last Friday titled “S.O.S. re. the DMA.” The email began like this:

If you’re a voting member of the DMA you need to listen to me. Urgently. My name is Gerry Pike. I’ve been a member of the DMA Board of Directors for the past 3 years, and like many of you, active for decades in the DMA ... I’m writing you to ask for your DMA Voting Member Proxy because I’m very worried for our Association. What I have to tell you will worry you, too.

Pike’ goes on to criticize the million-dollar compensation package paid to the association’s CEO, John Greco. He charges that “as membership, revenue, and reserves have plunged, DMA’s management has cloaked its intentions from members and closed off communication." Pike notes that he was “engineered out of” his board position because he worked for change from the inside and he expresses concern that The DMA’s relevancy is fading as "competitors take the lead in a digitally-driven direct marketplace."

Pike’s go-get-'em website, features some fascinating posts gathered over the past year or so, including one by BigFatMarketing blogger Richard H. Levey commenting on the huge staff layoffs that took place at the DMA 11 months ago. “DMA got one last hurrah out of them before letting them go, and in light of this it would be fascinating to go back and review all interviews and speeches president and CEO John A. Greco gave during the conference. Especially those dealing with the health of the industry.” Pike's is hardly a voice in the wildnerness. In April, The NonProfitTimes seriously begrudged Greco a base salary that grabs 2 cents out of every dollar brought in by the DMA.

The day after Pike sent his proxy challenge to members, ex-AT&T executive Greco fired back, saying “The Compensaton Committee of the Board of Directors reviews and approves the president’s compensation with close attention to comparable organizations. The Committee believes the terms of compensation have been appropriate in years when the business was growing rapidly,” but “froze all executive compensation, including that of the president, effective months ago.” Not sure, but sounds like that means Greco's salary was "frozen" at a million?

As a close friend of mine coldly put it in an email: “ICEBERG, RIGHT AHEAD! Are we witnessing the slow-death of The DMA? In 25 years in the DM space I don’t think I’ve ever seen a proxy-challenge like this! I didn’t realize John Greco was making so much damn money. Certainly I gave him enough of mine, but got little in return. He’s tried to make the DMA into a shameless money-machine, but that strategy has backfired. And now that they are hemorrhaging members like me, it’s time to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Personally, I'm opting for a lifeboat, Dan.

--Scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, September 25, 2009

Plaxo Violates My Dunbar Number, Plus It Bores Me

A lot of people with whom I am somehow acquainted appear to be on Plaxo. Maybe Plaxo hopes to become the ultimate social media aggregator by combining drivel from Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, and outer space. It's too late. Microsoft is all over that one.

Plaxo's self-described purpose is to make sure you "stay in touch with people you care about." For me, it's not working. Okay, maybe in some weak moment years ago, I unwittingly became a Plaxo-ite. I don’t remember doing that, but I do know I haven’t used Plaxo -- ever. And yet, over there in Plaxo-Land, they are very persistent.

[Alert: This is going to get even more boring. I won’t be insulted if you quit reading.]

Yes, my faithful friend, every week – week after week after week – I receive my Plaxo updates. They tell me what my fellow Plaxo tribespersons are doing. For example, I know that Catherine is now connected to both Jacquelynne and Edith. I’m not surprised. Daily, Catherine becomes shackled by yet more hangers on. She's so encumbered that LinkedIn has stopped counting her connections. All they will say is that she has "500-plus." I wonder, often, how any one individual – except, maybe, Kim Kardashian– can be connected to so many people! But I digress ...

Via Plaxo, I am also privy to tidbits from Scott and opinions from Allen. Note: In case you're interested, Allen detests the Cowgirls. Is he talking about the Dallas cheerleaders? What does he have against them? I'm curious, but I manage to let it go, because there’s always more to wonder about at Plaxo.

Leah is live chatting with Shannon and Tony has posted a blog entry. But that's just the surface stuff. By clicking through, I can read the bonus “21 Pulse updates.” Should loneliness overwhelm me, I'm petitioned to Plaxo-up with six people they've tracked down because I might know them already. In the meantime, I can amuse myself with 14 [fourteen!] more Tweet-like updates from Scott. Predictably, I also learn that Catherine is now connected to Elizabeth.

Are you bored yet? I know I am.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Dunbar's Number

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The War of the Ad Worlds: Blue Collar vs High Collar. Who Will Win?

A friend of mine who’s in corporate PR read my blog yesterday about the TV ads that feature GM’s new president Ed Whitacre. After watching the video, my friend says he came away thinking that Whitacre wasn’t selling cars as much as he was selling a company.

“It was targeting a different audience than was a reassuring ad for the suits in DC and NY. You could probably see it as a follow up to this confidence builder [aka [Reinvention] ... What do you think?”

Not exactly, my friend. Yes, the Whitacre ad is talking to Wall Street and Congress. But Whitacre also is selling cars to you and me. He's helping us "trust" GM all over again. But why should we listen to this guy? Doesn't he represent the Wall Street pack that got us into trouble in the first place? Isn't that Texas drawl touted by GM's marketing director reminiscent of a former president whose final approval rating fell to 22 percent? Isn't Whitacre's white, male, upper class segment (Forbes reported his 5-year compensation total at $92.55 million) an abysmally small piece of the American population -- about 1 to 2 percent, some say? What makes us believe in or trust this itsy-bitsy, hyper-privileged viewpoint? Is it possible that -- even though we have, for all these years, relied on this group -- maybe now, we just won't?

Consider the difference between spokespeople Todd Ingersoll featured in Saturn's “We’re Still Here” ad and Jim Smith who appears in the Saturn “pundits” ad. These guys couldn't be more different from the white-haired affluence that is Ed Whitacre. Like a lot of America today, Ingersoll and Smith are of uncertain ethnicity (Italian? Black? Hispanic? Asian? American Indian? A mix? Who knows?). Moreover, they are car guys themselves, talking the common man's language about building cars that work in our lives. I suspect these Saturn ads have been successful, since they’re still playing.

So, yes, the bottom line question is: Who will America trust? Maybe it will be Ed Whitacre all over again, though his seems a peculiar Voice Choice for convincing a wildly diverse American demographic to trust GM.

On the other hand, as my friend pointed out, "I'd hire [Whitacre] for that job, too. Isn't the government really running the company anyway?"

And that is supposed to console us how?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Amazing in his utter icon-acity, Ed Whitacre is a fabulously wealthy ex-CEO of AT&T, and an ex- national president of the Boy Scouts. Part of his appeal is pitched in the claim that, like the rest of us, he "doesn't know anything about cars." Again, that is supposed to console us how?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Question Is: Would YOU Buy A Car from This Guy?

This morning, AdAge is reporting on an interview with Bob Lutz, marketing chief at General Motors. Lutz is talking about GM’s new ad featuring Chairman Ed Whitacre. Why – out of all other choices -- is Whitacre featured in the new “reassurance” ads? "What we were looking for was a highly credible spokesperson who would be a new fresh face .. [Whitacre] is the new guy in town. He's tall, good looking, has impeccable white hair and has this nice soft Texas drawl and limps a little bit when he walks, which sort of gives him this old cowboy look."

Marketing Brillo is fascinated that GM's marketing department identified these particular attributes to communicate credibility and trust to an increasingly Hispanic, black, Asian, and American Indian population. To these segments of the market, impeccable white hair and a Texas cowboy drawl might communicate less appealing character traits -- like being born to privilege, bred with a narrow view of "who counts," or even representative of that “old, white, male, America” that probably only exists in the minds of people like… well, Mr. Whitacre himself.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against Mr. Whitacre. In fact, I think he does a credible job as GM’s spokesperson. The ads are very nice and even quite convincing. I’m just curious that a company that marched into bankruptcy to a public (and government) chorus singing “You’re so vain” would choose to get back in touch using the same heavy voices that appeared to sink the ship in the first place.

The unfortunate reality may be that these ads still work. Somehow Americans -- all of us, despite gender, race, or social station -- have been educated, even sociologically brainwashed, to be soothed by sage white men with impeccable hair and the gait of an old cowhand.

This particular marketing choice can’t have been accidental or uninformed by some sort of corporate research. How the ad fares -- will it sell cars? -- will be an excellent barometer of whether or not the marketplace is still stuck in yesterday's reality.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, September 21, 2009

Tidbits on the new Video-In-Print Technology

Technology from Americahip can embed a video chip in a print product like a magazine. The technology was launched in the September 18 issue of Entertainment Weekly. As Julian Gratton, Red C’s creative director explains, “The video advert will work by having slim screens inserted into the magazine that are activated when the magazine pages are opened – kinda like what happens on greeting cards.”

How does it work? “Each chip that feeds the screen can hold up to 40 minutes of video with the battery that powers the chip and screen being able to play for about 65 to 70 minutes. This battery can then be recharged by plugging in a mini USB cord and once you’ve got bored of the content contained in the chip… you can download additional content from the Web.”

As Gratton noted, it “sounds clever, and expensive… so will it take off?” Comments on LinkedIn’s Direct Mail Group expressed curiosity and reservation.

Miri Thomas, Editor at Catalog e-business saw possibilities for retailers. “Imagine what catalogues could do using the moving image. We could soon see product demonstrations, catwalk videos, and nonselling content such as interviews with celebrities/brand experts within their pages.”

John Noble, owner of the UK's Pro-Active Business Information Limited, shed light on practical aspects – and high costs -- of the technology in talking about his own company’s involvement in the production of the first speaking magazine advert.

"At Pro-Active, we were involved in the production of the world's first speaking magazine advert. It was in Media Week and the advert was for Radio advertising. The centrefold of the magazine was blank, and on opening the centre pages, the voice module was activated (extolling the virtues of radio advertising). It was a very powerful campaign. 

The cost of the voice modules was not too bad, the challenge was to implant them in the spine of the magazine. This proved to be tricky and could only be done manually. The labour costs of implanting the modules was the most expensive part. This also had a bearing on turnaround times as each magazine (from a total of 50,000) had to have each implant placed, primed and tested. 

Voice modules, however, must be far more cost effective to produce than video as the use of voice modules (especially in greeting & birthday cards) are widely available. If anyone fancies having a voiceover for their magazine advert, get in touch as we can help on the physical production side. 

As for the moving images, although the technology may be coming down in price, surely the largest cost is in the execution? If so, then surely overall production costs would only come down once the affixing or implanting becomes automated? 

I can certainly see this type of approach taking off as it breathes new life into print media."

Gratton noted journalistic as well as advertising applications. "If this technology is used in support of articles there are clear benefits. No more can people in the public eye claim to be misquoted… especially when news stories and articles where they are featured have them speaking in full colour on the page. And instead of sports writers trying to tell us that a goal was spectacular or a tackle was horrendous… we can actually watch it back ourselves in full colour… in print and on the train to work."

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, September 18, 2009

Words To Prove That We Truly Are “Mad As Hell”

The current Time magazine features the very rude Glenn Beck sticking his tongue out at all of us.

If you've seen the British indie In the Loop, you've been subjected to (and fabulously entertained by) the best rants, roils, and creative obscenities ever put to screen (Alert: this clip is not for those who faint at the f-word).

And then there’s the Racketeer Serena Williams, who’s promised to continue grunting and arguing no matter what it costs her; the Rapper Kanye West, whose mic grabber performance has resulted in a a slew of knock-off rants; not to mention The Republican Joe Wilson who either embarrassed or delighted you, depending on where you stand on the rudeometer.

Going forward, Marketing Brillo is expecting an exploding pack of mad dogs to seek the noon day sun. To help us along the way, here are some annoying, infuriating, exasperating, galling, irritating, maddening, mortifying, pestilential, pernicious, provoking, vexatious, charged, disquieting, disturbing, inflammatory, mind-blowing, perturbing, piquant, ravishing, unsettling, ranting, blustering, bombastic, diatribal, fustian, philippic, vociferous, wicked words for your next tirade, harangue, rant, spurt, or claptrap. Have fun!

p.s. The good news is that maybe we’re too angry ourselves to pay for celebrity venom. Glen Beck has been bleeding advertising bucks.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Reminder to Marketers: Teen Life Happens at the Mobile Level

What do text messaging, encyclopedias, working from home, and marketing have in common. Everything, according to Susan Marshall, vice president of marketing at ChaCha (aka, “ur mobile BFF").

ChaChees — as the company’s users are called – can text a query to any one of ChaCha’s 55,000 “guides” – all of whom work at home and are on-call to answer questions. Marshall reports that teens have asked 150 million questions over the last 18 months.

For marketers “..The result is a comprehensive view into the psyche of a teen. They will be honest about what they want and marketers get a sense of how to direct some services towards them and direct the right kind of advertisements to them.” [Note: Teens ask most about sex, kissing, relationships, video game info, and -- the top "must-know" category -- humor.]

For the statistically inclined, consider these numbers from Marshall’s Media Post blog: Working on a baseline index of 100, teens use the Internet at a time-spent index of 82. Time spent using their mobile device for phone calls indexes at 67. Text usage goes off the charts at 338. There’s no end in sight. Marshall says, “We have found that 83% of the entire teen population texts, which is up 13% in the past year.”

Marketing Brillo sees a sub-text to all this: More work-from-home income opportunities. We like.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Saturday Workout: I Defy Any Editor To Make Sense of This Article

I struggled with how to bring this example of supremely BAD writing up for scrutiny. I don't like to point public fingers, but really... I mean really. Am I the only one who thinks this writing is totally unintelligible? And doesn't this stand as the perfect example of what not to do?

If you're afraid to click through, here are a few selected sentences (they can't do the full effort justice, though):

• By combining physical Delivery Preparation solutions in automation and robotics with virtual IT solutions up and downstream in the ADF, this organization has closed the ADF physical/virtual loop.

• Key is an optimal physical workflow providing efficiency and tangible metrics while also encompassing the entire ADF and especially the Delivery Preparation physical element.

• As tray-based physical workflow is examined in Delivery Preparation, it becomes evident that movement of trays through the factory can become truly automated.

Sadly, the process being described probably has real value. But who can get to it? Truly, I defy any editor to turn this article into plain English.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Alert for Copywriters, Marketers, and PR Folks: Top 10 Things Customers Are Thinking About Right Now

Experian’s Hitwise Data Center features a Retail component that discloses which Internet search terms get the greatest boost each week. A quick look at the list gives marketers insight into what’s top of mind among customers right now.

So what was the Zeitgeist of the planet as people entered the first week of September?

1. More than any other term, people that week were searching about “unexplained phenomenon.” Frankly, this one baffles me. Maybe the interest was driven by something reported on the Live Science website. Whatever the impetus, people expressed growing interest in stuff that can’t be explained -- which probably includes just about everything that's happening in their lives.

2. Women’s clothing got a closer look, particularly plus size clothing for special occasions. Yes, the holiday season is coming up, and, yes, women are struggling into their size 18s.

3. Laptop deals and cheap notebooks are big, which would seem to reflect a consumer fascination with all things portable, as well as the success of Bill Curtis’ omniscient ads for AT&T’s netbook.

4. Interest in Walgreen’s flu shot program jumped, boosted no doubt by new and stricter "sick" policies adopted by many schools this fall, coupled with vast TV advertising about -- guess what? -- Walgreen's $24.99 flu shots.

5. Proving that holidays drive public interest and confirming that people don't want to be caught in last year's trend, got heavy hits.

6. Winter is coming and concern about energy costs seems to have driven Internet search, too. Briggs and Stratton, manufacturer of home generator systems, got lots of website visits, which was more good news for the Milwaukee firm that has been enjoying record profits. Meanwhile, folks also were searching the terms “robe” and “television stands,” forecasting a lot of cozy hunkering down in front of the TV.

As an aside, the research holds terrific clues for TV advertisers looking to gauge the impact of their ads. This research may not match the quid-pro-quo of direct mail measurement, but it's probably the best guide media buyers have had.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I’m Really Big and I’m Here To Help You

Banks and Big-Time Internet Service Providers are powerful entities. Thank heavens they’re here to help us.

The New York Times reports that banks are protecting us from ourselves by charging large fees when we inadvertently over-draft our debit cards. One poor guy paid $238 in extra charges -- $34 per transaction -- when he mistakenly charged mini-amounts on seven transactions. The banks and credit unions call their helpful fees overdraft “protection” … you know, because it’s good for us.

Comcast and Verizon have both rolled out DNS redirect “service,” a process that takes us to one of their own search engine pages (with advertising, of course) when we mistype a url into our browser. Presumably, we are all too busy to deal with the standard Internet 404-error message, so the practices are for our own benefit. Comcast modestly calls their program Domain Helper. Verizon has tagged their browser hi-jacking practice DNS Assistance.”

Cell phone companies also are part of the helpful crowd. Need to add a line? They make it super easy by almost giving away expensive devices like the Blackberry or the Google Phone. All you have to do is promise to stay with them for another two years. There’s more! Next year, big phone makers will start selling phones with universal cell phone chargers. Hurray! … Wait… the standardized chargers will be compatible only with data-enabled European phones. But I’m sure there’s a helpful reason why Americans can't have this service yet. Maybe it's to protect our "cell phone charger choice options."

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, September 4, 2009

This Guy Tweeted Right And Got More Followers

The central question of much blogging activity is this: “What dynamic strategies drive readership?” An obvious tactic to upping readership is getting your blog in front of a large number of people. But how?

On Wednesday, Kyle Judkins did just that. He devoted an entire blog to Big Blogger and Techno Influencer, Louis Gray. The post made an excellent point about using some Tweeple as canaries in the Tweetmine. Gray graciously -- and truly, he is both a brilliant and a gracious guy -- retweeted Judkins post to his own 13,449 followers. That had to bump up Judkin’s blog readership and build his 2,125 followers.

My guess is that Kyle is looking beyond numbers, to serious followers. This morning his count had bumped to 2,132. At least one of those emanated from the Louis Gray post – mine.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How Itsy-Bitsy Did Your World Become This Year?

I’m not a sociologist, but if I were, I’m pretty sure the Internet would be my dream come true.

MIT has an amazing display at the MIT Museum called Metropath(ologies). Part of the display is the Personas,” a system that lets people see how the Internet sees them. When you enter your name in the designated slot, the program develops a multi-colored bar that displays your “aggregated online identity” in a bunch of areas (fame, management, education, movies, news, illegal (say what?), politics, religion, aggression, politics, media professional, medicine, musical, etc.

According to the write-up, Personas is fallible because it isn’t able to separate data from multiple owners of the same name. My color bar for Nancy Rathbun Scott is pretty simple (actually, it’s distressingly simple, but never mind that).

Nancy Scott, on the other hand is infinitely complex (probably because there are millions of Nancy Scotts, including somebody who was executed for murder).

I’m sure the MIT folks are aggregating all the profiles and – should they want to – will be able to take that data and find people with identical profiles (or any other data-mining mix and match that captures the fancy).

And then there’s Twitter! When I contemplate the sociological possibilities of Twitter, I get so worked up that I have to walk around the room. Actually, Twitter is The World of People and there has never been anything remotely like it. (No, Dorothy, Facebook doesn’t count because Facebook connections are predominantly defined and confined by the people we already know. That’s what Facebook was designed to be and that’s what it is.)

I don’t think the people who developed Twitter had -- or do have -- any idea what it would/will be when it's all grown up. Therein lies its magic. It's open-ended and dynamic. Which means that if I want to connect with people all over the world doing brain research, I can do that. Or, if I want to find the 150 people in the world most fascinating to me, I can do that (yes, it would take some time, but the possibility is there).

Where will projects like Personas and Twitter take us? Nobody knows. Never before in human history have people had the ability to connect so broadly and deeply, for so many reasons. Only SciFi can creatively contemplate the implications of our new itsy-bitsy world.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo