Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Marketing to Consumers Who Lack Confidence

Who knows what to believe right now?

According to the Conference Board Consumer Confidence Index,
“Consumer confidence, which had posted three consecutive monthly gains and appeared to be gaining some traction, retreated sharply in June.”

Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center states, “Increasing uncertainty and apprehension about the future state of the economy and labor market, no doubt a result of the recent slowdown in job growth, are the primary reasons for the sharp reversal in confidence.

Translation: A lot of people are out of work and even those who are working don't expect to see a pay raise this year (despite steady increases in the cost of living) and they are short on cash.

This is a problem. As a marketer, you either have to focus on the small percentage of confident consumers who have good jobs and lots of money OR address the masses with solutions to their money woes.

I was riding my bike past a Houlihan's last night (where you go for premium quality and style; fare that's at times familiar and other times adventurous and a laid-back modern setting) and noticed the following verbiage on the marquee: Mealio Dealio every night. I am pretty sure this is their way of telling the public you can stretch your dollar by purchasing a happy meal at Houlihan's.

And why not?

On the other hand, just a few months after enticing consumers to sleep in line outside for the privilege to buy the first iPad, Apple managed to get an even larger sleepover crowd to wait for its new iPhone. The price tag tag for both products? Apparently not too much.

What's up with that?

My point is I actually have no idea what's going on out there and I have no idea who to listen to and I have no idea what to believe. It's good, it's bad, it's getting better, it's getting worse, buy gold, build a 2012 shelter...

Maybe Bobby McFerrin was right:

Ain't got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don't worry, be happy
The land lord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don't worry, be happy

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Truth vs. Honesty vs. Transparency

Back in the last century of the last millennium, there were these Iran-Contra hearings to determine if it was true that Lieutenant-Colonel Oliver North actually participated in the sale of arms to Iran.

It was a big political scandal that prompted lots of politicians and news hounds to point accusatory fingers at a lot of people. But Ollie North was the main subject of their finger wagging.

Of course, Ollie wanted nothing to do with the whole hearing and did his very best to avoid answering every question. And somewhere in the middle of this C-Span moment – exhausted from chasing the artful dodger around the room – some senator or congressman looked down at North and reminded him that the great thing about telling the truth was that you never have to remember what you said before... because the truth never changes.

Anyway, I read this blog post in Ad Age today about branding. In it, Jonathan Salem Baskin (global brand strategist and author) suggests the following: "CMOs shouldn't spin or parse the truth."

Really? Do you need a global brand strategist tell you that? Are you that simple? But wait, there's more.

Baskin goes on to say, "Perhaps CMOs would get a better seat at the executive table if they stood up for doing the right thing when nobody was looking."

Wow! I am speechless. The implications of this statement are pounding in my ear like the sound of 50,000 vuvuzelas. Either Baskin is an idiot or our industry is bankrupt of any intelligence or morality.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fuzzy Math and Goggle-Eyed Market Research Reveal Paid Search Truths

According to a new survey from the Direct Marketing Association: "Marketers are managing their expectations when it comes to paid search. Nearly half say their primary goal in paying for a paid search campaign is driving traffic to their Web sites, but only three in ten list generating a direct sale from the click as their principal desired outcome."

If your primary goal is driving traffic to a web site, you are either an idiot or a liar. Is Disney World's primary goal to fill their parking lots? Is Las Vegas' primary goal to crowd the strip? Was Lost's primary goal to get people to turn on their TVs?

But wait, maybe I just didn't understand the report, so let's enlist a DMA expert to explain:

“Paid search ads are a great way to drive traffic to your web site; and when a paid search ad is clicked on, it usually leads to a two- or three-step sales process,” DMA research manager Yory Wurmser said in a statement.

Yes, that is much better; clear as frog water.

It would appear, if you read between the lines and over the shoulders, that the DMA is saying paid search ads are not intended to lead to a "direct" sale, but rather an "eventual" sale. As if you would click on an ad and it would take you to a shopping cart ready for check out.

Or there is the possibility that the DMA doesn't know how to conduct and/or interpret market research. Or worse, they are afraid to embrace anything that is not "direct marketing." After all, according to this research, "Response rates for direct mail have held steady over the past four years."

Finally, the report states, "These results are part of the DMA’s 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, which is based off 473 responses the organization e-mailed during March and April." But I don't even understand this. Who completed the surveys... direct marketers, creative directors, mail room managers? And what is the margin of error with 473 responses; did they account for this in their results? And why are you using e-mail instead of direct mail?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

If You Optimize It, They Will Come... But Will They Stay?

Ray, people will come Ray. They'll come for reasons they can't even fathom. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.

Everybody is always looking for something. New shoes, old dolls, big TVs, small computers. And how do most of them look for these things? They get online, go to their favorite search engine (Google) and enter a keyword or keyword phrase.

And that my friends is the key and not so well-kept secret of SEO. If you know what keywords and phrases consumers are using to find what they are looking for, you can begin to optimize your web site to reflect their searches and improve your ranking. Yes, you too can wind up on page one of the search results.

This is my most special place in all the world, Ray. Once a place touches you like this, the wind never blows so cold again. You feel for it, like it was your child.

Of course, as in the Field of Dreams, it is never quite that easy.

First you have to figure out what those keywords and phrases are (guessing or trusting your gut simply will not work). Then you have to apply them to your meta description and keyword lists. Then, and this is the truly scary part, you have to integrate these keywords and phrases into your web site content without bastardizing its intent and/or meaning (copy writing skills are required).

After all, while the goal of SEO is to get searchers to your site, the goal of the site is to keep them there, educate them, engage them, capture data about them and – in a perfect world – convert them.

So you need to understand how the process works, you need the skill and ability to identify target keywords and phrases, you need the ability to optimize your site and you need the ability to optimize the content. Sounds complicated, but it's really pretty simple once you break it down. And here's the best part: if you do it right (and don't skip or skimp on any steps), it actually works.

Ray. Ray. Listen to me, Ray. Listen to me. There is something out there, Ray, and if I have the courage to go through with this, what a story it'll make.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Five Guys + Burgers + Fries = Marketing Magic

Like many Americans wanting to be the biggest loser, I gave up on fast food about a decade ago. No more McDonald's Happy Meals, no more flame broiled Burger King Whoppers, no more Wendy's singles and chocolate frosties. I just quit.

And then along comes Five Guys Burgers and Fries. I had to try it. President Obama eats there, it must be good. And it was.

Fresh burgers made the way you like it, massive amounts of tasty fries and all the free shelled peanuts you can eat. And neither the wait nor the price is out of balance with the end product. But at the end of the day it is still fast food – still fried beef and potatoes – so why do I keep going back? Did I mention that I keep going back?

I have sworn off fast food and refuse to even fry foods at home. But at least once ever other week I find myself back at Five Guys for a small burger and a small order of fries (that I never finish). And I think I've figured it out.

Yeah, the food is good and that's definitely part of it, but it's more. The place is always clean; the floors, the counters, the tables, the cooking area – always spotless. The "five guys" who work there are always nice and friendly and sincere, chirping out orders and breaking into songs. In the meantime, there is always a solid mix of music playing in the background – not too quiet, not too loud. The place is always packed, but never overcrowded, and the wait is never unreasonable. And all the locations (I've been to three of them) are conveniently situated.

In short, it's an easy and enjoyable eatery. And in a world that is forever changing, Five Guys is one of those places – one of those experiences – you can count on for consistency.

And here is the marketing magic: I never heard of them before they showed up in my neighborhood. I have never seen a TV ad or heard a radio ad or read a newspaper ad or received a mailer. I have never received an e-mail or been to their web site, I don't follow their Twitter account and I am not a Facebook fan. I have not been tainted by outbound or inbound marketing in any way.

Yet I apparently am a loyal customer. Go figure.