Tuesday, January 27, 2009

It's Back - This Time in 3-D

Superbowl XLIII is charging down upon us. We are the worst recession since this annual rite of advertising with football obbligato began. Large advertisers are writing off assets, closing facilities, firing thousands, and reporting record losses. This has caused panic - and panicking executives are even more likely to do the familiar, including the familiar, which has never been shown to work.

In particular, major advertisers have agreed to pay up to $3 million for 30 seconds of air time during the game. Of course with production, not to mention the expense of senior staff “needing” to attend the game, the total cost can be substantially higher. So we’re starting to talk about real money for a marketing expense, whose value remains to be demonstrated. Rather than worrying about the niceties of ROI, PepsiCo and DreamWorks, will try to make their Superbowl ads more memorable, by presenting them in 3-D.

Those of us old enough to remember an earlier generation of 3-D movies and comic books also remember having to wear cardboard glasses, whose right and left lenses were of different colors. The movies tended to be horror movies and westerns, in which the monster or villain, though thought dead, somehow survived to appear in a sequel.

So much for progress, the funky cardboard glasses are back. No glasses - no 3-D. Pepsi is using its considerable retail distribution to try to get 125 million pairs available to the viewing public by game day glasses. The Wall St. Journal(1/23/09, B8) reports that the glasses alone will cost about $7 million. To PepsiCo’s and DreamWorks’ credit they have gotten Intel to pay this.

What Intel gets for this another remains to be seen, but kudos to the deal makers at Pepsi. This challenge has made the commercials themselves news and DreamWorks is even advertising the commercials. Dreamworks new 3-D feature Monsters and Aliens is a major product push. Thus the game gets prime real estate on its animation site (warning - visiting this link will shift your browser to full screen).

In case you didn’t find the glasses at your local supermarket, you can get some by calling Pepsi at 1-800-646-2904.Curiously, Pepsi does not invite consumers to order online. There was no promotion of the event either during the on-hold recording (background music) or when I spoke to an attendant, who indifferently took my shipping information. The promotion is not featured on Pepsi’s or Intel’s web sites.

What does this have to do with selling SoBe Lifewater or microprocessors? Perhaps this would be clearer seen through a pair of 3-D glasses.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Where's My Cookie?

Marketing should give customers something. In retail, direct mail, print, or the venerable 30 second spot, we try to show what our product does and what’s in it for the customer. Our communication and programs associate our brand with a customer goal, sometimes called a "cookie." 1 Depending on customer needs, a cookie could be information such as a product description, prices, free samples, the ability to do or buy something here and now, etc. We don’t deliberately challenge readers or viewers to work long and hard to figure out where the good stuff is. Once we’ve understand which cookie customers want, lift notes, end aisle displays, and headlines take them there.

There are some notable exceptions. If you’ve ever stayed at a Las Vegas casino hotel, you have probably had the frustrating experience of having to navigate acres of gaming tables on route to your room.

That’s Vegas. In the real world we don’t deliberately frustrate customers. What about the virtual world? After we manage to get prospects to our web site can they find their cookie? This is a four part problem:

  1. Finding the site
  2. Finding the relevant page
  3. Finding the relevant content on the page
  4. Being able to get to the next step by clicking, calling, or going somewhere
Trying to negotiate many sites feels far too often like being trapped in a labyrinth. The bounce rates on many landing pages, show that visitors get frustrated, fed up, and leave.

Far too many web sites are more concerned with design than usability. In post mortem interviews within companies having dysfunctional sites (some of which were “award winning”) we often find no consensus on what the site was supposed to do. In some cases it seems the cookies are missing altogether. Where do you hide your cookies?

1) I am indebted to Nadia Direkova of Razorfish for this metaphor.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Forecasting Season

Along with post-holiday sales and carcasses of Christmas trees on the curb, this is the season of forecasts. Pundits, gurus and mavens emerge from their dens to favor the rest of us with insights about the next big thing or the soon no longer to be big thing. As with forecasts of stock markets and fashion trends this can be risky and tough to do. Forecasting does have advantages. Comedian Jay Leno summarized these when he assumed his long running late night show:

There’s no heavy lifting and nobody tells me to comeback and fix the jokes, which weren’t funny last night...

As marketers we are often asked to predict. How do we do it? Mostly badly. Do we have an alternative? I suggest following the advice of the late Peter Drucker and "predict the future, which is already happening" rather than speculate or paying others to speculate on your behalf.

What do we already know about 2009?

  • Consumer sentiment is negative
  • Real spending will decline
  • Commercial and consumer credit will decrease
  • More ad spending will be allocated to measurable media than broadcast
  • Your competitors will launch fewer new products
  • Promotional budgets will decline
  • You will have fewer marketing staff

For your own market and business you can extend this list and probably provide some relative quantification. This approach will save significant management and staff time. More important, it will let you focus on telling customers why your product or service is what they need even in a down economy.