Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 reasons why TV is a better marketing tool than Social Media

1. TV performs consistently, Social Media is erratic. It's hard work being interesting - and that's what social media is about. Holding someones interest in an environment that is totally democratized is very difficult. Basically Exxon and my Ex-girlfriend have equal tools to create social media content. The one who manages to get my attention and hold it or even more difficulty - manages to affect my behaviors or purchase decisions has to put a lot of effort into it. That's why the use of social media in marketing purposes is erratic - it's hit and miss. TV on the other hand is fairly consistent. A good tv ad with a healthy media budget attached is going to perform approximately the same way it did last year. When planning a business, reliability of forecasts are crucial. Oh yeah, and just because social media doesn't have a media budget doesn't make it free.

2. TV is pre-testable, Social Media needs optimization. Every social media consultant presents the wheel slide: listen, engage, converse, optimize. Or something like it. Basically it means: throw some spaghetti on the wall and see if it sticks. The good thing about TV-advertising is that it's 50 years old. We know how to test it. We know what people think and feel after they've seen it. We know how to deduce effects on sale. For social media, most of these things are still a mystery. If anything, there's too much data available through the social media monitoring tools. It is messy, labor-intensive and therefore expensive to sift through.

Sony retweeted the PS3 jailbreak code
3. TV is low risk, Social Media is volatile. The risk of screwing up in social media is ever present. You could end up, for example, saying something insulting to your target audience or aiding sensitive information getting out. With TV, you can have an army of lawyers make sure you're good to go before you pull the trigger. With social media, you need expensive always-on publishing machines that check every tweet or facebook post with legal, comms, marketing and yo' momma before being able to do anything. Every time.

2010 Superbowl ad twitter conversation volumes
4. TV starts conversations in social media. Television is one of the strongest drivers of conversations in the western world. Personally I think Twitter has made it worth watching The Oscars again. The amount of snark and wittisisms is simply magnificent. Also the Superbowl is such a great experience, when one combines it with seeing what people say about the ads. Social media just usually responds to things that happen "in reality". And with reality, I mean The Bachelor.

5. TV dollars are measurable in both old and new metrics. Marketers love to see ROI numbers. In television ROI is calculated based on GRP's  and impact on sales. This is by no means perfect, as it is statistical averages and not real behavioral data. Social media enthusiasts pride with the fact that you can get actual behavioral data from social media. Well... there's no reason you couldn't do that with TV ad's as well. You can go in and "monitor the conversation" about your ad if you want to. What you do with that data is then up to you, your analytics team and the guy wearing a Transformers t-shirt claiming to be a "social media expert".

Alright, alright... I wanted to troll out a bit, so don't take these points too seriously, but I do think Social Media is over-hyped and it gets away with murder because, well,  it's cool. It's treated like magical pixie dust or a dark art where you need to have some secret special information to make it work. When in reality it is an extension of people's existing behaviors. Word-of-mouth existed before Twitter. People recommended good brands before the "like" button. TV and social media are not competitors, but compliments. They support each other. So instead of creating things for channels, like TV or "social", we should create things for humans.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter needs a quality indicator

My relationship with Twitter is complicated. Twitter is the closest thing to a cultural heartbeat we currently have; it has made shared cultural events, such as award shows or the Olympics, more enjoyable. It is lightning fast at reporting breaking news and spreading vital messages, such as “hey there’s a revolution, let’s overthrow the government”. It can easily sniff out trends and is a valuable resource for science.

But it is wasteful. The “signal-to-noise” –ratio is very low.

Most of the time we are not sharing a cultural moment or we don’t have something vital of importance to share. I almost never overthrow governments. Still, the constant flow of tweets flow through the servers in an ever-marching parade of zen, not caring if anyone sees them or not. Most of the stuff being mundane repostings of news or just pointless personal messages from people who sometimes say something interesting.

More Tweets, less value.
I follow 952 people on Twitter, in the past hour I received 138 tweets. I think I spend maybe 30 minutes a day on Twitter, in perhaps three 10 minute chunks reading the Tweets from the past hour or so. So I receive around 3/24 of tweets that I ‘ve subscribe to, that’s around 13%. So, just using the amount of Tweets in the previous hour as an estimation I receive around 3.300 tweets a day, and the looking at the time estimation, I only read about 400 tweets a day. So most of the things pass through my feed unread.

This results in two main problems in my mind:

Firstly, the tweets that I read are selected by pure chance. There is no quality control, if I suspect someone I really like, for example @badbanana, has said something smart, I have to check it manually.

Secondly, I’ve managed to claw up to 1850 followers, which has made me practically a king-amongst-men in Twitter (in my own mind at least). But if my tweets have a reach that is comparable to the reach I calculated it means that any one of my own tweets only has the audience of 200 or so people. In reality I suspect that this number is even lower. Most people have a lot less followers than that, and the harsh reality is that they could probably get a bigger audience chatting in their workplace cafeteria than with their Tweets. This encourages post frequency over quality. More shouting, less thinking.

So what’s the solution? Twitter desperately needs a “like” or a “+1” button for the audience to indicate the best, most valuable tweets. Adding a quality indicator on top of the existing functionality would detract nothing from it’s existing utility, but would make it possible to find the more relevant content and reward me for spending time and effort tweeting something else than “Eating a bagel, yummy”. And no, retweets are not the mechanism I’m looking for, they actually just create more noise and add to the problem. I would like to know what people find valuable. And I would like to try to write valuable tweets. Help me do that, Twitter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Nokia should've done

It’s been painful to watch Nokia stumble lately. It saddens me to see such a great company, full of smart people, struggle to get anything meaningful to the market. Nokia’s new leadership have had to do some painful and drastic measures to try to get the company on the right track. Probably the most painful one being the de-prioritization of the MeeGo operating system in favor of the Windows Phone OS. Killing, or at least seriously de-railing the single thing that gave hope of a better, Symbian-free, future has put a big downer on the organization, the open source community and, to some extent, Finland.

Don’t get me wrong. WP is a perfectly good phone OS and honestly playing with it for a while makes going back to the iPhone feel antiquated. And choosing between Android and WP for Nokia, I would’ve probably done the same decision. At least now Nokia has some sort of chance for differentiation. Where as the Android market is already over-saturated and cluttered. But yes, the this was clearly a situation where Nokia only had two bad options.

But let’s go back to 2009, to simpler times, when MeeGo was still called Maemo and Prince was still called Prince…

N770, N800, N810, N900

The N900 was a doomed to begin with. The EVP of smartphones and project owner of everything cool at Nokia, Anssi Vanjoki, had stated that he had a five-step plan for the Linux-based devices, before they are ready for prime-time. N900 was the fourth (and currently the latest) step in that continuum. The predecessors for the N900 were the phone-less internet tablets: N770, N800 and N810. Part of this plan was that the N900 was a test device to learn about the capabilities and limitation of the platform. It’s like a public beta - not to be taken too seriously, as it was, after all, just an iteration on the way to the promised land. Which Nokia never got to.

I loved the N900 from the first time I used it. Sure it was way too big to fit in my jeans pockets and could be considered to be somewhat ugly or boxy, but the smoothness of the Maemo5 OS versus the pain of using Symbian was a breath of fresh air. The software had it’s weird glitches and suffered from some really bad design choices (resistive touch screen… no portrait mode... three levels of navigation...), but all in all it was paradigm shift in OS’s for Nokia.

Now here’s what Nokia should’ve done: The N900 was clearly a test and the hardware platform was already by launch seriously aged (Cortex A8 running at 600 MHz). They should’ve simple refreshed the hardware and fix a few of the stupid design choices on the device and blast full speed ahead with Maemo5, instead of waiting for the magical unicorn of Maemo6 which never came to be, due to the merger with Moblin forming what is now called Meego. Just imagine an E7 with the Maemo5 sofware – a totally competitive offering to what’s out there now. At least better than the current Symbian offering.

I don’t know what has happened to Maemo since it became part of Meego, but looking at the pathetic Meego-tablet demos out there, it seems like integration and added complexity has not done it any favors. I think the "five step plan" from Mr. Vanjoki felt very arbitrary and honestly Nokia should've just sticked with Maemo5 and pushed forward full steam on that. We can just imagine what two or three years of full scale development would've done for it and how far it could be today. Personally I don't think it's still too late. So Nokia, please bring Maemo5 back.

(Full disclosure: I've worked at Nokia 2006-2010,  and was in a global marketing role and did work for the N900.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where is the digital battleground?

Nike and Puma Running homepages
I don’t know a lot about marketing running shoes, but a quick review of the top brand's web-pages seem to confirm my suspicion that they are fairly similar in their digital presence. Same functionalities. Same type of content. And even closer commonalities are easier to find in the mediums where art direction is limited or non-existent: search engine marketing and social media.

The matter of the fact is that the traditional marketing funnel for these companies is almost identical, especially in the digital space. Everybody is doing the same things. Diversification is limited to art direction of the picture of the shoe and the clever tag line to support it.

Nike+ is one of the most over-hyped marketing innovations of… well… ever. Most of the praise has been, in my mind, about the wrong thing. As a stand-alone service it’s mediocre-to-ok’ish, but the reason it is fantastic is that, it shifted the battleground of digital from advertising to "the post purchase". We went beyond the funnel. It actually changed what you sell, not so much how. When selecting a pair of running shoes, instead of what shoe you want, you choose which ecosystem you subscribed to; and obviously being the first true end-to-end ecosystem out there, Nike+ had a significant first-mover advantage. Nike’s market share in running shoes bumped from 48% to 61% during the first two years after the introduction of Nike+ and analysts attribute a lot of that growth to the merit of the service.

Domino's Pizza share-price past 2 years
Another good example of going through the line and improving the experiencing a brand through digital mediums is the Pizza Tracker from Domino’s Pizza. Essentially it is a total companion to ordering pizza online, that allows you to monitor the process of delivering your food to you, step by step. I love this service, especially how it solves a totally new problem. It focuses on the “yo, where the hell is my pizza, dude!” -problem, when all other services are just trying to solve the "so, what pizza you want, eh?" -problem. It's post-purchase, not pre-purchase value. The service developed by CP+B was launched in 2008 and since Domino’s Pizza’s share price has doubled. That's tasty.

What to take away from this? Brands should stop and ask: how can "digital" make the experience of being my customer better. The point of monetization is not the finish line, but actually that’s where the real race starts.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ten easy steps to bad strategy

I've spent most of my time on the client side of the marketing equation and had the chance to work with some of the best agencies in the business. I must've seen on average at least one agency presentation per week and dozens of internal strategy presentations for five or so years.

That's a lot of Power Point, my friend.

The good ones were eye-opening and often quite to-the-point. The bad ones, well.. not so much. For anyone who really wants to write a really bad strategy presentation I've gathered the top 10 tips:

1) Rely on semantics and nuances.
Strategy, after all, is an art-form. The more delicate you can make it, the better. If possible try to write it in a haiku form. That'll show 'em.

2) Never, ever summarize. To summarize is to simplify and that is kryptonite for bad strategy. If you must summarize, try to fit all the same things you've just shown on one slide by making the font really really small.

3) Never share incomplete work. One strategy is one whole. To share early stage thinking could contaminate your work with thoughts or comments from others. It could be subject to criticism and need to reflect on things such as reality. Which are totally unnecessary boundaries for bad strategy.

4) Approved strategy never changes. Once strategy is approved it receives divine blessing and to critique it is heresy. No matter if the reality changes around you, your bad strategy never should.

5) Channel agnostism = don't plan channels. You don't need to worry about things like search, social, retail and mobile... after all you plan everything in a channel agnostic way. It would be pedestrian to actually plan something for a specific purpose.

6) How to write insights? In big red fonts! It's an insight if you say so! What is an insight after all? It's basically a mystical mantra that gives you permission to back up any idea under the sun to "ladder up" to your strategy. Just make sure it's going to vague enough, so you don't paint your self in a corner.

7) Think of KPI's later. No matter what stage you are, you should probably think of KPI's later. The only exception is when it's already too late to think of KPI's for this particular project.

8) Use social media to create buzz about stuff. Buzz is important for stuff, so people can take part in the conversation to engage with early adopters in order to seed behaviors in the social spehere. Stuff. Buzz. Social. You know?

9) Spend your time making it pretty. Witnessing strategy being presented should be a powerful emotional experience, so you should spend most of your time making the presentation thing of beauty.

10) And finally; make any idea fit the strategy. After all, who are we kidding here, bad strategy exists just to fill the gap between the client ordering something and seeing the print. So it's basically there to fluff the clients and keep them warm, so that they'll buy something at the end of the day.

How many "likes" should I have?

As of one minute ago Oreos had 17,541,788 "likes" on Facebook. This is roughly the equivalent of the population of Chile. And if all the Oreo-likers would form a nation, it would be the worlds 60th largest. This is an impressive number. If compared against to another brand from the same company, Chips Ahoy! has only a miniscule 81,999 likes. As nations go Chips ahoy! would only match the mighty country of Andorra. Just based on these two data-points one could assume that Oreos are significantly larger brand. Comparing seventeen million to eighty thousand from a traditional packaged goods marketing point of view is simple, more share-of-mind should translate into more sales. So Oreos should blow Chips Ahoy! out of the water.


But comparing cookie sales statistics from last year show that, in fact, Chips Ahoy! is the most sold cookie in the country, by selling over 112 million units and creating $313 million in sales, regular Oreos sold 96 million units and generated $290 million.

What the Zuck does this mean?

How come consumers vote with their wallets to love one brand and with their mouse to like another?

I think the value of a Facebook engagement has been misjudged. Or perhaps it hasn't been estimated at all. The most common argument for engaging in facebook communication is that "you can have a conversation with your audience and engage in a deeper relationship". This is a nice thought, but for a "conversation" it's quite one-sided, as typically only few per cent of your fan-base engage with the fan-page monthly.

So how valuable is a like?

Let's say for arguments sake that this engagement factor would be in the case of Oreos around 3%. (I guestimated this by just looking at the posting frequency of the Oreo fanpage and the amount of likes and comments they get per post). This estimate would put the number of people interacting with the Oreos brand in the ball-park of half a million people. And let's say that as a consequence of this interaction these consumers increase their consumption by 0.1 packs of cookies per month. That means I've estimated that every tenth like or comment would sell a pack of cookies. This would lead into a roughly 600k sales boost per year, which is again roughly a +0.6% increase in sales. Although the numbers are ball-park and the math is simplified this should put us in the right postal code. Hardly a spectacular success. And surely not worth all that yapping about social media changing the face of marketing.

What are marketers thinking going after facebook "likes"? Well, I'm not a mind reader, but this is what I think is happening:

1) All the cool kids are doing it. Social media is trendy - It's cool to do social media. Huge companies are political organizations and having a social media project on your resume can make it a lot sexier.

2) There is a void of meaningful digital metrics and likes are the easiest thing to compare. Although my hill-billy-math-exercise demonstrated that sales might not sky-rocket after mongering facebook likes, it doesn't mean it doesn't make sense. The number of "likes" is just the easiest number to look at. I would love to see metrics on the quality of likes. A gigantic number likes is a comforting thing for marketers. It soothes the soul and makes you sleep better, when you know you've accomplished something to push your product; especially if you have more than your competitor.

3) Cookie-cutter approach for all brands. I suspect that some product or service types work better than others in a social media context. Perhaps a singular FMCG brand is not the right thing to promote on the platform. Although I like Oreos, I really wouldn't want it to give me a call at 7pm and ask me about "dunking habits" or whatnot when I'm decompressing on the couch. Similarly I don't want to see any of it's zero-value updates on my newsfeed. My bandwidth is fixed. I can not manufacture more attention, so to use this for cookies talking about themselves is not something I want to waste it on.

At the end of the day, we might come back to the simple truth that giving me either entertainment or utility is the only thing that makes me give a damn. And brands that can deliver that in a Tweet or a facebook post should really care about the number of likes.