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Are you a sociopath? Become a Sprint customer!

January 25, 2011 1 comment

Sprint, according to Research and Markets, is expected to hemorrhage market share over the next five years. So Sprint—which does not have access to the iPhone—has decided to become aggressive in their pricing. Their current pricing promotion is that $69.99 gets you unlimited everything, while it only gets you voice calling with “the other guys.”

It’s an interesting promotion, because it goes directly after the smartphone power users that Verizon and AT&T have made their corporate money on over the last few years. But one of their advertising campaigns gets it all wrong.

In one ad, a sports doctor tells a severely injured football player that he shouldn’t worry: the video of the player getting injured, the changes to the doctor’s fantasy team, and the texts he’s sending are all included in Sprint’s monthly service. In another, a woman breaks up with her boyfriend while texting him at their table in the restaurant; she tells him it’s okay, because her Facebook updates (to single) and dating-site browsing is all included in Sprint’s monthly service.

This is intended to be funny, and it is, in a 30 Rock/The Office uncomfortable-humor kind of way. Many participants in online forums praise the spots’ humor, rightly calling out that it’s satire. And lo, much LOLing was had.

The problem is that Sprint wants the viewer to be a Sprint customer. And the Sprint customers in the commercials, as absurd and satirical as they are, are horrible human beings. They completely lack empathy for the people they’re with. They are nasty, clueless people. And Sprint is implying, through the ad, that they want the viewer to be just as horrible as their customers. This ad casts Sprint customers in a negative light; I suggest that in many viewers, it will provoke an emotional reaction in that they don’t want to be identified as Sprint customers. I certainly don’t want to be Dr. Douche.

Is this situation funny enough to save this commercial? Is there a way Sprint could have formulated this ad without implying that their customers are sociopaths?

 

If you are evil in this life, you come back as a marketing writer for Summer’s Eve.

August 28, 2010 1 comment

On Facebook recently, several of my friends have commented on an advertisement by Summer’s Eve that appeared in Woman’s Day magazine. Want to ask for a raise at work? Well, we’ve got a whole bunch of ideas to help you, says Summer’s Eve. And the #1 idea? Use our Summer’s Eve Feminine Wash–and don’t forget our Summer’s Eve Feminine Cleansing Cloths for that mid-day pick-me-up! (As Austin Powers says, it’s for giving your undercarriage a bit of a how’s-your-father.)

I’m not sure who exactly thought this was a good idea. Today’s woman most likely does not want to read an ad linking their value as an employee with how fresh-smelling their naughty bits are.

It’s easy to make fun of this ad. The ad says all the wrong things. The “tips” have very little thought put into them and are of little use to anyone who actually needs to ask for a raise. (Eat a good breakfast? Really?) And by placing the “wash your vajayjay” tip at #1, the ad is sending the message that Summer’s Eve has no interest in actually helping women get raises–they really only care about using this headline as a ruse to shill their product.

I think it would be difficult–excruciatingly, mind-numbingly difficult–to work in the marketing department for Summer’s Eve. Imagine, for a moment, that you are a marketing writer for Summer’s Eve. And the ad placement people come to you and say, “Hey, great news! We just got a good deal on a full-page ad in Woman’s Day! We’ve got to send it to graphics by the end of the week, so come up with a concept and copy by Thursday!”

If you’re a child of the eighties, like me, you know the phrase “Mom, do you ever have that–that ‘not-so-fresh’ feeling?” And as a child of the eighties, you were confused, and then, later, you realized what it meant, and then you chortled and made fun of it, and then changed the channel whenever the ads came on. But now, it’s 2010, and you’re working for Summer’s Eve, and you’re amazingly grateful to have a job in a down economy, and you look at the gaping maw of a blank page before you, and you think, “What horrible crime against humanity did I commit in a past life to have to come up with a full-page douche ad in 48 hours?”

Advertising above the fray: an update

So Google got the name of their NexusOne phone in front of 100 million people in their target audience. They promised their online store would revolutionize the way smartphones were sold. News broke that Android phones surpassed the iPhone in sales for the first time ever.

Why didn't the NexusOne live up to Google's expectations?

And in the middle of all this, Google admitted defeat.

Now, selling 165,000 phones at almost $600 a pop in less than 6 months can hardly be called a failure. Creating revenue of $100M in half a year with no marketing but a webstore and a text ad on a search page is actually quite phenomenal. But even that $100M in revenue fell far short of Google’s own expectations.

But why did the NexusOne fail to hit the sales numbers of the iPhone and the Motorola Droid in that time?

Smartphone market experts think that people probably wanted to hold the phone in their hand at a store before they made the buying decision. While this makes a certain amount of intuitive sense, Apple sold a million iPads to people who couldn’t hold one before making the purchase.

I think that Google, in their rush to be innovative with marketing, ignored the marketing rule of 1+1=3. Running an 1/8-page ad 8 issues in a row has greater impact than a full page ad in a single publication. The iPhone and Droid both were advertised heavily on TV, billboards, magazines–as well as websites.

And the text for that ad on the Google search page? “Experience the NexusOne, the new Android phone from Google.”

There’s no compelling content in the ad line at all–no reason at all given by Google for a user to consider a NexusOne in the world of smartphones out there. (Except, possibly, that the phone is from Google, which smacks of arrogance.) The iPhone (“There’s an app for that”) and Droid (“In a world of doesn’t, Droid does”) are both about features, productivity, and being able to do everything you want on your smartphone.

It seems to me that Google ignored a few of the essential marketing fundamentals–they relied on a single medium to drive product awareness, and they failed to create a compelling story. Perhaps the “it’s from Google, it has to be good” works when your products–search and Chrome–are free, but the world changes when you now need a $600 investment from your customer base.

Advertising above the fray

January 6, 2010 Leave a comment

One of the biggest problems with advertising today is that there is so much of it. There are so many print ads that everyone ignores them. There are so many banner ads that everyone blocks them. There are so many TV commercials that everyone fast-forwards through them.

But today, January 6, Google rose above the loud, graphics-driven advertising fray. Google advertised their new phone, the NexusOne, on the Google home page, with a single line of text and a really tiny picture of the phone.

300 million page views, $0The NexusOne has received its own share of press in the last few weeks, with some people saying it’s going to be the biggest story of the Consumer Electronics Show (even though Google won’t be at the show). But the line of advertising–which essentially cost Google nothing–has also been written about on media sites and on, um, marketing blogs.

Google gets about 450 million page views a day, and for its very minimal investment, Google has put the name of its phone in front of over 100 million people. In one day. (Plus, marketing geeks like me are writing articles about it.)

When a company like Google can reach 100 million people in their target audience in a place people don’t expect to see an ad, that is much more effective than a traditional ad. Marketing above the fray was the source of an interesting book by Mark Hughes called “Buzzmarketing: Get People To Talk About Your Stuff” When your product gets discussed in the media, that’s good. When your ads get discussed in the media, that’s great. And when the medium of advertising gets discussed in the media, people start talking about your “stuff” in ways that make your brand noticed.

That’s part of the reason that Google is trading above 600.

“Personal” invitation that comes from an e-mail bot

March 26, 2009 1 comment

My company does a LOT of work with software vendor Citrix Systems. Citrix has their big annual tradeshow in May, and I recently received an e-mail titled “A Personal Invitation from Mark Templeton.” (Templeton is the Citrix CEO, and a big rock star in my industry.)It looks cool, but it's still a bot.

I clicked on the e-mail, and I couldn’t believe it. The supposedly personal e-mail was not from Mark Templeton’s e-mail address, but instead from “Citrix Synergy 09 [citrix@info.citrix.com].” The e-mail is also obviously using an e-mail marketing system template, and is littered with marketing lingo like “4 Conferences In 1” and “Vegas Means Value.” (A brief aside: Seriously?)

The e-mail itself a nice-looking promotion, and it’s full of useful information if you’re considering going to the conference. But calling it a personal invitation from the CEO, when it is so CLEARLY a mass-produced e-mail marketing blast and NOT a personal invitation, is so blatently disingenous that I actually laughed out loud.

Lincoln self-parking feature: video makes it look like a “me-too”

December 30, 2008 1 comment

I saw a tweet from Scott Monty, who is in charge of social media at Ford, with a video of the Lincoln MKS parking itself. This is admittedly cool technology, and it’s nice to have in a luxury brand such as Lincoln. However, Lexus got there first. According to the Wall Street Journal, Lexus first demoed their self-parking feature in an LS460 in Dearborn, MI in September 2006. And there have been many ads on TV about the self-parking Lexus. (And the Volkswagen Tiguan, as well.)

The YouTube video about the Lincoln is definitely demo-quality — it’s obviously not meant to be a glossy champagne-glasses-against-a-black-background ad like the Lexus ad. But the narrator, who is one of Ford’s chief engineers, talks about the self-parking feature being “brand-new” technology — as if Lexus hadn’t gotten there first.

So this Lincoln video — which is meant, I think, to get people to think of Ford and Lincoln as technology innovators, and tout a competitive advantage — says to me two things:

1) Ford and Lincoln are two years behind Lexus in technology development.

2) Ford and Lincoln are so out of touch with the rest of the world that they believe this feature is innovative and the technology is “brand new.” Did they not see the Lexus ad on TV? Or the demo in Dearborn? Do they think their potential customers never saw the Lexus ad?

After Scott Monty sent me to a couple other sites, I realized that Ford thinks its system has competitive advantages over the Lexus system. The Ford system is based on ultrasonic technology (Ford says the Lexus is based on a camera system), and it works with their new fuel-saving power-steering system so it’s significantly lower in price–Monty says it’s far less than the $6,000+ Lexus option.

But I’m frustrated with this video–and the attitude in the video. The video does not acknowledge that there is other self-parking technologies out there, so if you know Lexus and VW already launched it, Lincoln seems disingenuous. It seems like a “me-too” technology, when really it should be marketed as, “Yeah, we did it; but we made sure to do it right.” After all, the Detroit Free Press says that the Lexus system “quickly became the butt of jokes because of its slow and inconsistent operation.” If that’s the case, looking like a me-too laughingstock technology doesn’t seem like it will sell many cars.(By the way, if anyone has any links confirming that the Lexus system is the butt of jokes, please post the URL in the comments. I wasn’t able to find anything during a short Google search.)

The bottom line? I did not get the message that the Lincoln self-parking technology *actually* works well when Lexus’ doesn’t, nor did I realize the technology was substantially different. Acknowledging Lexus got there first but that Lincoln’s system is superior would have gotten the message across better.

The cost of advertising

November 23, 2008 2 comments

Frank Martin has a great blog, and recently posted 30 questions to marketers. I think a lot of marketers–particularly new marketers–need to think long and hard about these questions, even if Frank intended them to be rhetorical. The conventional wisdom is high on convention and low on wisdom.

The first one I’ll tackle is question #11: “Why are advertising prices tied to cpm rather than increases to revenue? Don’t say it’s because revenue and advertising can’t be correlated.”

When I worked for a marketing agency, we would never dream of tying online ad prices to revenue that our clients closed. Probably the single biggest contributing factor is that the advertiser isn’t responsible for the competence of your salespeople. If each sale is 50% relationship and 50% lead generation, the advertiser would get dinged or rewarded based on how good the salesperson was.

In addition, there are a lot of online ads for enterprise software and other complex sales. For the complex sale, online advertisers cannot wait the 60, 90, or 180 days for your $500,000 sale to close. In addition, there are simply too many moving parts in the complex sale: e.g., if an ad delivers a click from a large state agency that gets 90% of the way through the sales process, then gets cut off due to a budget stalemate, that’s not the fault of the advertiser.

The flip side of CPM pricing, however, is delivering a batch of “hot leads” that are only hot because they’re a steaming pile of dung. Tying prices to CPM (cost per thousand page impressions) encourages online advertisers to attract a large number of people rather than attract a narrower, focused group of consumers who might actually buy that bazillion-dollar software package.

But this isn’t a concept that just happened with the advent of online ads. Pre-Web 2.0, internal marketing departments could be lured by the promise of quantity, not quality. Witness the vendor at a tradeshow who gives away an iPhone or a Wii, only to receive 2,000 business cards from people who just wanted the iPhone or Wii. Meanwhile, the real lead, the one who actually has the need and the budget, stops by the booth to see a demo and is turned off by the throngs of people filling out a lead sheet in order to enter the contest.

So the obvious answer is that online ads are priced by CPM because that’s really the only thing acceptable to the online advertiser’s business model.

For any company who hires an online advertiser, however, it is essential to think beyond the raw numbers to improve the quality of those thousand impressions. What type of user/consumer will see the ads? Will those people have the buying power to make a purchase? Run through the scenarios of the user experience in your head. How will you get those users from click-through to purchase? Is the line between start and finish clear? If not, fix the line or move the starting point.