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Posts Tagged ‘Google’

Something happens during natural disasters–something oddly positive.  As the floodwaters rise or the fires spread, people reach out in cooperation, banding together as ad hoc communities with a common cause.  Long after the damage is over and property has been repaired, people remember those tense moments and how quickly they created a thrilling closeness, a powerful bond.

Oh.  That bump.

Oh. That bump.

I can only hope we’ll all feel a similar communal sense when the current storm of advertising changes finally passes and we once again achieve some semblance of equilibrium.  In the latest Adweek/Brandweek, Steve McClellan interviews a number of industry leaders for a feature that tries to identify just what that new normal might be like.

Among quotes from industry leaders like Google’s Eric Schmidt and WPP’s Marty Sorrell, Sue Mosely, Initiative’s worldwide director of research, noted that “Brand loyalty has been badly shaken.”  

Indeed.  And there’s growing concern that consumers who have traded down might not trade back up later.  Perhaps this new fiscal austerity will stay, benefitting discount or store brands at our clients’ expense.  As people in the brand-building business, this represents an alarming scenario.  So what can we do to protect the eroding value of our brands?

For decades, ‘trust’ has been one of the bedrock brand value, but we can no longer assume ‘trust’ alone will suffice.  In a more cost-competitive world, it can come off as a nebulous benefit.  Planners and creatives alike will need to take up the charge and uncover or create compelling new reasons for people to invest in our brands.  How can our brands help?  How can they make things better, easier or richer for people?  What else can they bring to the experience?

Finding ways to add value and keep consumers engaged with our brands will become the new marketing imperative.  And given the increasing parity within the marketplace, it will no doubt stay the imperative for a long time to come.

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Last week, Gene Liebel, a managing partner at Huge, wrote a terrific piece for Mediaweek that took a skeptic’s view of engagement as the ‘metric du jour’ for success in digital projects.  As someone who has a turnkey presentation titled “Engagement is the New Black,” I read Gene’s article with a decidedly vested interest.  What was most interesting is that he doesn’t discount the importance of engagement; he simply doesn’t believe it is an accurate indicator of the ultimate metric of in-market success.  He considers engagement more of a ‘side effect’ and offers very strong cautionary arguments for anyone who would make it the end goal.

Actually, This Is NOT How It Works

Actually, This Is NOT How It Works

Possibly the strongest point he makes–and one that’s not surprising coming from a User Experience expert–is how optimizing an e-commerce web site to make finding products easier will actually reduce page views and time on site, both of which are key measures of engagement.  At the same time, that type of optimization will increase a site’s conversion rate dramatically as visitors find what they need more quickly.  So even though engagement falls, sales increase–a powerful argument against making engagement your end goal.  Liebel contends consumers rarely invest time ‘engaging’ with brands anyway; when consumers visit sites, they have specific, practical needs–whether that’s information or purchasing.  Staying on a site longer does not necessarily correlate to deeper engagement–it could just indicate that consumers must dig deeper to accomplish what they want–a strong negative.

What he’s really arguing for–just like so many other leaders in the field today–is a better measure of value.  In a difficult economy that continues to squeeze marketing budgets, we need to arm our client partners first with programs that work and then with solid proof that those programs work.  As data points continue to improve (Google claims 85% of all media will be trackable by 2012), we will need new measures of our programs’ in-market effects.  More importantly, we will need multi-dimensional measures; today’s socially-networked world of mass-channel opinion requires a new measure of the combined impact of both paid and earned media, and how that drives sales.

Sales may be the ultimate metric for brands, but accountability remains the ultimate metric for agencies.

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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I recently had my consciousness raised regarding Facebook.  On this blog some months back, I wrote a surprisingly popular post wondering whether this social network would become the Members Only jacket of the early 21st Century.  Once the novelty wore off, would the investment of time required outweigh the benefits of all this easy connectedness?  In hindsight, the ‘Members Only’ tag could be what drew readers, but I’m a bit sketchy on my SEO knowledge to really determine that.

Picture 2

Turn To Page 96

Writing in the July issue of Wired magazine, Fred Vogelstein outlines how this aggressively market-capped, yet-to-make-a-profit social network aims to create value, and it requires insuring the benefits of this easy connection platform always outweigh the time investment. As it stands, over 20% of all internet users are on Facebook, spending an average of twenty minutes a day there.  Mark Zuckerberg and company aim to further embed Facebook as the center of all online activity.  

Why?  Because everything we do there is trackable.  And owned solely by Facebook. Every connection we make, every opinion we express, every last ‘Which type of canned vegetable are you?’ quiz we take and share produces data which they alone own.  None of it will ever show up in other web browsing search engines.  And since Facebook is the one place online where people regularly use their real names to share real thoughts with real friends about real topics, that data has remarkably robust human context.  By comparison, Google’s data is largely limited to search history.

The ramifications of monetizing all this contextual data could be staggering financially.  If this type of deeply human Facebook information informed even a tiny percentage of the incomprehensible 3.6 trillion banner ads placed in 2008, they would stand to make…well, technically speaking it would amount to tanker ships of cash (I know even less about finance than I do about SEO).

We live in a world where opinion has a mass channel greater than TV, radio and print combined.  We work in a world where brands truly are opinions, and thus bound to the vagaries of fluctuating public consideration. For Facebook to have exclusive access to untold hours of that opinion provides them with a competitive advantage that borders on the scary.

I doubt Google, Bing, Dogpile, IceRocket, Collecta and dozens of other search engines will be friending them anytime soon…

by Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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We seem to have hit a rough patch for celebrity deaths this past week: Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and just yesterday, pitchman Billy Mays.  The demise of Michael Jackson in particular captured worldwide interest and led to all sorts of tributes and memorials, from BET to the cover of every major newspaper.

As is now the case with any breaking story with such magnitude of human interest, online usage spiked as people sought to learn what happened as it happened: for a short while, Twitter actually shut down and Google returned error messages for searches related to “Michael Jackson,” assuming that the volume of inquiries indicated some sort of automated attack on its servers.  For one hour last Thursday night, over one of every five tweets referenced Michael Jackson.

The interval between when TMZ announced his death and when more reputable outlets followed suit will provide fodder for journalists to debate for years; what caught my attention–courtesy of our ever aware planner Lance Hill–was the corresponding rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died.  Oddly, Mr. Goldblum seems to be a more modern version of Abe Vigoda: rumors of his death first popped up ten years ago.  Picture 3If you check the chart at left, courtesy of the Twitter trend monitoring service  Twist, both Goldblum and Harrison Ford shared temporary obituaries late last week.  The ever-useful rumor-quashing site Snopes reports that these rumors originate via an automated prank; some ‘comedy’ websites encourage you to enter a celebrity’s name into a ‘fake news generator’ and then spread the story–similar rumors spreada few years ago about both Tom Cruise and Tom Hanks.  And apparently these fake story generators favor Hollywood deaths that involve the ‘victim’ falling off a mountain during a location shoot in New Zealand.  Go figure…

Social Media provide untold value–not only to enable us to connect more frequently in our time-starved culture, but also to provide a first person outlet for critical news as it breaks.  The recent coverage of the massive post-election protests on the streets of Iran would have been far less-comprehensive without the first-person details passed along via Twitter.  But as author and social media commentator Clay Shirky points out, having this vast distribution network accessible to everyone makes it all but impossible to define what constitutes a ‘journalist’ anymore.  Further, without being bound to the principles–and legal ramifications–of traditional journalism, false stories spread much further, much faster.  On the upside, ‘wiki’ principles hold true in these case as well; the majority of social media users want to know the truth and will quickly rise up to correct erroneous stories as they find them.

It takes a village indeed.  And online, that village is very, very large.  And loud.  And occasionally wrong.  But inevitably corrected.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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Relax: A Haircut Does Not Constitute A Makeover 

 

Relax: A Haircut Does Not Constitute A Makeover

Now that her clips from “Britain’s Got Talent” have earned well over 1oo,ooo,ooo hits in a little over a week, it’s time to get some sense of the Susan Boyle phenomenon.  Anytime something hits popular culture with this type of intensity, some will find a way to profit while others will suffer.  A highly-unscientific sampling of blogs and news stories reveal at least some early winners and losers.

On the upside, her performance of “I Dreamed a Dream” seems to be revitalizing interest in the twenty-two year old Broadway hit Les Miserables. Over the past week, the soundtrack spiked back into the iTunes Top 10 and Amazon’s Top 25.  Local show productions have seen increases in ticket sales, including one Vancouver company that reported sales tripling between Tuesday and Friday of last week.  Other productions saw their Google page impressions skyrocket, with one California production’s page impressions rising from 7,000 to 50,000 in about a week. 

Clearly, Simon Cowell has won as well, by developing and producing the program and potentially providing a label for Susan’s future work.  And yet, since his production company Freemantle Media hasn’t made a penny off her groundbreaking number of video hits, one could argue that he’s also lost.   After all, the standard record label revenue-sharing model for music videos on YouTube would have paid $500,000.  Even worse, YouTube admitted they haven’t run a single ad alongside any or her posted clips as well, so they too missed a potential bonanza.

Amidst all the posted discussions, one of the more compelling and controversial essays on this topic appeared on the Silicon Alley Insider site.  Benjamin Wayne, CEO of Fliqz, posted an essay titled “YouTube is Doomed” which paints an incredibly harsh portrait of what he terms “the viral-video bubble economy.”  He draws most of his metrics from a recent Credit Suisse report pegging YouTube’s 2009 losses at nearly half a billion dollars, primarily due to their voracious, ever-expanding need for bandwidth and glaring lack of advertising dollars.

Essentially, Wayne argues that YouTube’s parent company Google won’t be able—or willing–to afford sensations like Susan Boyle.  Of course, Wayne’s POV is not universal; a number of very vocal and informed critics immediately posted responses taking both the author and the site’s editor to task for not clearly announcing that, though a tiny fraction of their size, Wayne’s company Fliqz is a YouTube competitor, which certainly colors his perspective.

At this point, after hundreds of millions of viewings and billions of written words, what can we learn from the Susan Boyle sensation?  Probably three things.  First; the online video industry will certainly change to try to monetize these unusual cultural events.  Second; the online video industry’s ability to monetize these cultural events will remain decidedly uncertain.

And finally, everyone everywhere delights in the unexpected joy of a true surprise. Good on you Susan.

 By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

PS:  On a related if not entirely congruent side note, my friend Mark Wegener wonders why everyone is amazed that “ugly people can sing: what, haven’t people heard of Willie Nelson?  Neil Young?  Meatloaf? “

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Chateau Frontenac, Quebec City     

Quebec City’s Lovely Chateau Frontenac

Think about that for a moment…  In addition to the 300 million copies of her books, the five movies and DVD’s, the action figurescollector’s edition wands, costumes, boardgames, trading cards and the rest of the commemorative junk heap our pop culture creates for consumers to buy, Harry Potter fans so adore Joanne Kathleen Rowling’s stories and characters that they generate additional stories of their own…a LOT of them.  A mere three websites–here, here, and here–accounted for seventy-five thousand fan-generated stories about Harry, Hermione and the rest of the Hogwarts gang.  And that is far from a comprehensive number; it doesn’t begin to include fan-generated artwork, websites, videos or the other 3.37 million Google results returned for “Harry Potter Fan Fiction.”

Today’s technology empowers a participatory social culture.  If we want our clients’ brands to thrive in today’s 24/7, show and tell world, we need to create brand stories consumers not only relate to and enjoy, but also want to share and customize.  Just a few years ago, corporate lawyers would have pounced to squelch this type of activity; today smart brands try to foster its growth positively, and ideally profitably.

That’s where the magic lies.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79

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