Monthly Archives: July 2009

Incentive and Loyalty


Here’s the thing about loyalty: Humans desire it but, frankly, are hard-pressed to embrace it. (Why else would one in two U.S. marriages end in divorce?) Brands seek loyalty because it keeps their marketing expenses down. Experts remind us we need to “delight” customers to engender loyalty, meaning don’t take them for granted, treat them better than family and provide unexpected, thoughtful product gestures. 


Creating incentive to remain loyal to a free Web property (part three in a series this week) may seem difficult but there’s a trick. The trick is the “brand promise.” Technology can be matched or mirrored by a competitor. Services can be matched by a competitor. But it is harder to match a promise.


Companies that look within, find a value that customers want and they alone can provide, can maintain an edge in loyalty.  I wrote a position paper for a free Web property entitled “Technology, service or brand?” The brand promise was future-ready and stood long after the platform morphed and evolved. More importantly, it helped provide direction to that evolution.


Loyalty is constantly being tested and needs to be strengthened over time. If a free online property has a good brand promise and stays loyal to that promise, that’s a huge start. 

Incentive and First User Experience


Yesterday I wrote that creating incentive for free online products or services starts with the First Visual Experience, an experience revolving around what one sees on the page: the product name, logo, visuals, tagline or brand promise. If any of these visual cues are confusing, odd, or generate a negative vibe, the user has no incentive to stay – and will likely click away.


A good way to accomplish a positive First Visual Experience is by nailing the Is/Does. The Is/Does defines what a brand “is” and what it “does.”  Offline, the "Is" is pretty straightforward but online, in this age of innovation, engineer-run companies and wacky names, it’s not always so obvious. With the Is out of the way, consumers need to know what a product does – the benefit to them. Some might call this the value proposition.  


Once a consumer knows your Is/Does, the First User Experience must deliver upon it. If your First User Experience is complex or incongruous with the Is/Does, you will likely lose the user. When it comes to free, people are willing to put up with a little user drama…but not too much. Many online companies with great FVE and poor FUE have gone by the wayside.  Can you name some? Peace!

Incentive and First Visual Experience


Incentive is one of the most powerful tools in marketing. For the first time in a while U.S. home sales are up and one of the reasons is the first time home buyer tax credit of $8,000. In marketing incentives work.


Incentives are mainly monetary, e.g. “free trial” or “30% off,” but what happens when the product is already free as is the case with many Web properties? 


The incentive has to be delivered in the rational and emotional value that accrues to the product.  It starts with the brand (first visual experience), continues on to the product itself (first user experience) and deepens with loyalty (relationship management).


Here’s a quick exercise relating to the first step — first visual experience. 


Let’s assume you’ve never heard of any of the following video sharing sites and your first visual experience isthe home page. Read these taglines/about statements and decide which provides the strongest incentive to try:


YouTube — “Broadcast yourself.” 

Vimeo  — “People connecting through video”

Revver  — “Video sharing powered by advertising”

Blit.Tv  — “Independent web shows”

CastTV  — “One stop watching.”


Stay tuned for steps two and three. Peace!

NBC Promotes Jeff Gaspin


Barry Diller selected the wrong guy. Ben Silverman, on whose watch NBC stoked the fires of its reputation with “America’s Biggest Loser,” “The Apprentice” and retread “Knight Rider,” has not been renewed and will embark on a new venture with Barry Diller. Moving into Mr. Silverman’s slot as head of programming at NBC is Jeff Gaspin, the cable executive responsible for USA Network and Bravo. Mr. Gaspin has been aiding and abetting some of the cooler new programs in my book.


This is a very good move. Mr. Silverman, a self-professed rock star, needed to be a TV programming star…and wasn’t.  NBC, like ABC and CBS, has been a real dog lately. Reality shows are so God-awful that people can’t tune away fast enough. I don’t subscribe to HBO but watched an episode of “Hung” on CastTV yesterday and there was more brilliance and drama in one 5 minute segment than on a full week’s worth of NBC (now that ER is off the air). The best people on TV – the most interesting people on TV – are, indeed, “characters.” They are welcome and they are real. That is what viewers want to watch today. Real, not reality shows. Not fabricated individuals with high Q scores. Mr. Gaspin sees this and will shake it up come January. Peace!


Unrequited ROI


Readers know my pet peeve about ROI (Return On Investment) and my contention that the people who talk most about ROI are the ones who aren’t getting any.  ROI can be an addiction. It can turn a normal marketer into a living breathing marketing calculator. But measuring tactic after tactic then correcting and tweaking tends to bypass the most important measure of all — strategy. I favor ROS (Return On Strategy).    


Let me use an example. For a ski resort whose brand strategy is “The best groomed mountain in the Northeast,” it’s not that difficult to see how one might measure resort delivery on “best groomed.”  Grooming, on the customer experience side, can be measured based upon customer satisfaction, resort cleanliness, employee politeness. As for the on-mountain experience, measures might include trails opened, snow coverage, icing conditions, etc.  These strategic measures can then be calculated over time against ticket sales and other revenue sources. If the strategy is good, positive revenue should track against positive grooming metrics.   


ROI, on the other hand, tends to measure marketing investment, e.g., return on radio advertising budget, return on a give-away promotion, a pay per click campaign.


I’m all for measurement, trust me, but measurement without a brand strategy is unrequited. It reminds me of the question “How long is a piece of string?”

Starfish Brand Design


I went to a workshop yesterday hosted by Starfish Brand Design in NYC.  It not only reenergized me, it reminded me there are still some really smart people in the branding business.  Starfish preaches that a powerful branding idea is, indeed, indelible but they don’t just preach theory, they make it happen.  Unlike some brand consulting companies, Starfish doesn’t stop at the paper strategy — or after the logo, mission statement, and style manual have been delivered.  They don’t rest until clients “get” the branding idea and as a company “live” the branding idea.


Starfish goes into overdrive when it comes to helping brands manifest, operationalize and broadcast their unique selling proposition. That’s their point of difference. (My peo-ple!)


Megan Kent and David Kessler, along with the other Starfish tentacles, have a genetic predisposition toward understanding selling culture. They know which parts of the brain light up during the different steps to a sale and apply that learning to help companies sell more stuff. They’ve got the tools and know the tricks. Glad to have been invited to the workshop. Peace!




JWT’s Postcards For Royal Caribbean


JWT got some nice press in The New York Times today for its new TV campaign for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines.  JWT send a bunch of employees on cruises with video cameras and editing equipment and asked them to chronicle the adventures of passengers then traffic the spots to TV stations in near real time. The film is wonderful, the writing fine and performances lovely. Sadly, there is no lightening in the bottle yet but it could come. 


As for the larger campaign idea “The Nation of Why Not.” it’s not very evident. This is another example of a tactic (real time documentary commercials) driving the strategy.  One might say that the 80 year old woman using the zip line, supports the Nation of Why Not idea, but the rest of the spots are typical resort, travel stuff.


Overall, though, I say good job JWT.  If you believe in the “Nation of Why Not” and let it be your compass, you just might find the serendipity you are looking for out there on the deep blue sea. As a drunken mentor once told me "Sometimes the idea to have an idea is more important than the idea itself." Peace!




Trust, Authenticity and Transparency.


Trust, Authenticity and Transparency are the three "pop marketing" words of the day. ROI was last year. Trust, Authenticity and Transparency can be found on every marketing blog and in every social media webinar worth their free price of admission.


Sound like I have a bug up my arse? You bet.


Here’s the problem with brands today: They don’t mean anything. Most brands are not imbued with an idea, but with many ideas. They are defined by campaigns, not a brand strategy. We, as consumer, are therefore so confused we default to the “is” of the Is/Does.  Levy’s is jeans. Coke is cola. And with so many people managing these brand across so many silos we don’t know what the brands “do.” We can’t land on a brand value, because it is ever-changing.  


That’s why everyone is talking about Trust, Authenticity and Transparency.  Everyone is  confused.  And with social media added to the brand management fray, there’s even more confusion. Return On Strategy (ROS) is the most important brand metric there is. Not the ROI which measures tactics. Too much ROI leads to the need for? That’s right. Trust, Authenticity and Transparency. Peace!


Conspicuous Frugality.


Yana Paskova for The New York Times


Okay, it’s not me. Value is the new cool — the new black. I tweeted last week “Am I alone in my desire to put together an amazing meal that costs under $5.00?” wondering if a special feeling results from making something out of nothing?


Well today I read a story about dumpsters being converted into pools on urban rooftops confirming the view. People are enjoying being ingeniously frugal and flaunting it. Conspicuous consumption used to be “what’s up.” Now it is conspicuous privation. Being green is very cool but turning nothing into something is huge. DIYers are the new velvet rope crowd. Home made beer tastes better than Heineken. Backyard greens taste better than Jean-Georges greens. And frankly, the conversations surrounding these frugalities are much more deep and exciting.


These are the times in which we live. Embrace them. Take the time. Teach yourself, your family, your friends how to enjoy being ingenious. Fly your “conspicuous frugality” flag. Peace! 

Search Ads — Least Trusted?



Steve Rubel is alike a big fish swimming in the ocean siphoning millions of gallons of water each day for nutrients. For a human, he really has a great deal of processing power. If you only read one blogger (oops, lifestreamner) a day as a marketer, Steve is not a bad place to start.


Today he posted a gem ranking trusted sources of advertising. The study, a top two-box (trusted “completely” or “somewhat”) ranker from Nielsen, suggests that the least believed forms of advertising are: text ads on mobile phones (24%), online banner ads (33%), online video ads (37%) and search engine results (41%).  

Recommendations from people known (90%), consumer opinions posted online (70%) and branded websites (70%) top the chart. Traditional forms of advertising: TV, print, OOH and radio, lie midway in the high 50s and low 60 percentiles.


It makes sense that ads that are the least expensive to produce are the also the least trusted. When more people can afford to create ads they may not be held to professional and legal claim standards. Also, those ads often done in-house or by DIYers lack professionalism. 

The low score for search engine result ads, though, surprised me. I know they are paid for, but the “algorithm” is supposed to correct for relevance. Could it be that the algorithm isn’t working hard enough? I’ve run a couple of AdWords programs and have been somewhat pissed at the high “bid numbers” on certain terms. If Google is watching the bottom line, not the search relevance line, it may want to do a rethink. Peace!