Thursday, February 24, 2011

Mixing It Up: Social and Mainstream Media

A new Hewlett-Packard study disproves the perception that “the most prolific tweeters or those with most followers would be most responsible for creating” the posts that drive trending topics to the top of Twitter. Instead, the study found that mainstream media such as CNN and BBC are actually amplifying topics, contributing to the trending that drives these topics to the top. For example, when mainstream media reported on the new album by Britney Spears, her name shot up on the Twitter trending chart. The marketing take-away: use a mix of media to engage your audiences.

In fact, the mix of social media being used by consumers in different parts of the world offers ample opportunity for communication, says In Japan, Mobage-Town, a mobile-based social media platform, is increasingly popular (and profitable) because of the ability to connect and play games on the go. Now that Mobage-Town (above) is expanding into other countries, will Facebook react? And for marketers, the lesson is: ignore mobile marketing at your peril.

Facebook and YouTube are gaining in popularity among UK consumers, according to Nielsen/Ukom. Facebook has rocketed to #3 among Web sites accessed in the UK; YouTube is #8 (while Twitter is #38). The same study noted the rapid rise of sites from mainstream media, such as BBC. This reinforces the view that a mix of social and mainstream media is needed to reach and involve audiences.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Marketing a Small/Local Business: Thrifty-Plow

Being located in a snow-belt area, I'm a prime customer for driveway plow services. These tend to be owner-operated and hyper-local.

Because this has been one of the snowiest winters on record in my area, plow services have been overloaded with work. To get and keep customers, any plow service must emphasize personalized marketing and reliable service delivery. This is the story of one local business that gets it right.

Earlier this month, I received the newsletter (top) from Bruce, the owner of Thrifty-Plow, who has been clearing my driveway for the past 3 years. Because the current bill (below) was so much higher than usual, Bruce wrote a lengthy explanation of why and how he changed his services to cope with the unprecedented wintery mess.

Now why is this smart marketing? First, Bruce prepared his customers for the big shock of the biggest bills he's ever sent us. He reminded us of the conditions he (and we) faced in clearing driveways, explained in detail how he did a good job despite the major obstacles. He described the scope of his services and what he must do to be sure the job is complete--and closed with a reminder that his rates are as low as he can make them.

The bill, handwritten, detailed every service Bruce provided so customers could figure out what he did and what he charged for each service. Then, because my driveway is among the last to be plowed, Bruce applied a 20% discount "for waiting."

Smart marketing: Even the bill reinforced the value that Bruce provided for the money I pay. Although Bruce had to spend extra time plowing the extraordinary snowfall, he included my discount to show that I received extra value because I'm his customer.

Bruce didn't need colorful materials or flashy logos to get or keep my business. Bruce has no Facebook page, no Twitter feed. I don't care whether his bill is hand-written or computer-generated. In fact, I wrote him a thank-you note along with my check. He keeps the "brand promise" of Thrifty-Plow: He always gets the job done at a reasonable price.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

All Eyes on Watson, IBM's Marketing Triumph

I admit it: I was glued to Jeopardy! on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday nights. I even sought out spoilers on Wednesday to learn in advance whether Watson would win (and of course by now, you know he did, by a large margin).

Yes, IBM did seem to turn parts of the program into an infomercial, but the challenge and the story behind Watson are so fascinating that the audience didn't mind one bit.

Watson has brought a ratings bonanza for Jeopardy! during sweeps week and a major marketing triumph for IBM--today and in the months to come. Now when people hear the name "Watson," they'll be as likely to think of the IBM super-computer (named after IBM's founder) as they are to think of the Sherlock Holmes sidekick. Watson has become a celebrity in its own right, inspiring IBMers and members of the viewing public, not to mention kicking off a lively ongoing debate about the capabilities of computers and artificial intelligence.

Smart marketing, IBM: Watson focused the audience's attention on IBM's cutting-edge core competencies in a way that no competitor can duplicate. The amount of media exposure that Watson gained for IBM would have cost tens of millions of dollars, if not more. Watson wins this round!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Internal Marketing Pays Off: Wegmans

The authors of the annual Fortune "100 Best Places to Work For" list make some wonderful points about why satisfying employees (part of internal marketing) makes good business sense. They note that senior managers at these companies genuinely care about the well-being of their employees, and great workplaces can be found in any industry.

The number one reason is truly the bottom line: It's profitable to treat your employees well. If I had invested in a portfolio of the stocks of the companies on the 1998 list (the first year it was compiled) and then changed my portfolio to reflect the 100 companies on every subsequent list, my annualized return for the 14 years would have been a bit more than 11% per year---far better than the overall market.

Wegmans, the grocery chain based in Western New York, has been at or near the top of Fortune's list for years. This year, it's #3, and it celebrated by offering free cake to customers in every store. "There is nothing more important to us than being a great place to work,” said CEO Danny Wegman. “When our people feel valued and cared about, they make our customers feel the same." [italics are mine]

Customers do indeed feel valued and are incredibly loyal to Wegmans. Alec Baldwin has filmed two commercials for Wegmans, which is one of his mother's favorite places to shop. The company has an active blog and is on YouTube as well as on Twitter (15,000+ followers) and Flickr.

Marketers in any industry would be lucky to have customers who feel as strongly as the loyal customer base at Wegmans. They keep buying from the chain year after year after year (and introducing their friends to the Wegmans experience). Not surprisingly, Wegmans' customers have a heart too: They've increased their donations to hunger relief at the checkout, with the proceeds going to stock local food banks.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Speedy Marketing for Super Bowl MVP

Aaron Rodgers--the MVP quarterback of Sunday's Super Bowl game in which the Green Bay Packers seriously out-played the Pittsburgh Steelers--is suddenly a hot marketing face.

Before the big game, USA Today quoted Bob Dorfman of Baker Street Advertising as saying that Rodgers would be the "most marketable" if his Packers won. Dorfman was right.

Almost as soon as the game was over, it seems, he was starring in a Disney commercial ("I'm going to Disney World!") and he had a milk mustache already running for the iconic Got Milk campaign.
Assuming that the NFL owners and players work out their differences, the next Super Bowl will be on February 5, 2012. Will Rodgers continue his marketing reign at Indianapolis?

Monday, February 7, 2011

Monday Morning Marketing Quarterback: Super Bowl XLV ads

What else is there to say about the ad aftermath of Super Bowl 45, fellow Monday Morning marketing quarterbacks?

Perhaps the most inspiring ad was the two-minute Chrysler "Imported from Detroit" ad, a mini-movie that had drama, patriotism, history, even a bit of an insider feeling (if you know who Alissa Czisney is and why she appeared in the commercial).

As the Free Press notes, "Imported from Detroit" is a catchy tagline that should be showing up more often. Who knows whether it'll sell cars, but it sets a tone of pride and promise that is very appealing--and is in stark contrast to some of the night's coarser ads.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Xerox's Real Business Campaign

For several months I've noticed Xerox's Real Business ads running in Fortune and other business publications. Today I clicked over to the Xerox campaign microsite and realized how fully integrated, interactive, and international this B2B campaign really is.

To show its capabilities in document management, finance and accounting, HR, customer care, and IT outsourcing, Xerox has assembled a series of video, print, and online testimonials featuring well-known global business customers such as P&G, Ducati, Target, and Marriott.

Although presenting these kinds of messages can be a challenge because of the amount of info to be conveyed and the varying media preferences and business needs of the audience, Xerox's ad agency, Y&R, did a masterful job, IMHO.

The print ads (such as the Marriott-featured ad, above) put the clients front and center, dramatize the business issues to be addressed, and explain how Xerox provided workable solutions. Another clever touch: The colors echo Xerox's logo red and reinforce the brand's visual image in a subtle way.

The TV ads and the interactive Xerox microsite pages are entertaining yet business-oriented, attracting audience attention, engaging the audience, effectively communicating what Xerox can do for a business--all the things a good B2B campaign should do. "Ready for Real Business"--the tag line--describes the campaign, as well.