Telling Others To Tell Others

October 20, 2008

Viral Marketing is the act of encouraging individuals to spread a marketing message to others.  Like when you were a kid in elementary school, “McDonalds has cooties pass it on!”  Only a little more possitive if your the McDonalds corporation.  It is a technological hybred of word-of-mouth advertising.

According to my Prof,

An effective viral marketing strategy:

  1. Gives away products or services ~ People love free stuff 
  2. Provides for effortless transfer to others ~ Simple and easy to transmit
  3. Scales easily from small to very large ~ Ability to grow
  4. Exploits common motivations and behaviors ~ Feeds on what drives people
  5. Utilizes existing communication networks ~ Works based on social people and their connections
  6. Takes advantage of others’ resources ~ Use others’ work to do yours

Here is a great and hilarious viral marketing campaign that was given as an example in class.

This was a successful P&G campaign for ThermaCare products.  It worked because it was funny and spread across the Internet from person to person.  The trick is to stay fresh with the campaigns.  Simply repeating something that has already been done will not work.

Crowdsourcing

October 20, 2008

As defined by WIRED Magazine’s Jeff Howe, who coined the term in 2006, crowdsourcing “represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call.”  The technique is often compared to how definitions are generated on Wikipedia.  The wisdom of crowds is utilized in order to generate creative ideas and solve problems. 

Generally, crowdsourcing can be broken down into three categories:

1.  Creation – Just like it sounds, a large group of people come together to create a new product.  Sites like Cambrian House and CrowdSpirit are examples of sites that utilize crowdsourcing in a creative function.

2.  Prediction – This one is also just like it sounds, a large group of people come together to predict things.  Sites like Pickspal and Marketocracy are examples of sites that utilize crowdsourcing in a predictive function.

3.  Organization – This on is sort of like it sounds, a large group of people vote on submissions and rank which they view as most pertinent or important.  The results are than organized in a list.  Sites like Digg and StumbleUpon are examples of sites that utilize crowsourcing in an organizational function.

Although this is a relatively new technique, the implications for advertising can be imagined.  I would say that crowdsourcing will have an impact in the business world.  However, many have expressed downsides to crowdsourcing.  Lower quality of work, too few participants, susceptability to malicious work are only a few of the possible problems with crowdsourcing.  Only the future can tell what impact crowdsourcing will have on business. 

Data Mining

October 20, 2008

The act of data mining is beneficial to businesses.  It enables them to identify the target audience more accurately.  This reduces marketing costs and the advertising can be more tailored to the individual consumer.  In turn, this reduces the amount of junk mail the consumer receives.  The whole general idea is beneficial to consumers because as marketing costs fall so do product costs.

Sounds like a win for everyone.  However, the consumers’ rights to privacey must be maintained as well.  People may not feel comfortable exploring the Internet if they know they are being tracked.  This loss of exploration may lead to undiscovered beneficial ideas to the individual and society.

Businesses must weigh this loss of consumer privacy against the economic benefits gained.  It really comes down to an ethical decision for businesses to make.  Companies have to come the realization that profits are not as important as the advancement of society.  I know that this seems a little over the top, put I do believe that if companies go unchecked in certain situations they will go to far.  It’s that whole give an inch take a mile thing.

Companies really should stick to cettain guidelines with it comes to maintaining ethical relationships with consumers.  Companies must not take advantage of consumer’s ignorance of technology and acknowledge the importance of their privacy.  Companies truly should be upfront when it comes to gaining consumers’ acceptance to install a cookie.

Designing a Web site for Flow

October 20, 2008

When a Web site is designed to flow, it should experience more users, have increase activity, and gain a greater awareness.  By designing a site that is fluid and intuitive and inspires flow, you help new users get up-to-speed more quickly, reduce the chance that existing users leave your site to switch to another and create users that evangelize your site to other people.  In “Designing for Flow” Jim Ramsey discusses how to create a Web site with flow in mind.  Jim Ramsey lists four rules that help nurture the flow experience in a Web site.

1.  Set Clear Goals – Goals help users understand where they’re going and each step they’ll take to get there.

2.  Provide Immediate Feedback – It’s the job of the site to provide the necessary guidance so that the user feels they are actively achieving their goals.

3.  Maximize Efficiency – When they’re experiencing flow, users want to work more quickly and want the site to feel more responsive.

4.  Allow For Discovery – Once a user has begun to work with maximum efficiency, there’s a chance that they’ll feel less engaged and grow bored with their experience on the site.

New and experienced users find a Web site appealing when it is designed with flow in mind.  The users experience with the site is more enjoyable and hopefully this encourages them to revisit.

Least Effective New Media

October 20, 2008

In case you were wondering today is Super Blog Sunday!  Yeah!!!  I hope that I’m making some kind of sense with the mass amount of posts I’ve constructed today.

The subject I would now like to cover is which of the new media used as a marketing communication tool is the least effective.  Many people may disagree with me, but I feel that banner ads and pop-ups are the least effective.  I feel that most consumers view them as a nuisance.  Some are simply a distraction with flashing headache inducing attention getters.  I’m not sure if the pop up ads that now flood the Internet count as banners.  The ads that sweep across the screen requiring you to click on the close button in order to view the page, are quit possibly the biggest annoyance.

That being said, the real question is do they work?  I could see them working as a form of name exposure but truthfully who actually clicks on them.  Even if the subject presented within the banner ad or pop-up is relevant to the viewer, I’m not sure if they would still click on it.  I believe that most people now utilize search engines to find information they are looking for.

Are banner ads and pop-ups here to stay?  They have evolved over the years.  Now they are interactive, such as clicking on the dancing rabbits to win a prize.  I would imagine they will continue to change and find ways to annoy viewers for years to come.

You’ve got Spam!

October 19, 2008

Hooray for all the wonderful e-mails that tell me I need Viagra!!!  Though they are not the only uses of the direct mail tactic known as e-mail marketing, spam seems to be the most predominate use sometimes.  These unsolicited bulk e-mails are sent out in mass in an attempt at getting a sale through a numbers game.  The problem being that the receiver didn’t opt-in to get the messages.  There are spam filters available to combat these pesky e-mails.  However, I can’t even begin to count the number of spam emails that make it through the spam filter on my computer.

This is not to say that all e-mail marketing is bad.  The direct marketing effort has multiple advantages for IMC practioners.  The speed of which your message is delivered is extremely more efficient than typical direct mail pieces.  E-mail marketing is less expensive than other direct mail pieces.  E-mails can easily be tracked as well.

The main thing with utilizing e-mail marketing is to get the receiver to opt-in.  This can be done in a number of ways.  Customers can give their permission to receive e-mails through promotional sign ups.  User registrations on corporate websites can gain permission.  Newsletters can be utilized to gain acceptance.  They key is to let the customer know that they will be receiving the e-mails.  This will increase the number of people actually viewing the messages.  It will also help to avoid negative brand associations with spam mails.

Web site Design

October 19, 2008

Last post I discussed why I thought Web sites were the most important new media in IMC.  This time I would like to discuss how to design an effective Web site.  This is specifically from a marketing standpoint so I’m not going to get into technical design.  Rather I would like to discuss demographics, layout, and content.

First things first, demographics and psychographics should be analyzed in order to see what would be appealing to the target audience.  The target market’s age, sex, income and education should be considered in order to obtain a general idea of who we’re trying to reach.  More importantly though, psychographics should be considered to see what motivates and influences the audience.  We would like to know what they think, enjoy, detest, etc.

After we have a good idea of who is going to be viewing our site, we can start to work on layout of the site.  We want to tailor our content and theme to what we are trying to accomplish with the site.  The site will have a different look and feel if we are attempting to inform and build brand image as opposed to trying to entertain or process an order from the viewer.  After that, the basics are still the same.  From an IMC perspective, consistency throughout the site is very important.  The different sections of the site should have the same look and feel as the homepage.

After we establish a look and feel, next comes the content.  It’s one thing to have a pretty looking Web site, but it is also very important to get your message across.  The different sections of the Web site need to be utilized with the goals of what you are trying to achieve in mind.

If the site is designed with the viewer in mind and the specific goals trying to be accomplished are adhered to, then the site should be successful.

Which is Best?

October 19, 2008

Web Sites, Mobile Marketing, Short Films, Widgets, etc.  With all the new media choices available to IMC practitioners today, which is best?  The corporate Web site is the best in my opinion.  I know it is a safe answer, but as far as which is the most necessary, the best at informing customers and facilitating transactions the Web site is the best all around.

The following types of information can – and should – be made available to consumers by IMC practitioners through new media.

1. Basic information about the company
2. Multimedia or virtual reality demonstrations of a product or service
3. White papers and/or newsletters
4. Catalogues and inventory
5. FAQs (frequently asked questions)
6. Customer service and product troubleshooting assistance
7. Product specifications and manuals
8. Upgrade notices and downloads
9. Public relations archives (e.g. press releases, media kits)

I would say that Web sites meet every one of those criteria.  Websites allow companies to project whatever image they are going for. Companies can promote varying elements of their business choosing those they deem as the most important. Websites provide consumers with a plethora of information about the company including their history, products, and contacts.

Surprisingly no ethical considerations with this post, with of course the exception of advertising to children within a Web site.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, stick to the guidelines and avoid misleading the kids.  If you aren’t up front on your Web site and you try to make promises about your product that aren’t true, then it will probably burn you in the end.

Search Engine Optimization

October 19, 2008

Google, Yahoo, MSN, Alta Vista, Web Crawler, Lycos, AOL, Ask Jeves, Meta Crawler, And on and on and on.  There is so many to choose from.  It seems amazing that all these can exist.  How do they stay afloat?  Well in case you don’t know, the answer like most in the media world is Advertising.

The use of paid placement and paid inclusion is what generate revenues for search engines.  With both paid inclusion and paid placement advertisers are charged a fee.  The difference between paid placement and paid inclusion is that with paid inclusion, the fee only guarantees a Web site’s listing within a search engine’s full index of possible results.  With paid placement, advertisers are charged a fee in exchange for higher rankings within search results.  Paid inclusion sites pay to be looked at by the search engine’s spider, but aren’t guaranteed a spot at the top of the results.

So, of course as may be the trend on this blog, is this form of advertising ethical?  Personally I feel OK with search engines making a buck.  It beats the alternative of paying a search engine per search.  The thing is, how do the search engines indicate to their users which results are ads and which are not?

Sites like Google do a good job of labeling their advertisements by creating a differently colored box at the top that indicates an advertisement.  They also include the title sponsored links in the box.  This same box can be located on the right side of the page.  With others like Metacrawler, it is a little less obvious.  You have to read the little line after the result that tells you where the result was generated from.

Marketing Short Films

October 18, 2008

Entertainment or Advertising?  Some of these films are actually well made and can be entertaining.  However the main idea is to build the brand and work as an advertising piece.  The good ones make you almost forget that you are watching a long commercial. 

Auto manufacturers do an excellent job with their short films.  The Volvo V50 and Ford Mustang are two vehicles with staring roles in short films.  Both are inventive and entertaining.  If you were presented the videos without knowing for sure they marketing films, you maybe fooled at first into thinking they are actual movies. 

Another inventive film that I came across was for DHL the international shipping giant.  The film is entitled “Just in Time.”  It is an interactive film that has 5 missions that the user performs throughout the film.  There is no mistaking this marketing piece for a regular film.  However, they do a good job of keeping the viewer entertained while they inform them of all the different DHL services.  The site that contains the interactive film can be found at

http://www.dpwn.de/dpwn?lang=de_EN&xmlFile=2006177/

I do not believe that short films that attempt to subtly sell are unethical. I would say that a company has every right to try and deliver and position their brand in an entertaining fashion. Viewers can choose to watch them or not. If the company can hold the consumers attention long enough to rely their message, then the more power to them. Short films are simply entertaining commercials in a sense. They are somewhat along the same lines as product placements.