The formula for selling viral toys, getting you to buy more

Formula:
Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity)….

Formula:

  1. Create a viral marketing campaign around certain toys using social media influencers.
  2. Undersupply the market with the toy. The limited amount furthers the frenzy and increases the desirability since now only a select number of consumers can get them (exclusivity).
  3. Launch PR campaign, supply media organizations with a few of the toys so they can them away as part of their holiday feel-good campaigns.
  4. Parents promise their kids the toy for Christmas, but can’t get it.
  5. Parents buy substitute toys for Christmas.
  6. After Christmas, toy manufacturer floods the market with the toy.
  7. Parents buy the toy when it becomes available, so now the parents have bought toys twice for the season: the substitute toys for Christmas day, and the desired toy in January or February.

And yet, what do I remember about my childhood holidays?

  • My grandfather building a gingerbread house with me.
  • Seeing and playing hide and seek with my cousins.
  • Putting together my family’s Christmas pyramid and being amazed by how the candles made it work.
  • Candlelight services.

https://www.nbcnews.com/widget/video-embed/1107596867748

Sources:

Good in theory, bad in execution

I often use this phrase when something that involved a solid plan with great thought behind the plan turns-out badly.

One of the main reasons that I like this phrase is that it acknowledges that strategic thinking may not always yield good results. And, if something does go wrong, there may not be someone or something responsible for the issue.

Examples:

  • A public relations director planned the perfect timing to distribute a press release to maximize news coverage. And, two hours after releasing it, a major community leader’s house burned down, taking all attention away from the release.
  • A bride and groom can plan their wedding for the time of year with the least likelihood of weather issues, and a fluke weather pattern can still create bad weather that day.
  • A retirement planning firm bought ads during a TV show series. In the ad, they positioned their financial planner, named Mary, as someone you could trust. One of the episodes of the TV show, unfortunately, was about a famous cult leader also named Mary and how she duped so many out of their fortunes.

You can almost always learn some things from incidents that execute badly, despite the best planning, but sometimes they are simply flukes. The trick is to know the difference.

Breast Cancer Sponsorship, is it really a good thing?

“Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Let me start by saying that I absolutely believe in the search for a cure for breast cancer and all harmful diseases and I support any woman, family, friend, affected by breast cancer. This post is merely to discuss whether or not marketers should be involved in the process.

For my Masters in Advertising, I had to take a course titled, “Advertising and Society.” The textbook we used was “Advertising and Society. Controversies and Consequences” edited by Carol J. Pardun. The book was set-up with a point and counterpoint for every argument. At first, it struck me as odd that there would even be a counterpoint to cause marketing. “Of course cause marketing is a good thing,” I thought to myself. But, the counterargument, “The adoption of social responsibility through cause-related marketing as a business strategy is unethical” by Peggy Kreshel changed my perspective.

Why is breast cancer such a popular sponsorship choice?

One of the most popular causes to sponsor is breast cancer. Everywhere you look, particularly in October because it’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month, there are pink ribbons, pink shirts, pink products, etc. Kershel points out that there are three main reasons breast cancer is the end-all, be-all of organization sponsorship:

  1. Breast cancer is a safe bet when it comes to corporate sponsorship. Who really is going to be against curing breast cancer? Pretty much no one. But, another cause, such as AIDS, is not such a safe bet. There are a lot of sexual connotations about AIDS and what lifestyles contract AIDS. So, by supporting AIDS research, corporations risk offending some of their consumer base who have negative views about AIDS and those that contract AIDS.
  2. Breast cancer has an easily recognized symbol and color. Everyone knows it and knows what it means to attach a corporation’s name to it.
  3. Women have significant buying power when it comes to their families and their home. Breast cancer sponsorship is an easy way for a corporation to show middle-aged women that they are their friends.
breast cancer pink ribbon pin and reflection
“Breast cancer reflection” by Williami5, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

What’s controversial about corporations sponsoring breast cancer?

Two of Kreshel’s answers are the following:

  • “…decisions regarding resource allocation in some of the most vital arenas of public welfare – health, environment, education – are made by marketing professionals and corporate executives focus on corporate needs and objectives, rather than by professionals in the relevant areas…Do corporate decision-makers have the knowledge base and experience to weigh the efficacy of these approaches to solving the social problem?” (198). Basically, what we have now, through corporate sponsorship, is millions of dollars going to causes based on what will be best for the corporation vs. what is best for society. And, it’s encouraging us to only focus on causes that have marketing and sponsorship opportunities rather than those causes that need the funding the most.
  • “The fact that the disease [breast cancer] is increasing in industrialized nations suggests the possibility of environmental factors” (198). But, “[feminist] emphasis on ecological factors…is not shared by groups such as Komen and the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate American if it’s complexion changed from pink to green” (Ehrenrich as cited in Kreshel, pg. 198). This is a tough pill to swallow, but it brings up a good point. Causes that are sponsored by corporations want to stay on their good side and stay neutral so the corporations see no risks and all benefits when sponsoring them. So what if, as suggested, breast cancer was linked to environmental factors? The environment is a hot political issue right now and, if Komen and the American Cancer Society were to give those environmental factors their proper emphasis, they risk loss of sponsorships because they will be seen as swinging to one side politically. In this way, corporations are shaping the path to the cause. If true, it also creates an ethical issue for researchers of breast cancer. Will they tell the truth and risk their corporate funding or will they remain silent?

Overall, I’m glad that corporations give money to causes and I do support corporations and businesses who give money to charity. However, reading Kreschel’s full argument really has made me less-likely to jump on any cause-marketing bandwagon. Perhaps we need to find another solution that allows corporations to give money in a way that shows social charity/responsibility, but still allows the money to be distributed to where it truly needs to go while also allowing causes the freedom to do what is best for their cause.

What you don’t know (but should) about public opinion polls

We really need to stop promoting and emphasizing these polls. They can do more harm than good but creating assumptions that shouldn’t be created on such small amounts of information.

A fake pie chart form a poll

“Poll” by Sean MacEntee, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0Y 2.0

You see them in the news quite often, opinion polls on politics, the environment, etc. And people place great emphasis on these results. The problem is, we shouldn’t.

Sample size issues

What you don’t know is, the majority of these polls sample a very small amount of people.  For example, according to the U.S. Census Bureau 2012 population statistics, there are over 42 million people in the United States between the ages of 20 and 29.  And yet, if you look at polls published regularly by the news media, their sample size is typically less than 300 people within a similar age range.

  • On December 15, 2013, USA Today (in cooperation with Pew Research) published the results of a poll: Obama struggles with Millenials. The poll only surveyed 229 millenials.
  • The article above cited a December 2013 Wall Street Journal/NBC poll as supporting evidence. That poll surveyed only 100 millenials.

So, less than 300 people are supposed to accurately represent the opinion of 42 million individuals.

The examples above do openly say their sample size and their margins of error, but my point is, we shouldn’t be placing such huge emphasis on polls with such a small sample size.

Collection methods

The other thing that always makes me very nervous about opinion polls is their collection methods. No collection method is perfect, all of them have flaws:

  • Phone polls: Typically people polling only call home phones. There is a huge population of cell-phone only homes that are left out.
  • Story-linked web polls: If someone clicks on a story and then takes a poll related to the story, they would be considered to have “high interest” in the story, which means the poll leaves out others who are “low interest.”
  • Web polls: You have to be on the web to take them. I know that’s considered very common, but there are still populations within the U.S. who are not regularly online.
  • Interception polls (such as stopping people at a mall): These polls typically end up targeting a segment of the population that has an interest in similar activities (otherwise they wouldn’t be in the same place). Some examples of this gone wrong are asking people only at a rock concert how they feel about rock music or asking consumers when they are shopping how the consumer confidence is.

Interest level

A third key factor about polls is that someone is not typically going to take the time to take them if they aren’t interested in the topic. This immediately skews your results to those in the “high interest” or “strong opinion” categories.

Think about your own habits. What if you were in the middle of something and you got a call asking you to take a poll on a subject you could care less about. Would you take it? Probably not. But if it’s something you are very passionate about, you probably will.

In sum, we really need to stop promoting and emphasizing these polls. They can do more harm than good but creating assumptions that shouldn’t be created on such small amounts of information.

For more on this, visit:

The Polarization of America, a Communication Perspective, Part 2: We No Longer Believe Evidence and Facts

 

 

It’s time for a radical change in strategy

It’s time for a radical change in strategy. Yelling the same messages louder and keeping your product mostly the same isn’t working. For radical change to happen, you have to radically change your strategy.

A group of people in suits sitting before microphones waiting in turn to speak
“Debate 10.4.12” by Southern Arkansas University, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Imagine you are a marketer and a business comes to you for advice.

This business has been in a competitive struggle for years with another business. Neither is gaining significant market share against the other. They seem locked in a war neither can win.

You look at their product and their promotion strategy, as well as that of their competitor, and you find that neither has made significant product changes or messaging changes in years. But, they both continually increase their ad spending year after year. This all keeps their consumer bases happy and loyal, but isn’t changing their market share positions.

What would most marketers tell the business at this point?

For radical change to happen, you have to radically change your strategy. It’s time for a new approach.

I’m looking at you, special interest groups seemingly locked-in an endless battle with one another. As a citizen, I value your advocacy on both sides as a means of finding balance for our society. But if I was your marketer, I’d be making a strong case for radical change. Yelling the same things, only louder, no longer works.

Stop putting your building in ads! Features vs. benefits in marketing

A while ago, I watched a local business give a presentation to the local chamber of commerce about their law firm. And they talked about…their building.  Apparently they had just finished a remodel of their offices and wanted to show them off. Slide after slide after slide was photos of the inside and outside of their building. It was beautiful, but a complete waste of the audience’s time and a complete missed marketing opportunity for the business.

Features vs. benefits

Because businesses are empowered by computer programs that allow them to design their own fliers, brochures, and webpages (although I recommend against this), it’s important to remember features vs. benefits.

Features describe something. Usually they describe something about your business or your product.

Benefits are how those features benefit the customer.  Basically, they describe why the customer cares.

An easy way to tell the difference between your company or product’s features vs. benefits can be done with a simple sentence:

  1. Start by naming something about your business or product.
  2. Now, pretend that you are talking to your potential customer and finish the sentence by saying “so you can…” and adding an ending.

Examples (remember you are talking directly to your customer):

  • Our coffee is only made with the freshest beans (feature), so you can be sure that every cup of coffee will be a great sensory experience (benefit).
  • The homes we build are made to withstand hurricane winds (feature) so you can be free of worry because your family will be protected when the next storm comes (benefit).
  • Our lawn tractors last twice as long as any of our competitor’s lawn tractors (feature) so you can save money in the long-term by purchasing one of our lawn tractors even though it is more expensive (benefit).
  • Every plumber that works for us is certified and has a minimum of 10 years of experience (feature) so you can be sure that the problem will be fixed the first time and you won’t have to worry about it again or take another day off work to fix it (benefits).
A photo of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous waterfall house, Fallingwater
“Fallingwater (Frank Lloyd Wright)” by brian donovan, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Features vs. Benefits in Marketing

Your final marketing message doesn’t have to be in that format. It can be delivered in a wide variety of ways, which is where the beauty of good advertising comes in. But, the point that is absolutely critical is that your marketing should focus on them (benefits) and not focus on you (features).

With the constantly increasing number of advertising messages that your potential customers are exposed to every day, in order to stand out, you must speak directly to your customers in a way that resonates with them. You must explain or show them that your product or service benefits them in some way that will motivate them to act.

It’s Not About Your Building!

Going back to our law firm example, this is the biggest features vs. benefits mistake I see a lot of businesses make is to focus on their building (although poor facilities can affect your marketing effectiveness).

If I were advising the law firm, considering that their audience was primarily small business owners at that meeting, I would have recommended that they focused their talk on how their services benefit small business owners by saving them money, protecting their business, etc.  By doing so, they would be focusing on how they can benefit the people in the room and they would have had a much better chance of walking out with some new leads.

Take a Fresh Look

So I challenge you to take a fresh look at your marketing materials and review tapes of your past presentations, and ask yourself if you are talking about features or benefits.  Are you talking about yourself or are you talking about them? Are you focused on what comes after “so you can…” in your marketing? If not, it’s time to start rewriting.

Crisis communications: Think about your competition

A group of bikers riding in a bike race
Just as athletes have to plan for their own or a competitor’s mistake, we also need to consider our competition in crisis communications

In crisis communications, we’re trained to think about all of our stakeholders including customers, employees, partners, etc. But we need to also think about and react to how our competitors will respond our crisis. How will they respond? How will they try to gain market share or serve their purposes during and after a crisis?

And how will we respond if our competitors have a crisis? Should we react (public comment, changing production amounts, etc.)? Will we need to change our messaging during that time? Could their crisis spread to us?

We need to consider our competition before, during, and after a crisis.

Suggested reading:

Crisis Communications: A tale of marijuana and two U.S. Presidents

The one thing companies are still doing wrong in crisis communications

One thing missing from crisis communications advice: Resume community relations as fast as you can

Prevent a PR crisis: Explain why upfront

Dear company representatives, stop commenting on controversial issues!

Photo: “Philadelphia Bike Race – flying off Lemon Hill” by joiseyshowaa, via Flickr Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY 2.0