Erin’s Blog


It’s a table, it’s a computer, it’s Microsoft Surface!

It’s a table…but so much more. It can grab your photos, share and download music, give you electronics specs, send e-mail, send picture messages, split a check, take your order, and more! Microsoft Surface…wow!

 

Here’s one video Microsoft released showing the possibilities that lay before us when it comes to the Surface:

Adults love it, bars love it, Vegas will love it! But what advantages does the Surface offer the youngsters of the world, besides the fact they’ll never have the opportunity to waitress? An article I found explains that SMART Technologies, a worldwide leader for interactive whiteboard products, has been using touch-sensitive technology to help children learn since 1991. Now that Microsoft has come out with the Surface, Smart Technologies has introduced the SMART Table. It looks almost identical to the Surface, works the exact same way, but is different in that it is specifically designed to help teach children in the classroom. The 27-inch screen “is loaded with games to help kids read, write, solve puzzles, match colors, and more. Teachers can even connect their computer to the table to customize preloaded applications or upload their own activities or games.”

 

But does SMART Technologies have the monopoly on childhood education and touch-surface technology? Microsoft Surface isn’t lacking:

 

 

Seems pretty amazing, doesn’t it?

 

But what about typing up a document? What about creating something in PowerPoint? When it comes down to it, Microsoft’s Surface is still a computer, but it’s not letting consumers use it for their basic computing needs. What do we do when our digital bar table crashes? Will our orders be lost? Right now it seems all about the thrill of innovation, but what about the logic behind it? Why spend upwards of $10,000 on a tabletop computer that does, well, a lot, but then still pay for our laptops to type documents on?

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Is that a TV screen in your contact or are you just unhappy to see me?

They were made of glass, then thin plastic. They were clear, then made in different colors and designs. They help with near-sightedness and far-sightedness, and now you can watch Friends reruns on them!

Guess you can't tell the kids to back away from the TV sets anymore!

Guess you can't tell the kids to back away from the TV sets anymore!

One article I found said a recent report published by the Future Laboratory states that “Within a decade, TV will be able to transmit video via contact lenses and emotional impulses via tattoos.” Comet, the British electronics retailer, commissioned the report and commented, “We could even get to the point where we’ll be able to immerse ourselves in a football game, making it feel like you’re running alongside your favorite player or berating the ref.” Bob Darke, Comet’s commercial director, furthered this point saying, “The world, in all its multi-sensory forms, will literally come to us, just the way we want it.”

Another article  from the UK’s Telegraph explained that the eye-sized TV sets would be powered by the wearer’s body heat and channels could be changed via voice command or a wave of the hand. Miriam Rayman of the Future Laboratory consultancy, who compiled the information and original report, explains that the technology needed for developing the mini-televisions and the emotional response tattoos already exists, it’s just a matter of making it “more immersible.”

So…what does this mean? Apparently people’s eyes will be slightly tinted by whatever it is they’re watching, but those passing by would be unable to tell. Also, people could still go about their daily activities, just as long as they remember to look out through the contacts now and then and not bump into anything!

I saw a news clip (but can’t find it online for the life of me!) of Lance Ulanoff, editor-in-chief of PC Magazine, describing the usage of the TV contact to be similar to this scene in the 2002 film Minority Report.

Viewers would use their hands, perhaps equipped with special gloves, to move images around, rewind, etc., and see exactly what they want to see.

Great idea? I think if we were all sitting down and watching our shows play in front of a blank wall and the only reason to have it in our eyes is to make it all the more “real,” especially with those tattoos, then yeah, good idea. Well, still maybe not a good idea. I’d love to “feel” like I’m part of a movie such as Down With Love, but do I really want to feel like I’m part of a shootout in Die Hard? What about the people at work…will they be working or watching TV? Will their bosses be able to tell? Productivity may just go down the toilet, some suggest, but then again, we could all just sit at work and watch clips of our favorite shows or perhaps even full-length movies online, on our iPhones, our iPods, our mini-DVD players, etc.

What is the real benefit of TV contacts?!


Starbucks used to mean status…what does it mean now?

Although this may not be exactly related to IMC, I have to discuss it anyway. Starbucks. Some people hate it, some people love it, and some people don’t really care either way and stop in when it’s convenient (and it’s usually always convenient). But do you remember the days when Starbucks was everything? It used to be a status symbol, people used to be proud to hold that white and green cup or to have that green straw poking out of their iced drinks. Is it just the recession that’s causing Starbucks’ status to plummet or is the corporation lowering its standards to try and be “everyman’s” coffee?

Starbucks as status

Starbucks as status

One MSN article  states that between 1995 and 2005, Starbucks stock grew more than 1,500% People were glad to walk into a crowded Starbucks before work and order their $1.05 tall drip coffee (that’s the price it was when and where I worked, but it is different at every location) even though they could make the exact same coffee at home for roughly 40 cents. What was it in 2005 that made people love it so much? Was it the fact that I worked there in 2005 (you’re welcome, Schultz!) or was it the economy? The way Starbucks did its business? Starbucks has always tried to be the “third place” in American life (if home is #1, work is #2…) Back in 2005 they held to that standard. There weren’t breakfast sandwiches, just a pastry case. There weren’t (as many) ridiculous novelty drinks. Baristas were pushed to get to know their customers, to befriend them, to know their names or at least memorize their drinks. Where else could you find that in 2005? McDonald’s had black coffee, but not the same friendly, cozy atmosphere. Dunkin’ Donuts hadn’t become a serious coffee competitor, yet, and still didn’t offer the “third place” feel that Starbucks did. When did things change?

People are willing to wait, and pay, for Starbucks.

People are willing to wait, and pay, for Starbucks.

One Newsweek article cites that it was in January 2008 when things shifted. That’s when Starbucks began “test marketing a bottomless eight-ounce cup of joe priced at just $1” to ward off the increasingly threatening McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts. This was also when retired CEO Howard Schultz made the decision to come back into his post “intent on reviving the ‘emotional connection’ that he says customers have with their steaming cups of Starbucks brew.” I actually very distinctly remember the day in 2008 when Schultz made the decision to shut down every single Starbucks store nationwide for 3-hours to re-train the Baristas in how to correctly steam, pour, mix, all the ingredients for a great cup of coffee, and also how to be a friendly and personable Barista. What did Starbucks’ competitors do at this time? Dunkin Donuts offered free small cups of coffee for those exact same 3 hours. Clever, right? Too bad the average person didn’t understand why Starbucks was shut down (when normally the only day of the year they are ever closed is Christmas day), they didn’t get it was to better the company, only Starbucks fanatics like me understood that. The average person thought “That’s weird, but hey, free coffee somewhere else…” Way to promote the retraining correctly, Starbucks PR! “Starbucks need to compete with lower-priced rivals is clear,” the article states, “but is it selling itself too cheaply at $1?” I say, yes. Despite the fact McDonald’s introduced it’s gourmet coffees or that Dunkin Donuts positioned itself as one of the most serious coffee rivals means nothing. In my opinion people started going to Starbucks in the first place because they could afford it and they did want to look like they could afford it. That green straw meant that they had the money to waste on a cup of coffee they could make at their own home. But what has happened to Starbucks now? Its becoming McDonald’s, and I don’t mean that in a good way.

One in the same?

One in the same?

The article  that started this entire Starbucks rant was entitled Starbucks to sell value-meal pairings for $3.95. I’m sorry; did you just say “Starbucks” and “value-meal” in the same sentence? When I hear “value-meal” I think spending an extra 50 cents and getting a large fry and drink with that, I think thousands upon thousands of extra calories that nobody needs, I think morbidly obese America, and now Starbucks is becoming a part of this trend? “The gourmet coffee chain said it will introduce value-meal type options for $3.95 in its U.S. company-owned stores” said the article. “Customers can order a tall latte and an oatmeal or a slice of reduced-fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake. Drip coffee drinkers can get a tall brewed coffee with a breakfast sandwich at the same price…Starbucks said the pairings will provide customers with an average savings of as much as $1.20.” Wow, should I be happy about this? The article also states that the company is going to launch two more breakfast sandwiches. WHY? Starbucks is not McDonald’s. People go to Starbucks for desserts in cups, desserts on a plate, small lunch fruit and cheese plates or parfaits, and the occasional cup of black coffee, stop trying to appeal to everyone, Schultz, that’s not the point of that green straw or those green aprons! If I wanted a breakfast sandwich and a black coffee, I’d go to McDonald’s. When I want a delicious coffee and a pleasant environment while transacting with nice and personable sales associates who know my drink by heart, I go to Starbucks. I go to Starbucks and I pay more because I appreciate the service, the décor, the atmosphere, and what that Siren stands for! Seriously, Starbucks, stop trying to appeal to middle America. I understand if prices have to fall during a recession, but stop trying to be fast-food…we already have billions of McDonald’s out there.


Cause-Related Marketing: How does it work for business?

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We’ve all seen companies tie themselves to a cause: Gap with the (RED) campaign, Pampers with Unicef, etc. But why do they do this? Is it to boost their sales? Make them look socially responsible? Get a more positive spin on their company’s practices? What is it that makes companies care about a cause rather than their own cash registers? 

One article I read explained that although there are many different kinds of cause-related marketing out there these days, they all basically boil down to the “an agreement between a business entity and a nonprofit to raise money for a particular cause. The business entity expects to profit by this arrangement by selling more products and by enjoying the ‘halo’ affect of being associated with a respected nonprofit cause.” Successful cause-related marketing, or CRM, goes public with the information that they are operating with a nonprofit right away. The business entity doesn’t stay low-key or anonymous, they let all of their consumers and potential consumers know that they are a socially responsible company and are interested in the same causes that their consumers are. “The nonprofit,” in return, “benefits both financially and through a higher public profile as a result of its partner’s marketing efforts.”

 

In her book Cause Marketing for Nonprofits, Jocelyne Daw lists some of the more popular CRM campaigns:

Product sales. Think of the (Red) campaign  which has brought together many companies to sell specifically branded products (a red Gap T-shirt or a red iPod for instance) with a protion of the selling price going to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS prevention.

Purcahse plus. This is a campaign waged at the checkout line at grocery stores or other retail venues. Typically a customer is asked if he would like to add a donation to his bill. The amounts are usually low enough for most people to say yes. The store processes the money and gives it to the nonprofit with which it has partnered. Promotion of the cause is usually pretty low-key but that makes these programs easy to set up and they are quick so as business can respond to, say, a natural disaster in a timely way.

Licensing of the nonprofit’s logo, brand, and assets. Licensing runs the gamut from products that are extensions of the nonprofit’s mission to using its logo on promotional items such as T-shirts, mugs, and credit cards to having the nonprofit provide a certification or commendation of particular products. An example of the latter is the American Heart Association which provides recognition for products that meet their standards for heart health.

Cobranded events and programs. Probably the best-knnown example of a cobranded event is the Susan G. Komen ‘race for the cure.’ A cobranded program is exemplified by a London Children’s Museum that teamed up with the 3M company to build and outfit a science gallery for children. The involvement of the corporation in this program is deeper than the usual ‘sponsorship’ which scientists from the company involved in helping with the exhibits to the company’s employees serving as voluntneers.

Social or public service marketing programs. Social marketing involves the use of marketing principles and techniques to encourage behavior change in particular audience. An example is the partnership of the American Cancer Society and Novartis, on their Great American Smokeout.

One article detailed a conversation with Patty Gibson, Advertising Director at Coastal Contacts, a company focused on giving back to society. When asked to give an example of a retail company that has or is effectively harnessing CRM, Gibson explained that Pampers for Unicef was great.

They took the BOGO concept, but changed it from Buy One, Get One to Buy One, Give One. For each pack of specially marked diapers, they donated the cost of one vaccine against newborn tetanus. This is a perfect product tie-in that appeals to consumers on a deeper level because of the clear and obvious connection of helping babies. The BOGO format allows the customer to feel that they have directly contributed to the cause.

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The article went on to ask what the best practices would be to share with other Advertising Managers hoping to incorporate CRM into their advertising mix.

It’s imperative to select a cause or charity that your staff can really embrace wholeheartedly. It is a cliché, but if you genuinely care about something, it will show. It’s equally important that you select a cause that you can affect directly with your products or services. Sure, it’s always great to fight world hunger, but it would be better fit for a catering company to get their staff together once a month to support a local soup kitchen by providing dinner. One, you get your team together doing something fun. Two, you are using your existing products and services to help the company. Three, you can leverage elements like photos and videos into other marketing efforts, like posing them on your corporate Facebook page. Making it relevant to your local community and sharing the results is a much more compelling proposition than just writing a donation check.

So what are the pros and cons of cause-related marketing? For the business, CRM not only shows consumers, but also proves to them that the company is socially responsible and it provides substantial public awareness of its values and will to support a special cause. As for the nonprofit side of the CRM campaign, they can receive significant contributions, which are usually “unrestricted” so they can pay for overhead costs as well. Besides the money, they also receive publicity and advertising that is usually created by the corporation they partnered up with.

 

There is a downside to CRM, though. There is always that chance that one of the entities; either the corporation or the nonprofit will do something that hurts the reputation of the other. Because this is a possibility, companies need to choose their partners wisely. Also, there has been a growing concern in recent years about nonprofits lending their names to for-profit activities and if that may weaken the nonprofit organization’s stance on aiding citizens. Does this mean the nonprofit company sold-out, or does it simply mean they’re trying to raise money for those in need and people accept the fact that they need to make the money somehow? Daw’s book also mentions the potential problems:

  • Merchandising deals are not appropriate for just any charity. The ones that do well have significant name recognition or expertise in a particular topic.
  • It can take up to two years of research, negotiation, and product development before an organization realizes any profit.
  • Too many charities pursuing high profile deals can result in ‘cause clutter.’ Consumers may grow tired of the constant appeals to buy things to support good causes.

However, despite all the questions and concerns, CRM appears to work. One survey  by cause-marketing firm Cone found that when it comes to Generation Y, the children of baby boomers, while 30% of surveyed consumers in 2004 said they would pay more for a product if it supports a good cause, a follow-up survey more recently showed that only 14% of consumers say they would do so. Also, the study found that a cause-related marketing offer is more likely to elicit a more positive response to a disaster cause rather than an ongoing cause. If a person is female, if they are a social science major, their parents’ annual income, and their previous donation activity also have a significant impact on the evaluation of a CRM offer.

 

So, I suggest companies sign on with a nonprofit and promote, promote, promote. It will help the company as well as raise money for the nonprofit and besides the remote chance either company could soil the others’ name, it seems like a win-win overall!


Marketing to kids: the facts.

Some say it’s wrong, some say they’re a viable market because there’s a profit to be made. How does advertising to kids affect the kids, though? We all know that if we tell kids to go buy Jonas Brothers CDs or Hannah Montana concert tickets, they’ll beg and beg until their parents cave in. It annoys parents, it makes money. But are there any lasting effects?

 

Is it dangerous for kids to have so much technology at their disposal?

Is it dangerous for kids to have so much technology at their disposal?

One company, Newdream.org, put together a list of factoids that deal with kids and marketing: 

-Advertising directed at children is estimated at over $15 billion annually – about 2.5 times more than it was in 1992

 

-Over the past two decades, the degree to which marketers have scaled up efforts to reach children is staggering. In 1983, they spent $100 million on television advertising to kids. Today, they pour roughly 150 times that amount into a variety of mediums that seek to infiltrate every corner of children’s worlds.

 

-According to a leading expert on branding, 80% of all global brands now deploy a “tween strategy.”

 

-The average American child today is exposed to an estimated 40,000 television commercials a year –over 100 a day.

 

-A task force of the American Psychological Association (APA) has recommended restrictions on advertising that targets children under the age of eight, based on research showing that children under this age are unable to cortically comprehend televised advertising messages and are prone to accept advertiser messages as truthful, accurate, and unbiased.

 

-According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, youth are multitasking their way through a wide variety of electronic media daily, juggling iPods and instant messaging with TV and cell phones. In fact, they pack 8.5 hours of media exposure into 6.5 hours each day, seven days a week –which means they spend more time plugged in than they do in a classroom

 

According to a national survey commissioned by the Center for a New American Dream:

 

-American children aged 12 to 17 will ask their parents for products they have seen advertised an average of nine times until the parents finally give in

 

-More than 10% of 12- to 13-year-olds admitted to asking their parents more than 50 times for products they have seen advertised

 

-More than half of the children surveyed (53%) said that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves. The number is even higher among 12- to 13-year-olds: 62% say that buying certain products makes them feel better about themselves.

 

-Nearly a third of those surveyed (32%) admitted to feeling pressure to buy certain products such as clothes and CDs because their friends have them. Over half of the 12- to 13-year-olds (54%) admitted to feeling such pressure.

 

-The nagging strategy is paying dividends for kids and marketers alike: 55% of kids surveyed said they are usually successful in getting their parents to give in.

 

-According to a 2003 New American Dream poll, 57% of children age 9-14 would rather do something fun with their mom or dad than go to the mall to go shopping.

 

-An informal survey of Channel One advertisers from a few years ago found that 27% o the ads were for junk food. The next highest category, at 10%, was military recruitment. Channel One also advertises movies, TV shows, and video games featuring violence, strong sexual content, and alcohol and tobacco use.

 

What are the effects of all this advertising, you may ask? The fact sheet explains: 

-Obesity: Rising levels of childhood obesity track an explosion of junk food ads in recent years

 

-Emotional well-being: Author and Boston College sociology professor Juliet Schor finds links between immersion in consumer culture and depression, anxiety, low self esteem, and conflicts with parents.

 

-Self-image and sexual behavior: Wheelock College education professor Diane Levin sees correlations with sexual imagery in children’s ads and increases in eating disorders among girls, adding that as ‘children struggle to make sense of mature sexual content, they are robbed of valuable time for age-appropriate developmental tasks, and they may begin to engage in precocious sexual behavior.’

 

-Financial self-control: National surveys reveal that kids are leaving high school without a basic understanding of issues related to savings and credit card debt. No surprise, then, that over the past decade, credit card debt among 18-24 year olds more than doubled.

 A CBS news article  entitled Resources: Marketing to Kids explained that marketing firms and advertisers are constantly looking to a younger demographic, more and more often targeting tweens and those children even younger, claiming that statistics show 8-to 12-year-olds spend $30 billion of their own money each year and influence another $150 billion of their parents spending!

 

The article suggests that there is going to be a “Generation Plastic” in our future since companies are marketing types of credit cards to children as young as 3-years-old! “Credit cards are featured in games for kids as well as toys such as Barbie. Pre-pay cards that parents can give to kids are seen by some as ‘credit cards with training wheels.’” Cards such as PAYjr and Visa Buxx are popular among kids and are drastically changing the way children of the world view money. “The reality is that my kids and really any child or teenager today is likely to never write a check or even use cash for that matter,” PAYjr Ceo David Jones says.

 

payjr

 

Well, this is true. I have a checkbook and rarely ever use it. Just recently I decided to make a donation via check to track where it went, but before that the last time I used my checkbook was for a parking ticket in Morgantown, WV, and before that it was for a boyfriend’s parking ticket in the same city (ugh, I can’t believe I paid for it) and before that it was for my high school Senior Prom…that tells you how much use I get outta that thing! These days I carry just enough cash to use on small purchases, like when I go out for fast food, or to cover my entrance into a bar or nightclub (doormen really ought to take credit cards…). Besides those few occasions, it’s a swipe with the plastic here, and another swipe there. I, however, know how to be responsible when it comes to money, unlike the children of the world today! But what about when marketers come a-hunting for kids?

 

The CBS article continues that marketers are getting savvier about getting kids to approve the spending of their parents’ money. “Free” downloads that actually aren’t, ringtones, or picture-sharing services show up on parents’ cell-phone bills months later so there can be a great deal of damage done before the parents realize. Doug Foderman, whose daughter got hit by a cellphone scam, and Marje Monroe, began a group  in 1997 to teach elementary, middle, and high school kids and parents how to cope with many issues affecting children online. Besides simply limiting kids’ time to advertising exposure, organizations such as this try to teach the tricks behind advertising towards children so they aren’t as susceptible to scams.

 

So, kids are a marketable group. This is true. Advertisements have always been directed towards children and have increased in recent years. When will it become too much? Will children grow a blindness to such advertising earlier in life now that they are constantly bombarded with these messages? How do we keep our kids from being duped by the media?


Facebook group, and flair, for funningham!

Have a Facebook? Become a fan of this site via the new Facebook group Readers of funningham.wordpress.com/! I’ll begin posting updates on the group site soon!

While you’re at it, go nuts and add the flair button I made! Add the Flair application (so much fun!) and search for “Funningham Blog.” TA-DA! You’re my very own little support group…er, I mean…advertising scheme…I mean…cult…um…groupies! My very own groupies!

Facebook Flair!

Facebook Flair!

Tell all your friends, call your grandma, print it on the side of your car: FUNNINGHAM.WORDPRESS.COM/!!!!!
And I’ll be back to actual IMC conversations soon!

Trusting a corporate blog…is it possible?

When it comes to blogging…who do you trust? Where do you go? Should you go straight to the company and see what they say, what people on their website say? Are you worried it may be too tightly watched by the corporation, all the negative blog posts are erased and Big Brother is making said company look flawless?! Or…do you go to public blogs, something created by an individual with their own personal thoughts and then commented on by other individuals with their own thoughts and so on and so forth?

 

Where to go, who to trust?

 

A 2008 survey by Forrester Research found that only 16% of online consumers who read corporate blogs say they trust them. Just look at the chart:

 

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Forrester also found that among the people who regularly read blogs, which is at least once a month, 24% trust company blogs. Among people who blog themselves, 39% trust company blogs. Also, the people who trust company blogs are actually the most trusting of all consumers. They trust everything more than most people, including blogs. Read all about it here.

 

So why are company blogs challenged?

 

Jeremiah Owyang, a Senior Analyst at Forrester Research blogged about it the issue and created this list of corporate blog challenges

Most don’t receive a lot of traffic: Truth is, from one day to the next, there aren’t massive increases in eyeballs to the web, also, there are only so many hours in the day. The same applies to blogs, while there are millions out there, only a few rise to the top of their marketplace and really stand out.

 

May require a lot of time: […]Blogging’s biggest cost isn’t money, it’s time. When this comes to executives, the cost per hour radically increases from a support technician or a line marketing manager…Blogging is costly, I easily spend 1-2 hours every morning managing this blog.

 

Being conversational is unnatural: Traditional marketing looks a lot more like carpet bombing than conversations at a coffee shop, and despite good intentions, corp comm dictates the voice and spirit of blogs created by employees.

 

Often, no ending date: Blogs aren’t marketing campaigns, there is no ending flight. Bad blogs may whimper along for months, great ones will also continue on, at what point does one stop?

 

As employee bloggers become popular, brands get concerned: This happened to Scoble and others, as bloggers became more popular as individuals rather than being behind the collective wall, they develop a platform to move on. […]Why would a brand invest in individuals that aren’t execs?

 

Legal has hangups: Two way dialog that allows objective and negative content is scary for legal. Furthermore, how do we react to colleagues that may look like they are making promises on behalf of the company?

 

Our employees don’t represent our brand: I’ve actually been on a call with a client where they indicated the mental capacity of some of their employees (laborious retail jobs right out of college) really weren’t going to make great bloggers, and they were concerned with the activity they had on MySpace and Facebook. The same applies to blogs, some employees may cast the brand in the wrong light

 

Hard to measure success: Marketers measure campaign success by drops at the end of the funnel: visits and registrations. The problem with blogs is that social software success could take the form of comments, trackbacks, and qualitative intangibles. With management looking for those raw numbers, how does one succeed?

So, the fact of the matter is that people trust what their own friends or people they know tell them. This may mean that people will trust a stranger’s advice on something (although, maybe not much more than a corporate blog, I mean…look at that Forrester chart up there!) So what do people do, where do people turn? Can companies just keep an eye on official and unofficial blogs and hope for the best? Will companies utilize social networking way more in the future because it’s proven to be a trusted method of marketing? Can we ever trust the corporations??


The death of direct mail: will it be personal choice or recycling requirements?

This week in my class’ online forum we spent a great deal of time discussing the decline of direct mail. I touched upon the fact that catalogs will never die; they’ll just become more streamlined, more magazine-like, and display the feel of the brand, not necessarily all of their merchandise. But what about the rest of direct mail? Those little one page, thick paper, 20%-off coupons from Bed, Bath, and Beyond? The one page advertisements for local establishments or even upgrading your cable plan?

 

Items like these are delivered by zip code, specific mail delivery routes, or within a certain radius of the company’s location. Labels are addressed to “Resident” rather than a name, ensuring the highest deliverability rate.  Companies such as mailinglistsdirect.com explain this on their website and specialize in direct mail and obtaining mailing lists. Is any of that effective, though? It’s a pretty standard practice of mine that I go into my mailbox, take out any actual letters or important pieces, then grab these leaflets and take them straight to the nearby dumpster. In fact, a lot of people seem to be doing this. An article in Time magazine from December 2008 explains that for every personal letter received, the average American gets 18 pieces of junk mail. Wading through the muck of unwanted mail wastes 8 months of our lives over the average lifespan, but this “paper spam” uses an estimated 100 million trees each year, all the while 44% of this junk mail winds up unopened in landfills. A few more stats for you:

40 LB. = Weight of junk mail each American gets per year
848 = Pieces of junk mail each household gets per year

89% = Poll respondents who support a Do Not Mail list

30% = Worldwide mail composed of U.S. junk mail

19 BILLION = Number of catalogs mailed every year

What do people do? How do we avoid such craptastic mail? Some companies are beginning to change, hoping to create environmental change. Forest Ethics, a San Francisco-based environmental group, launched a national Do Not Mail campaign, following in the footsteps of the Do Not Call Registry. As of December 2008, 19 states debated the Do Not Mail proposal but none had passed it. The article claims it may be because politicians know direct mail can yield an estimated $646 billion a year in sales. Don McKenzie, CEO of Direct Group, a direct-marking company, says “Mail works. It’s one of the best advertising methods out there.”

 

 

While the Do Not Mail concept may never spring into popularity, some companies do offer relief! CatalogChoice.org  is a nonprofit organization that helps those of us with stuffed mailboxes. We tell them which catalogs we don’t want anymore and they will contact the company or the mailers on our behalf! It was launched in 2007 and already had over a million people signed up by the end of 2008. But, it’s not fullproof. Some companies completely ignore the requests and others still beg and beg to send us at least one catalog a year. Honestly, I could live with that, but then again, I love catalogs. I open up the pages, I always find something and ta-da, I’m on their online website and ready to order. My big problem is those pesky credit-card solicitations, the one-page flyers, and other such useless items.

 

ProQuo.com is another free service that offers aid for direct-mail recipients. You go onto their site, type in your name and address, and the site lets you opt out of receiving certain mail, like credit-card solicitations, catalogs, those Valpak coupons I can’t stand, sweepstakes I used to love as a kid but toss now, and more. As of December 2008 the company was planning on generating ad revenue by letting customers pick and choose the kinds of offers they do want to get. And, if you’re willing to pay for the service, GreenDimes.com offers more for a $20 annual fee. They swear they can reduce your junk mail by 90% within 90 days. How? By taking your name off of many of those lists out there that companies use to get to you.


The U.K. is questioning whether direct mail has just about 18 months to live…Well, the article with said concern was written in July 2008, so now the U.K. is wondering whether direct mail has one year to live!
Defra, the UK Government’s Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs, sets targets for advertisers to reach, such as having 30% of direct mail recycled by 2005, a target that was just missed, and 55% recycled by the end of 2009, then raising this to 70% by 2013. But, the article states, the clock may be ticking for the long-time advertising method. And, if it disappears, what will the consequences be for the entire industry?

“Unfortunately,” Paul Kennedy, head of professional services at Broadsystem states, “it’s not so much a matter of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ the direct mail industry misses its environmental targets. As things currently stand, there isn’t a chance that we’ll meet the 2009 target.” And even though the newspaper industry is up to 80.3% recycled content, surpassing their target, Kennedy says “Independent research has shown that magazines and newspapers currently make up 11% of landfill, while direct mail only contributes 2%. So we can take a small amount of pleasure in knowing that we’re not the worst culprits.”…Ummm…wow.

The truth of the matter is, within the United Kingdom, when companies and industries are given a quota or a goal to reach in time, they need to work hard, and continue working hard, to do what they need to do or they’ll be forced to go under. Especially since industries in the UK have missed the point from Defra. It’s not about how much of the paper or product is recyclable, it’s about how much is being recycled by the people. So, if they can’t make products or direct mail packages that can be recycled, they’re only hurting themselves and their chance at remaining an industry.

 

Although the United States doesn’t have such requirements yet, when it comes to our paper products and the direct-mailing industries, we have set goals and there are plenty of advocate groups out there trying to make companies more “green,” which would lead to major decrease in direct mailing or at least their practices.

 

An April 2008 article from Advertising Age entitled A few tips if you’re trying to guide your shop and clients to a greener existence suggests a few things:

Companies use as much recycled content paper as possible, even for annual reports, analyst reports, internal communications, and direct mail

Use a “green” printer; one that uses nontoxic inks

Use targeted direct-mail lists and updated mailing lists in order to maximize dollars and print effectiveness as well as reduce duplicate addresses and nonresponsive homes

Communicate in the office without paper, use digital media instead

Utilize environmentally-friendly packaging for your products and your mailings

 

It’s hard to pinpoint when direct mail will finally fade away. On one hand, it makes money and seems to work. On the other, it’s annoying and creates way too much waste. If the United States implements a recycling requirement you can be sure that direct mail will be out of your hair before you know it. But until the government actually enforces the new “green” movement, it’s more than likely that you’ll still get those mailers and you’ll still ignore them.


Subliminal Advertising, In-Game Advertising, and Product Placement: What’s the deal?

This is going to be a long one, guys. Be warned!

 

First of all, let’s clear some things up. Before I go on and on about what I think, I just want you all to know the written down definition difference between the three because, as far as my research goes, most people on the Internet use the terms interchangeably when they shouldn’t. Just adding to the confusion, people!

 

Subliminal Advertising: messages that are received subconsciously, below a person’s perceptual threshold, causing a desired response.

 

In-Game Advertising: refers to the use of computer and video games as a medium in which to deliver advertising.

 

Product Placement: 1) Visibly featuring branded products or brand names in a movie or television program. 2) Paid verbal or visual brand exposure in entertainment programming

Great, now that that’s out of the way, lemme start talkin’!

Subliminal advertising and messaging first became popular in 1957 when market researcher, James Vicary, claimed he increased the sales of Coca-Cola and popcorn in a movie theater by inserting into the theater’s film the phrases “Drink Coke” and “Eat popcorn” every five seconds, but only for a fraction of a second so people didn’t know they had seen it. This idea wowed the advertising world but because Vicary refused to disclose details of his study, people doubted him and the idea of subliminal marketing faded away. Then, in the 1970s, Wilson Bryan Key wrote a book entitled Subliminal Seductions: Ad Media’s Manipulation of a Not So Innocent America. Researchers dismissed the book since it lacked empirical evidence. Over time it has been concluded that subliminal messaging is not a viable marketing communications tool because there is absolutely no proof that it actually works. In 2000, however, an “accidental” (they claim it was an accident but…) subliminal ad ran and had to be removed from television. A commercial for Republican nominee George W. Bush had a brief discussion of the Democratic Party and the word “RATS” was briefly flashed. The producer said it was an accident from the cutting of a frame that included the word “bureaucrats” and that they were not attempting to use subliminal advertising. Accident? He was elected, after all. Coincidence?

In-game advertising is on the rise. In 2005, $56 million was spent on in-game advertising and Massive Incorporated, a company that deals with in-game advertising, estimates this amount to grow to $1.8 million by 2010. Although there has been gamer backlash against in-game advertising in the past, it hasn’t stopped advertisers from incorporating their brand names or their messages. In fact, Nielsen Media Research has announced a new video games ratings service called GamePlay Metrics to serve in-game advertisers. I guess it’s pretty serious.

Throughout my research I also found out there are a few different kinds of in-game advertising and not all of it is for the sole purpose of getting you off your butt and into a Footlocker. “Incidental in-game advertising” is incorporated into video games through billboard-like advertisements or blatant product placement in order to create a more realistic gaming environment. The gaming company has to get permission to use the logos, their use inside the game does not serve to raise awareness so they are technically not advertising; they’re just making the game more life-like. Many sports games include billboards around their playing fields to make the game experience more like what is seen in person or on television. A lot of games also include brand-name products as a status symbol within the game: the Grand Theft Auto series includes guns such as the ColtM1911, Micro Uzi, AK-47, and M16, all recognizable, and expensive, weaponry. Racing games often opt to use Lexus or Lamborghini to up their status as well.

 

Then there’s something called “dynamic in-game advertising.” This is used to create awareness and entice a player to buy, watch, or become interested in something. Growing Internet game activity has led to a growth of this type of advertising because the ads themselves can be altered by an agency for geographical regions, time of day, and more. Information about the ad can also be sent back from the player regarding advertisement performance or effectiveness. Data such as time viewing the ad, viewing angle, the type of ad it was, is all sent back to the agency and they can determine how to better suit their ads to their gamer clientelle. Games such as Second Life actually sell their virtual real estate to companies in order to advertise their name or, if they are a new company, get feedback on their prospective clients. In October 2008 a billboard ad was put into the game Burnout Paradise that featured Barack Obama and reminded gamers to go out and vote early. Electronic Arts, the game’s publisher, confirmed that the Obama campagin paid for the ad and that it marked the first time a US presidential candidate has used in-game advertising!

Researcher Michelle Nelson found that in-game advertising can be called effective because the gamer is “actively involved in the game and the products appear as a part of the background scenario. As long as they don’t interfere with the game, they will likely be considered simply ‘a part of the game.’” She also mentions that advertising via video games is successful by just looking at the numbers of people playing the games. “The potential reach for advertisers is enormous, with an estimated 145 million Americans admitting to playing games.” A 2005 Nielson study has actually found the in-game advertisements to be effective, resulting “in a 60 percent increase in awareness for a new product and that animated 3-D ads achieved twice the recall of static billboards.”

One gamer blogged  that advertisements within certain racing games are almost becoming subliminal messaging since they zoom by the player so quickly. Did I just see an ad for Puma or was that my imagination? Either way…I really want a track jacket…

Has product placement gone too far? Are viewers used to it? Is it, much like incidental in-game advertising, just there to make us feel more involved in the television show or movie we’re watching? I’m sure we all remember the 90s classic Wayne’s World and it’s mockery of product placement, but how does it work, and is it becoming too much?

 

One Washington Post article  writes that although product placement has been going on since the start of visual media it has gained in popularity in the past recent years “in part because TV networks are looking for more ways to make up for declining ad revenue and a rapidly fragmenting audience that is finding entertainment on the Internet and on mobile devices.” Media research firm PQ Media released a study in 2005 that found “64 percent of products placed in films or TV shows are not paid for, but rather arranged through some kind of barter in which the show provides exposure in exchange for products or services.”

 

One example of a company not starving for spotlight in movies and television shows is Apple. In Sex and the City what does Carrie Bradshaw do all of her work on, all the while having the logo prominently displayed?

 

In The Office, wasn’t it an iPod that boss Michael Scott got to wow his coworkers at the Christmas party? “It’s not an accident,” says Tim Bajarin, principal analyst at Creative Strategies, a high-tech research and consulting firm. “Apple was one of the first technology companies to hire someone in Lost Angeles to get Mac products prominently displayed in hot TV shows and movies…This is something Apple works at.”

 

Is it getting excessive? A USA Today article  explains that in order to “hype the [2006] fall TV season, CBS plastered pictures of its shows’ stars on postage stamps and across the insides of elevator doors. It laser-coated its eye logo on more than 35 million eggs, and carved the name of a new program…into a 40-acre Kansas cornfield.” The article suggests that “ad-zapping devices—and a decrease in consumer attention spans—have created doubts about the effectiveness of traditional TV, radio and print ads.” In order to counter this, marketers are becoming more invasive and more in the face of their viewers. “Advertising is so ubiquitous that it’s turning people off,” Rance Crain, editor-in-chief of Advertising Age said. “It’s desensitizing people to the message.”

 

Some suggest marketing is getting too loud, too in your face, citing that, according to PQ Media, marketers spent 71% more–$941 million—to integrate brands into TV shows in 2005 versus 2004.

 

So, what’s the deal? What’s it all about? Are you aggravated by all this promotion? Do you find it sneaky or more about creating a real-life environment in non-real-life entertainment? Seriously guys, I’ve given you the info, now gimme your thoughts!

 

PS: Here’s one article that discusses product placement objections. Take a look and let me know what your thoughts are!


Bluetooth messaging: annoying or ingenius?

I want to talk about mobile marketing and proximity-based marketing.

Is it so bad? Is it invasive? Maybe it’s just me but if I had the opportunity to get special coupons, discounts, or announcements from my favorite stores I would sign up or opt-in. I already receive plenty of e-mails from Victoria’s Secret and American Eagle about their weekly deals and specials but unless I plan on going shopping soon I delete them. If I were already at the mall, however, and I got a text alert that said “Hey Erin, come into American Eagle within the next hour and get $10 off your entire purchase” I’d feel like I just needed to get to AE as soon as possible to take advantage of that deal…I mean c’mon…free stuff!!!

A lot of people are saying this type of marketing communication is invasive, annoying, and would bombard the customer. I have to disagree. It’s not like I’d be walking near a strip mall and get 15 different text messages about sales or store promotions. A bluetooth advertising blog has a post that states,

“Contrary to popular belief most bluetooth advertising software and servers…are permission based meaning the receiver can elect to refuse the bluetooth advertisement. ProxiBlaster.com bluetooth advertising software and servers take it a step further as once a bluetooth advertisement is refused, the software remembers this and does not send the bluetooth ad again.”

So, when I opt-in to certain brand names or companies, I’d only receive their messages. If one of the companies decides that my interest in them means I may be interested in certain other stores and I receive advertisements for those other places, I could always opt-out of what they have to say to me.

Why is blueooth marketing a good idea? Proximity Media  lists that with this type of marketing a company can:
-“Ensure that recipients have an enhanced retail experience
-Drive sales by offering digital delivery of coupons and promotional material
-Encourage repeat visits so users can acquire new or updated content
-Increase loyalty through redemption opportunities and loyalty programs
-Extend the brand beyond the retail location
-Lower the dependence on expensive paper-based marketing material”

Also, with bluetooth marketing the consumers reap benefits. They have an:
-“Enhanced retail experience
-Enhanced level of personalization
-Consumers can store content on these devices for later viewing
-Consumers can receive exclusive content distributed only at select locations
-Consumers can help with viral marketing process by transferring the acquired content to other mobile devices with ease”

One case study from Bloozy, a bluetooth advertising company, discusses their success with implementing the technology in a popular nightclub. They installed the system in the club so that it covered the entire bottom floor of the venuClub mobile advertisemente. The DJ controlled it and was able to send out text alerts about promotions throughout the night. Using this type of advertising allowed the club to “market to people within [the] venue throughout the night without having additional costs of staff to do [the] job.” The device detected around 400 bluetooth devices and 20-25% of people accepted the promotional material. Honestly, it’s cheaper and more effective than a flyer, the club didn’t have to pay anyone to go around to post flyers, signs, or spread the word, it works.

There can be a downside to bluetooth marketing, however. AT&T has recently found this out when they sent out text message reminders to watch the TV show American Idol to past Idol voters and “heavy texters” within their mobile service. Apparently great deals of people were upset by this and AT&T has gotten into some trouble. They may have even violated some of their own regulations for commercial use text messaging services. In the spring of 2007 U.S. cellular carriers updated their restrictions on mobile marketing, specifically adding details about text-message abuse. AT&T required that all recipients of messages must opt-in before they start to receive any marketing messages. In this Idol case, they didn’t follow their own rules! They did offer a way to opt-out of the messages, but the damage was done and people were ticked off!

I guess that just goes to show you that when it comes to a seemingly invasive technology companies really do have to be careful about what they do and how they work. If it were up to me, I’d opt-in to plenty of store updates (I have a few favorite shopping locations) and definitely Starbucks. If I wasn’t particularly in the mood for coffee and I got a text that I get a free drink between noon and 2, you bet your ass I’d be in that line! Mobile marketing, helping commercialism be all that it can be!