Conversational Marketing & Managing the Expectation Gap

17 03 2008

picture-4.png

The slide above is from Noah Brier’s Brand vs. Utility presentation, which reminded me of a post I wrote a long time ago in my young blogging days on a concept I called ‘The Expectation Gap”. I’ve left the article as is, therefore, it is slightly out of context, but the core concept still shines through. Also I wanted to showcase my ever greater skill as manipulating the English language….. Yes, I’m well aware it is a futile endeavor…

Without further ado:

The essence of conversational marketing is of course to get people talking. To ignite conversation around a given service or product. To seed the conversation and amplify it, you need the right people to say right things about your product. For example you want the camera buff to evangelize your new digital camera to his friends for he is a trusted source of information regarding cameras. At least within his network. However, how do you get the camera buff to crank up the volume of your message, to amplify it.

The key is in managing the expectation gap. To explain this concept I will use 4 scenarios at a local pizza shop.

1. You are hungry so you walk into a pizza shop you’ve never been to before. You are expecting a decent slice of pizza, but you’re primarily just trying to get a quick fix. The expectations are relatively low, but the pizza isn’t bad in fact it is slightly better than anticipated. You go back to the office and might mention it. The expectation gap was too small to register.

2. Now this time you walk into the same pizza place and are BLOWN away by the flavor. When you get to the office this time you tell everybody about this transcendental pizza experience. The expectation gap was huge, therefore the quality and volume of amplification is equally exaggerated.

3. Now if you get a slightly subpar pizza it’s also not a talking point as the expectation gap was insignificant.

4. The final scenario is if your best friend, whose pizza taste you agree with, raves about a particular pizza joint and you decide to give it a shot. However, the pizza was so bad you ended up throwing it away. Due to the hype, the expectations were astronomical and subsequently the negative expectation gap was equally as large. You now go back to your friend and curse him out for making you endure such a terrible gastronomic experience, and vow to never heed another recommendation from him. In addition, you tell everyone else you know how bad it was. Finally, your friend, the evangelist, loses confidence in his recommendation and stops promoting the shop. The repercussions are severe.

The greater the expectation gap, the more conversation, good or bad, is catalyzed around the product.

The key to conversational marketing is optimizing the expectation gap, not simply hyping a product to unrealistic levels. In today’s world if the product under delivers word travels fast. As marketers we need to find the balance between building positive buzz around our products and not over-hyping.

Create as great a gap as possible between expectations and delivery to catalyze conversation.





The Evolution of Social Networks

21 12 2007

“The Year Networks Become More Than Social”

Stop by Conversation Agent to check out my recent guest post discussing the evolution of social networks from merely connecting people to connecting people with ideas. 2008 will be the year innovation networks, or i-Nets, were born.





2007 Human Centered Communication Award: Fred Water

13 12 2007

“Fred has a blackbelt in hanging out.”

Fred water is the most brilliant product launch of 2007, even beating out the iPhone. No other product embodies the perfect synergy of marketing and design. Fred, redefined water, a product category most people would say is boring and saturated. Human centered communications is a term I coined to describe the fusion of the human centered design trend with marketing communications. Fred personifies water, making it different, but also increases utility through unique bottle design.  Fred is a product where the advertising positioning was integrated from square one, not a component slapped on the end of the development cycle.

The advertising/design convergence trend is something I have been proclaiming for a number of years, and Fred is the proof of concept that I hope opens the floodgates.

Tangerine Toad’s post on design as the new advertising.

Post on Human Centered Design

Post on Apple’s organizational structure to merge design and marketing.

Without further adieu, the inspirational development process of Fred direct from his father, via PSFK.





Media Is Not Longer Counted In Impressions

4 12 2007

Time to evolve from impressions to impact.

To quote something everyone has read in their marketing 101 textbook, “You need to make 6… 7… 8… or was it 9 impressions before a consumer will recall your ad?” Truth is it really doesn’t matter how many times someone has had the pleasure of being exposed to your ad, what matters is creating impact. To be fair we still need a base metric for pricing and setting goals; however, everyone understands that eyeballs are moot in the 2.0 realm, so lets start the conversation around evolving metrics.

In the traditional advertising world impressions rule.

The question is framed as, “How many people will see my ad for X dollars?”.

In the mass media world this metric is the gold standard; however, applying impressions based thinking in new media, guerrilla, and experiential executions can irreparably damage a brand, because you have only one chance to make a positive impact.

NBC’s online video viewing experience is a perfect example of how impressions based thinking is killing brands. Last night I plugged my computer into my TV, gathered some friends, and hit play to catch up on some missed episodes of Heroes. Before the show started a recycled Nationwide spot ran, no big deal we thought since we are watching Heroes for free. Then, we saw the ad again… and again… and again for a total of 7 times. To make matters worse I had to get up and full size the screen after every spot. In 42 min Nationwide lost 5 customers. In the traditional impressions based market NBC’s video platform seems incredibly attractive as you get 7 impressions with no clutter, but to reiterate even if your dealing with TV based content the online rules are different.

What’s the solution? I don’t have all the answers, but Nationwide could have easily run a 1-2 min pre-roll spot and I would have thanked them for subsidizing my experience, or if the client insisted on interrupting the show they could have taken a 3-4 min mini-story, say of someone who went through a crash, and broken it up across the length of the episode. At the very least feed me a fresh spot at every break. 7 identical spots in a row? That is just lazy.

What works on TV doesn’t work online, so apply the same strategies at your own risk.





Becoming Gatekeepers: How Old Media Can Leverage Brand Trust

28 11 2007

“This is art? My 4 year old could paint this”

Any person that has ever walked into a museum, especially of the modern/contemporary variety, has no doubt uttered an iteration of these words. Lets face it, art is an ambiguous concept and us laymen goto museums because people that know far more than us about the art world carefully curate the pieces that are displayed. They are our filters to the art world, and I would say 95% of the art I am exposed to is in museums. Of course, aficionados have expanded circles of exposure beyond museums such as galleries, art shows, artist friends, publications, books, etc.

The art world is a great metaphor for today’s media landscape because for the same reasons that we allow curators to filter our peek into the vast artistic realm, we allow media outlets such as Vogue, CNN, BusinessWeek, etc. to filter our fashion dos & don’ts, world news, and business thinking. The answer? Trust.

As productive people we often don’t have the time to waddle through 3000+ blog posts a day so we either trust other bloggers like Robert Scoble to filter news for us, or let it bubble up to mainstream trade publications and news sources. To further clarify, just like in the art world the hardcore among us read everything ourselves and conduct our own filtering, but that is merely because our egos tell us that we are the best curators for our information, which sometimes can be true as no one else knows what information you deem most relevant.

So, what is this holy grail that I speak of?

Well the most trusted media sources are offline entities, although they may have online components. Therefore, they are in a position to leverage their clout to become online filters for their area of expertise. For example Vogue should reach out to fashion bloggers, allow them to become affiliates that they can sell ads for, and create a mini-portal where they aggregate posts they feel are most relevant for their readers on their site. It’s a win-win situation: Bloggers get better CPMs and more exposure, and Vogue becomes a gatekeeper and increases their online ad revenue. I spoke about topic-centric vertical ad networks in my previous post and in my opinion these old media powerhouse names are best positioned to take advantage of this new trend.

Thoughts?





Content Clusters Facilitate Intent Based Advertising: GLAM Network

28 11 2007

Demographics are dead, target topical content networks.

First of all I need to give kudos to Samir Arora, CEO of GLAM fashion network, for the pretty pic and Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine for sharing it.

I’ve talked at length about the power of intent based advertising here and effective targeting of micro communities here.

If you take a look at the diagram above it is a perfect example of a community/intent based targeting model vs. demographic targeting. The iVillage model, which is based around targeting women in general, is far less interconnected than GLAM and is a closed network of iVillage owned and operated sites. On the other hand, GLAM targets topical clusters such as fashion, beauty, etc. and is a hybrid entity build upon a network of GLAM owned sites and partner sites.

The power here is that by targeting topical clusters you are advertising at the point of intent. When people are looking for fashion information they are far more susceptible to targeted fashion ads vs. feeding the same ads based on female demographic information to  highest reach property – the horoscopes component of iVillage.  In addition, GLAM also collects demographic information and behavioral information on how people traverse their network.  Thus, the sub-heading statement that “demographics are dead” might be a little too strong, however, in my opinion it is dead as a solo targeting mechanism and must be augmented by other forms of consumer information.

In addition, GLAM has the opportunity to build passionate topic-centric communities around their topic groups, which they can activate for influencer based campaigns as well as push to other topic areas.

For a broader look at the vertical network space check out this Ad Age article.





Apple’s Best Kept Secret: Jobs + Woz = Joz

26 11 2007

Design/Marketing Convergence is Embodied by ‘The Joz’

Here is a great interview with Greg Joswiak, who according to ex-Apple insider Steve Chazin (MarketingApple), goes by the nickname Joz. Joz, as Steve explains, is a fitting hybrid mutation of Jobs and Woz (Short for Steve Wozniack, co-founder of Apple) as he not only heads up Product Marketing, but also leads Product Management at Apple. This is the convergence I have discussed in a number of posts between Design and Marketing that is the future of both industries. By combining these two entities under one leader you create circular system where marketing insights inspire products and product design inspires marketing.

Take a read and please stop back to post any comments you may have. Very interested to hear what you folks think on this trend.





Gamers, Geeks, Nerds, and the Power of the Force

26 11 2007

Gamers are an incredibly influential segment.

First of all a happy belated turkeyfest to all, and apologies for the lack of posts over the past week.

I grew up as a gamer and did stints at in-game ad network Massive Inc. (Microsoft owned) and advergame developer Arkadium; thus, I stand behind many of the conclusions in the new report by Ziff Davis Media’s Gaming Group. The report dives into a sample pulled from subsidiary web property 1UP Network, which is a leading source of game related information.

The high level conclusion of the survey is that gamers are, as a whole, an incredibly influential group when it comes to technology purchases, music, and movies. Being an ex-hardcore gamer and current technophile I can atest to the powerful nature of word of mouth in this passionate segment. Members of this group are often the family tech gateways and also have an innate ‘need’ to share information with their peers.

However, gamers are a tough crowd. If you try to deceive them – Sony PSP Blog – they will smear you with a level of ferocity found in few other segments. In addition, many marketers still approach gamers as pimply 14 year olds, which is a myth that needs to be dispelled NOW. That said, if you make an effort to talk to them on their terms they can also be your most vocal advocates. The Toyota/World of Warcraft spot, which can be viewed here, is a fantastic example of infiltrating the gamer world and speaking their language (just check out the positive comments). The spot was a parody on one of the most famous World of Warcraft clips where a character named Leeroy Jenkins – who is now a cult icon with mentions on Jeopardy – rushes into battle. By parodying a reference that only Warcraft fans would pick up on you are building in a level of exclusivity into the message, which appeals to the segments as you are identifying them as a valuable group.

Here is a brief overview of the conclusions via MarketingVox

“The survey, which garnered response from a predominantly male audience, with an average age of 24, reflects interest particularly in the entertainment and technology realm, such as consumer electronics, music and movie purchases.

Some survey highlights:

  • The gaming community is heavily composed of technology enthusiasts. Over 80 percent own a mobile phone, DVD player, and desktop computer and over 50 percent own a digital camera, MP3 player (without video), Wi-Fi products, PC storage/hard drive and flat panel PC monitor.

1up-network-gamers-consumer-electronics-ownership.jpg

  • Gamers are looking ahead to the latest technology for future purchases, with about one-third considering a purchase in the next six months of flat panel/plasma/LCD TVs, HDTVs and high-end audio systems; another 25 percent is considering purchasing digital camcorders and laptop/notebook computers.

1up-network-gamers-consumer-electronics-purchase-consideration.jpg

  • Gamers are enthusiastic about and comfortable with new technology and consumer electronics (93 percent), with 76 percent described by their friends as being into the latest technology and 61 percent being the first among their friends to buy new technology gadgets.

1up-network-gamers-attitudes-toward-technology-internet-lifestyle.jpg

  • Music is an important part of gamers’ lives. MP3 players are on the rise within the gaming community, with 71 percent planning to purchase an Apple iPod in the next six months, 43 percent Microsoft Zune, 28 percent Apple iPhone, and 24 percent Creative Labs.

1up-network-gamers-mp3-player-purchase-consideration.jpg

  • Gamers are also avid movie watchers, with 64 percent going to theaters at least once a month, 91 percent watching a DVD movie at least once a month, and 76 percent renting an average of 7 movies in the previous 6 months.

1up-network-gamers-movie-watching-frequency-medium.jpg

  • Moreover, Gamers enjoy a variety of movie genres:
    • Comedy (89 percent)
    • Action/adventure (88 percent)
    • Science fiction (79 percent)
    • Animated (64 percent)
    • Comic book (59 percent)
    • War (58 percent)
    • Martial arts (58 percent)
    • Anime (51 percent)
    • Horror (51 percent)

About the study: comScore surveyed 1UP Network visitors, 989 of whom completed the survey, which was conducted August 13 – 31, 2007. Visitors to the 1UP Network were recruited directly off the site via house banner ads.”

 





It’s all a matter of perspective: Letting our physical spaces define us

19 11 2007

Our minds are built on patterns.

We are creatures of habit and we attempt to understand our world by forming patterns based primarily on our past experiences. But, unfortunately life, nature, and people we aren’t that simple. When we are children we learn through association: Fire is hot and it burned me therefore other things that are hot should burn me too; however, as we quickly learn, these rules can breakdown under certain situations. For example, I remember sticking my hand in a bucket of dry ice when I was 5 and being extremely confused as to how I got burned from ICE.

In the grand scheme, these types of survival based constructs are static and with a few exceptions serve us well in understanding our surroundings and staying alive. However, when trying to apply these types of associations, that work so well, upon ideas and concepts in flux like trends, it narrows our field of vision. The tough part then becomes being able to break through these layers of patterns and reverting to a child-like state.

This is a topic I have touched on before in a number of posts, but here I wanted to discuss how physical spaces influence our perspectives by reinforcing or diminishing our patterns. For example, if you are a high-powered CEO nestled in your office surrounded by your ‘success’, it reinforces your patterns since your previous applications of understanding based on those associations got you where you are today.

In the picture at the top of this post we see a series of concentric circles that are dependent on the physical location they are viewed from. Step out of your comfort space. Step out of the world you have built around you to reinforce your ideal self.

Trust me it isn’t an easy excercise.

But, try to build small escapes into your daily routine such as having lunch outside the office in varying environments, or conducting meetings outside the corner conference room.

Here are a couple cool examples of how we jump to conclusions too quickly (a bit NSFW)

Part 1

Part 2

More cool examples of the pic at the top of the post.





Insights Into Network Swarm Theory From Mother Nature

13 11 2007

Just wanted to share this great NY Times article that analyzes what makes swarms tick.








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