Friday, November 30, 2007

No Privacy Required

I’m always fascinated by the proliferation of generation profiles in our society. While current work projects are keeping me entrenched in the Baby Boomer generation, it’s the Millennials that I’m reading about the most mainly because of my interest in new media and the Millennials’ importance in shaping it. What always surprises me is how open this generation is to sharing everything (except apparently their shopping habits) but I was taken aback by a New York Times article today that quoted a 25 year old Facebook user as saying “We know we don’t have a right to privacy…” I’m curious if the majority of Millennials think they don't have a right to privacy. And if so, when along the generational curve did we lose our right to privacy? While it has magnificent implications for marketers, I’m not sure what it says about our society.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Give the Gift of Green

The City of Boston issued a press release last Friday encouraging people to make a donation to the Parks and Recreation Department Gift Tree Program, a worthy cause, but a poorly written release. The objective of the release was to encourage people to give the gift of a tree. The first paragraph positions a tree as a better alternative to classically unwanted gifts like fruitcakes and Christmas sweaters. It goes on to tell the reader how they’ll be helping their community and the environment by helping the city reach their goal of planting 100,000 trees in Boston by 2020. A win win for everyone. But then the tone turns to guilt. The second paragraph chastises the reader for guilty Christmas pleasures - cutting down trees and sending out holiday cards. I'm curious as to why the city couldn’t decide what would be the better positioning – tree as great gift alternative or tree as duty to compensate for the holiday induced enlargement of carbon footprints. I think keeping the positioning at great gift alternative works best, tie in the environmental angle (without blaming the reader) and you have a wining release, and most importantly, more people gifting trees. 

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Intellectual Property Maps

Business Week recently reported a new intellectual property mapping tool developed by Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The mapping software conducts searches of patent and scholarly databases and then connects the information via circles and connecting lines. 

Say you're about to begin researching a new drug for diabetes, using the BCG mapping tool you'll be able to see what other researchers and organizations are researching the same subject.  A tool like this could help researchers find starting points and sources for their own research and make it easier for them to make a name for themselves in their areas of expertise, think social networking for the research crowd. 
It's not clear how much this tool costs or if it's available outside a BCG consulting contract but it brings an interesting premise for advanced social networks for the professional realm. Perhaps we'll see the creation of a mainstream version of this tool in the future. 

Jack Cards - Filling a Niche

I receive a weekly e-newsletter from Springwise filled with interesting business ideas, many correlating with hot consumer trends as identified through Trendwatching. One of this week's business ideas was Jack Cards, a great website to help people organize their card giving lives.

Like so many successful business models the idea of Jack Cards is simple. It's internet based so the costs are relatively low (at least lower than a brick and mortar), it's unique, has a large selection, makes browsing extremely easy and best of all it encourages visitors to sign-up once, put in all of their contacts (mom, dad, sis, etc) and corresponding card giving dates (birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc), assign cards to contacts and give a credit card. Even if the average visitor only enters in five people, that's five automatic sales the site makes, all without the visitor having to remember to visit Jack Cards before the card giving event. 

Every year I make a promise to myself to never forget a birthday and every year I break that promise. I've tried lots of things - calendar reminders, printed birthday calendars, post-it note reminders - and still nothing works. And when I do remember a birthday I end up getting to the stationary store so late that I'm shopping in the belated birthday greetings section. Jack Cards promises to fix all that by allowing me to enter in an unlimited amount of birthdays and select cards for each birthday man or woman. Before the birthday they mail me the card, I sign it and put in the mailbox (they'll even address and stamp the envelope). The cards are great too, very original and nicely designed. So my new resolution (I'm getting an early start to 2008) is to use Jack Cards and never (fingers crossed) forget a birthday again. 

Friday, November 23, 2007

Starbucks' Experimenting with Television Advertising

While I'm not surprised coffee sales are down (what sales aren't down right now) I was surprised to hear that Starbucks is launching their first ever television advertising campaign today in an effort to combat their slowdown in sales. Reportedly sales starting slipping after their price increase in July (no surprise there, there's only so much you can gauge people for coffee before they take their business elsewhere).  In addition to the television campaign, Starbucks will also work on improving the in-cafe experience and will introduce more innovative beverages to the menu. 

You can watch one of the television spots on Starbucks' website, but if you're like me you'll be disappointed. It's a cutesy reindeer and man sharing a cup o coffee on a ski lift, snowflakes falling, soothing music in the background and the call to action of "pass the cheer." Viewers wont even know it's an ad for Starbucks unless they stick through the whole ad. 

While television advertising is still a great way to reach a lot of people (provided they're not zapping the commercials with Tivo or the like) it's probably not the best way for Starbucks to reach the masses. I would encourage Starbucks to concentrate their marking dollars on experiential methods like free samples of the holiday drinks for the masses of tired shoppers schlepping through malls everywhere trying to find that perfect gift. It would be cheaper, Starbucks would have a captive audience, and it would be able to showcase its best asset, the "Starbucks experience." 

Though it should be noted that the Starbucks campaign is the talk of the blogosphere right now, so even if the ads are a flop, they're still getting the attention they were looking for.  

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Changing face of Public Relations

I’ve been thinking about Public Relations lately and how much it’s changed (for the better) over the past 10 years. I started my professional career in a small architectural firm and PR was one of my responsibilities. I attended seminars on how to write an effective press release, I learned how to make valuable press contacts and I lived by a large three-ring binder that listed all of the press contacts for the architecture industry in one spot. The binder was my bible and I hated it. I perceived PR as being rigid and forced. There were a limited number of people to talk to and it was very hard to get your story out to your target audience. Today PR is fun. There are so many more people to talk to, and better yet, so many niches to pitch to. With the advent of blogs, podcasts, videos, on-line forums, etc there are a multitude of ways to get your message out and with unlimited creativity. Take for example Ford’s social media press release for their Ford Focus. It’s written for new media. There are videos, lots of photos, suggested tags, even a way to subscribe to updates via RSS. And I suspect new media journalists (like bloggers) love it. After all, Ford has done all of the legwork and combined all of the social media elements anyone might like into one simple release. I think we’ll start seeing more social media elements being incorporated into press releases and I for one am looking forward to incorporating social media into my own work.

Valerie Conyngham

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Match and the Marketing Mind

I have a friend who is about to enter the world of Match. We've had a couple of conversations and she's had conversations with another friend who has used the dating site in the past. The reason I'm writing about this here is simple, Match requires everyone to start thinking like a marketer. You need to answer simple questions about yourself and write your profile, but how much spin should you give it? The one friend leans toward the eccentric. Her advice was to think about book titles and how they correspond to your life, something akin to having your dating headline read "Le Divorce looking for Le Mariage." The other friend prefers an open and honest approach, with no spin factor.  Imagine creating a Match profile for your product. What would work better in the end, an inflated profile that creates disappointment upon use or honesty from the onset?Maybe we should all create our products with Match in mind, it might just lead to better product development and continuous improvement in the hopes of living up to our profiles.   

Valerie Conyngham 

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Poland Spring Eco-Shape Bottle

I'm not sure if it's the design industries' embracement of sustainable design practices over the past five years, Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth or magazines like Vanity Fair dedicating entire issues to Green, but sustainable design has hit the mainstream. With green's increasing popularity there are lots of people and organizations lining up to give us advice on how to do our part to help save the environment. One of the big tips - stop drinking bottled water. I've seen this message so many times in the past few months that I've started wondering what the bottled water industry's response would be. Would the industry ignore the noise (and hope that it fades over time) or would they look at new ways to become more environmentally friendly.  As I was thinking this I opened up my refrigerator to find an oddly shaped Poland Spring bottle. I picked it up and read the label "New Eco-Shape Bottle."  It's made with 30 percent less plastic (which consumes less energy to produce) and is designed to be easily crushed for recycling. As a marketer I applaud Poland Spring's effort to not only do their part for the environment, but to create a message that can resonate with an audience who is being told by countless others to stop drinking their product. Think about it, you really want a bottle of water, but you have a fresh message in your head telling you it's bad for the earth, then you see there's a less evil choice, suddenly the guilt dissipates and your back on your bottled water habit. Very smart Poland Spring, very smart. 

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Being late is better than never arriving

I created this blog about a month ago and have just been sitting on it. Why you ask? It’s because I had no idea what to write (and I still don’t but I’m jumping in anyway). It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, believe me I have plenty to say. The problem I was facing was deciding what the first post should be. You see, this is my first blog and I want it to be right, but I wasn’t sure I should tell the world that it’s 2007 and I, as a marketer, am just getting around to writing my first blog, it’s a little embarrassing, but you see now I’ve said it and I feel much better. There’s a reason I was hesitating on announcing this as my first blog, I kept thinking back to some conversations at work about one of the companies in our portfolio that’s behind the market in offering on-line services to clients. This fall our first on-line service was ready, but people were on the fence about how much to say. Should we just casually mention the release or scream from the rooftops – hey, we know we’re late, but thanks for sticking by us, your patience is about to pay off – the final decision was a quiet launch, tell those who need to know but don’t make a big deal about it. In retrospect, if I had any involvement in this project I think I would have screamed from the rooftops.

Valerie Conyngham