Friday, October 24, 2014

Change, like candy corn, is only good up to a point

In my recent post about changing your mind, I discussed how to address failure by changing your mind about what you want to achieve and then following accordingly with action.

One thing, though: too much change can do as much damage as not changing at all.

Think of it like the candy corn that we, OK I, enjoy this time of year.  A little is good.  A little more is better.  Too much is kinda gross.

Part of using change in marketing hinges on when to stop changing

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Sometimes, the only thing you can change is your mind

So, you failed.

OK, let's not be too hard on ourselves.  Instead, let's say your marketing program didn't live up to the expectations you set.  What now?

No marketing program ever improves on its own.  We all know the expression "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results," even if we really don't know who first said it.  Unfortunately, we can't change all of the elements of a marketing problem as easily as we can change, say, our socks.  After all, marketing teams have limited budgets and limited time which, in turn, mean that they may not have the wherewithal to change process, message or technology.

Sometimes, the only thing a marketer can change is her or her mind.

More often than not, however, changing one's mind will work just fine.  Here's how it works.  To make the approach more clear, I'll use the example of a consumer credit monitoring company for whom I had designed an unsuccessful program.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The How-Tos of Phone Research

In my last post, I discussed the benefits of conducting telephone research in the Internet age.  Today, I'd like to discuss how it works.  Basically, first you need to find phone numbers and then pick one of two approaches: white hat or black hat.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Reach out and research someone

Is that an extremely powerful research tool in your pocket, or are just happy to see me?

Back then, we had phone cords, and we LIKED it

We've all become so accustomed to the concept of all the world's information at our fingertips via the Internet that we can joke about wasting that power to argue with strangers and look at pictures of cats.  You want the GDP of Botswana?  Duh. $34 billion.  Ever wonder why you never see baby pigeons?  Here you go.  Why does God allow evil to exist?  Yawn.  Take your pick.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

China and Russia

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Still a "wow"

China, as is their wont, has censored the event--and its anniversary--extensively.  Meanwhile, at this very moment, Vladimir V. Putin has put forth less than zero effort to hide his country's incursion into Ukraine.

While these events sit firmly in the political sphere rather than my paltry marketing sphere, they do illustrate something about branding.  China, perhaps in some cockeyed nod to Confucianism, has employed broad censorship to enforce a kind of harmony.  They pretend that Tiananmen Square never happened, kind of like an uncle in prison.

Russia, or at least Mr. Putin, wants you to know what they're capable of.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Data's Dirty Little Secret

If you ride New York City subways, you have probably come across Poetry in Motion, a noble attempt by the MTA to deliver us from Dr. Z.  One of these missives really stuck with me:

“Out of the crooked timber of humanity, nothing entirely straight can be built.

This quote came from Immanuel Kant.  I had no idea what  Kant meant when I read "The Critique of Pure Reason" in college, and I understand why I didn't know why then.  Herr Kant was warning me about marketing data.
I know, again with the data.  Stick with me.  You might learn something.  If not, you can at least tell people you read an impassioned exegesis of Kant today without really lying.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Citibike: A Marketing Opportunity Revisited

Now that we New Yorkers have lived with Citibike for nearly a year, it seems like the time to revisit two posts I wrote nearly two and a half years ago about how brands could use the service as a marketing channel.  One post was serious, the other...not so much.

To recap the Citibike saga, the service launched in May of 2013 after some delays stemming from teething problems and Superstorm Sandy.  New Yorkers and visitors quickly embraced the service, which allows members to borrow bikes for up to 45 minutes at a time from over 300 stations in Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn.  However, Citibike has faced adversity as well, including losing money at an alarming rate.  Some called it winter.  Disclosure: I am one of those nuts who rode on chilly days.

The Wall Street Journal said "Finding additional sponsors has proved challenging because the program has become so closely associated with its eponymous supporter."  So, what could Citibike do to engage marketers?  Or, put another way, what opportunities could marketers exploit with Citibike?

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Dicing with Danger: Using Data Insights in Your Marketing

If you've suffered through my last two blog posts (#1 here, #2 here), you've read my reasoning that while marketing data potentially can lead your business into danger, they can also provide meaningful insight.

Now what?

With insight, you can start placing bets with data.

Hit it, Frankie:

While you will never out-cool Albert Francis Sinatra, you can probably make smarter bets.  Here's how.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Playing with Danger: How to Ask Questions of your Data

In my last post, I discussed marketing data as the most dangerous thing in your office and outlined how to tame it.  Now, let's talk about how to draw insights from your data.

First, ask yourself a question: are you Nate Silver?  If you, hi, Nate.  Thanks for reading.  But more importantly, if you're Nate Silver or an honest-to-God data wizard, then you already know what you can and can't do with data.  You can run all kinds of exotic analyses and make wild predictions that come to fruition.  In short, you have nothing to learn from me.  Godspeed.

If you're still reading, then you need to understand one thing: data don't tell you anything other than how to guess well.  However, good guesses can help you more than you might think.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The Most Dangerous Thing in Your Office

Take a look around your office and pick out the most dangerous thing you see.

Is it cleaning fluid?

Is it your espresso maker?

Maybe your paper cutter?

No, no and no.  Well, unless you have a REALLY big paper cutter.

No, friend, the most dangerous thing in your office doesn't have sharp edges, heating elements or questionable chemicals.  The most dangerous thing in your office has something far more treacherous: your marketing data.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Where the creativity HASN'T gone on cable

As this season of The Walking Dead draws to a close, it reminds us how how great cable TV--once the province of wrestling and Andy Griffith reruns--has become.  With tight scripting, intense characters and even serviceable CGI, cable has become a go-to outlet for great TV.  Even apart from HBO, cable has given us Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Americans.

More than one critic has complained that, if anything, cable gives us too much good programming to watch.

So why do ads on cable TV fail to engage as well as the programming they fund?  More to the point, why hasn't this haven for direct response TV advertising (DRTV) emerged as laboratory for breakthrough creative?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Even Amazonians Get the Blues

Cheer up, marketing folks.  Even Amazon gets it wrong sometimes.

If you've worked in digital marketing, you've heard a client ask why you can't do something that Amazon does.  Maybe they asked for an email campaign triggered by browsing behavior.  Maybe they asked for a model to guess what a customer might want to purchase next.

Amazon is to digital marketers what Nike or Apple is to brand marketers: the go-to paragon of excellence.  In some ways, all these brands succeed in their respective fields because of the same reason: heavy investment.  We know "Just Do It" and Apple's various advertising platforms because they invest heavily in media weight.  Similarly, Amazon invests heavily in technology to enable their wizardry.

Amazon has another advantage as well: time.  Or, rather, lack thereof.  Because Amazon's systems only date to the start of the Internet age, they have no old, cranky technology to limit growth.
Still, even they mess up from time to time.  Perhaps more to the point, they also know how to make good when they do.

Last Saturday (1st February). I put in an order for several books, a Chromebook and a cheap envelope-style case for the Chromebook.  I selected free shipping because I'm a tightwad.

Amazon informed me that I would receive most of the items by the 10th, which suited us fine since we intended to give the books to our kids for Valentine's Day.  However, one book was on back-order and would be shipped separately.  No problem.

As is my wont, I began checking up on my order status every few hours from the moment I placed the order.  After a few days, I became concerned that the order hadn't shipped.  I chatted with Amazon's customer service and they assured me that the order would still arrive by the 10th.

The following Saturday, the 8th, the order had still not shipped.  So back to Amazon's chat I went.  Eventually, the customer service representative explained that the cheap computer case was holding up the order.  They didn't have it in stock.

Let me put it another way: Amazon told me they didn't have one item I ordered in stock but not another item.  Even more perplexing, the computer case was an Amazon-branded item sold by Amazon itself rather than a partner.  Dish out a big bowl of WTF.

Fortunately, the story has a happy ending.  The rep helped me find another case that was in stock and then (after I mentioned that I had hoped to give the books to my kids for Valentine's Day) upgraded me to two-day shipping at no charge.  Amazon kept a loyal customer and I get my purchases in time.

What should marketers take away from my (admittedly prosaic) experience?  Not even the best technology can account for every eventuality.  Even Amazon drops a stitch now and again.  However, people can succeed where technology fails.

So, marketing pals and gals, think about your own technology challenges and what you can't do when a client or stakeholder asks you to do something "just like Amazon." Then think about what your people can do to fill the gap.