Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Wired's free magazine offer to promote Free by Chris Anderson

Wired is re-packaging the standard magazine offer (free copy) with its March 2008 cover story - Free: Why $0.00 is the Future of Business by Chris Anderson. The first 10,000 people to register will get the March 2008 issue for free, after allowing a ridiculous 6-8 weeks for shipping (get your free copy here). You'll also undoubtedly get years worth of junk mail inviting you to become a paid subscriber.

If you're not up to waiting out the anticipation you can read the feature article online. It starts out with a story about King Gillette's invention of the razor and his, at the time revolutionary idea to grow his business by giving away his razors for free. The story sets the stage for the exploration and proliferation of free stuff, with the web being a major catalyst. The article is also the "free" teaser for Chris Anderson's book FREE due out in 2009.

Update: Trendwatching has a great trend briefing on the insurgence of free goods, or what Trendwatching dubs "Free Love." Read it now.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Has bottled water gone too far?

An article in AdAge caught my attention today, Fortified Water has Gone to the Dogs. I'm an avid dog lover who has spent an insane amount of money on her dogs throughout the years. Yet I'm having a hard time imagining myself at the grocery store buying them bottled water. If tap water is good enough for me surely it's good enough for my dogs. Fortifido (as clever a name as any) is fortified with the vitamins dogs need (so Cott Corp. claims) and it comes in dog friendly flavors like peanut butter and spearmint. But I have to wonder if a different niche might be more lucrative. It's a proposition I've run up against before. There's an industry in front of you that's exploding. In 2006 water was a $1.46 billion industry and the natural question is where's my piece or how can I get a bigger piece. However, the better question is whether or not there are things on the horizon that might change the industry, like the proliferation of negative media surrounding the environmental concerns the water industry is awash in. And how you can become part of that story. After all, the $1.46 billion water industry is yesterday's news, the niche players will likely be lost in the larger product extensions of large conglomerates. A better way to break into the water industry is to change the rules by anticipating what's next and produce the product that fulfills that unforeseen need.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Cause Marketing

I attended a dinner this past Tuesday with a handful of marketers in Boston. There were a number of us meeting for the first time so there was the usual banter of what do you do, where do you work, etc. In answering the where do I work question (Delta Dental) to a subset of the diners and expanding on the oral health knowledge I’ve accumulated over the past year plus of working there I was struck by one question I received. One of my new colleagues wanted to know, outside of being a dental insurer what value does Delta Dental offer the community. As in, how does this large insurer use its assets, both financial and non-financial, to give back to the community? It was nice to have a wealth of good deeds to spout off, but I’m not interested in using this post to extol the virtues of my employer so I’m not going to repeat them here. I’m much more interested in exploring the value of linking a brand with a cause. Cause marketing has always been an interest of mine. And this question made me think of the companies that intertwine their cause with their brand exceptionally well, Stonyfield Farm and Avon come to mind. But I suspect the majority of companies aren’t doing a great job of integrating their giving with their brand. And should they? Cause marketing can sometimes be perceived as a brand exploiting a charity for the brand’s good. There’s also the question of how many charities should one enterprise embrace in order for a cause marketing strategy to be effective. One cause per brand keeps efforts more focused, but it also limits the perceptions consumers’ hold about the brand. And the bigger question - in today’s marketplace where partnering with a cause is commonplace does the gesture become less genuine and add less value to a brand? My position is that if you have a brand that inclines itself well to a certain cause you should embrace it. This is where Stonyfield Farm excels. The company sells organic milk, yogurts, ice cream, etc. and its cause is environmental sustainability. If your brand doesn’t lend itself well to a cause don’t force it, but explore a variety of relationships that can form the basis of a giving program that aligns with the aspirations of the organization.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Google amasses more on-line shoppers

Hitwise posted this chart in their blog categorizing on-line searchers for both Google and Yahoo. The findings suggest that those people spending more than $500 on-line (the bigger the circle the more the demographic spends) are more likely to use Google over Yahoo as their search engine. Based on previous experience managing search campaigns for an e-commerce site I can attest that I always had better results with my Google campaigns. The clients were mostly architects living/working all over the country, but primarily in urban areas. And based on past purchase history they would fall into the over $500 spent on-line bucket. It's important to keep in mind it's not just the amount your target customer spends on-line that helps determine their search engine of choice, it's also that person's socio-economic standing. I'm not sure what the methodology behind the research was that produced the chart, but it does support the age old marketing wisdom - know thy audience.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A morning commute gift from Dunkin Donuts

Today on my way to work I received an unexpected "gift" from Dunkin Donuts, two $1 gift certificates. I don't believe it was part of a Valentine's promotion, but the pink color did complement the day. What resonated about the promotion was the way in which the certificates were distributed. I take the T to work (Boston's name for its subway system) with both my start and stop locations being a station with a Dunkin Donuts inside. I didn't receive the certificate inside either station, but instead received it while ending my T ride and boarding the shuttle that takes commuters from the T station to the office complex I work in. In retrospect I'm not sure if the certificates were from Dunkin Donuts or from the shuttle company, Curbside, but the promotion left me with a more positive impression of both companies. Regardless of whose promotion it was it was a good partnership. It captured my attention in the midst of an early morning commute where coffee was my priority and Dunkin Donuts complimented their core message that American Runs on Dunkin. Very smart and very relevant.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Who's using social networks?

My intrigue in social networks is recent. I've spent the past few months trying to gain a better understanding of who is using them and why. Admittedly I'm not big on social networks. I have a Facebook page that I never update and I'm on Linked In, which I tend to update only after receiving an invitation to join a colleague's network. I don't see a lot of value in the premise of having hundreds of "friends" whom I don't know, but happened to come by their email address at one time or another. It's akin to building a permission based marketing database. Yes, someone has agreed to hear from me, but that doesn't necessarily mean they're hoping I take them up on the offer. The other reason I don't see a lot of value in social networking is because the majority of my friends aren't there, and most don't have a desire to participate in the space. It makes me wonder if my set of friends is so unique to be immune to what is purportedly exploding all around us or if the use of social networks is being over-projected to a larger demographic than the active user base. When I ask people why they don't use social networking sites, twitter, blog, etc. (and we go through the explanations of what I'm talking about) it becomes apparent - my friends, much like myself, are too busy to maintain the effort. Between careers, family and a social life there isn't a lot of time left to participate in an on-line life. From there I think about the people that I know that do use the technology and it always comes down to two major categories - marketers (who are there to figure out why other people are there and to figure out a way to capitalize on that) and the people in their mid-20s that I met while in my graduate degree program. What will be interesting to follow is if the people that were active Facebook users while going to school (and not working) continue to be as active once they graduate and land full-time jobs. It's at that point that the real value of social networking may become clearer.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The New Rules of Viral Marketing e-book

David Meerman Scott recently posted his new e-book The New Rules of Viral Marketing on his blog. Like David's book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, his new e-book is a quick read filled with great insights and easy to implement action plans. If you're thinking about writing an e-book or trying your hand at content with the goal (hope) of going viral this e-book will give you some quick tips and the inspiration you need to stop thinking and start doing. Enjoy.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Matter opens up permission to direct mail

I came across an engaging concept for direct mail marketing in the latest edition of Springwise. The premise is easy, matter (a collaboration between Artomatic and Royal Mail in the UK) recruits people to sign up for a targeted box of promotional items from a variety of advertisers. Boxes are designed by matter to be relevant to a chosen demographic - right now matter is recruiting males aged 25-35 - and mailings are sent out. The matter box arrives on a Saturday, catching the recipient on a weekend when they're more likely to have time to engage with the advertisers' free gifts. And from there the hope is that by engaging people with interesting branded items the consumer will become more interested/engaged in the advertisers' products.

The only hole (and it's a large one) I see in the current execution is that matter tells visitors exactly who they're looking for. So if you're a 50 year old female who just wants a box full of free stuff (admit it, we all like free stuff) it becomes incredibly easy for you to transform yourself into a 30 year old male on the sign-up form. A better approach would be to invite everyone to sign-up, create a database, and use that to target advertisers to build a matter mailing around. Come to the table with an already established, interested group of consumers and it's an easier sell to get the advertisers on board. Another short fall is matter is not collecting data past the generic contact information. In a micro-targeting era it becomes increasingly difficult to justify blanketing targets based solely on age and sex. I would think recipients and advertisers alike would prefer more targeted mailings, e.g. 25-35 year old males that work full time in an IT profession, exercise 3 times a week and are single.

While I think matter is a great concept and I'm interested in hearing more about its success, with a few minor tweaks matter could make itself that much more relevant to both advertisers and consumers.