Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hype

Big ideas don't require big talk. Hype is both tiresome and setting the table for someone to wind up disappointed.

Be modest. And over-delivering on your promise will work to your benefit.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Transactionists

They're a lot of people who say their in sales or marketing when they're really not. It's not that they're liars; they're just a bit mistaken. What they really are are transactionists. They mistake sales for transactions. Transactions are quick and are made with a minimum effort or care by both parties.

On the other hand, true "sales" are more convincing. They require more effort, time, thought and care to make. Obviously, transactionists will tell you that this costs more too.

Technically, they're right. There is a higher cost involved. But their is also a higher return, resulting from that cost. Therefore, the extra work is really an investment.

Invest in something that will be remembered and it will no doubt be worthwhile.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Is the NFL Brand Indestructible?

With the National Football League appearing to be on the cusp of a new collective bargaining agreement between its ownership and its principle labor force (football players), the football fans who pay the bills are preparing to take a deep a breathe any day now. Wait a minute, isn't that backwards? Shouldn't the NFL be begging the fans to come back after the implied threat to cancel the season? Despite taking them for an unwanted ride, I don't think the football fans ever left.

The National Football League risked losing the most by not not playing football in 2011. If that happened, millions of Americans would have to find another use for their 9 billion discretionary dollars- certainly a lot of money to lose. Meanwhile, the fans would trade potential boredom on Sunday's for more time and money. On the surface, it's an easy decision. However, humans are complex beings, especially when it comes to how they spend their dollar. For the most part, the fans have stuck to the league that chose to jeopardize a near certain 9 billion dollar gift for the hope of getting a little more out of the pot. That's one hell of a branding problem to have; customers so entrenched in the brand that if they willingly close their doors their customers will keep knocking anyway.

There should be a better way of doing business without dragging the customers and employees through the trenches- and some interesting theories have been proposed to that belief. But perhaps the NFL is willing to risk potential destruction to the brand because they too realize that it's nearly indestructible. The Shield is barely touched by multiple player arrests and conduct issues every year. It largely escapes the public scrutiny that athletes cheat the game by taking preforming enhancing drugs- despite playing a game where bodily harm is the norm and short recovery times are necessary for these athletes to stay on the field in order to make a living. Fans will even overlook self-made billionaires asking for and taking unreasonable amounts of public money from overburdened tax bases (or threatening to move the team) for their own private gain. And the Shield barely gets nicked when its labor force and retirees continually suffer from highly debilitating and paralyzing injuries sustained at work and consequently have a typical life span far shorter than what's considered normal among the general population today. That's because unlike the Shield they serve and protect, the bodies of its labor force, while built to be indestructible, always prove otherwise. It seems silly to think that we not only tolerate this, we justify it; simply for a game that serves to entertainment us.

The reason it's justified is beyond great branding. The NFL (and other sports) have learned to transform a game played into a culture. Instead of entertainment a professional team is as much a civil institution as it's a business. Through traditions and shared experiences customers develop deep and lastly emotional connections to the brand. Which is why us fans are happy to put up with all the crap that we do.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath The Brand blog.

Good Enough

When is producing something that is just "good enough" every really going to be "good enough?"

People often settle for "good enough" on projects that are considered lower in priority. Although, if it's not a priority to you, why are you even doing in the first place?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Netflix Introduces a Plot Twist

Last week Netflix introduced a major plot twist to the movie watching habits of its customers. The movie subscription service announced that they would be raising the price of its unlimited subscription by sixty percent- up to $16 from the previous ten. Since news of the price hike broke, the company has been paying the steep prices itself, thanks to a vocal group of angry customers.

Rightfully so I believe. What customer wants to pay more than they have to for something? This is the risk a brand takes when it chooses to raise its prices by making a giant leap as opposed to taking incremental steps toward the new prices. The new price will naturally jump out and raise eyebrows- leading to brand's getting attention for all the unwanted reasons. So unless the brand can fully explain and justify the price shocks to its customers, then raising their prices in this manner is a considerable misplay of marketing strategy. That's a tough task for any product but especially so for a discretionary entertainment product such as movie rentals. Up to this point, I don't believe Netflix has explained this to their customers well enough. Citing their own costs is simply not enough either.

While it's an everyday occurrence that businesses justify raising (or setting) prices by analyzing their costs, I think its wrong to do so. Perhaps this is a secret among marketers, but customers simply don't care about your costs and have no interests in preserving your margins. Why should they? Their bottom line approach says that if you're business cannot produce a good or service at certain price, then that's you're problem to deal with. Instead of your costs, what actually drives a customer is value. At a certain price, can your brand deliver value that exceeds the cost. In the case of Netflix, when the price becomes a lot higher than it was overnight, the value delivered by the brand will suddenly feel greatly diminished.

Despite the brand's insistence, speculation is that Netflix is attempting to move from a DVD-based rental service to one that delivers streaming content, providing obvious benefits of lower costs and faster delivery times. Although this strategy would present some major hurdles for the brand. I'd caution that Netflix should really consider the consequences of giving up its leadership position so easily. The second part would be, are they sure that they will be the leader in the new streaming video category? Personally, I believe there is enough evidence that new mediums create new category's, which also require new brands.

Secondly, if this is a strategy that Netflix is considering, I would really question the execution of it. Is the best execution for converting DVD subscribers into streaming video subscribers really by raising prices and hoping they consider Netflix's other options, despite their immediate anger? Are there ways to incentivize customers to adopt streaming video without disincentivizing them to their current products?

It's going to be very interesting what happens. Movie watching is activity in which consumers have plenty of options. Do competitors like Red Box step up? Perhaps subscription movie channels (which can be DVR'd) step up and put pressure on Neflix. Or maybe the competition will come from somewhere else- by a brand not yet to be born.

This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's Beneath The Brand.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Is Facebook Becoming Distracted?

On the surface, the recent agreement between Facebook and Skype seems to make sense if one is judging it with broad perspective that both sites are online tools that bring people together and help them communicate. However, the deal becomes a bit of a head-scratcher you analyze how each site is used very differently.

Skype is essentially a face-to-face conversation in real time- but with the added advantage of not having to be in the same room. Communicating via Facebook is actually very different. As opposed to real time communications, all messages on Facebook get replied to when the user gets around it. Furthermore, they're not tied to a webcam in order to do so.

Perhaps a good predictor of the results of this agreement is the chat function on Facebook. While it's much closer to the original Facebook mold, Facebook chat is in real time. Personally, I rarely use the function on Facebook and my threshold for tolerating video chats on Facebook would be much greater.

Furthermore, I believe strictly from a brand perspective that this new idea will have trouble taking off because different ideas need different brands. The convergence of unique ideas with unique brands is rarely successful. For Skype it's an attempt to extend it's reach to an enormous new population of users. Yet, for Facebook it feels like another line extension that is leading the brand further off course. Isn't it fitting that they could get so distracted.


This post also appeared on Talent Zoo Media's
Beneath The Brand blog.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Judged In The Court Of Public Opinion

I was completely ignorant of any facts of Casey Anthony criminal trial. I still am. However, after yesterday's public outcry following the verdict, I began unknowingly formulating perceptions and opinions about the case- despite not knowing any facts of the case.

After a couple minutes of processing the public outcry that followed the case, I was reminded of the fact that people don't need to know any facts (especially gained from firsthand experience) to have an opinion. This applies in all walks of life- from courtroom verdicts to meeting new people to making judgments about a brand.

A brand is nothing more than an opinion or thought of a person. Therefore, a marketer cannot tell people what to think or how to feel. They can only try to influence through a variety of tactics. Yet, even when the facts of their case stack up in their corner, not everyone will see it the same way. That is true every time.

Disclaimer: This post is simply making a statement about human psychology as it pertains to branding. In no way is it making a statement to indict or in defense of Casey Anthony. Apologies in advance to anyone who finds the comparison to be slightly insensitive.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Hearing vs. Listening

Do people want to listen to you or maybe they just happen to hear you when your talking? Their is an obvious difference between the two and the answer often lies in what is being said and how it's being said. The trick to make people listen is to respect their time and attention by making personal, relevant and important to there lives.

Persuasive communications is often mistaken as a one way ticket but it's really not that different from everyday communication. If you expect to be listened to (and not just heard), you better have a reputation for delivering information that's deemed worth listening to.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Alternatives For Monetizing Linkedin


Inspired by the news that Twitter would be selling ads in your newsfeed, I suggested last week that it might be more beneficial for social sites and online-based content generators to charge their customers rather than relying on revenue from advertising. While that may sound like blasphemy to today's online user, I think in the long term it may be more efficient than pushing more ads on more people. Anyhow, I received some great feedback that sparked a couple of new ideas.

The success of LinkedIn's business model was repeatedly mentioned as something that should be emulated by other sites. However, the model is actually not new at all. In fact, it's very close to how traditional newspapers have made money for over a century. LinkedIn does charge some percentage of its users who desire the full-use of the site. The non-paying users are only allowed limited-use of the site. Additionally, LinkedIn has an advertising component to its business model. Despite its limited short-term success (a high initial public offering), I believe they're different opportunities to capitalize its position as the online home for professional networking, to make money and to make the site more social.

The basic outline starts with LinkedIn partnering up with other businesses who sell relevant products to its users. It could be anything from office supplies, flowers, lunches, thank you cards etc.

Lets say for instance that through LinkedIn you learn a colleague or friend received a promotion. You could go to a partnered retailer and get them a gift (or buy from a suggested). Maybe you had meeting or an interview and want to want thank that person while leaving a good impression going away. LinkedIn may help you find the right gift. Obviously, sales would be split up between the retailer and LinkedIn. Or why not offer lunch instead of simply asking to be introduced on the network.

I'm sure they're are plenty of other ways to monetize the site using the "gift plan." Maybe LinkedIn could "gift" free advice to young professionals which could be sponsored by a relevant company in the industry.

Social activity existed long before the internet. This engages the professional networks on LinkedIn in activities that are (actually) social and already doing offline. And it just seems like a more logical and seamless way to monetize a social activity than buying laundry detergent on Facebook.