Tuesday, June 16, 2009

You Talking To Me?

The hundreds of millions of computer users who visit websites every day do so through a web browser. Since the first publicly released browser, Mosaic, in 1991, there have been a few contenders and many also-rans. Browsers have improved and certainly gotten more features.

The current market leader is still Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but it has been losing share to its chief rival Firefox. These days all browsers are free for the downloading, but do we need another one? How often have you awoken in the middle of the night, worried that your browser may be suboptimal? Google seems to think so and last year launched its Chrome browser.

Google’s marketing support for Chrome has consisted primarily of quirky short videos on a channel of its popular YouTube portal. Google has extended its advertising to independent properties such as LinkedIn and plans to run ads on TV (via its own AdWords system, of course).

These ads, which can resemble mini film festivals, finesse the venerable debate about features versus benefits by ignoring both. This is a campaign targeting early adapters. The message is neither emotional nor rational but, simply tries to associate coolness with the product. These short bursts of creativity evoke the feeling of an independent film competition. If viewers already understand and care about browser issues they may get it; if not it’s interesting eye candy. This if fine if appealing to a niche, but browsers are mass market products.

To date, Chrome remains a footnote. According to data compiled by Statcounter Chrome has a market share of about 1.5%. Like many Google products, it may be forever in Beta (never formally released). The game is still early and there is no shortage of budding filmmakers with edgy ideas.

Advances in computer browsers may be secondary to the main browser war - on the phone - where most of the world will be getting its Internet. Google also has an offering here - the Android browser.

Android’s YouTube promotion is classic technology messaging - watch my benefits or sometimes features or sometimes the engineers who develop Android. Nothing artsy here. This is a market strategically important to Google.

Do you need a new computer browser? Tough to tell based on Google’s marketing, but you might find Chrome’s half minute spot diverting.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

This Blog Has Moved

This blog, Marketing Guy 2.0 has moved to a new home, blog.threshold-group.com. Please visit.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Running on Water or Just All Wet?

Sports shoe and apparel maker Puma has been making footware since 1924. Olympic champions from Jesse Owens in 1936 to Usain Bolt in 2008 have worn its running shoes while setting world records. Yet in the race for market share, it barely wins the bronze in shoes and finishes without a medal in apparel.

What to do when competing in a crowded category during a worldwide recession? I could have imagined many initiatives from channel development to grass roots social networking to a basketball connection with a prominent amateur (think 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.).

How about joining with a number of mostly money losing companies such as Volvo in a round the world sailing competition. Apparently golf tournaments are not elitist enough. And the image portrayed in much of Puma's communication is closer to urban street kid.

In each port its racing yacht visits, it will assemble a modular performance space/nightclub/bar with built in gear store called Puma City. Puma City even has its own Facebook page. At a recent reception there, everyone seemed to be having a good time. Yet no one seemed to be patronizing the store.

Puma does make deck shoes and foul weather jackets, but their sales contribute negligibly to overall revenue. The race has eleven ports of call, only one of which is in North America, namely Boston. It’s tough to see how this will develop the market.

The race is being supported by mixed media ranging from subway placards and traditional PR in Boston to a suite of social media including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Blogs. So far, it seems not to have a lot of traction or the internal logic of Puma’s running events and sports clinics.

Is this yet another case of let’s spend the stockholders' money on what someone in management thinks might be fun or has a suppressed desire to try? Did someone in corporate marketing read Two Years Before The Mast? Who needs ROI, when you've built the meanest looking racing yacht of the bunch?

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Preserve Us From The Uncool

Twitter, the once esoteric microblogging utility has "crossed the chasm." It is now popular, if not yet mainstream.


In case you missed it, last Friday, 17 April 2009, was "Twitter Day" on Oprah. And Oprah has shown she can move markets, if not mountains. Not only is she on Twitter, but at least for Twitter Day was tweeting live on her show. Oprah herself has in a few days gone from a standing start to over 300 thousand followers. If you want the current stats on the followers, visit her Twitter page and see the block in the upper right corner.

Actor Ashton Kutcher became the first to amass a million followers on Twitter. This was not spontaneous. Rather it was the result of well orchestrated marketing campaign, including — you guessed it — Twitter.

Many radio and TV shows accept or even solicit listener input via Twitter, while businesses and organizations are actively playing with it.

During the presidential campaign of 2008, one Twitter account dominated all others. As you may have guessed this was Barack Obama’s. His campaign understood and applied social media better than any competing candidate. He currently has about 887 thousand followers.

In these depressed times, meteoric success like Twitter's cheers me up - all the more so, because it was so improbable. Who’d a thunk it? Initially the experience of most Twitter users, and I include myself, was not love at first Tweet. Gradually, we found ways of making this lightweight utility pretty darn useful. Each of us did this in different ways with different constituencies.

All is, however, not well in the Twittersphere. It is very likely that increased traffic will strain Twitter’s servers. There will be more temporary interruptions in service just as we had come to depend on Twitter.

Among certain quarters, the objections are more profound and profoundly less rational. That is, by becoming popular, Twitter will loose the cachet it had by being esoteric, counterintuitive, or to many just plain weird. As in one of Yogi’s bon mot "it’s so crowded nobody goes there."
  • PR maven and Twitter user Steve Rubel posits the decline of Twitter because the geeks, who were its first patrons, will desert it for the next cool thing.
  • Technology analyst Jeremiah Owyang, expects a backlash as Twitter approaches mainstream.
  • While PC Magazine columnist Lance Ulanoff laments that “Oprah and Ashton will destroy Twitter."
I don't think so. Email may be uncool, but it's not going away anytime soon. Most of those who joined Twitter only because of Oprah may drop out, unless she starts Tweeting messages relevant to them. Those who find it useful will stay, no matter how they first got there.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Social Networking Or Social Notworking?

At a recent charity breakfast, the topic turned to social media such as Facebook and Twitter. My table mates were intelligent and accomplished people in a variety of careers. Their consensus was that they didn't get it and weren't sure they wanted to. They assumed that these had nothing to offer their professional or personal lives.

Here is my take on why, whatever your cause or concern, you might want to consider using social media.