Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GenY Takes A Digital Dive To Isolation. Is It Too Late for Them?

A few days ago I blogged about the stupidity of “auto-communication” with social media “friends.” The evidence builds that this is even more stupid than I thought.

A June 22 Time magazine article cited some interesting research about the dismal effect email is having on human relationships, both in the office and outside – namely, that interpersonal trust relies to some extent on face-to-face communication that's often missing in our lives today. Who knew?

Meanwhile, Time says that both current and prospective friendships are being electronically processed, too.

There’s more. Do you have people with whom you discuss important matters? Before 1985, you’d likely have said yes. Now, you just retreat into a corner with your iPhone. According to a Duke University study completed in 2006, the percent of Americans today who say “I have no one” has tripled in the last 25 years. On top of that, Americans report one-third fewer friends and confidants generally. Let's face it; we’re lonelier .. but we still have Facebook, right? Uhhhhhh, sure. We have lots of Facebook friends (hundreds!), except apparently we don’t care about them, they don't care about us and, well, nobody cares.

A widely reported University of Michigan study noted that college students today have 40% less empathy than their counterparts of the 80s and 90s. The study offered no explanation for the indifference, but Sara Konrath, a researcher at the university’s Institute for Social Research, points to the fact that GenYs (born from 1980 to about Y2K) tend to communicate more through social media than face-to-face. Susan Maple who blogged about this for the parenting site Strollerderby thought this research study might simply be one more in a long line of attacks against GenY. Hold on there..

I’m not going to say GenY doesn’t have a problem, but I am most definitely not going to attack the kids who were born between the early 80s and Y2K. I have a host of observations on what was afoot during this period. It wasn’t very good and it wasn’t their doing. They were children.

What exactly happened during GenYs formative years. For starters, how about this?

• shockingly little face-time with the family unit;

• disappearing connections with extended family and mostly zero inter-generational relationships on a regular basis;

• highly structured artistic, learning, and sporting activities, with a growing emphasis by the parents on the “goal” to be achieved from, rather than the inherent pleasure of, the activity;

a near total lack of free-form, creative play opportunities and almost no chance to play unsupervised with other kids where genuine peer-to-peer relationships could emerge;

• an American educational system hell bent on “message over matter,” like telling kids how very “special” they were, even when nobody believed it -- not the teachers, or the parents, or the kids.

• a frantic drive to achievement and winning substituting for any chance to learn independently about vital life skills like personal insight and self-awareness;

• an atmosphere of near-hysterical “fear” of strangers;

• television sets serving as the nation’s child care provider: always available, but cold, flickering, indifferent (just like computer screens);

• handing much of the country's very significant purchasing power of this era to children, who were given a consulting role in every buying decision from automobiles to housing.

So there it is. There's lots to be said about why this all happened, but that's another story. It happened -- especially to the striving middle class of GenY users that the studies are writing about. Clearly, this has not played out well. No wonder. As my pediatrician was fond of saying, “Being Master of the Universe is too a big a job for a child.”

And now I’ll go check-in with my Facebook friends. CYa.

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Auto Stealth: THIS Is the Top Marketing Idea of the Year

Twenty minutes ago I got an email from Tim Pitts at

Tim wanted to know what I think of the trendwatching service. What I like and don’t like. What (if anything) would make me want to buy the premium service. What else I’d like to see the trendwatching masters do.

This email is revolutionary. I've never seen this done before.

The email was not a survey. There was no form to fill out and no buttons to push. Tim invited me to write whatever I want and send it back to him ... you know, write a return email with my thoughts and hit “reply. Simple.

Nothing in this invitation -- at least visibly -- was/is automated. This is friend-to-friend, I-ask-you-tell, human communication. That's how it felt to me and that's good enough.

I've just seen the top marketing idea of the year. I'm going to call it "Auto Stealth." It's new-school and smart marketers will be figuring out pronto how to copy trendwatching. It's real.

Now, back to my email to Tim...

-- scrubbed by MarketingBrillo

Friday, June 25, 2010

Auto Communicate with Social Media “Friends”? Uh-huh.

Flowtown can automate your social media contacts. As the YouTube video demonstrates, all you have to do is import your email contact data into Flowtown and then you can email everybody with whom you’re also connected on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Flickr. The process is automatic and en masse.

At $17/month plus 4.5 ¢ per import, it’s not cheap. In fact, for an entrepreneur who works on a selective basis with other businesses, that’s a deal breaker.

Others disagree. Email marketing software developer Mail Chimp lauds Flowtown in Ben Chestnut's blog. Could be that Chestnut is onto something. He's clearly no dummy, which is apparent from the excellent pricing of MailChimp. Hurray. If you’re managing up to 500 names, you can use MailChimp for free. Now that's a good one. I signed up.

In the process of blogging today, I realized I don't feel good about automating messages to people with whom I’ve “connected.” All my social media folks are real people. I totally get sending them an enewsletter or an evite or something that everybody recognizes as mass produced. But how can I pretend to be “social” en masse? In fact, I can see that backfiring, BIG time.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, June 18, 2010

Email Marketers Get It. My InBox is Bloated But Beguiled.

Seth Godin’s post this morning about the easy availability of “slick” products got me curious, so I clicked through to Moo Cards and signed up. This was simply my most recent excursion into “Sure. I’ll take that.”

I’ve been busy “signing up” all week. Tuesday I put my email address down to receive daily alerts from Groupon, Specialicious, and Living Social. These money saving opportunities are hard to resist. Better yet, I’m learning a lot about where I live.

Wednesday I signed on to Hot Potato, the new and groupier Twitter. Last week I evaluated the cloud with Google Docs, Zoho, and boxnet. Zoho is superb, but Google is utterly free -- no premium upgrade fees -- and it's connected to so much of my other Internet activity. What to do? What to do?).

Marketing newsletters also swell my inbox. My faves are anything from Media Post, MarketingVox, Who’s Blogging What, SmartBrief on Social Media, and bNet. I manage the email onslaught by directing various eAlerts to targeted folders. When I get around to checking, the info is like a White House briefing.

Sure, a lot of stuff is clogging my inbox, but – increasingly – it’s stuff I want. Even more significantly, a lot more of what’s coming is stuff I asked for. Seth Godin said this would happen and he was – way back then, at least -- right. Email marketers who ask permission are winning.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Saturday, June 12, 2010

In Today's Marketing, Breaking Up Is Not Only Easy, It’s Mandatory

A long-time friend owns Photo Tour Excusions, a small business in D.C. that guides tourists and local folk in taking professional-quality photos while touring area attractions. Naturally, my friend is looking for ways to market his business. I was surprised to learn that, even with a fledgling enterprise, Lyn had already approached Groupon to represent him. When he wasn’t accepted there (not yet big enough), he signed up with a similar fast-growing service, LivingSocial.

Why was I surprised? Because go-local, name-your-favorite-poison online enterprises like these didn’t even exist two years ago.* Today, they’re the darling of twenty-somethings and other hyper-local cognoscenti who wouldn’t dream of clipping coupons, reading classifieds, finding a hot spot on the radio, or perusing magazine ads or billboards (wait.. what’s a billboard?).

Today’s fresh consumers want to hear the pitch from some other horse’s mouth -- preferably, a horse they know but, if not, a viral horse like Yelp, LocalKicks, Daily Candy, etc. etc.

The point is ..
Marketers and consumers are experiencing a sudden and overwhelming fracture/splinter/explosion of new media that’s competing with – if not outright slaying – the Goliath venues that dominated marketing for so long. Change, of course, makes opportunity.

The revolution is here because …
The new methods work just like the old with one major difference: The new methods ferret out, accommodate, and speak to splinter groups. Contemporary marketing isn’t worth squat if it’s not segmented.

Even television is breaking up …
Michael Hirschorn’s paean to change in New York magazine covers the radical TV producers who are churning out shows with small, but highly devoted, groups of “fans” -- shows like Breaking Bad, Jersey Shore, and The Boondocks.

The networks aren't happy, of course, but Hirschorn says niche TV is gold to advertisers. “On basic cable, in most cases, you need only a million 18-to-49-year-old viewers to call your series a hit … And if your show is considered ‘high end,’ you can get by with an audience of even fewer, since in an ever-more-fractured marketplace, advertisers will pay to reach the kind of people who watch Colbert or Stewart.

The REAL point is…
Market Segmentation. Duh. When you make your marketing plans for 2011, give some thought to your market segments. Think niche; think local, think fractured. Then think creatively about how to break up. It won’t hurt.

Note: Local is an important part of segmentation. Trendwatching (a must-read resource, by the way) talked about the importance of local in 2007 when it pitted global vs. local, saying: “… In a world that is seemingly ruled by globalization, mass production and ‘cheapest of the cheapest’, a growing number of consumers are seeking out the local, and thereby the authentic, the storied, the eco-friendly and the obscure.”

* Groupon, which grew out of an earlier effort called The Point, got going under its current name just last year. LivingSocial, started by a Facebook developer, got a $5 million venture-capital infusion in July 2008.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo