Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Driving Into A Ditch

Hertz car rental joins Alamo, Enterprise, and National in raising rental by about 10%. Hmmm, we are in a recession, both business and consumer travel are decreasing. The cost of new vehicles of the type bought by rental companies are also falling as Detroit tries to unload its products.

Let's not accuse the (in this case) car rental industry of being overly alert. According to today's Wall St. Journal (10/29/08, p D5) other companies are "...going to wait and see what competitors do and then consider raising rates..."

This could be an opportune time to increase share and loyalty by keeping prices level. Speak to your customers concerns about the economy. Social networking programs would be particularly cost effective here. If your competition wishes to drive into a ditch in tandem, for example, by increasing prices at the wrong time - so much the better.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

And The Real Winner Is...

This November Fourth, the most expensive product launch in history will end.

The campaign has been interesting to practitioners of non-traditional media of all political persuasions. Blogs, webinars, Tweets, ‘zines, established social networks such as Facebook, as well as special purpose online communities have enabled even obscure aspirants to become contenders. For example, new media enhanced and extended the candidacy of Ron Paul. With them, he could mount a boot-strap campaign becoming better known and then raising more funds in an increasing cycle.

There has been a marked difference in effort and effectiveness of employing new media among the candidates. Obama’s campaign has been far more active and effective than McCain’s. This has propelled Obama’s advantage in fund raising and via social-networking increased his online coverage versus that of McCain.

Obama has raised over $600 million and McCain more than $ 350 million[1]. What can you do with such a marketing budget? New media are so effective and efficient, that it would be really hard to spend it in that way. Thus the campaigns are buying huge amounts of airtime. This leads to the ironic result that the real winners of 2008 are old media.

[1] There are a number of other active candidates, such as Ralph Nader. According to Federal Elections Commission data, total amount raised by all other candidates is less than 0.5% of what McCain and Obama have raised.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Going Viral

As marketers, we usually have pay to say or show something. So we have budgets for advertising, promotion, PR, events, etc. Wouldn’t it be nice, if we could get others to do this for us. Not only would this amplify the reach or our message, it would increase its credibility. Those who spread our message are to some extent recommending us. Here’s where viral marketing comes it.

Viral marketing is not new (what in marketing is?), but new technologies make easier and can increase its impact. In addition to email, we have blogs, social networks, Tweets, and content sharing sites. They have the potential to launch an epidemic, which distributes our content farther and wider than we could, even if we had the budgets we wanted. It may be the latest embodiment of our eternal quest for the free lunch.

In its simplest form this means creating some communication so interesting, irritating, or attention grabbing that people will send it unsolicited and unpaid to friends and colleagues. If each recipient sends to multiple associates, you can get a hypergrowth, which resembles an epidemic hence the term viral.

Perhaps the best single example of a viral medium is YouTube. It is built to make sharing quick, easy, and free. Of course, this guarantees nothing. YouTube has not stated how many videos it hosts. Estimates are on the order of 100 million. If all you do is upload, an audience will probably not come.

Going viral is a long shot. As always, start with content. When creating something, whether for a local 30 second spot, a trade show, or a sales conference think about how it could be used or adapted as a viral communication. Reuse and mashups should be encouraged.

Marketing consultant and author David Meerman Scott cited the case of the Cadbury Gorilla http:// at the recent New Marketing Summit. David relates that Cadbury was able to reuse an existing commercial to the tune of over 3 million views on YouTube. The epidemic didn’t stop there. This video has spawned more than a dozen derivative videos, many of which have been viewed a substantial number of times. So there is a significant echo of the original message.

The video has no call to action – Cadbury can’t tell how many more chocolate bars it sold. The ROI is thus unknown. This could be a problem, but the cost of the program is negligible. In this case it amounts to the effort of monitoring viewership, links and references to the videos and to Cadbury itself.

To see what types of content are watching and more importantly sharing, consult

Not sure how viral fits your message and strategy or are generally uneasy about video production, you might wish to get started promoting something else. A number of firms are hosting contests. Draft a 30 to 60 second script or an idea on which to improvise and grab your home video camera. We hope to feature your video in an upcoming post.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Gary V

I had the chance to spend some tome today with that New Media force of nature — Gary Vaynerchuk. For those, who haven’t seen him, Gary is a dynamic and passionate speaker. Witness, for example, his keynote performance at the recent MyWeb 2.0 conference (note: contains some strong language). But there's a key difference between Gary and a number of prominent business speakers — not only can he talk the talk, he has also launched and grown successful businesses and recently published a commendable no nonsense book on enjoying wine.

How does he do it? More important, what can we as marketers do — not to be clones of Gary — to grow our own brands and products?

As he tells it, he grows community. He uses tools such as blogs, Tweeter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, YouTube and SEO/SEM. It’s not the tools per se, but how he uses them. He is online to listen, learn, contribute. This is not just feel good marketing. It’s ROI driven and embraces measurable media such as Google AdWords over conventional pay and pray media buys.

How does this busy entrepreneur spend his time? "I read and respond to blog comments, hang out on social network groups where my customers go, and (at least try to) answer all of my email."

How have you connected with your customers today?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Not Fulfilling

It usually takes a lot of work to turn a prospect into a first time buyer, let alone a customer. After all of that, why do so many organizations drop the ball at the one yard line and fail to properly fulfill the order?

Cases in point:

In the current (2008) Presidential Campaign, is soliciting interest by offering free Barack Obama stickers and buttons on various web sites and search advertising. Curiously, especially for the late stages when the campaign is in high gear, the buttons come with the qualification that they will take 4 to 6 weeks to arrive. More curious, is that at the time of this posts, 10 weeks, they still haven’t arrived (If they ever do, we’ll update this posting). Neither the McCain campaign nor the Republican National Committee appear to offer anything for free, so we couldn’t go a comparable test. Clearly non-delivered buttons are not influencing undecided voters.

The One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) Foundation, created a lot of interest and buzz, when it announced its initiative to provide cheap portable computers to children in developing countries. Its $100 computer subsequently became its $200 computer, which cost $ 400 in the US, because a buyer had to donate the value of one computer to get the second one for himself. Regardless of the price, a significant number of the computers, were frequently lost, shipped to the wrong address, or simply not delivered. OLPC’s reputation and donations suffered. (They have formally acknowledged that fulfillment is not their competence and are outsourcing this to

All of us could add to this list. What gives? From our work with direct mail catalog merchants, we’ve seen that packing, shipping, tracking, taking returns, not to mention managing inventory, are demanding yet unglamorous. When fulfillment works, we seldom reward or even acknowledge it. On my wall calendar, October 22 is unclaimed. Perhaps we can make it National Celebrate Fulfillment Day.