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Tivo did not kill TV. Anyone surprised?

Tivo did not kill TV. Anyone surprised?

I am a big sports fan, but the one thing I have never been able to watch are pre-game shows. They always struck me as such a monumental waste of time in crystal ball gazing and trenchant insights such as,  “If this happens, then this will happen…but, we still need to watch out for THAT, because it will change the course of THIS, meaning everything I just said might go the other way.” Really? Well, good thing we have a panel of “experts.”

The pre-game show is the high water mark in hedging. Why? Because what makes the future the future is that no one can predict it. (I know, I know. You needed me to tell you that.) Sure, you can make  educated guesses based on experience- the Detroit Lions will probably lose this Sunday. Miami will be hot in July. The coupon for the free quart of ice cream will expire before I remember to use it.

But in most other things, predictions are way off. Here’s another great example.

When the DVR, or Tivo, hit the market, there was all sorts of hand wringing among network executives and advertisers that it was going to kill television. If you give people the chance to skip past the commercials, the thinking went, of course they will.

Well, folks, a July blizzard just hit Miami. According to Nielsen, 46% of viewers 18-49 for all four major broadcast networks are watching the commercials during playback. And that number is up a bit from 2008. Why? Because watching TV is the epitome of a passive activity. The habit ingrained in all of us since youth of plopping down on the couch and letting it wash over us is, apparently, a tough one to break.

“It’s completely counter-intuitive,” observed Alan Wurtzel, the president of research for NBC. Now THERE’S a good observation.

All I can say is, research like this puts the kibosh on all the rosy predictions of interactive TV. Viewers choosing the direction of a show from among several different endings? Nah. Clicking on the screen to buy the shirt that Oprah has on? Mmmm…not so much. We all just sit down, watch, and leave it to the programmers to tell us what we want. The other way is just too much work.

The Lions just won the Super Bowl.

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Who uses social networks anyway?

Who uses social networks anyway?

Anderson Analytics has recently confirmed what many of us already knew about the most popular social networks out there, namely facebook, MySpace, twitter and LinkedIn. For marketers looking for good demographic and psychographic information about buying habits and areas of interest broken down by which social network they use, there is some good stuff here.

110 million Americans, which represents about 60% of the total online population, use social networks. That number might be low as the study only counted people who used a social network in the past month. The average social networker spends a LOT of time on them: 5 days a week, 4 times a day for at least an hour each day. 9% stay logged in all day keeping tabs on what’s new.

For brands considering a facebook page or twitter presence, 52% of users had friended or become a fan of a brand, illustrating that people are receptive to this type of engagement. Not surprisingly, 45% say they link only to family and friends, and another 18% saying they will only link to people they had met in person.

A quick breakdown by service:

facebook:

  • 77 million users
  • 40% married
  • 80% white
  • Average income $61,000
  • Average number of connections: 121

facebook showed a tremendous level of loyalty with 75% of users saying it was their favorite site and another 59% saying that had increased their use of the site in the past 6 months.

twitter:

  • Interests skew more towards news, restaurants, sports, politics, personal finance and religion.
  • More likely to use twitter to promote their blogs or their businesses
  • Average income $58,000
  • Average number of followers: 28; average number they follow: 32
  • 43% said they could live without twitter

MySpace:

  • Young, fun, but disappearing. Most said they had used the site much less in the last 6 months.
  • 67 million active uses (nothing to sneeze at)
  • Most joined for fun and are into humor, comedy and video games
  • Not big on exercising but, unexpectedly, they seek out parenting advice more than any other group.
  • Average income: $44,000
  • More likely to be black or hispanic, and 60% are single
  • 23% are students

LinkedIn:

Surprising no one, LinkedIn is all about business. Hey, that’s what it’s there for, right? It’s also the only service that skews more male than female (57%-43%).

  • Average income: $89,000
  • Interests skew towards news, employment info, sports and politics
  • More likely to to be into going to the gym, spas, yoga, golf and tennis
  • They are also into gadgets, although not too much gaming. Digital cameras, High-def TVs, DVRs and Blu-ray players. (So THEY’RE the 16 people who have bought a Blu-ray!)
  • They unwind by gambling online and, wait for it…., going online for soap opera content. (OK, I have NO idea what the significance of that is.)

The full report is supposed to be out now, so check their site for more details.

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iPhone 3GS and online video

iPhone 3GS and online video

Shortly after the iPhone was released a couple of years ago, in very short order it became the number one camera that people were using to upload photos to Flickr. What Apple figured out a long time ago is how to make the overall user experience a simple, intuitive and fun one.

The new iPhone 3GS now shoots and uploads video with just a couple of clicks. The result? YouTube reported that in the six days after the 3GS release, video uploads to the site increased by 400%.  But think about the potential if the phone had been widely available in Iran? What about for retailers who want to post quick updates about new shipments into their stores?

Video is still the most effective way to tell your story and the usage numbers continue to grow. We recently began the deployment of a series of videos for one of our clients and decided to use their facebook fan page as well as 6 or 7 different video sites including YouTube, Vimeo, Dailymotion, Metacafe, Yahoo and Blip. The lesson being you never know where people might be searching for information about your product or service, but you need to research the different methods of reaching them. YouTube is clearly the 800-pound gorilla, but it is important to reach people wherever they might be.

Technology continues to make this easier and easier.

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AT&T uses twitter for customer service. Do you?

AT&T uses twitter for customer service. Do you?

When larger companies contemplate a social media strategy, there are tons of challenges. Social media, by definition, implies a conversation and it’s easier to maintain a conversation with a few hundred or maybe even a thousand engaged partners. When you start to get up into the millions, the challenges multiply.

All of us have felt angry and powerless against a faceless cable company, appliance manufacturer, phone company or computer company. Customer service is the difference maker in closing the sale and maintaining relationships, but so many companies fall down in that area, too. We have all found ourselves speaking to a drone who was reading a script and offering vague promises that you both knew were not going to be met.

As I consult with small and medium sized companies and help them plan their social media strategy, one of the things I like to remind them is that they better hope that people are talking about them. They might be saying nice things or bad things, but you hope they’re talking. So many fear that people will say bad things about them. Here’s the reality: when people are not talking about you AT ALL, THAT’S when you have a real problem. But I digress…

The power of free social media tools like facebook and twitter or paid monitoring services like Radian6 or DNA13 is that now you have the opportunity to hear and participate in those conversations and engage and connect. You can make an enthusiast into a brand ambassador or maybe even assuage an unhappy customer. Sometimes you will lose a customer, despite your best efforts. But isn’t it better to have had the chance to at least HEAR what that unhappy customer had to say and take a shot at bringing them back to the fold?

I had a huge problem this week with AT&T and I got, frankly, what I would call despicable customer service from them. It didn’t seem to bother them that my home phone was ringing in someone else’s house and his in mine.(I wonder if he took any messages?)  No one considered the privacy implications, at least they didn’t do so overtly, and they didn’t seem too put out when they told me that 4 or 5 days might go by until they fixed it. Now, I have heard all the twitter stories about “influentials” with 10 or 20,000 followers who make a big stink online and get their way. My number of followers does not stack up, but I decided to take my case to twitter court and see if justice would be served. Within 10 minutes of my first “AT&T sucks” tweet around 4pm, I got a follow from a local AT&T media relations person. That led to two phone calls from AT&T repair folks and finally two more calls from the repair tech himself down the street from my house. By 7pm, my phone was back working again. The experience reminded me of an incident that happened very early on in my professional life that made a huge impression on me.  I started out at the (once) venerable William Morris Agency in Beverly Hills and I recall  an agent sending out a company-wide e-mail asking for help getting something (I don’t recall what it was now) for an “important client.” Within minutes, the CEO of the company did a “reply all” saying, “All our clients are important clients.”

If a huge company like AT&T can get it together to reach out to a disgruntled customer, why can’t your company?

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Social Media Marketing Budgets Are Up

As I, and many others, have been predicting for some time now, the shift towards social media/social networking for marketers is continuing to gain strength, even as the economy continues its sluggish recovery. Jobs and resources are being cut across all industries, and frazzled marketers are constantly pressed to do more with less. Yet a recent survey from Forrester research confirmed that social media marketing budgets are actually UP: 53% of marketers surveyed are planning increases to their social media budgets, and 95% are bullish on SM marketing. It’s important to remember that budgets are still quite small. Some might even throw around the word “miniscule.”


The Forrester reports also warns marketers considering taking the leap to “not approach social media marketing as experimental, but to put the right roles, process and measurement capabilities in place to be effective. Remember, the most expensive cost isn’t the tools. The most expensive part are the soft costs: strategy, education, process, roles and measurement.” A social media strategy might not be cost intensive, but it is human resource intensive. Community managers and strategists are full-time roles, yet as we noted above, people are being cut everywhere.

I take this news as something of a double edged sword. Since I think of myself as a “glass half full” guy, any increase in adoption I see as a good thing. A lack of seriousness in approach or a “let’s give it a try for a few months” attitude will prove harmful both to the businesses that try it that way, as well as to the industry as a whole.

It’s worth noting that Forrester’s report is entitled “Social Media Playtime is Over.”

Is your company or organization adopting a social media strategy? What were some of the factors that sealed the decision?

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Tropicana and the power of listening

Tropicana and the power of listening

PepsiCo has been quite busy lately redesigning their logos, both for Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Sierra Mist, as well as Tropicana.
I don’t know if any of you have been following the story about how Tropicana orange juice redesigned all their packaging, and then retreated back to the successful and iconic “orange with a straw stuck in it” after a negative hue and cry from upset brand enthusiasts (otherwise known as consumers).

You can read the story here, but here is why it really resonated with me.

In the first place, I am one of those weirdos fascinated by packaging, the use and effect of color on our moods and decisions, as well as the science behind the engineering of consent. Secondly, it shows the power of consumers and their ability to (sometimes) effect change when they organize themselves both on and offline. Lastly, it has a happy ending  because the big company LISTENED and responded.

Now, I realize we’re just talking about orange juice here, but bear with me. I’m sure Tropicana spent a lot of money and time focus group-ing the logo changes and they got what they believed was actionable intelligence, as it were. But they may have underestimated that people can sometimes get really attached to a brand, sometimes in subconscious ways or ways that might not be revealed in a focus group setting. I know that I noticed the new Tropicana cartons in my supermarket and thought, “Hmmm, I wonder why they changed that? I loved the little orange with the straw.” At no time did I consider changing brands, but it did make me curious as to why, as George Carlin once observed, “They always change the stuff we like.” The other thing I noticed on the billboards around town was the heavy use of images of dads with small children. This piece of the campaign, evidently, will NOT be changing. “Hey,” I thought to myself,  “I’m a dad with small children and I like orange juice. Thumbs up!There don’t seem to be too many consumer products other than cologne, light beer or deli meats (three things I am not interested in) that overtly target us guys, so it definitely caught my attention.

In these turbulent economic times and diminishing brand loyalty, I think it says a lot about Pepsi/Tropicana that they honored the feedback. Much like the post I made recently about Intuit, it cannot hurt to listen and respond. The victory will be long.

UPDATE: This post caught the interest of the folks at Journalism.org, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Who knew people could get so exorcised over OJ? Here’s the link.

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