Archive for October 2005

“Attack of the Blogs”

Oh my god. They really don’t get it, do they?

Attack of the Blogs writes Forbes and proved just by this, that they don’t understand a thing about the new media landscape.

“Some of these bloggers have just one goal, and that is to do damage. It’s evil,” [...] Suddenly they are the ultimate vehicle for brand-bashing, personal attacks, political extremism and smear campaigns. [...] Bloggers are more of a threat than people realize, and they are only going to get more toxic. This is the new reality

The new reality is: the consumer has found a way of more effectively voicing their opinion outside of the artificial settings of “marketing research”. Shame on us for stating our opinions, how could we?

A Kryptonite lock is faulty, bloggers blog about it. So who is evil, the bloggers?
Neil French discriminates women, bloggers blog about it. Then, Neil says it was “Death by Blog. No, Sir. If you say such things, then you’ve committed suicide. The damage was already done. Bloggers are just commenting that foolish suicide attempt.

Blogs only enable people to reach more people for a simple thing that has always been done: word-of-mouth.

And don’t forget: people also start blogs just to praise their favourite brand! Is that evil?

Some companies now use blogs as a weapon, unleashing swarms of critics on their rivals. “I’d say 50% to 60% of attacks are sponsored by competitors,”

Now that might well be, but with 20 million blogs out there, individual blogs can only start a damage, if they achieve a viral spread of whatever they’re complaining about. And things only spread, if people believe in the message (because they agree, or because the message sounds believable).

The new reality is greater transparency, as word-of-mouth messages spread faster than they did the previous 2000+ years. If companies can’t cope with this increased transparency, it should make you think.

May be Forbes should start reading their competitors magazines. Two articles on the importance of blogs are at Businessweek and Fortune.

(via Micropersuasion and Jaffe Juice)

Google wants to start serious media planning/reselling including TV

The New York Post writes about Google aiming at more share of the offline mediaplanning cake.

Google, already dabbling in print ads, recently confirmed that it’s “mulling” ways to extend its ad-brokering system to television spots as well.
If Google succeeds, it would mark a major turning point for an industry that has rebuffed other attempts at creating new ways to buy and sell TV ad time.

But some are dubious about this:

“Most sellers don’t want to put their inventory in someone else’s control,”

Also, many doubt that TV ads can be planned by computer models. And considering the fact that after having bought TV placements, there is a lot of post-booking stockmarket like haggling going on, whenever shows seem to fail or succeed, I also doubt this can be done by computers.

According to the article, Enron already unsuccessfully tried this kind of gig in 2001, though not being able to attract any of the major networks or media firms.

Remaining interesting, though, is Googles attempts of trying to start business units in market segments that would at first seem untypical for their known business operation.

Some open source critique

Over at the Maneuver Marketing Communique, there is some strong criticism against the idea of open source marketing. (I actually found this through the response of James Cherkoff)
Now while I am also not sure, if we need a new buzzword, such as “listenomics” as Bob Garfield called it, and some of the arguments of vSente are not bad at all, I still think they miss the point:

Open Source Marketing will never get off the starting line because the vast majority of consumers simply DO NOT WANT TO PARTICIPATE. The vast majority will not draw pictures, create blogs, read blogs, engage in conversations, establish a relationship, join a network, offer advice or file complaints for the several thousand different products and services [...] What most consumers want as a base line are products and services that are fairly priced, honestly presented and easy to get. Beyond that consumers want to be wowed, dazzled, impressed and entertained…

Now that is disappointing and almost insulting. Not necessarily to the vast majority mentioned, but open source marketing (or open source advertising, ) is never intended for the great masses of indifferentially buying consumers (at least I wouldn’t think so). That’s why we’ll allways need “classical” push advertising, whatever that might entail, in the context of greater consumer control over media consumption.

Taking the good old 80/20 rule in to consideration, you will find that the top segment of customers actually want to be very much involved with your brand.
They might actually produce ads (without having been asked to), they might start blogs about their favourite brand, and the most ambitious advocates will even go through the effort of making short clips.
And many of those who don’t, will still be very much involved with the brand and happily enjoy the consumer generated ads, if not for the feel of closeness and relevance. The perception of “I could” is enough for quite a few to feel engaged.

Now of course, this alone doesn’t necessarily sell individual products. But then again, did any brand image advertising ever seriously intend to do that?

Going beyond the arguments above: We need to differentiate between promotional and brand advertising. Nowadays the disctinction might be minimal, because companies most often try to do both at the same time. Nevertheless, brand advertising is about long term ties with the customer base, as well as connecting with the prospect base. Promotional advertising is about short term sales to either target group.

This differentiation is important, because establishing a close tie or bond with your top 20%, the fans, the advocates, doesn’t only result in (long term) revenues with these few people. They will also go on and tell the average 7 people about why they buy your brand. (This will, of course, also happen with short term offers. But only for the time the offer lasts.)
All of a sudden, brand image advertising is a trigger for word-of-mouth, and the reach of any successful brand advertising is much greater than measurable in commonly applied ad metrics.

So back to the point whether open source marketing makes sense or not: These days, when consumers have greater control over media consumption (and, increasingly, their production – think podcasts, videos and vidcasts, blogs), there is an increasing tendency to exert this control or even take part in the production.

My assumption is, that the more people can take part in the overall communication about anything, they will do so, starting with what’s most relevant and interesting for them (of course). For our case, it’s the brands that they might choose to communicate about – and WITH.

We need to make sure, that the small but loyal and advocating group of brand fans can take part in shaping, and communicating with, “their” brands. Be it through creating ads, or even taking part in how the products/services are designed and offered.
As the level of the individual’s involvement in today’s communication about any topic is increasing, companies should make sure, that their favourite brand is ready for the conversation.

The Cluetrain Manifesto says: “Markets are conversations”. It doesn’t say Markets are Speeches (not even those based on “listening” research).

Heineken UK Quits TV

Random Culture writes Heineken UK Quits TV, in order to invest more in POS marketing. All because the clutter on TV is increasing, and Sky Plus, enabling viewers to skip ads, is on it’s way in the UK (writes Times Online)
And Random Culture wonders:

Umm, wow… did anyone tell them about this whole Internet thing? Most people seem to be taking money away from TV and putting it online. This move by Heineken UK seems to be a move in the opposite direction.

Though I also happily write about companies putting their TV and Print budgets online, I don’t think it’s a logical step to put it there. Quite often, other channels might have the same or even more impact. May be POS can increase sales much more than any online campaign? (I’m sure Heineken has done their homework.)

In addition, they will remain on TV during sport events, when they sponsor short �break bumpers�, as they call it.
The question arises whether the brand image can be sustained through these marketing activities.

Offer DIY and the possibility to tell friends…

Just found a good article on Newsweek via Adland, talking about viral marketing and the continuing rise of online advertising formats vs other media.

Firstly, it lists some results about something I blogged about before. The trailer crashers website is a huge success. over 200,000 trailers have been created, and while the official trailer was only watched 1 million times, the crashed trailers were watched 3.3m times – because people sent them on to their friends.

So the conclusion for a successful ad format is most likely: A little bit of DIY and the possibility to spread it amongst friends.

But they also say, that online sweepstakes are a growing success:

With online advertising so ubiquitous, it takes more than a clever idea to get consumers’ attention. Increasingly, they want to get something in return for their time. Hence, the boom in online and mobile media contests and sweepstakes which are incorporated into various ad categories from streaming video to Web site banners. It’s hard to find a product that doesn’t offer a chance to win something on the Web—a car, a trip to the Superbowl or an electronic gadget. [...] “In advertising now there has to be a value exchange—if you want the consumer to sit through a product demo or take a test drive, there has to be something in it for them.”

As users tend to spend up to 5 minutes in front of an online promotion, often even returning several times to that site, the budget allocation will most likely shift, according to this article. Some 40bln will be shifted from TV to new media formats:

“A 30-second (TV) spot used to be enough to sell your product,” explains Linkner. “Now, your 30-second spot drives a five-minute Web experience.”

Now, in Germany, we’re not quite there yet. But there are examples coming along. As a very much Internet minded brand, Mini is now asking users to send in their own video clips in order to win a Mini. Sortof like Converse and Coors did (see here).
DIY clips (plus telling your friends about it). Should be a success, at least I hope so. Because then more companies might try that in Germany.

Splogs cluttering the blogosphere and the web.

First, Google did great things in helping everyone find relevant information on the web. Now it is one of those helping to add clutter. The blog-provider blogger.com, acquired by Google some time ago, is one of those blogservices enabling splogs. Within the across the Sound Podcast, Steve Rubel also mentions this upcoming problem. There is a couple of stories about this, here, here and here.

The move was designed to doctor search results and boost traffic to those sites by fooling the search-engine spiders that crawl the Web looking for commonly linked-to destinations.

Email spam is bad, as it clogs up user’s email box and make it difficult for marketers to send even permission based emails, as these might not be opened either.

Splogs don’t affect users directly (apart from those subscribed to certain RSS feeds). But it can have a large negative impact on the blogosphere (and consumer generated media, as Steve puts it), as well as information access. As the quote above says, it’s about fooling searchengines and hence distorting searchengine results in the favour of the splogged (ie linked to) websites.
If a bot creates a couple of fake blogs all linking to a site for, say, Viagra, tagged with “pharmaceutical” and other tags, then this will have a high position within a search for pharmaceuticals. Even though the user will (probably) have searched for more objective information.

Technorati writes, that 2% – 8% of new weblogs are fake or spam weblogs.

So this might indeed have a direct impact for users. If good information cannot be found as easily any more because of bad information, because the search results show too many splogged sites, then the whole concept of the web as a medium for quickly finding relevant information is in danger.

So what can be done?
First option: filter blogs from search results. But this is not really what the search engines will want (remember Yahoo! integrating blogs into news search results). This would kill most consumer generated media and put the web back to where it was 5 years ago. Not to mention of the loss of valuable information that quite a few bloggers provide!
second option: make it impossible for the bots to open blogs automatically. There must be a technical solution for this, Google!!

btw, Fightsplog wants to take action, so go there an help (if you can).

Talking about consumer generated media

PSFK again points me to something. Which is, in a way, really groundbreaking.
MTV let’s users create their own MTV channel. Including their own clips and content. Now that’s real consumer generated media. This time push-broadcasted to everyone (since it is a TV channel).

“With today’s announcement, we are handing over an entire channel online
to college students and everyone who wants new music,” said Stephen Friedman,
GM, mtvU. “mtvU Uber gives them the power to create and program their own
channel, and will remain in perpetual beta mode as they experiment and pioneer
the digital future.”

Just wonder if the advertising will reflect that? Will they show only ads produced by the consumers, like they have at Converse?

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