Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Tropical Vacation Ad?

What do you think this picture can promote if used in an ad?

When I put this question in the poll with the bicycles from below I wanted to learn what concepts are more appealing from a marketer stand point. What makes you click? What connects with your feelings and obsessions? I looked at the picture and I came up with the five ideas: public transportation, cotton candy, tropical vacation, jobs website, and banking savings account. I don’t know about you, but for me they all make perfect sense. Plus, one is subtle, one is strong, one is cute, one is obvious, and one is simply common. Honestly, I voted for “banking savings account”.

But interestingly, most votes (not that the poll could be representative for all universe) went to one of the oldest advertisement tricks: use the opposite to emphasize the message.

The results make me wonder whether the customers are more receptive to new poignant messages and products or they have a propensity to better assimilate familiar images and ideas. Assuming that we target the majority, the average John and Joe, if I had to choose where to use the bicycles it seems that I probably should go with the tropical vacation.

What does this mean? My friend says that the most important trait that makes people so alike is their desire to be different. Back to our marketers stand point, this is good, this is very good! It is way easier to conceive a strategy for a niche than for myriads of different cranky tastes.

Associating snowy bicycles with tropical vacations is how most of the companies think. It doesn’t make sense to change the world, let’s just give them what they know. But the big prize is in the bag of those who can change the way people see things. There is a famous example of a cloudy vision (coming from the early years of the Internet) when a former IBM top executive predicted that the maximum number of computers that would be connected to the web was five. Five?! At that time, who would have thought that computers could be used for something else but military stuff?

So, should a marketer be a step ahead today’s trends or stick with the good ol’ tricks? I guess the answer is yes!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Big Brother Reloaded

It's no longer just the government that know everything about me. Now Acxiom and others alike know. And I bet they have more accurate information then the first guys mentioned. Not that I feel any better knowing this.

In the recent years there has been a lot of steam and chatter around the privacy issue. I am talking about marketing and advertisement here, not body parts! Even though I still think that Americans should start ensuring consumers privacy in the restrooms. The ones they have now barely cover the intimate parts of the customer and encourage peeking through the loose walls.

Back on the real topic, the privacy watchdogs flipped out again some time ago when Acxiom announced their new Relevance-X “revolutionary online advertising network” that helps advertisers better target their audience based on cookies placed on customers’ computers, cookies that contain sensitive information instead of chocolate chips as the majority of users would expect. Acxiom said that the cookie is stuffed only with gender, zip code and cluster status info. Yeah!

But customer privacy has been an issue for some time now. About 7 years ago or so Amazon has been sent to the corner for discriminatory pricing based on customer profiling. The bad boy DoubleClick has been the protagonist of some complaints when they planed to link consumers' names and addresses with Internet surfing habits. Not to mention a sound slap on the Facebook when they launched a marketing program that let companies target messages based on what their friends buy and do online.

Even the GYM triangle Google, Yahoo and Microsoft got their share of boo’s until they removed key pieces of personal information about the search requests stored in the computers.

How Acxiom keeps up with my life? They routinely mine phone books, voter lists, property records, warranty cards and other data to profile and categorize about 130 million households across the US into 70 categories. I wonder what category I am part of. I hope for “sophisticate smart urban graduate & beautiful female future owner of a Mazda Miata” cluster.

Anyway, for those who want to take themselves more seriously here are some tips about how to keep personal information as personal as possible. My favorite: treat your laptop and phone computer like cash. Never leave them unsupervised or somebody may trade them for some booze. Or anything else your credit card can buy.

If this is not enough to get you paranoid think of this: where does your information go to every time you subscribe to a magazine, order a pizza, when you make a donation to charity, enter a sweepstakes contest, or give you phone number to a store cashier? Maybe you don’t really want to know… Reality beats the movie by far. And if you think, it used to be funny how Bruce Willis’ cab knew everything about him in The Fifth Element movie. I don’t feel like laughing now. Do you?

Orwell was right. Somebody’s always watching. Google might be indexing this page right now…

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Some AdWords Tips the Smart Girl Will Give You for Free

Let me put myself together for a second. These days I got to think in Adwords copy lines. My thoughts became short sentences, capitalized at almost every word longer than 2 characters. I am thoughtful as I’ve never been before in less than two by 35 characters. Plus some for the header. And now, as thoughtful as I feel, I need to share my learnings. In less than 100 characters, it could sound like this:

Anything to Make’em Click
Say Whatever Makes’em Happy as Long
as They Buy This Ad in. Click Me Now!

But I am excited, it’s pretty awesome to have such power to put a whole business philosophy, pricing strategy, CRM and Mission Statement in just few simple words. To be successful there are three stages to go: “Look at Me”, “Click Me Through” and “Buy Me Now”. To achieve these three goals, one has to pour his/her heart into the message as follows:

1. As a great marketer once said: don’t treat your customers like idiots but don’t forget for a second that this is what they are. In other words, no GMAT or GRE vocabulary allowed, don’t compete with Tolstoi or Hemingway, and don’t expect even the slightest effort or initiative from your visitor.

2. You have to tell your visitor what to do without them guessing that you actually tell them what to do. There is no better training than a marriage for this skill.

3. Offer everything and the moon at no charge. Or any offer it seems it cannot be beat.

4. Say the truth and truth only in order to build trust but enhance it with unbelievable stories, and count on pride and envy. “How to Be More Beautiful than Paris Hilton” or “Want to have $1 million by next Monday working just 5 minutes a day?” are lines that always work.

5. ”Curiosity killed the cat but made the marketer rich” applies today as always, so don’t be afraid to use words like “mystery”, “secret” or the three dots strategy... There is a CSI buried in anybody, ready to be dug out.

6. For God sake, don’t ever imply that the visitor has to do something! Make it look like what you offer will just fall on their lap once they click.

7. Don’t repeat words in your ad. It looks dumb if you are not able to fill up two lines without repeating yourself. Like I just did.

8. Think like the guy you want to impress. If you target an idiot then write your message like a 5th grader. Anything to make it above the fold.

9. Make friends with “free” guy and do not let yourself be seen with “buy” dude in your ads. It looks like you’d want to sell something!

10. Look at your competitors’ ads. Using the keywords that you smartly came up with, research how competition wrote their top 3 ads.

If nothing works, try the last argument:

“If You Don’t Click Here, Your Mother-in-law Will Show up at Your Door. Naked”.

I could’ve put more advice here but I didn’t want to waste all my tricks on one visit only. And nonetheless, I like the American 10 steps learning strategies for anything. I could’ve come up with some acronyms though… I’ll find something for next time!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Heroes happened in Nashville!

I happened to be in Nashville last week for a Microsoft conference HEROES happen {here} (if I put the correct name maybe I get indexed nicely by Google). I accidentally got in the middle of the geekiest crowd I will ever get caught, talking about Windows Servers, Visual Studio and SQL Server 2008. Because I actually went to Nashville for the 70 kinds of beer, Jack Daniels (who lives there, I was told) and the live country music. Instead I got about 8 hours of talking and a bunch of free software. Neat!

I am no programmer or anything as dangerous and I still had lots of fun. Watching the whole event as an outsider I came to think about what this Microsoft phenomenon is about. Everybody present there hates their products. But they are there, even though mostly for the free software. It’s very interesting Microsoft relationship with their most important customers. The conferences Microsoft organizes for any reason all over the country (and probably around the world) targeted towards IT professionals, developers, and such. They are the early adopters and the influencers; they ultimately decide who’s going to use which program. They set the trend. So they get the free software. They will get the crack somewhere on the Internet anyway...

The other thing that makes me like Microsoft is how natural and genuine they brag about their new breakthrough and breathtaking new technology that is not new at all. Their tactic of rebranding stuff that’s been around for awhile and more importantly to convince the world to buy that stuff amazes me again and again. To paraphrase one of the speakers during a Visual Studio demonstration: It’s magical, it works!

Speaking of Visual Studio, Microsoft says that the next generation of web apps will be faster and easier to develop, more efficient, and a damn-awesome user experience. My friend who’s not only a computer genius but a wise computer genius stated that what Microsoft wants is to make everybody programming without writing any code.

I don’t know much about computers, I ain’t no Master of Windows, but I think Microsoft has a marketing strategy to look up to and take notes from. Their software? Maybe the geeky speaker was right commenting his colleague demonstration: I think you just proved your code sucks?