Thursday, December 31, 2009

My list for top stories of 2009

Marketing is psychology with a purpose. Our job is to understand the ebbs and flow of human behaviour. That's why I have a Facebook and Twitter account, scan BBC and New York Times and CTV news, browse WIRED, Fast Company, Stanford Philanthropy, Media Post, and meander through Google....
So, on the eve of 2009, I wandered through a few sites to understand the past from the perspective of the masses....
1. Michael Jackson died. (although Twitter beat MJ in top searches for 2009)
2. The economy collapsed, teased us into thinking it was reviving and slumped back into recession.
3. Social networking has marketers in a flurry. Facebook overtakes My Space (officially) and Twitter captures the imagination if not the dollars.
4. Obama won the Nobel Prize (for not being President Bush, according to the CBC)
5. A British teenager painted a 60 foot penis on the roof of his parent's million pound mansion (they didn't notice for a year).... one of the most searched stories on BBC for 2009
6. Warren Buffet gave each of his children $1 billion in shares for their charitable foundations. (Great story, by the way)
7. The Swine Flu changed the way we greet one another (a kiss instead of a handshake), cough (into the elbow) and wash (stocks in Purell soared: Imagine a Touchable World)
8. Dan Brown struck again convincing millions of North Americans to search for the Lost Symbol (either in hard cover or as an e-book format in one the many new e-reader formats... I read Coupland's Generation A on my Blackberry... it seemed fitting.)
9. The auto industry in North America sat up and took note of the competition -- seeing as most of the cars on North American roads were foreign.
10. Susan Boyle dreamed a dream and transformed Simon Cowell into the fairy godmother.
What I was most intrigued at is that when I visited CBC, BBC, AP, Google and a whole host of other news outlets, none of them included the natural disasters that traumatized thousands of families: floods, earthquakes, tsunami, food insecurity, hurricanes. Nor did they mention major conflicts: wars in Afghanistan, Congo, Sudan, Somalia, Yemen...
As a marketing professional, I am a student of human behaviour -- I take my lead from my audience, not my personal opinion....
Here's to 2009: Celebrate well.....

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Content, Content, Content

Search Engine Marketing is one of the ways you can profile your web site. Basically, it is like an outer envelope in a direct mail piece (forgive me, web guru's, I know that sounds reductive, but it's a pretty perfect analogy). The fun of it is that the outer envelope can have many different shapes, sizes and tag lines.
But the success of SEM is dependent on some pretty simple principles.
First of all, you need to clearly define your campaign goal. Are you looking for sheer number of clicks, length of time spent on the site, reduced bounce rates, number of page views?
Secondly, you need to have a good idea of what people are searching for. It's smart to start an SEM campaign with multiple threads, because that helps you unravel patterns. Then you're able to use real world knowledge to set your campaign. Because the web is real time, the first few weeks of the campaign should be well monitored, giving you the opportunity to change things on the fly.
Thirdly, brand recognition boosts results. Coinciding campaigns, media presence and buzz all increase web activity. SEM is a part of the mix -- not the foundation of a marketing plan.
Finally, and I think the most impacting, the content on your site determines ultimate success.
Some SEM specialists trick people to the site. So they use ad words that can be loosely attributed to web content and are highly searched. Which means the ad comes up frequently, has a high click rate -- but, unfortunately, often has a very high bounce rate. When the viewer clicks on the ad and goes to the site and sees that the content is not really what they were looking for -- its takes about 1 second before they click away.
This Christmas we launched a number of SEM tests.
Two profiled new Christmas symbolic gift product lines. Both were versions of the "goat, chicken" offers from international development agencies. Both were really new in the space -- so they were unfamiliar to the mass market. While both had simple offers, they also were more complicated than the buying 5 chickens. Neither were well supported by media, communications or additional marketing activity. Both were evaluated by the number of sales generated. While the final numbers have not been completely evaluated, neither received stellar results.
There were a couple of reasons. Very few people were searching for these specific products. They didn't know to search for them. Secondly, they were not hot products for Christmas. They did not have mass appeal. Both sites had sufficient content, but people were not that interested in buying the product.
We also launched a campaign for a custom home builder. The site was already performing well -- with an average viewer staying on the site for 6 minutes and viewing 10 - 16 pages. We thought that the rate would plummet with the SEM campaign -- simply because the site would draw more visitors.
But no.... the length of each visit remained high. The number of unique visitors increased dramatically and the number of page visits continued to be high.
The site is fat with content. The ads profiled that content. When the visitors arrived at the site, they were not disappointed. So they stayed.
We set the initial campaign fairly low -- wanting to assess the strength of the various campaigns. It looks like we will have to up the spend a bit, because the click rate is so healthy.
SEM that is not supported by a site that has great content is like sending people a direct mail with a great teaser and when they open the envelope it's empty.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Reach an audience of 1 million....

That's the Face Book promise.

But will you.

I have been thinking a lot about new media these days. Everyday I receive "news" (hard to discern between news and advertising some times) that if I am not actively exploring "new" media, I will be compromising my company. Well, my business plan is not designed to meet millions -- that would do us in. But I am always open to learn and explore new ideas.

But as I track results for clients on Face Book, Twitter and blogs. And as we watch the direct results from SEO and SEM I discover one critical truth: it's all about strategy.

My observation (for what it's worth), is that a lot of people are playing with social medial. After all, it doesn't cost anything. Except time. Every day more people start following me on Twitter. I'm pretty sure no one actually reads or follows my random tweets, but they are following me. And, yes, there are millions of people on social network, but how many are actually “reached” (still hard to track and ascertain an engaged audience). Of all of the results that we see, very few are actually coming from social media (interestingly). There are some challenges with using Face Book as an organizational marketing tactic. First of all, it's incredibly crowded, so getting attention is difficult. Secondly, it's a personal social networking space, so people are sharing pictures of babies and vacations. Products that intersect with that space should be playing in it. Thirdly, there are a lot of accounts that are duplicate. If you call up World Vision, it's hard to tell which pages are valid. Finally, maintaining social media sites are incredibly time consuming.


One should not discount the value straight away. I think our job is getting harder and harder. Strategic thinking is the most important factor in marketing well. Every organization, no matter what the size, should be investing time and money into their marketing strategies. There are many things that are very important to consider. This past few weeks I have been giving about an hour a day to linked in, my blog, twitter – I ignore facebook because it irritates me and is full of junk (although I peruse it occasionally to see what my hundreds of friends are doing.)

I am neither prophetic or exceptionally visionary, but I think the future of social media is a diversified group of social media sites that have specific uses – liked linked in for business. Compassion for sponsorship... there are a lot of reasons that we use social media – but the pilfering through the information to get what we want (need) is just so hard. I have twitter set up on my desktop with Tweet Deck. I have to say that the plethora of information is daunting (although I did receive that very nice little guitar utube link on it this morning that made me laugh).

The digital world is shifting and changing every day.

Google slips in and out the news. They are creating an i-phone competitor that will not be linked to a cell phone provider – hmmm – that is really interesting. They also just launched the direct payment that can be used by anyone to collect payment through the cell phone (hmmm, no bank? No little pay machine – all you need is your cell phone. You neighbourhood young teen can use it as payment for shovelling snow.) Google has already launched real time data (so when we drive, we can now use google maps to check for accidents when we drive and the traffic updates on the maps is immediate!)

I am trying to foresee the world without TV and advertising as we know it. I know that it is changing, but it needs to financially viable. I quickly moved to e-books.... I think the kindle is dead in the water, but think about the applications for magazines (ads that you click on). Think about the development of content that is real time and clickable.... we have a great future in creative is we can continue to build and grow and develop and imagination beyond the printed page.

BUT social media is only a small piece of that development!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Tiger and Temptation

I started this blog a few minutes ago.... then I thought, get a life, that's so easy. Tiger Woods gossip even hit CBC!
Then I found this and I thought, wait a minute, celeb endorsement is a reality in much of our work.
Nancy puts a neat spin on choosing the B level celeb. She has great insight into making the endorsement work for the celebrity and the organization -- key to a successful win-win relationship.
We know that celebrities draw attention to products and non-profit causes. They also are hard to manage, quirky and moody. Choosing a celebrity that resonates with your cause or product is critical. Documenting that relationship in writing is equally important. For-profits have that down pat. Non-profits often come to the table with hat-in-hand hoping for the graciousness of the celebrity.
Non-profits have to remember that they are giving back to the celebrity.
First of all, they give them personality, integrity and compassion. The celebrity seen doing humane and compassionate acts increases their own humanity and their relationship with their fans.
Fans are intrigued when the glitter comes off and the celebrity travels into areas of need as a real person. For a moment the fan feels a strong emotional link to the celebrity.
The non-profit also introduces the celebrity to real people -- people they don't meet in their normal life. When working with the non-profit organization they have the opportunity to give back in ways they are unable to do in their "day job."
But, as we have seen in the media over the past few days, celebrity endorsement is risky.The risk to product endorsement is blatant as companies are dropping Tiger like he has H1N1.When your celebrity makes a very public mistake the clean up is costly.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Product offers

As I started this email, I was going to glibly say that companies with hard core products -- like RIM, COKE and NIKE -- have little trouble articulating their product offers.
But then I stopped.
That's a trap service companies, non-profits and government organizations easily fall into.
Defining your product is one of the most difficult tasks you have. Even when you have a distinct product, you are tempted to walk away from the benefit statements and lapse into your competitor's territory.
We just challenged Ashley, one of our team writers, to develop SEM campaigns for Barefoot. OK, she works for us. She has daily contact with clients. She sits through a project meeting overview weekly. She told me that it was difficult to define what Barefoot does.
So I need to take a quick look in the mirror.
What do we do?
Defining our product is a challenge we face every day. Successfully defining our product will lead us to greater success.
In 1947 Bob Pierce came face to face with the desperate need of orphan children. He thought, "If every American family would adopt one child their needs would be met -- for just pennies a day." Child sponsorship was born out of the need, spurred by an idea, developed into a product.
Our challenge is to understand our services, funding needs and to create a product that makes sense to the needs we are trying to fill and to our audience.
Last week one of my client's admin team spent the morning creating a personalized card because one donor wanted to send pigs overseas. The program of the organization did not include an agricultural or micorfinance program in that region. The staff team was simply meeting the needs of the specific donor. That's like a RIM sales member going to Telus and selling them a Palm. Yes, World Vision's sheep and goats and pigs are tremendously successful -- but that is the product they are selling. Simply copying the product does little for your own program. While the Palm Treo and BB Curve have overlapping purposes -- they are clearly different products. AND the marketing teams are always looking for differentiation to set their product apart.
While borrowing ideas is the strength of all communications and marketing -- borrowing without understanding your product or without clear differentiation empowers your competitors.
Every day I challenge myself to think about the product I am marketing.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Per Stenbeck, International Fundraising Director, UNICEF, Generva asks: "So what are the qualities that distinguish a star fundraiser from a mediocre one?"

He goes on to argue that the difference is passion.

He cites three world renown leaders:

‘Passionate people are the only advocates which always persuade.
The simplest man with passion will be more persuasive
than the most eloquent without’
Fran├žois de La Rochefoucauld, French philosopher

‘Nothing great in the world has
ever been accomplished without passion.’
Hegel, German philosopher

‘Without passion you don’t have
energy, without energy you have nothing.’
Donald Trump

We are moved by emotion and inspired by passion. Passionate appeals to our donors may spark controversy. For where there is passion, there is the ability to love and hate. Many times our most successful appeals also are the ones that draw the most critical feedback from donors.

I think about that a lot when I receive client feedback. Often we are given notes, phone messages or letters clients have sent critiquing a communication piece. Before I respond to the client I ask two questions: How successful was this appeal in comparison to other appeals this year? How many negative responses did you get?

We are quick to let 2 or 3 negative comments influence our communication strategies when 10% of our donors responded with a gift. The attempt to please all donors eliminates our passion. It also reduces our ability to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. Finally, it decreases our brand effectiveness.

Lack of passion creates a bland and homogeneous organization.

Stenbeck encourages fundraisers to:

• Be ready. Make sure to take the opportunity when it arises.
• Be bold.In fundraising you must take risks and aim high.If you want the Pope to endorse your campaign then go for it.Coca Cola will never get that.You just
might.And I am just trying.
• Be passionate. Passionate fundraisers ignite passion also in donors.Passionate
donors give more,lapse less and they are ready to support you,not only with
money but also if you so wish with their voice and their actions.A passionate
donor is a loyal donor,a true friend for life.

I say "Amen" (!)

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

2 billion emails sent today

I was meeting with a client about their marketing materials. It struck me as unusual that they didn't have a corporate web address -- as essential as stationary in my mind. The thinking behind the lack of a corporate web address was all about efficiency.
Then today, when I looked at a recent report from the Chief Marketing Officer Council, I read that the average individual receives 12 - 15 email messages each day.
Yes, my jaw fell into an open mouth slack position.
I've just now completed my morning jaunt through unanswered email. When I receive 10 - 12 emails at the start of the day I call the IT team to see if our email is down.
Tracking the effectiveness of mail -- digital and traditional -- is at the core of any marketing plan. We are still seeing higher overall results for traditional mail. Somehow it seems a bit easier to delete an email than toss a letter. Traditional mail has more opportunity to tempt me into opening it (I got a compass in the mail this morning!)
Here's are some stats that you might find interesting:
- Traditional junk mail accounts for over 100 billion pieces of mail each year, and 44% of this unsolicited, primarily promotional mail ends up in a landfill...unopened
- Email waste is also staggering. There is more than 200 billion email messages sent each day, yet 97% of all email sent is actually spam, according to an April, 2009 report released by Microsoft
- Cisco reports "customized" spam that is based on personal information stolen from the web has quadrupled over the last 12 months (2009)
- The average email open rate across 16 industries during Q2 of 2009 now stands at 22.2%, and has increased for the fourth quarter in a row
- About 3.3% of opt-in emails for subscribers in the US and Canada were sent to "junk" or "bulk" email bins, while 17.4% did not get delivered at all
- Forrester reports that by 2014, email marketing spend will rise to $2 billion - almost double the projected spend of $1.2 billion for 2009
- The average individual is expected to receive 25 messages a day in five years, double 10 or 12 emails received now
I have to write an e-blast....