Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have You Started Your Holiday Pre-Shopping Yet?

It's funny how behavioral change can just sneak up on you. Not just individual behavior, but societal behavior. And here we go again.

According to a new Pew Internet study, 58% of American adults now perform online research about the products and services that they are considering purchasing.

Of course, there is nothing new about "shopping around." I am sure we all have vivid memories of mom scouring the Wednesday newspaper ads as a prelude to her Thursday grocery shopping. And dad never bought new tires without checking the sports section of the paper for the best deals.

But this isn't a pure swap out. First of all, consumers are still referencing newspaper and magazine and TV and radio ads. In point of fact, consumers still spend more time watching TV and listening to radio and reading newspapers and magazines than they do on the Internet.

The behavioral change I am referring to has to do with the search process. Consumers aren't just reading ads on the Internet, they are going online to learn about the products they want, and find the best prices, and locate the most convenient stores (or buy it online) and discover what other consumers – or editors or bloggers – have to say about the product, and they even leave their own comments.

As if shopping isn't exhausting enough in its own right, we have now added a whole new level of pre-shopping activity (double ugh).

And what this means to the companies that make products, as well as the stores that sell products, is that you better catch up quick if you hope to satisfy the needs of the next generation of shoppers. Your web site better be occupied with tons of content – product descriptions, instructions, diagrams, photos, videos, testimonials – and interactive functionality and links to social network sites and easy to use shopping carts and store locators and on and on.

Because like it or not, the line at the cash register is now preceded by a visit to your web site (assuming your site is effectively optimized to achieve top search ranking).

Caveat venditor.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shocking Revelation: Teens Talk More Than They Tweet

Kids rock. Kids rule. Just ask them.

As a dad of three kids (no longer in their teens) and having once been a kid myself, I can honestly say that I love kids. I love babies, I love toddlers, I love youngsters, I even love teens. Kids are awesome. They are full of potential and energy and promise. They represent the best of what the world is and what it can become.

So, I was intrigued when I read the Adweek headline: Teens Deliver Brand WOM.

Of course I hate the idea that our industry is actually stalking teens to determine their "purchasing" and "communication" habits. But we are a capitalist society, so what're you gonna do?

But what really got my attention, what really took me by surprise, was what this study found:

Despite teens' immersion in the Internet, the report says the vast majority of their word of mouth takes place either face-to-face (75 percent) or by phone (10 percent). Just 13 percent occurs online.

Wow. I am shocked. I am surrounded by teen nieces (no nephews) who appear to forever be on their phones calling, texting and checking Facebook (none of them tweet), and like most adults I figured that's all they were doing. Turns out I was wrong. Turns out my perception about social networking and today's teens was faulty. And I am happy to get hung up - or out - on this one.

As Lady GaGa says in the last line of Telephone:

We're sorry, We're sorry,
the number you have reached is not in service at this time
Please check the number, or try your call again.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Rules of Marketing in an Unruly Society

It's late (approaching midnight), it's Tuesday (a school night), and mom is standing outside the Game Stop store with her 12-year-old son to drop $60 on Halo Reach, a new video game that is rated "M" for mature audiences.

If that doesn't say I love you, what does?

Man, when I was a kid... never mind, I really don't want to go there. Nor do I wish to disparage the video gaming industry, nor do I wish to give parents a bad rap for spoiling their kids.

But it did make me wonder about the changing role of marketing in the new dynamic of the "family" of the 21st century. Let's face it, the shame and disgrace of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbirth came and went about two decades ago.

Kids are growing up today in a multitude of family configurations that defy description or understanding, let alone the type of stereotyping that marketing relies on to sell ideas and products.

Try telling a kid today that "this ain't your grandma's car." First of all, which grandma are you talking about, my mom's mom or my step-mom's mom or my dad's mom or my step-dad's mom or my new step-dad's dad's second wife? Secondly, one grandma is still in her 40s and has a kid that is younger than me, while my other five grandmas are in their 50s, 60s and 70s. Thirdly, two of my grandmas live in Ohio, one lives in Las Vegas, one lives in Florida and the other one is constantly on the move.

I don't think there are enough psychologists or researchers to keep up with this situation. But as my dad used to say (I only had one dad), "If there's money to be made, someone will figure out a way."

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blue Jean Baby, Gray-Haired Lady

A few years before the Internet and social media revolution, there was this other revolution that got its legs in the 1960s.

Referred to as the "age of youth," it was a time when more than 70 million teenagers and young adults rebelled against the conservative establishment (a.k.a. the man). It was a time of making love, protesting war, taking drugs, playing rock music and tuning out. It was a time of dramatic change, with war protests and racial riots and student shootings.

But after about a decade of revolution, sometime in the mid-70s, after the break-up of the Beatles and the end of the war, something unexpected happened. Suddenly the older generation (a.k.a. the establishment) started to come around, trading in their Brooks Brother polyester suits for blue jeans and t-shirts... smoking their children's dope... and letting it all hang out. And that my friend was the beginning of the end.

There is no better buzzkill for a youth movement than to have the older generation join the parade.

A new report from Pew Research reports that U.S. Internet users aged 50 and over have dramatically increased their use of social networking services over the past year. According to the data, 42 percent of users in that age group make use of services such as Facebook and Twitter, compared with 22 percent that claimed to do so in April 2009. Among that group, users aged 65 and over demonstrated the most significant growth, with twice as many using social networks in 2010 than in 2009.

In the words of Paul Anka:

And now, the end is near
and so I face the final curtain...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

When The Market Shifts from Value to Price

Once upon a time in America... consumers were so appreciative of the their new possessions they actually protected them from wear and tear. Who doesn't have at least one old aunt or grandmother who wrapped her new davenport (a.k.a. sofa) in plastic to preserve its life?

Welcome to the double-dip recession of 2010. Someday our children's children may look back at this time and recall how consumers were so pressed for cash and credit they actually... rode their bikes to work instead of their cars just to save on gas... clipped coupons before going to the grocery store... compared prices before buying... made sacrifices just to make their house payments... exercised to avoid doctor bills... robbed banks because the unemployment well finally ran dry.

For the record, I am rooting for a recovery in the economy, and I am pretty sure that a lot of other people are as well. Unfortunately, there appears to be a lot of writing on the wall resulting from a lack of leadership and a greed-centered business ethic that is global in proportion. I am very hopeful, though not entirely confident that the American will – the will of the people – can triumph as it has so many times in the past. Unfortunately those who are unaffected (the haves) don't seem to care, those who are most affected (the have nots) are almost entirely dependent on a bankrupt government, and those in the middle are struggling to survive.

This is not a pretty scenario, but not one without hope. What's the old American adage? When the going gets tough the tough get going. Well, I'm not sure what the plan is and I am not sure who I am following, but I am ready to get going.

At the end of the day, I'd rather sit on a plastic-covered couch than the space on the floor where the repossessed sofa used to be.