Bentley College Marketing- Honors

This blog is for MK 402-H01 and the greater Bentley College population.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Phillips Patents No-Ad-Skip Technology

John Gartner of Marketing Shift made a posting on Thursday, April 20th reporting that Royal Phillips Electronics Company, who owns TiVo, has applied for a patent on technology that would prevent people from skipping through advertising on their DVRs. The consumers would be allowed to either pay a premium to see the program sans advertisements or be forced to view them at regular speed like the rest of the huddled television watching masses.
A few days earlier, John made a post that called out the need for an invention that bridged the gap between advertisers and consumers via DVR. He said “TiVo and the other DVR manufacturers must craft a difficult compromise that satisfies advertisers and the TV networks on one side while also mollifying consumers on the other.” The situation as it currently exists jeopardizes the trusted model of television advertising both from the side of advertisers who are experiencing diminishing reach, and networks who will ultimately have to slash costs for slots as a result of the shorter reach.
Similar to what happened with the Mp3 file sharing epidemic that threatened the music industry, the obvious alternative was to simply charge people. The central benefit of DVRs is not that they allow people to skip commercials (although no DVR owner would complain about this) it is that they enable their owners to record television and view it at your convenience. John says “I would still use my DVR even if I was forced to watch the commercials, but right now it is just too easy to avoid them”.
The trick is going to be implementing this technology universally. If some DVRs have the no-ad-skip technology and others do not, consumers are clearly going to choose the models that allow them to fast forward. Which company is going to be the first to restrict this feature voluntarily? My guess is that it will not happen until someone makes it happen. There will have to be a central mandate from the government (or other all powerful organization) that declares that ad skipping is illegal. They might say that it falls under the category of cable theft and by a certain date will have to be totally phased out. According to the article from the AP, found on Yahoo! News, “Philips wanted to provide the technology and seek the patent only as part of the broader developments within the industry, Philips spokesman Andre Manning said.”
In terms of strategy, this seems to be a great move for Phillips. Whether or not they can leverage the patent technology to other DVR makers, Phillips has made a stride for the industry as a whole and will benefit as a result.
As far as a critique of the piece, I applaud Gartner’s foresight in proclaiming the need for the technology before any of the companies in the industry publicly addressed it. It was a thorny issue with a seemingly simple answer. We will have to wait and see if people stop using their DVRs because they can not skip ads. John and I both agree that they probably will not.

To Be Searched or Not To Be Searchable

April 24, 2006
In one of Toby Bloomberg’s most recent blogs entitled Diva Marketing - A Leader In Marketing Blogs, she makes a great point while simultaneously (and obviously unintentionally) tooting her own horn. Toby reflects on a recent study conducted by iProspect where the company analyzed search behavior trends by modern Internet users and reported their findings on consumer beliefs about companies found via online searches.

Overall, the results of the survey revealed two major points:

1. When searching online, it is crucial for companies to arise on one of the first pages. According to the study, “62% of search engine users click on links returned within the first page of search hits. A full 90% of users click on hits within the first three pages of search results. “

2. Consumers typically believe that the top results for internet searches are likely to be the industry leaders. “Among search engine users, 36% believe that the companies whose websites are listed at the top of the search results are also the leading brands.”
(quotes taken from

This story is marketing related because marketers could definitely use the information presented to help them evaluate their own websites. Website design is a critical part of marketing, especially in today’s internet-savvy world, but the behind-the-scenes navigations are just as important. What good does it do for your company if you produce the best web site on earth, but if no one ever goes to it? Tracking trafficking on internet sites is becoming one of the fundamental aspects of marketing, allowing companies to gauge the success of certain layouts, designs, clickstream paths, and products.

The blog informs marketing by creating an increased awareness of the need for marketers to assess their own web pages and “keywords” that drive customers and potential customers to the sites. The study provides marketers with clear benchmarks as to what internet-users want when searching on the internet; the closer to the top of the page your website appears after a search is generated, the greater a chance you have of getting a visitor to your site, and the greater a chance you have at being perceived as an industry leader.

Reading about this study improved my understanding of marketing by re-emphasizing to me that there is more to the field of marketing than target markets, design and creativity. Technical, quantitative and analytical skills are very necessary in many everyday situations that marketers encounter. Learning how to draw traffic to your website is one such example of marketers needing such skills in order to excel.

My critique of this blog is not so much on anything that Toby had to say, but actually in regards to a quote taken from the study itself. In the article entitled Search Marketing: Coming Out On Top which discusses the survey, the author wrote, “62% of search engine users click on links returned within the first page of search hits.” I think he may be missing the word “only”: “62% of search engine users [only] click on links returned within the first page of search hits.” If he didn’t forget a word, then what do the other 38% of searchers do? Skip the first page and start looking on the second or third? Or do they run a search and then just not click any of the results? Am I the only one that is slightly mystified by the quote??

Monday, April 24, 2006

2006 not 1976

Mike Wagner has been blogging up a storm recently over at “Own Your Brand,” and this week I have decided to focus on a blog posted on April 12th titled, “Sherman, Set the Date for 2006!” In this posting, Wagner expresses his frustration with organization who “are stuck back in 1976 when it comes to understanding brands, markets and advertising.” He comments on heavy emphasis on things like names, logos, and taglines which he describes as being part of a “broadcast” world, one in which we no longer occupy. Wagner describes some of the following symptoms of such out of date advertising techniques (just a sampling):

“People zoning out on their sales monologues but engaging in marketplace conversations called blogs”

“People yawning at their “better mousetrap” pitch, but “lighting up” when they hear a creative and passionate story about their people, their company or their vision of a better world”

“People tired of the “same old” and looking for something different”

The aspect of this blog that makes it marketing related is its reference to advertising and marketing practices and the methods that companies are using to reach their target audience: a (if not THE) core function of marketing.

Wagner takes his ideas and attempts to inform marketing that there has been oversight in methods of communicating to customers. Wagner essentially challenges marketers to overcome the traditional mold that many advertisements and customer communication methods have taken on and become creative and adapt to the ever changing consumer to reach them new and innovative ways. In addition, Wagner also attempts to point out a new method of customer communications (well known to our class of course!): blogs. By simply pointing out this method of communication, Wagner is informing marketing of a new possibility for marketing and advertising techniques and methods to reach customers. It is at this point in time, however, that I would also like to incorporate my critique of this blog! Clearly, those who come across and read Wagner’s posting on this topic are well aware and are actively invested in the process of reading blogs, if not personally blogging themselves. While I fully support Wagner’s attempt to actively inform marketing by providing an example (he does provide other examples but I am choosing to pick on this one) I believe he could have chosen an example that may still have the potential to reach his reading audience. Even though a person is reading a blog, they could still be stuck in traditional and out of date marketing principles when communicating with their clients in other areas.

An additional informative aspect of this blog is its mention of the non-existence of a "broadcast" world. I believe this is an important concept to comprehend, one that I am beginning to comprehend as well. In a presentation made by Caitlin, she discussed the transition to narrowcasting and the ability of individuals to choose to a greater extent the media and types of media they are exposed to. This paradigm shift further reinforces Wagner's point regarding keeping up to date and creative with marketing techniques and reaching people in the new ways in which they are searching for and acquiring information as well.

Finally, this blog improves my understanding of marketing by providing additional reinforcement of the need to evolve with customers, not as much in terms of product innovation, but in the innovation of how a company communicates with its clients. This blog also further solidified my understanding of the previously discussed concept of the shift from broadcasting to narrowcasting.

"Consistent Image is Everything"

John Jantsch’s post written on Wednesday, April 19th, titled “Consistent Image is Everything”, goes into the subject of small businesses and maintaining a consistent brand image. This blog is similar to others that he has posted, as he is passionate about the idea that you have to be consistent in the image that you portray to your customers. This blog is different than the others because it does not just argue that you want to remain consistent over time, it also argues that you should stay consistent at one point in time, meaning that all your campaigns and marketing materials should have a consistent message. Jantsch points out that “the reason people resist change is because they like to have their expectations met and what they perceive as change often comes in the form of inconsistency. Prospects and clients like to know that when they do business with you, it will occur in the same manner they expected each and every time. The level of service, the delivery, the quality and, yes, even the bill needs to meet their expectation.”

Jantsch points out that many small businesses do not have a consistent image within their marketing campaigns. They produce different colored materials, with different fonts and messages written on them. Some companies even have their marketing materials produced by different agencies, with completely different techniques and tactics. He argues that this deteriorates from your business because you will not be recognized by your consistent image. He does not discourage change if your campaign is not effective; he just argues that you have to change everything if you are going to change anything. The point he strives to get across throughout the blog is that “inconsistency breeds doubt and small business owners can't afford doubt”. He also points out that it doesn’t matter if your campaign is very simple, you can still make it effective by being consistent and thorough in your marketing efforts.

This blog is marketing related because Jantsch touches on important points for small businesses and their marketing efforts. He explains that for small businesses it is crucial to maintain a consistent brand image so that you attract customers and do not confuse your target market on what your company is there for. He relates the blog to marketing throughout by stating that it doesn’t matter how much you spend on your brochures and other marketing materials, it only matters how effectively you use them to your advantage.

The post informs marketing by educating the reader on a common small business problem. It informs the reader that, although you can change your marketing tactics and strategies, you have to maintain a consistent image at a point in time. This means that you have to have marketing materials that go together and support the same brand image and message. This blog improved my understanding of marketing by discussing effective marketing strategies for small businesses. It improved my understanding of how many small businesses lose their customers out of confusion and an inability to be recognized because of their inconsistent image.

My one critique of John Jantsch’s blog titled “Consistent Image is Everything” is that it is very similar to other posts that he has written. He brings up some different points and valid arguments, but for the most part the idea has already been explored by him in previous posts. It would be good to read things he writes on other marketing related topics besides consistent brand image.

Mo' Money, Mo' Problems

In, Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Bryant Park, an archived blog posting by Katherine Stone, she discusses the issues of the Bryant Park in New York City. It has gone through many renovations and is now a popular sport for corporately sponsored events. In fact, many residents around Bryant Park are complaining that there are too many events now. The park no longer feels like a public space. Since the park is no longer publicly funded, the corporate user fees for hosting events such as Fashion Week are partially the reason that Bryant Park has been able to be revitalized. The blog discusses the balance between having a park that is pretty and clean and renovated, and a park that is no longer a public place but rather just a venue for corporate sponsored events.

This blog was extremely interesting. I have always thought of corporate sponsored events has helping the surrounding areas. They bring in publicity to the area and tourist or other people who are most likely to spend money in the area. However, I had never before contemplated the limit of corporate sponsorships. If an area is always the host of large scale events, there is less opportunity for the surrounding area to enjoy the park in the manner that it was originally set up for. Katherine Stone brings up the point that there is a limit of how many events should be in an area. Additionally, she talks about how there needs to be an appreciation for the surrounding area’s community and members. From her personal experience, she knows that when a company is planning a corporate event, it is often extremely busy. The company is trying to make sure that the event will run smoothly, that the correct people will be there including press, and that all necessary items will be on hand. There are so many things that need to be looked at for the event that often the person or company planning the event does not have any time to think of anything else. Therefore, they may sometimes forget to take into account the surrounding community and the affect the event will have on those people.

Mo’ Money, Mo’ Problems: Bryant Park informs marketing in a few different ways. Corporations often do sponsored events to get their names out and draw attention to their company. However, it is important for those companies to pay attention to the community that they are hosting the event in. If they work with community groups, then they are more likely to be sure that there event will be well received by the surrounding community. Also, not only should companies pay attention to community groups when they are hosting an event, but also at other times. It is important for companies to know that they are reaching their target market in manner that is appropriate and beneficial for both the consumer and the company. Community groups can help to tell companies when they are communicating in a beneficial manner for that specific area of the country. Community groups can be used as a tool to really understand the issues facing one’s target market and how to best meet those needs.

Lastly, the blog posting by Katherine Stone was interesting and put the corporate events in another viewpoint for my own information. However, Katherine Stone did not talk about how companies can really focus on the community, other than suggesting that they work with community groups. Also, she did not discuss whether the options she brought up for helping with the problem of event overload in Bryant Park, would actually work in that community. Finally, it would be interesting if Katherine Stone did a follow up piece on this topic. It has been a few months since she first raised this issue. I would be interested to hear whether any changes have been made in order to limit the number of events in the park. It is a difficult balance between having money to have a great park and getting so much money from user fees that the community no longer has the ability to use the park as a public space.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

What do you do when your brand becomes the target of xenophobic rumors?

The blog posting “What do you do when your brand becomes the target of xenophobic rumors?” presents this question of how brands should deal with rumors and criticisms that “either appeal to fundamental cultural anxieties or that are framed in popular worldviews.” It raises the case of Lenovo, which is a Chinese IT company that recently acquired IBM. Lenovo is under fire because “xenophobes” are voicing allegations that the computers sold by the company to the State Department “could provide shadowy spooks in the Chinese government with an ideal means of conducting espionage.” This idea is being “marketed” to the public as a “buy American” and “national security” issue. It is marketing related because with raised cultural anxieties, Levono must decide how to deal with these negative connotations to its brand, as it is the first of Chinese IT companies to experience a merger with an American company. Any way that the company tries to approach the issue, its brand image is at stake. They face the challenge of either fighting the allegations or waiting until it “all blows over.”

This story informs marketing because it clearly illustrates the power of cultural identity on brands. The author alludes to the fact that some of the criticism may be stemming from the strong cultural and national ties that American consumers had with IBM that were tainted by the company’s acquisition by a Chinese company. Clearly, this cultural identity not only impacts the brand, but also other factors such as customer loyalty, customer satisfaction, and employee relations, just to name a few. While a regular merger or acquisition between two companies of the same national origin may have negative brand impact, bringing another nationality into the equation impacts many internal and external matters in the company.

To me, this post improves my understanding of marketing because it illustrates the immense complications of the global economy on brand image. While the world is supposedly “getting smaller,” cultural anxieties and worldviews still play a prevalent role. Since the Levono/IBM merger is the first of its kind, it must be dealt with caution in order to set a precedent. It will be interesting to see how future decisions are made on how to approach brand image in these delicate situations as our generation gains management positions in the future since Dianne Durkin described our generation as the “global generation:” we have been exposed to more globalism than any other generation. It would seem that we would therefore understand how to prevent these problems or if they did occur, how to implement damage control.

The concept of “Buying American” also made me think of the theme that “consumerism won in America.” How are these two ideas related? Did only “American-made” consumerism win in America? Does this connotation apply to all product categories? Or only those that we associate with “American” or have some pride in, such as IBM? It is hard to believe that Americans stand by “Buy American” with the popularity of Wal-Mart in our country. What would happen if Wal-Mart was acquired by a company of another origin?

This posting does an excellent job of just stating the bottom line being that Lenovo is between a rock and a hard place in deciding how to handle this situation. It would have been more helpful to have a better explanation of the Lenovo-IBM acquisition at the beginning, because I had no prior knowledge of this situation but found some information on another blog. It really made me think of how I would approach a “damage control” situation such as this one. Damage control seems to be something that cannot be “taught” in a classroom, but is a vital lesson to be learned the hard way – by experience – in the workplace.

In Person

In Kathy Sierra’s blog post “Why Face-To-Face Still Matters” she discusses a lecture she heard by a neuroscientist at the Conference on World Affairs. According to the lecture face-to-face communication is still very important. People think that because of the rapid spread of text messaging, emailing, and IMing there is no longer a need for real communication in the workplace. However, according to studies, there is no substitute for direct genuine communication. Kathy reiterates that we trick ourselves into think that text is as good as speech and that we can get all we need for the exchange of it, when in reality our brains are not hard wired that way. The point she makes is that text does not have the ability to convey instant information. In a study conducted, babies were put in front of a monitor that featured a person responding to their actions. When the monitor operated on a delay the babies’ emotions and reactions were completely different because they had already moved on in their minds. This is similar to the way email is interpreted in adults. When someone sends and email and then an hour later the recipient reads it and responds, the original sender will react differently in most cases than they would had they had a direct 20 second conversation with the recipient. Another point she makes is that while we can read text we may interpret it differently than it was intended. There is no body language or emotion in text. She then talks about audiovisual communication. Many businesses use this because then you can see and hear what the person is saying as they intended it to be, and there is immediate response. However, the neuroscientist points out that while you are looking at the camera the other person sees you but you don’t really see them, and as a result, the experience suffers. This is related to marketing because when businesses think that they can have a really elaborate website set-up to handle all of their business communications they are missing a critical function of life. There needs to be direct marketing and face-to-face contact. It is not enough for Doritos to feature some commercials on prime-time, and list their website on the bottom of the bag. They need to have people in stores giving out free samples and talking about all the different varieties. People need to walk into a grocery store under a Doritos banner and see the faces of children munching down the tasty snacks.

This informed my idea of marketing because in most of my classes we talk about what the most efficient types of marketing are and how to go about implementing them. This efficiency is usually expressed in terms of cost and time. It is a newer idea to think about the science behind the efficiency of the brain, because it doesn’t matter if a campaign is inexpensive and easy to launch if it will leave potential customers without an essential interaction that they need to really connect to the company or product.

Kathy Sierra is a businessperson under the same constraints as everyone else who has to rely on text-based communications, so she understands the difficulty in engaging in real communication. As a result, she covered the matter in a very real framework. She advocates meeting with peers and clients at least once a year. Kathy says that some direct communication is better than nothing, because even if you just meet someone a few times you will have a better idea of what they mean or are thinking when you correspond with them via email and the like. Additionally, she stresses the benefit of staying in touch in general so as to make necessary communication easier. Kathy advocates including a picture of yourself with emails and posts, and other easy ways to make the communication more real.

Note: This is me.
See? According to Kathy I've already improved this mode of communication a little.

Blog Elitism

based on postings from the BrandBuilder blog by Olivier Blanchard

In this posting Blanchard discusses what he calls in the business world “the new snob mantra: Only “experts” should have a voice.” “Blog Elitism” was written in response to a posting by Spike Jones of Brains on Fire lamenting the decreased credibility of bloggers in the blogsphere. Jones writes that so many bloggers “have no real-life, hands-on experience to back [their ideas] up…And until you dig down and find out what really makes them an “expert,” then you just don’t know.” Blanchard believes that the beauty of the blogsphere is that individuals do not have to be experts to share their ideas. Further, the best ideas don’t necessarily come from those we consider to be experts. Blogging is not about “status and titles. It is about sharing ideas” and all marketers can benefit from considering these ideas and learning from them.

This article is marketing relating because it lays out the benefits of blogs for individuals in the field of marketing. Blanchard tells marketers that they can get the opinions of all types of individuals involved in their trade at any given time, as blogs allow all kinds of individuals to spread their ideas without the help of established journals or publishing companies. As a result, marketers are able to see issues that affect their trade from so many different angles and experiences, whether it is from a said ‘expert’ or a “retail clerk with no formal experience in marketing.” Blanchard also steers people away from ‘expert worship,’ pointing out that the “most relevant observations… come from the trenches, not the board room.”

Blanchard’s post informs marketing as it encourages marketers expand the sphere of what they consider to be credible, relevant sources for marketing. As noted above, relevant observations might not come from ‘ivory tower’ experts. Blogs level the playing field, giving everyone a voice. Blanchard encourages marketers to take this abundant source of information seriously and to realize that they can obtain great ideas from this medium.

This article improved my understanding of marketing by lending credibility to more blogging sources in my mind. So often in the academic world we are forced to look at what the ‘experts’ say, taking articles that have been published as the only source of credible information. It is still important to consider the opinions contained in these reputable sources. However, it is also important not to overlook the great ideas that appear in Internet blogs from people who work closely with the topic at hand. Considering so many points of view on a topic will greatly enhance a marketer’s depth of understanding of an issue. Blogs can make this possible.

Companies and marketers are starting to understand the importance of the fact that “everyone has a voice” in the blogsphere. For example, one of the students in our class does a blog scan at her internship and came up with relevant information, straight from the mouths of customers, on how they viewed the company’s product. It would not be possible to find such direct and impactful information from an expert in a published research journal.

An additional opinion/critique of this article: It is important to consider many points of view when grappling with a marketing issue. I agree with Blanchard’s point that one does not need to be highly trained in marketing technique to have great ideas on a topic. Experience “from the trenches” is sufficient to lend credibility to a blogger’s opinion. However, it is important for readers to know what that experience is.

That said one of the problems we have encountered in following our respective blogs in this class is that it is sometimes difficult to find out the experience behind the opinion. General class consensus was that biographies of our bloggers were not easily accessible or, in some cases, nonexistent. We had to work, to ‘dig,’ to find the experience behind our bloggers’ opinions. I could not a biography for Blanchard on his blog and had to Google him to find out his background. Since credibility is a big issue in the blogging medium, it is important that biographies be better utilized by bloggers to let readers know an author’s experience behind topics discussed whether the author happens to be a big shot CMO or a sales clerk.

Back to Basics: Quality

This post was a continuation of the blogger’s previous post regarding quality. In the first post, Dave pointed to the fact that claims about quality in marketing practices is often abused due to the fact that there are no concrete standardized measurements that are commonly used. Thus, claims of quality levels are incredibly vague. In this post, Dave points to a new article written by Scott Dalgleish in Quality Magazine in which he asks a question of quality regarding product/marketing:

"I’m currently designing a line of product for my business and I’m facing some fundamental quality questions. Do I develop a high-quality product or a cheaper low-quality product? This isn’t an easy question. My inclination as a quality professional is to develop a high-quality product without even thinking about it, but that could be a foolish approach. As I drive past discount stores with packed parking lots, I quickly realize how much consumers love low prices."

Dave responds to this question as follows:
The basic 101 lesson:“Reading this article reminded me my MBA economics classes, which I really enjoyed because of the order it creates with such complex questions. It all is based on the supply and demand curves that intersect. Here is a good review of supply and demand with interactive curves. Scott also realizes that price, cost, and quality are not also always dependent on each other.”The 600 level case study:“Right now most of us are dealing with existing products, or new products similar to others, so that we can make some assessments of the market, at least in an educated gut/Blink-style. Scott's problem is that there is no existing supply or demand curve for his new product. While he decides that market testing will help him decide, he also acknowledges that his final decision will be the one he can live with.”This post is marketing-related because it is directly related to product development. Deciding how to design and create a new product is crucial in beginning the marketing process. Once the product design is secured, the rest of the marketing strategy can be developed.

This post informs marketing because it addresses a crucial question of quality: should the product be high quality or low? This is essential. Dave brings forth an excellent point regarding demand of the consumer. If there is a high demand for a low quality, cheaper product then it would seem illogical to develop a high quality, more expensive product.

I have learned quite a bit from this post. The original article regarding the vagueness of quality statements opened my eyes to the idea that quality may be becoming a less important product characteristic in the eyes of consumers and their purchasing decisions. Using a supply and demand curve to determine the level of quality in a product was a concept that most likely would not have entered my thought process initially. This seems to be one of the more logical approaches in reaching such a decision.

I would have liked to have read more about Dave’s thoughts on the subject. Perhaps giving an example of successful and unsuccessful product designs in relation to quality levels would have made the topic a clearer.

Back to Basics: Quality

This post was a continuation of the blogger’s previous post regarding quality. In the first post, Dave pointed to the fact that claims about quality in marketing practices is often abused due to the fact that there are no concrete standardized measurements that are commonly used. Thus, claims of quality levels are incredibly vague. In this post, Dave points to a new article written by Scott Dalgleish in Quality Magazine in which he asks a question of quality regarding product/marketing:

"I’m currently designing a line of product for my business and I’m facing some fundamental quality questions. Do I develop a high-quality product or a cheaper low-quality product? This isn’t an easy question. My inclination as a quality professional is to develop a high-quality product without even thinking about it, but that could be a foolish approach. As I drive past discount stores with packed parking lots, I quickly realize how much consumers love low prices."

Dave responds to this question as follows:
The basic 101 lesson:“Reading this article reminded me my MBA economics classes, which I really enjoyed because of the order it creates with such complex questions. It all is based on the supply and demand curves that intersect. Here is a good review of supply and demand with interactive curves. Scott also realizes that price, cost, and quality are not also always dependent on each other.”The 600 level case study:“Right now most of us are dealing with existing products, or new products similar to others, so that we can make some assessments of the market, at least in an educated gut/Blink-style. Scott's problem is that there is no existing supply or demand curve for his new product. While he decides that market testing will help him decide, he also acknowledges that his final decision will be the one he can live with.”This post is marketing-related because it is directly related to product development. Deciding how to design and create a new product is crucial in beginning the marketing process. Once the product design is secured, the rest of the marketing strategy can be developed.

This post informs marketing because it addresses a crucial question of quality: should the product be high quality or low? This is essential. Dave brings forth an excellent point regarding demand of the consumer. If there is a high demand for a low quality, cheaper product then it would seem illogical to develop a high quality, more expensive product.

I have learned quite a bit from this post. The original article regarding the vagueness of quality statements opened my eyes to the idea that quality may be becoming a less important product characteristic in the eyes of consumers and their purchasing decisions. Using a supply and demand curve to determine the level of quality in a product was a concept that most likely would not have entered my thought process initially. This seems to be one of the more logical approaches in reaching such a decision.

I would have liked to have read more about Dave’s thoughts on the subject. Perhaps giving an example of successful and unsuccessful product designs in relation to quality levels would have made the topic a clearer.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Bloggers weigh in on Envoy ad campaign: Should co-production include marketing activities?

Remember my previous post about a GMC Envoy ad campaign where the public was asked to produce spots for the extra large suv? Well some marketing bloggers are weighing in with various opinions:

Honor Conference Successes!

I didn't get to see everyone from class do their presentation but I did get to moderate the session with 5 of you. Good Job!

Monday, April 17, 2006

The Carnival of Marketing and Harvesting Collective Genius

“Every employee idea, no matter how small, improves an organization in some way. It is when managers are able to get large numbers of such ideas that the full power of the idea revolution is unleashed.” -IDEAS ARE FREE by Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder

The blog posting I read for this week dealt with utilizing the abundance of ideas that can be generated from a company’s employees. I found a blog posting by Spike Jones at Brains on Fire, “
The Carnival of Marketing,” which references the top seven best and recent blog postings in the industry. One such posting was by John Moore at Brand Autopsy, “Harvesting Collective Genius,” and it is the posting I will be discussing in my blog this week.

In this posting, John Moore discusses the way in which Rite-Solutions “created an internal idea stock exchange.” Employees at Rite-Solutions can suggest any idea or recommendation. These ideas then become mock stocks and employees are given fake money to invest in these ideas on a “Mutual Fun” board. One of the co-founders of Rite-Solutions explains,

“We’re the founders, but we’re far from the smartest people here. At most companies, especially technology companies, the most brilliant insights tend to come from people other than senior management. So we created a marketplace to harvest collective genius."

This is a brilliant idea by Rite-Solutions because employees often do have innovative ideas and no means to articulate them. By making this program into a game with stocks and pretend investments, it helps to make employees involved and interested. In addition, it helps to highlight the best ideas.

As our blog postings have been showing us over the past few weeks traditional means of marketing is becoming less effective. This blog posting is marketing related because this game or Human Resources idea could be used to generate new marketing ideas or activities. Moreover, it builds unity and enthusiasm in employees and we know from previous articles, happy employees create happy customers.

Similarly, this article informs marketing by shedding light on a new and innovative concept for companies in any industry. It also reminds marketers of the power of employees and the internal resources available. Hopefully, this “Mutual Fun” game will provide a stepping stone for other companies to develop their own game or company wide venue for idea generation.

Not only did this blog posting improve my understanding of current events happening in the industry, it also made me think of different and more marketing driven games that could become company wide events. One idea I had was that companies could play on themes from the industry they are in or the customers they are targeting. For example, a company like Home Depot would have a marketing idea generation game with a theme centered around tools and/or hardware.

My only criticism of John Moore’s posting was that he provided a lot of quotes but he could have possibly provided more of his own opinion and insights.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

'Corporate FaceBook' Turns Profit

A recent post on Marketing Shift Jason Dowdell noted that Linked In, a social networking site for professionals recorded profitability for the month of February. Dowdell has established a rapport with the owner of the site, Konstantin Guericke. The main difference between LinkedIn and other social networking sites such as FaceBook and MySpace is that they charge a membership fee.

Linked In is a global operation with over five million members worldwide and growing, according to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald. The memberships start at the entry level for free and range from $5 to $200 a month. According to CNN Money, a job listing costs $95. Guericke contends that "The question is, do people pay for subscription-based services on the Internet? Especially in the business arena, if you provide enough value, the answer is yes." Xeni Jardin on an article for says “There is growing evidence to support claims that some social networking services (SNS for short) can be a powerful professional ally to businesses — in particular, independent entrepreneurs and smaller companies, for whom each new personal connection is a significant business building block.”

On the site, people can maintain a list of professional contacts, search for a job, post a job, find services, or find people by several different search criteria. According to an article in Information Week, employers are able to find people who are not actively seeking a job, but were still open to hearing about opportunities. It also helps people connect with members of their college graduating class or colleagues that they have lost touch with in the past.

Unlike so many services, including AOL Instant Messenger, MySpace, FaceBook, and countless others relying on advertising for revenue, Linked In represents a different side of the internet. The freeloadeing spirit of the internet that has been so prevalent since its inception might be somewhat waning. The advent of iTunes may have been the watershed moment, paving the way for other companies that provide valuable enough services on the internet that people will pay for them. Linked In still has advertisements for its unpaid members, but the main portion of their revenues comes from their membership fees.

Another main difference between Linked In and many other SNS sites is that people who are on the site have something in common. Dowdell says, “People need a reason to connect to other people and I believe this is one of the main reasons Linked In is beginning to hit its stride in the social networking world. They've found reasons for people to join and find other like-minded individuals.” In a sense it is similar to E-Harmony and other online dating sites in that people join the site for a specific reason. This begins to explain why people pay a membership fee.

Expanding on my post from last week, if Google wanted to make a good investment, they should probably steer clear of FaceBook and look towards Linked In. The latter has a predictable revenue stream relying on the value of its services and not the trendy nature of website hits. In addition I have a feeling that in exchange for some control the CEO of Linked In would settle for less than $2 Billion.

Different Dunks

April 11, 2006

Rather than writing about uses for blogs in marketing or other emerging technologies in the field, Toby chose to write about something totally different for this week: Nabisco’s latest marketing idea for its Oreo cookie. The classic American cookie sandwich has come out with an oblong-shaped Oreo cookie to improve the ease of dunking Oreos in milk: “Oreo Dunkers.” This is a drastic change for Oreo, which has never changed the shape of its cookie before (other than the Oreo 100 Calorie Pack snacks that it released a year or so ago – but those don’t claim to be authentic Oreo cookies). It does, however, reflect that Oreo has been trying eagerly to retain its market share in recent years.
I remember when I was growing up and there were only two varieties of Oreos to choose from: regular or Double Stuf, which boasted twice the amount of sweet frosting. A few years later, as a result of the American low fat/reduced fat/fat free trend, Oreo released its Reduced Fat Oreos. However, until this point an Oreo was still virtually the same Oreo, whether it was the original, Double Stuf, or Reduced Fat: vanilla crème frosting sandwiched by two round chocolate wafers.
It is evident that the Oreo cookie has reached the maturity stage in its life cycle, and the brand has appropriately taken several steps to prevent the cookie from fading out of America’s cookie jars. Over the past few years, Nabisco has launched many different flavors and varieties of the traditional cookie. Some of these include: Chocolate Crème Oreo, Golden Oreo Original, Fudge Covered Oreo, Fudge Mint Covered Oreo, Golden Oreo Chocolate Crème, Double Delight Oreo Mint ‘n’ Crème, Double Delight Oreo Peanut Butter & Chocolate, Milk Chocolate Covered Oreo and Milk Chocolate Covered Mint Oreo. Additionally, Nabisco has released many Oreo baking supplies, such as Oreo Crumbs, Oreo Chocolate Cones, Oreo Jello Pudding… the list goes on.
This blog is marketing related for obvious reasons. It provides an example of a company launching effective marketing campaigns once its product has reached maturity. Rather than give up on the brand, Nabisco has embraced the Oreo and gotten creative with it. By introducing new product lines under the Oreo name, the cookie is able to retain original Oreo lovers, who will most likely continue buying the original Oreo and may also try some of the new releases, while additionally attracting today’s children. These young consumers may not have the same nostalgia for the Oreo as their parents and grandparents do, but they are exposed to so many options in the dessert aisle of the store and the Oreo gives them the opportunity to choose the Oreo that is right for them. In effect, this means that Oreo is striving to create an “Oreo consumer identity,” allowing the consumers to identify themselves by which Oreo suits their individual desires and tastes. Similar measures have been taken all over the candy industry – Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups now offer an abundance of shapes and varieties of the original concept; the same goes for Kit Kat bars and many other candies that have been in the market for as long as anyone (or at least I) can remember. Apparently these cookie companies are doing something right, because they consume more shelf space than ever before with their many varieties.
Oreo’s story informs marketing by providing an example of a product in its maturity stage that has been able to retain market share and to remain innovative in a constantly changing world. By remaining creative and thinking outside the box, Oreo has been able to continuously hold the attention of dessert consumers of all ages.
The blog improved my understanding of marketing by reinforcing the ideas stated above. While I knew that mature products should strive to create marketing campaigns aimed at retaining marketing share, Oreo was able to refresh this concept in my mind and provide concrete examples. It also made me contemplate the motives which spawned the emergence of the modern day varieties of our old candy classics. By continuously launching new product lines, candy brands can keep attracting new buyers while retaining the loyal ones and potentially even getting more money from those traditional customers.
My critique of the blog is really of what Toby mentions after the Oreo Dunker; she attempts to segue into astrology and throws in an “Astro Tips” section. I would be interested in reading horoscopes, but I’m not sure what exactly those have to do with marketing, or why she only decided to publish the horoscope section once.

Take the Blame

This week I decided to switch back to reporting on a blog posting by Spike Jones, “Take the Blame,” on Brains on Fire. In this posting he references an article in the April issue of Business 2.0. I did find a small discrepancy when I was searching for the original article. When Spike provides the name of the article in his posting, he says it was “Double Down on Execs Who Own Up,” by Jeffery Pfeffer; however, I could not find any articles by this name. The article I did find gave the same companies as examples and was by the same author but was entitled “Why It Pays To Invest in Bosses Who Blame Themselves.” It is possible that Jeffery Pfeffer may have changed the title or that these are two separate articles on the same topic. In any case, I am going to assume for this blog posting that the article Spike references and the article I read are the same.

In both the article and Spike’s blog posting, they discuss the idea that when companies fail or make mistakes, these companies and more specifically CEOs should step up and take the blame. Jeffery Pfeffer provides three perfect examples of companies that decided to put the blame elsewhere and in turn performed poorly. One example involved the CEO of When the company’s “share price began plunging last year, CEO Patrick Byrne infamously declared it the result of a conspiracy among Wall Street short-sellers.” With all of the examples regarding companies that have tried to blame their mistakes on others, there are also some examples of companies that have gotten it right. In 2001, Anne Mulcahy became Xerox’s CEO and “told Wall Street that the company’s business model was flawed. Then she explained to employees the challenges they faced, the first step in a remarkable turnaround at Xerox.” I agree with both Spike Jones and Jeffery Pfeffer. If a company cannot own up to its mistakes, then it cannot make the changes necessary to turn the company around.

What makes this blog posting marketing related, is the fact that a company who can take the blame and own up to its mistakes will in turn improve its relationship with customers and its brand image. Placing the blame on outside factors is an “ineffective customer service strategy: Numerous studies have shown that consumers value an admission of failure and an apology.”

Spike Jones informs marketing by shedding light on an ethical issue that is on the surface incredibly simple, but in practice difficult to deal with. It is much easier for a company to avoid dealing with internal problems; however, in the end the internal problems will worsen along with the company’s reputation and public image.

Spike Jones aided in improving my understanding of marketing by giving me a fresh look at ethical issues in a corporation including the spreading of blame for one’s mistakes. In the past few weeks we have been discussing the possible ethical issues that we may experience first hand after graduation and I think that this is a prime example.

It is difficult for me to think of a critique about Spike’s blog posting, other than the fact that I believe there may be a mix-up with the title of the article referenced, but I would have to say that there was a lack of examples in this posting. Additionally, the blog posting was short and although it did include his opinion it could have included more reflection from Spike Jones.

Indecent Marketing

A previous blog posting written by Katherine Stone talked about her experience on the other side of marketing tactics. Katherine had started a blog after she experienced post-partum depression. The blog was an outlet for people who had gone through similar situations. Katherine made this space as her own personal space. It was an area in which people could voice their opinions, what had worked for them, or question how to help the situation. The forum was used for the purpose of creating a support network for others. It was not a marketing blog, nor was it a way for Katherine to market to other people. It was purely set up as a person space for Katherine and people like her.

However, she received three comments posted by a person who was trying to sell her a screening process to make it easier for doctors to diagnose post-partum depression. This person was not someone who was trying to help the other people who posted or read the blog. The person was attempted to market a product or service to people who may or may not have needed his services. Katherine Stone states that this is “indecent marketing.” What is meant by this is that some marketers blur the lines of “decent marketing” in which you offer a product to a consumer and allow them to decide if that product is something that they need and what has and “indecent marketing” in which the marketer invades the privacy of the consumer. Katherine discusses the fact that it should not be the consumers’ job to delete unwanted messages.

This blog article was extremely interesting. It is a view of marketing from a marketer’s perspective. Katherine Stone is an experienced marketer. She has held many important positions within companies and now owns her own consulting firm. Finding ways to market to consumers is something that Katherine has had to do her entire career. However, she brought up an important aspect of marketing. There is a very thin line between being a marketer who cares about one’s consumers and a marketer who will do anything just to get at the consumer. This informs marketing because it discusses the fact that there are some tactics that are invasive into the consumer’s privacy. When that occurs, people begin to get a negative impression of the company. It is extremely important for companies to remember that they are trying to build a brand. Their job is not just to sell a product but rather to start and maintain a relationship with their consumers for the long term.

This blog informs my understanding of marketing in a few different ways. First, it was helpful to see that other marketers have come across situations in which they have experienced marketing that is not beneficial to the brand. I have often felt that there are lines that companies sometimes cross in regards to marketing. However, it has previously been difficult for me to understand how and where the line is that companies cross. The blog helped me understand how companies cross that line. Additionally, the blog article discussed the need for privacy in the minds of the consumers. It is extremely important for marketers to have a high regard for that privacy and relate to consumers in a mutually respected manner.

I found this blog extremely relevant. However, Katherine Stone took a personal viewpoint on the article. I feel that if she was able to remain slightly more objective then she would have been able to gain more credibility. Everyone hates feeling like their privacy is violated. However, it is important for Katherine to talk about specific manners in which companies can make sure to stay on the right side of the line. I was left wanting more from the blog report.

Monday, April 10, 2006

"What's the Opposite of Love?"

John Jantsch’s blog titled “What’s the Opposite of Love?” discusses the idea that you have to reach out for feedback from your audience, even if it is not what you want to hear. He writes that “The opposite of love is indifference. If people don’t love your business, it’s unlikely that they hate it.” He goes on to explain that it is not enough to be happy that your business is not getting any negative feedback, because that just means that there are many people who are indifferent on your business and don’t care enough to give you the feedback.

Jantsch explains that, “If you're not getting any negative feedback, it may not be because all is well, it may in fact be because they don't care enough to tell you.” He says that you have to welcome and encourage negative feedback so that you can grow as a business and make improvements in response to this feedback. He realizes that you do not want a large negative reputation, but he believes that getting some negative feedback is good and means that your business has a presence in the marketplace and in consumers’ minds. He provides tips on how to accept bad advice and what to do with it, because you cannot respond to it all.

This blog is marketing-related because it deals with customer service within your business and the perception of your business in the minds of consumers. The issue of company image and brand perception deals greatly with marketing. The company needs to know how to market their company and this involves taking bad feedback and making adjustments to their company and marketing strategy.

This reading informs marketing by examining the issue of negative brand perception and how you can use negative feedback to better your business. This informs marketing by educating readers on the fact that even though they are not getting any negative feedback, it does not mean that their business is doing well. It could solely mean that their customers (or non-customers) do not care enough to provide them with feedback.

This blog improved my understanding of marketing by informing me on the issue of negative feedback and how it can influence and help a business succeed in the long run. The blog shows that marketing is in all areas of business, including the issue of customer service and customer critiques.

My usual critique of Jantsch’s blog is that he does not provide examples of what he writes about. This is not the case in this blog. Jantsch provides an example of an email critique that he received from a reader, and he included his response to the email and how he would respond to the critique. I have no critiques of this particular blog.

Tips from a Marketing HeadHunter

Jay Lithe interviewed first-rate marketing headhunter Harry Joiner to try to discover the thought process of someone who recruits marketing professionals. Lithe asked Joiner what were the top 5 things he looks for in a person for any marketing job. He response goes as follows:

Business orientation. “Marketing candidates need to be able to think holistically about business. They need to understand that marketing is a means to an end -- not an end unto itself. No margin, no mission.”
Humility. “If you have a massive ego, forget it. I don't say this because I can't handle people with big egos. I say this because marketing people with big egos always think they know better than their customers. That's ‘death’ in the marketing business.”
People skills. “I do my job on the phone, which means that I am effectively blind. Minus the corn rows, there's no difference between me and Stevie Wonder. Therefore, if you aren't warm and empathic on the phone, then it's hard for me to imagine that you will be warm and empathic in person. People, including my clients, want to do business with people they like, and they always do a phone screen before bringing a person in for an interview. So relax and have fun. Otherwise, you are wasting your time. See the paradox? Have fun or your dead!”
An inquisitive nature. “Look, I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed, but I have gotten by on my obsessive compulsive desire to learn. Marketing is way too dynamic a field to be stagnant. So, if you think you can skate by on the "Four Ps" you are wrong. Learn. Keep learning. We are just in the top of the second inning of this Internet thing, and it promises to completely change not only marketing -- but the way we think about marketing. Don't get attached to any one marketing model of one-size-fits-all way of thinking. See note on Humility.”
A track record of accomplishment. “You can't talk your way out of problems you behave yourself into. If you have job hopped, or if you have not been promoted, or whatever, then no amount of my God-given sales talent is going to help you land a job. If you hate your marketing job, stick it out until you generate a sensible alternative for yourself. Nobody wants to hire a diva or a baby.”

This posting is marketing-related because it describes the characteristics a marketer needs to embody in order to be successful. Harry Joiner has a lot of experience in this field, thus he can be relied upon to give good, concrete information regarding when an employer looks for in an employee in the marketing industry.

This posting informs marketing because it allows us as marketers to gain insight into the thinking of current or potential employers. Knowing the criteria against which you will be judged while applying for a job or trying to maintain a current position is extremely important. Also, it is also important to recognize that these are the characteristics which we should embody in order to be successful. This posting informs us as to where to set the bar.

I have learned a lot through this post. It was extremely interesting to learn what potential employers are looking for when hiring employees. I have read over the 5 characteristics several times, trying to determine whether or not I satisfy each of them. I think I will be more aware from now on as to how much I do fit the bill as far as Harry Joiner is concerned.

I don’t have any criticisms on this post. Dave put up the link to Jay Lithe’s write-up, so he didn’t actually write that much on his own post.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Your Employees Own Your Brand - Like It or Not!

I explored Mike Wagner’s archives a little this week and came across a posting titled, “Your Employees Own Your Brand – Like It or Not!” In this posting, Mike explores the idea of employees are brand representatives and communicating brand messaging to consumers through these employees. While the idea initially seems quite logical due to the fact that it is an organization’s employees who interact with consumers on a daily basis, however, Mike makes the assertion that “treating your employees as ambassadors for your brand is still considered a radical notion…. Perhaps the reason the employees in nearly every industry and retail store poorly represent their company is that leaders can’t get off their power trip and equip everyone to tell the story and live the brand.” He continues to hypothesize that this may in fact be the reason that so many people lack engagement in the workplace.

The element of this posting that makes it marketing related is the fact that employees are a main communicator with the customers of a business and brand communications to customers is a key part of marketing. As I previously stated, this seems like a logical concept, however, after contemplating Mike’s assertions and relating them to the employees of stores and businesses that I frequent, it has become clear that this concept is not universally applied to the level one might expect it to be, thus entering the ways that this posting informs marketing. It advocates that managers must develop the capability to relinquish control and empower their employees to participate in some of the most powerful techniques possible. Customer service is one of the most important aspects of any transaction and if a company determines a way to integrate their brand messaging into this interaction then it is likely, in my opinion, that the bond between the customer and the brand will strengthen and increased customer loyalty will be fostered. In addition, I believe that marketing managers must apply this concept to their hiring and training policies and ensure they are hiring people who properly display their brand image and have the skills necessary to communicate this properly to customers. Marketing managers must give up the idea that they have all the tools necessary to properly communicate a brand message and transfer some of this power to the face of the brand: the employees.

This posting improves my understanding of marketing by reinterrating the fact that sometimes the most logical and obvious marketing strategies are overlooked. It also got me thinking as to what companies I feel engage this theory and which have still not caught on to the power of their employees customer interactions. An example I came up with as a company who actively participates in this practice is Abercrombie and Fitch. Abercrombie goes through a great deal of trouble to ensure that the employees hired portray a specific image: attractive and cool, the message that they emulate as a brand. By hiring attractive employees (however shallow this may be) Abercrombie is actively stimulating their customers by presenting them with in your face advertisements of attractive people wearing Abercrombie clothes, an image that most Abercrombie customers are likely seeking.

As far as a critique for this posting, Mike provides a link to an article on how to create engaged employees, however, you have to pay to view it. I want to read it but, I won’t lie, most college kids aren’t willing to shell out $6 for an article download (then again, by assuming I’m the target market I’m making a mistake… so maybe this will be effective for Mike’s intended audience.) I also wish that Mike would have expanded a little more in terms of his own opinion. I would have loved to read more about what his experience in the industry says about this topic and ways he has tried to overcome it.

Negative Word of Mouth Hurts Retailers

Although my blog, Emergence Marketing, is about innovation and technology impacting marketing, there seems to be a lot of posts about word of mouth (WOM) as well. The most recent one is entitled “Negative word of mouth hurts retailers.” The posting comments on the ever-controversial topic of WOM marketing by noting a new study that found that of those shoppers who experienced problems with a retailer, only 6% contacted the company. However, the 31% of the unsatisfied customers went on to tell friends and family, showing the immense impact spreading of negative WOM. The study also revealed that out of 100 dissatisfied customers, a retailer stands to lose between 32 and 36 current or potential customers. The blog posting notes that this study breaks the “old rule of thumb” that companies usually only hear from 1 out of 10 dissatisfied customers.

Overall, the study illustrates the impact of negative WOM, which is amplified through story-telling; for every reason that WOM is powerful for a company to harness in a positive light, it is equally as destructive when negative stories are spread. A quote from the study showed the importance of being aware of this impact: “the complaints have an even greater impact on shoppers who were not directly involved as the story spreads and is embellished. Almost half of those surveyed, 48%, reported they have avoided a store in the past because of someone else’s negative experience.”

This story informs marketing because it combines issues of customer service and WOM While it is important to spread the “positive” aspects of your brand through WOM, it is also equally, if not more important, to remember that you have to keep your current customers happy while trying to acquire new customers. As most marketers know, it costs a lot more to acquire new customers than keep your current customers satisfied. Furthermore, this study reveals that word of mouth efforts may be wasted completely if “prospects” have already been reached by a friend that had a negative experience with your brand. If you have superior customer service that has developed a strong loyal customer base, then WOM marketing efforts will not have to drain resources and time since those loyal customers will hopefully already be sharing their positive experience with others.

This posting improves my knowledge of marketing because it illustrated that marketing decisions are often ruled by physics: for every action in marketing decision making, customers have an equal reaction. This revelation shows the importance of getting a marketing decision “right” the first time so that customers react positively. It also prompted me to find out exactly how the Word of Mouth Marketing Association defines word of mouth marketing. They offer the following:

Word of mouth: the act of consumers providing information to other consumers.
Word of mouth marketing: giving people a reason to talk about your products and services, and making it easier for that conversation to take place.

In other words, WOM is already happening in the marketplace, while WOM marketing is companies harnessing benefits within this phenomenon and using it to their advantage. The Word of Mouth Marketing Association distinguishes the fact that companies are not creating WOM, but apply it with marketing objectives through encouragement and facilitation.
I understand the benefits of WOM and why it is attractive for companies to integrate into marketing plans. At the same time, customer service to current customers cannot be forgotten.
As I continued to read WOMMA’s explanation of WOM marketing, the lines between WOM and customer service became even more blurred as it comments, “companies can word hard to make people happier, they can listen to consumers, they can make it easier for them to tell their friends, and they can make certain that influential individuals know about he good qualities of a product or service.” From what I can tell, if you have developed your brand well in other marketing aspects, the positive WOM piece should seem to fall into place.

Overall, I feel that this blog posting does an excellent job of showing the negative side of WOM generated by consumers. Marketing often focuses so much on promoting a brand or product that these types of consequences are forgotten. Providing examples of companies that have suffered from this problem would have been effective. Also, the topics of consumer-generated media can also be tied in here, since tools such as blogs and podcasts now serve as a way for consumers to spread both positive and negative stories about companies.

For Shame? Henderson Advertising 1946-2006

Based on postings from the BrandBuilder blog by Olivier Blanchard

Two of Blanchard’s recent posts have dealt with significant news this week in the Advertising world: the fall of Henderson Advertising of Greenville, SC. On Monday, April 3rd, Henderson closed its doors, liquidated its assets, put its employees out of work and left its clients wondering what to do with their business. This once great agency was the first outside New York and Chicago to be named “Agency of the Year” by Advertising Age magazine. In this posting Blanchard speculates on why Anderson failed after 60 years of greatness.

Basically, Blanchard believes that the ‘big agency model’ is the reason for this failure. Bigger is not better in the case of many ad agencies. Size kills agencies for the following reasons:

  • Client erosion: Large firms place distance (more layers and walls) between the agency’s core talent and its clients.
  • Bulimic’ staffing model: Agencies hire and fire en masse to match the project workload demands of clients. Clients get sub par treatment when they are paired with account executives focused on holding their jobs instead of providing the best possible services.
  • Decreased relevance: The ‘bulimic’ staffing above devalues an agency to its client. The ‘revolving door’ staffing policy creates poor agency-client relationships, and eventually the client begins to spend their dollars in other areas, failing to see the importance of the agency.

Henderson is the only the first of many casualties anticipated over the next decade of the ‘big agency’ model for all of these reasons.

This posting is marketing-related because it discusses the future of advertising agencies. Blanchard says it well with, “Advertising is changing, and by this, I don’t mean the medium itself. What I’m talking about is the Advertising infrastructure. The framework of the industry.” He discusses why the ‘big agency’ model is failing and alerts agencies to this change.

Blanchard’s article informs marketing in that it articulates the specific reasons for the failure of these agencies. By discussing the issues that have developed Blanchard urges agencies to reflect on their own practices and clients. This posting is a warning to all agencies that says “Change or Fail.” Additionally, he gives agencies perspective on the issues from the client side as he has experienced them in his career. He shows agencies specific reasons why their clients are dissatisfied and attributes it to something measurable that can be altered to fix these problems. Essentially, he gives agencies a warning and a few tools to consider using (decreasing size and turnover of workforce and increasing quality) in fixing the problems that could lead to their demise if ignored.

This article has serious relevance to me. I am currently interning at a large advertising agency and will most likely be staying in the field upon graduation. The agency has a few glaring client relation issues. These problems were so apparent that I chose to explore them further in a paper for one of my classes in which I am trying to determine the roots of these problems and come up with possible useful solutions. This posting does exactly that and I will add it to my research.

Also, Blanchard’s article adds another dimension to the criteria that I will use to evaluate a potential agency employer when searching for work in the next year. While salary and company culture are important to a job, they are no good if the agency doesn’t exist in five or ten years. Looking out for the ‘big agency’ model and the problems that are associated with it could be a good indicator of job security and is something I will definitely consider when finding work.

A critique on this article: It would be useful to include more examples of agencies that are in similar situations as Henderson Advertising. I see these issues first hand at my internship and do strongly believe that they are accurate and do exist. The article would be even more verifiable if examples were added. I do think I read that such examples would be explored in postings over the next few weeks. If this is the case, I definitely look forward to reading them.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fast Talkers

In Kathy sierra’s blog posting “When Only the Glib Win We All lose” she discusses the idea that the first people to respond to a problem with an idea that sounds half-way intelligent are considered more credible and their ideas are taken to heart much more readily than the man/woman that may have a really good idea or point to make but cannot articulate it on the spot. She says that living in the “world of quick” we choose the instant over the slower better contemplated idea. She makes the point of explaining, "lots of people can be thoughtful, right, and quick to articulate. Just because someone can think and speak fast on their feet doesn't necessarily mean they're automatically wrong. The problem is that too often they're assumed to be automatically right."

She says there are two ways to combat this problem (which potentially can be very harmful to businesses): the first is to attack the quick culture, and the second is to make the people who often need more time to formulate their ideas better at thinking on their feet. Some ways to accomplish the latter are by:

1. Memorizing the phrase “I have some concerns, but I need a little time before I can really articulate them” and use it.
2. Compare the situation to things you have experienced in the past so that you do not need to do as much research.
3. Use “rubberducking” (i.e. talk to anyone or anything that will help you better articulate you ideas so you are practiced for when the time comes).
4. Look for a devil’s advocate who can help explain where your ideas fall short and need more work.
5. Take an improve class.
This is related to marketing because it is sort of a symbol for companies and marketing. In this case the management of the corporation is the consumer and the employees are the advertisements. Therefore, the “fast talkers” here are the advertisements that try to play on stylish rapid style advertising, whereas the others are the ones that are slower, make you analyze the brand or the product, and ultimately result in a better purchase decision for the most part. For example, if someone is looking to buy a blow drier, they may see a flashy commercial for one where the person using it is a celebrity that achieves an amazing hair style, and the consumer might go right out and buy it. However, if they stay in the potential buyer market a little longer they may discover that there is blow drier that has more power, a retractable cord, a gripy handle, and a lower price. This is the same idea as the fast talking employee that gets heard first and gets priority even when they may not have the best idea.

This post informed my idea of marketing because it made me think about the way I interview. When I go on an interview, one thing potential employees always stress is the necessity to think on one’s feet in order to do the job successfully. In fact, the entire interview is a test of this. Therein lays my critique of this post also. Employers, bosses, superiors, and what have you, almost always seek out candidates that have this very skill that Kathy Sierra refutes. The goal in trying to get a job or a promotion is to answer questions rapidly with confidence and flowery sophistication. Therefore, it seems that this idea can never really be changed because in order to even play the game one has to be fairly gifted when it comes to glib. Therefore, it seems (and I think Kathy Sierra begins to hint at this) that the idea of glib will never really be eliminated, it will only be improved. Glib will become less about insincerity and superficiality, but rather about offhanded ease and fluidity.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

gmc envoy's ad campaign goes bust or does it?

here's one journalist's interpretation of the gmc envoy story i mentioned in class today. do you agree or disagree with his stance?

$750 Million Not Enough for FaceBook Founder

According to a post on Marketing Shift made by Evan Roberts, Google might be ready to purchase FaceBook. The college (and now high school) centered website was started only two years ago by a Harvard sophomore dropout named Mark Zuckerburg. The current offer on the table is $750 Million but Zuckerburg and the venture capitalists that initially backed his operation claim that they are holding out for $2 billion. Media conglomerate Viacom has apparently entered the bidding for FaceBook as well, to counter News Corp.’s acquisition of MySpace for a reported $580 Million.

FaceBook is a website where users can post their picture and a profile and expand their social network on their own campus and to friends across the country. People can send messages, store photos and ‘poke’ each other on the site. Is this another case of a classically overvalued website or the perfect medium with which to target the elusive college student demographic? There are arguments for both points.

I’ll start with the positive argument. FaceBook is already the seventh most trafficked website on the internet with 5.5 billion page views in the month on February alone, more than, according to Business Week. has recently indicated that 85% of college students have a profile on FaceBook. MySpace is the second most viewed website on the entire internet with 23.5 billion page views this February and FaceBook hopes to follow in those footsteps. Like MySpace, FaceBook is a hotbed of trends for the younger demographics. On both of these sites, people post or blog about their interests, favorite products, movies and books.

There are three types of advertising that are common on FaceBook. An article from the Roanoke Times names sponsored groups, which allow people to discuss products they are interested in, banner ads and text announcements. Prices range from as low as $9 per day for a text announcement to the high four or five figures for a comprehensive campaign for banner ads and sponsor groups. "[Advertisers] come to us because we have become the site or the conduit to reach the college audience," contends Chris Hughes, a FaceBook spokesman.

Those who doubt the value of FaceBook point to several factors. One contention is how appealing the college student demographic actually is. John Gartner of Marketing Shift said in an earlier post, “Can you imagine walking into a VC and saying, ‘I have an audience that is largely unemployed or making minimum wage, switches loyalties from month to month, can't legally drink, and will leave us in five years or less.’”

Another downside is that the college and high school student demographic is increasingly adept at putting up perceptual screens and blocking marketing communications. The success of marketing on these sites is hard to quantify which is the same problem that has always existed with mass media. How many people actually see the advertisements on the page they are viewing? How many people process the information? I am on FaceBook and I am not a member of a sponsored group, can’t recall a single brand that I have seen advertised on a banner ad, nor have I ever responded to a text announcement.

According to Brent Brandow, another author on Marketing Shift, six advertising executives were brought together for a panel hosted by the Advertising Research Foundation and the topic of advertising on MySpace was brought up. The reaction was less than enthusiastic. "I wouldn't be caught dead in that kind of environment. You only have to look around for five or ten minutes to find something offensive" explained David Cohen, executive vice president for Universal McCann Interactive. Dawn Hudson, the President and CEO of Pepsi North America added, "We're being cautious because there's a blurring between advertising and content, and the content does rub off on your brand." Granted, these are the leaders of massive business entities that have much to risk in terms of public relations and do not represent all companies. The jury is still out, but reports have it that Google has recently sold off approximately $2 billion dollars in shares.

In my opinion, the concept of FaceBook as a $2 Billion dollar entity does not sit well with me. From a somewhat traditional marketing standpoint of exposure and reach it makes sense. However, without any concrete evidence to support my theory, I think that people my age just don't respond that well to internet advertising. With television and radio broadcasts, the images and/or sounds are forced upon you, while on the internet it is much easier to block those communications via perceptual screens. My prediction is that it is only a matter of time before advertisers realize this and no longer support FaceBook's need for revenue generation. FaceBook is not the panacea for contemporary youth marketing. They need to supplant ad income with an membership fee or find new ways to link companies with members of the sites without impinging on people's online comfort zones.

"What Have We Been Talking About?

taken from Olivier Blanchard of the brandbuilder blog

In this posting Blanchard discusses Mercedes recent failure as a luxury car brand, falling to 21 on the JD Power Satisfaction Survey. He references Francois Gossieaux’s posting on a terrible purchase experience of a Mercedes E320. After spending a good amount of money on the car, it progressively broke down and fell apart over the next five years. Gossieaux became more enraged when shoddy service from Mercedes dealerships in the area was provided to him. The car finally blew up on the highway due to a hole in the engine and an antifreeze leak. Gossieaux was given the run-around by contacts at Mercedes headquarters. Ultimately he was angry at the company for violating its implied brand promise of quality, luxury and service, stating “Mercedes customers are stupid…for being motivated by emotions instead of economics.”

Blanchard comments on Gossieaux’s experience from a brand promise standpoint. He writes that “as a company you either deliver on this promise or you get the boot from your customers, plain and simple.” Part of Mercedes’ promise was a purchase experience in which “you expect to feel like you are receiving VIP treatment by a dealership’s sales and service staff.” Although Mercedes’ failed on many levels (namely providing a junk product), it was this most critical service level that they “dropped the ball” on. He goes further to say “the Mercedes’ experience (and yes it begins when you first drive up to the dealership) should be on a whole different level than that of other, more budget-friendly brands.”

This article is marketing related as it discusses the consequences of failing to deliver on a brand promise. If a brand promise is created, consumer expectations for that company are raised as a result of the higher premium that product is able to fetch at market. It is also interesting to note how many second chances Gossieaux was willing to give the company. It is significant that he spent thousands of dollars on repairs to the car in a five year period instead of simply dumping it after his first bad experience. Blanchard and Gossieaux’s postings show the direct consequences of providing product and services that do not meet the expectations of the customer.

This article informs marketing with its establishment of a relationship between brand promise and service. We have often talked about the relationship between brand promise and product quality. This article takes this idea further and instructs marketers that brand promise, quality and service must all be aligned. This may seem like a subtle difference, but can be easily overlooked by companies, as it was by Mercedes-Benz. If a brand is associated with luxury, it is not enough to provide a luxury product. The customer expects luxury service as well and it is not enough to provide one without the other. Gossieaux seem most enraged and dissatisfied when he was consistently given poor service from dealership after dealership and was then brushed off by the corporate office.

The flip side is also true, although it is desirable to provide all customers with good service, customers purchasing a brand that does not promise such high ‘superquality’ will not be expected to provide ‘superquality’ of service. It is important for marketers to be sensitive to where their products fall on the ‘brand promise continuum’ so they can provide service that matches that level to retain a satisfied customer base.

This article improved my understanding of marketing by explicitly adding service to the brand promise-quality equation. It also seemed significant to me that consumers are willing to give second chances to the company, apparent in Gossieaux’s account. Despite the extremely poor, even dangerous, quality of the car Gossieaux still gave the company a sliver of slack, still wanting to believe that “this was just a bad movie and that nobody at Mercedes corporation would want anyone to perceive their brand this way” after fighting with the company over the hole in the car’s engine. He gave the company multiple chances to redeem itself, and instead was increasingly dissatisfied after every interaction with the firm. It seems to me that Mercedes seriously missed the boat by constantly excluding service (among other things) from their equation, especially because their promise is associated with ‘superquality.’

More of a comment than a critique: it would be interesting to see how Gossieaux would have reacted if the product was well made and it was only the service that was poor. This would be a true test of the importance of aligning brand promise, product quality and service and would display a more accurate measurement of the importance of service in the brand-quality-service equation. Otherwise, Blanchard’s posting is well done and informative and uses Gossieaux’s example to effectively illustrate his point.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Is McDonalds Betraying Its Brand?

OK, I have officially changed my blog to Michael Wagner’s blog, “Own Your Brand: Everything About What it Takes to be a Brand Owner.” Frankly, I find his postings more relevant and more interesting than Michelle Miller’s blog (although I did just watch her video and like her a lot more since I watched her video on her blog) and it also doesn’t hurt to blog on someone who comments and requires me to think a little extra before I go and post! So, Michelle, please forgive me and Mike, you’re my new pick!

Mike’s most recent posting is titled “I Want Large Fries with My Fruit Buzz” and details McDonald’s new strategy of appealing to women through the creation and promotion of fruit, salads, etc. Mike then goes on to challenge this decision, calling out McDonalds on its decision to “lose their ‘difference’ ” and “ ‘forsake originality’ for ‘the latest political agenda’.” He promotes the idea to brand owners to think twice before making any changes to the brand image that has brought them success and has differentiated them in the past. People started going to McDonalds in the first place to bite into a juicy hamburger on the go, not munch on a crunchy salad to lose weight.

The aspect of this blog that relates it to marketing is the message that it sends to brand owners and its discussion of brand identity. In regards to informing marketing, this blog posting contains a good deal of “food for thought” (no pun intended) and the effect that changes in a brand’s messaging could potentially have on the success of that brand. Mike encourages brand owners to not “mess with, or in any way change what has historically made you different or relevant in the minds of your customers.” This touches on factors of brand loyalty and the emotions and connotations that one associates with a brand upon building loyalty. The farther a brand strays from the image its customers associate with the brand, the higher the risk of losing that customer and decreasing overall brand loyalty. This is an important point and assessment that every marketer should fully evaluate before making a change in messaging. Determining the level to which such a change affects the image of the brand and the emotions that customers associate and connect with the brand could represent a big differece in a company's overall customer loyalty and retention.

When I began to evaluate the level to which this blog improved my understanding of marketing, I actually found myself more confused on this topic after reading Mike’s posting (no fault on Mike’s part, simply due to varying class discussions we have had on this topic). While I fully understand and find his points compelling and applicable, I find myself confused as to where the line should be drawn between evolving with the consumer and sticking to your brand image and strategy. On one hand, I can see how deferring from McDonalds original and intended strategy to provide “finger lick’n McNuggets dunked into dipp’n sauce” would cause some people to lose faith in the brand and feel McDonalds is being untrue to itself. On the other hand, weight consciousness is a huge issue in today’s society and those in the fast food business who do not develop alternate menu possibilities for those looking to lead a healthy and still on the go lifestyle are missing out on a huge market opportunity. Hence my original question as to where the line should be drawn. When does a move to appeal to a new market cross into the territory of betraying brand identity? (I think all these weeks of writing essay questions for homework is finally getting to me…).

As far as a critique on this blog posting goes, I would have loved to read Mike’s thoughts on the opposite side of this argument (somewhere along the line of the question posed above) and see him negate the idea that there is a potential for new market capture by offering these healthy menu items. I feel it would have strengthened his argument and provided a more well rounded presentation of his argument.

Can you give the gift of Experience?

In one of Katherine Stone’s previous posts she talked about the gifting experience. Each gifting experience is a ritual in which marketing theories come into play. Not only that, but the idea of giving a person an actual experience as the gift is something that is becoming more and more popular. As people begin to have more active lives, they enjoy being able to give and receive gifts that are active. Some such gifts can include going hiking in a park, white water rafting, going to various sporting events, or giving someone a gift certificate to a travel company. People are giving their friends and family trips to go wine tasting and to similar experiences. This type of gift allows the recipient to enjoy an experience that they otherwise may not have been able to have. The amount of “stuff” a person can have is limited. There are only so many sweaters or purses or picture frames that a person needs. After that limit the excess is just that, excessive. The item does not hold as special of a place in the eyes of the recipient because it is just like all the other “stuff” that is already making their houses or apartments burst at the seams. Katherine Stone’s own husband gave Katherine the experience of going to New York City, seeing the Rockettes, going to the theater production of Spamalot, and enjoying food at various restaurants in the area for her birthday.
This article informs marketing because it discusses additional gifting experiences besides simply products. In a time of over consumption in American culture, it is important for companies to think of what type of experience they are offering their consumers. Those experiences will be the way that companies can market their product or service in order to increase sales. Marketers must think beyond the physical product or service that they offer and think of the experience that consumers are receiving or wishing to receive.
Katherine Stone’s blog posting informed my understanding of marketing in a couple different manners. First of all, the idea of gifting experience to a person is extremely important in the world of retail. In my internship in Retail Marketing I must understand that we are not just selling children’s shoes but rather we are selling an experience in which the parents of the children feel that they have received the best possible product for their child. In addition, the parents of the children must be able to actually shop. Therefore, while in the retail environment the children must be entertained and have a good time in order to allow the parents to actually shop.
The blog was very well written as all of Katherine Stone’s typically are. However, it would have been extremely helpful if Stone could have gone into some of the ways that companies can market their experiences that the consumer receives. Stone went into some examples of how companies are gifting experiences, such as dancing with the Rockettes, wine tasting, or learning to belly dance. The blog is not as helpful to companies that already have an experience that consumers would be interested in but there is no marketing support in order to inform the consumers about the experience opportunity.