The Consumer is Boss

July 30, 2008

I will be off in Kansas City for the next couple of days doing consumer research.  Some Brand Managers love research…others hate it.  Personally I am somewhere in the middle.   When you attend good research, there is nothing better for getting in touch with the people buying your product.  But you can’t just sit behind the glass of a focus group room and hope for magic.  You need to get out there and actually talk with the consumers…understand what makes them tick by really having a conversation.

The exciting part for a Brand Manager is that there are so many ways to do this today. 

First, you can do research every day just by monitoring Social Media around your brand.  Set up a Google Alert around your brand to capture mentions in the media and blogs.  Use Blog Pulse, Technorati and other tools to catch even more blog posts.  Or use Summize to see what is being said on Twitter.  There is a ton of free research out there on the web…it just takes a little time to find it.

Another great type of research are “Shop Alongs.”  In these, you actually go shopping with a person to see how they behave in a store.  We spend so much time on designing our package, trying to get the right placement in-store.  But if you aren’t basing those decisions on how people are really shopping, then the decisions are worthless.  That is why Shop Along are so great.

Finally, my favorite type of focus groups are the ones where you get out from behind the glass and talk directly to the consumers.  These are usually set up much like a traditional focus group with the major difference being that you, the marketer, are actually running the consumers.  You are doing the talking, asking the questions and leading the conversation.  This freaks many people out at first but you will quickly get the hang of it.  And the benefit is well worth the initital nervousness.

So I’ll be pretty quiet the next couple of days when it comes to blogging.  But I will try to keep a running commentary on Twitter if anything interesting happens.  Till next week…


Young people are weird: A lesson on how to build lasting youth brands

July 29, 2008

Graham over at Mobile Youth pointed the way to a solid presentation on “Building Lasting Youth Brands”.  The presentation included three key lessons:

  1. Base your brand on an enduring truth about young people
  2. Keep changing to stay relevant (and “aim off” to avoid becoming dated)
  3. Be where they are but don’t confused the delivery with the message

Networking isn’t a dirty word

July 29, 2008

I think the word “networking” gets a bad rap.  For many it brings up images of greasy haired salesmen trying to get business over a conference cocktail hour.  But that shouldn’t be the case.  Networking isn’t a dirty word.  In fact, networking can be one of the most powerful allies of a Brand Manager or Marketer.  Why?  Well here at my 4 favorite reasons for networking:

  1. Networking opens up business opportunities:  As Brand Managers, it is sometimes difficult to get out there to see new opportunities.  Your network can weed through opportunities for you and bring you the best ones.
  2. Networking opens up personal opportunities:  Some studies say that over 60 percent of new jobs are found through networking.  And I’ve heard something like 50 percent of jobs (most likely your dream job) are never posted to the general public.
  3. Networking can build your personal brand:  Personal recommendations are the most powerful thing out there.  If you have a strong network, then your network can be a testimony for you.
  4. Networking can pay long term benefits:  All three of the above can be long term benefits.  But there are others for sure.  For instance, some of my closest friends in the business world have come as the result of business networking at first.  You never know where the road will go.

Now if you believe in the power of networking, how can you go out and do it?  Here are four of my favorites:

  1. Get on LinkedIn: If you haven’t done it already, get yourself a LinkedIn profile.  And if you are an Outlook user, download the LinkedIn toolbar so you can easily find out which of your connections are already on LinkedIn.  I have found that a tipping point occurs on LinkedIn once you have 50 or so connections.  So get that first 50 as fast as you can by inviting your colleagues and associates.  Once you hit that fifty, you can start leveraging the power of LinkedIn to start networking.  Start by writing a solid profile of yourself.  Then join a group around your industry.  Answer a question in the Q&A area to show your expertise.  Get your closest associates to give you a referral.  Before you know it, LinkedIn will have become a great networking tool for you.
  2. Use the power of the Internet:  If you aren’t already started blogging, you should think about it.  At minimum, you should use a free blog like WordPress.com to set up an online presence for yourself.  On that site or blog you should have a robust About Me section that says who you are, what you do and what you’re interested in professionally.  Don’t be afraid to brag a little bit.  If you are interested, your blog can become a great networking tool as well and one of the best ways to show your expertise.  The site should also have all the ways someone can get in touch with you…whether that is Twitter, Facebook or anywhere else you want to network.  Also, keep in mind that 50 percent of marketing and advertising executives said they “Google” a potential employee before interviewing.  What are your Google results saying about you?
  3. Take advantage of traveling:  If you are traveling on business (and most marketers are pretty regularly), then you should take advantage of that time on the road.  When you finish the day, don’t do room service for dinner.  Take advantage of the city and meet some new people.  If you are meeting with your agency, ask a few of them to dinner.  And ask them to bring along some interesting people for drinks.  You can get the advantage of meeting some interesting people, without the awkwardness of trying to find common ground.  Also, if you have done step #2 above, you can announce when you are traveling places and meet up with people you have met online.  I do this all the time when traveling to NYC, Chicago or LA.
  4. Get out there and speak:  I love speaking at conferences.  Luckily working for P&G gives me plenty to talk about when I get invited to speak at shows like IEG or What Teens Want.  I’ve actually found an unexpected benefit of these speaking engagements as well.  They are one of the best (if not the best) networking tools out there.  When you speak at a conference, you will get a bunch of people wanting to talk with you afterwards (as long as you didn’t blow the speech).  Sure more than a few of these will be people just wanting to sell you something.  But a lot of them will be people just like you who want to connect with like minded souls.  The same goes for your fellow speakers at a conference.  They will be some top minds in business…make sure you meet all of them!

And here are three final tips for networking.  Think of these as tips for you and tips for anyone looking to connect with me as well:

First, good networking needs to be two-sided.  Don’t network with the hope of making a sale.  Only network if both parties can benefit from the relationship.  Second, don’t be a stalker.  Networking can get a bad name by people being too aggressive.  Take your time for the relationship to build.  Finally, don’t be too promiscuous.  Some people think networking means getting as many business cards as possible or having the most LinkedIn connections.  That isn’t the case.  Networking should be about starting a business relationship with someone that can pay long-term gains for both parties.

So what are waiting for?  Get out there and admit that networking isn’t a dirty word.  If you want, make networking with me your first step (see contact info in the sidebar to the right).


How the Digital Revolution is leaving the consumer behind

July 27, 2008

I’ve had my hands full with some exciting stuff at work so it has made my writing a little infrequent as of lates.  But nonetheless, I still wanted to to share some things that have caught my attention lately.  

At the top of that list is a great presentation called “My Brain Hurts” by the folks over at Wunderman.  I hadn’t had a chance to read much of their work in the past, but recently came across their “How To Think Digital” presentation from Cannes.   Wunderman has a really interesting site, especially their “Pick Our Brains” and “Take Our Stuff” sections where you can see all the white papers, presentations and blogs from the Wunderman Network.  This is a great example of how an agency becomes a strategic leader and partner for a brand in today’s Web 2.0 World.

Now “My Brain Hurts” is a great look at how the digital revolution is leaving the consumer behind.  Or in other words, how geek marketers like me are pushing the technology faster than consumers are keeping up.  It is a great presentation and one you should really read in its entirety.  In the meantime, here are their 21 summary points from the deck:

  1. Digital technology gets twice as fast, and as capable, and as powerful every eighteen months.
  2. Meanwhile the mind of its user has not gotten anymore sophisticated in the past ten thousand years.
  3. One result is a widening gap between what technology can do, and what its users – both young and old – understand it can do.
  4. The other result is a growing confusion amongst consumers, as they lose touch with how their phones, computers, DVRs, VCRs, TVs, SatNavs, GPSs, home medical equipment and MP3 players work.
  5. As consumers and technology diverge, there is a growing risk of a crash. And as digitization is now critical in all industries and all parts of the economy, that crash would be economy-wide.
  6. Helping consumers understand technology is not easy. They struggle with the demands modern devices and software make of them, and fail to absorb new tech-based concepts.
  7. The key need is for simplicity. Simple devices and software that do one thing, not several can have an electrifying effect on consumer mentality, clearing minds, and changing the way consumers think.
  8. But a technology must work for it to be able to do this. So many – like mobile phone picture messaging – were launched when they didn’t.
  9. We must also be conscious of the fact that consumers are rarely grateful for the changes tech brings to their lives. Once something works, they forget it exists.
  10. We must also be careful not to listen too closely to nerds – the early adopters who buy tech when it first comes out. Their thoughts are not those of the general population.
  11. We should think more about how technology spreads from person to person in the population.  The resulting infection rate will determine how fast a technology takes off.
  12. We must recognize that whether consumers fit a technology into their lives or not is the true measure of success – and that the real impact of a new technology on a society may take a generation.
  13. Consumers do not read instruction books. Period. Tomorrow’s tech launches need to recognise this.
  14. Digital equipment also can get twice as cheap every two years. For the consumer, price is a positioning tool – and something that costs next to nothing can also be perceived as being worth next to nothing.
  15. Consumers are also visual creatures: after a while, they forget that invisible technologies – like WiFi – exist
  16. At the moment, the tech world is buzzing with words like ‘convergence’. But beware: convergence devices do not necessarily contain a strong consumer benefit.
  17. Beware also of the conviction within tech companies that all technologies need to keep developing. True for the company that makes them.  Not necessarily true for the consumer.
  18. For a tech device to fly, it needs a valuable use, a ‘killer app’. Watch out for consumers developing their own – unexpected and often unwanted – uses for a technology.
  19. Study videogames carefully – they are taking consumer time away from television because they are much more compelling than television – just as compelling television took share away from passive radio and press in the 1950s.
  20. Watch out particularly for women. They are increasingly the key consumer of communications technologies.
  21. Watch out also for people in emerging markets. There are four billion of them, and they often use technology more effectively than people in richer countries.
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The Xbox 360 is Microsoft’s Trojan Horse

July 22, 2008

There is a good chance that I’m a biased fanboy for Microsoft’s Xbox 360.  After all, I did stand in line when the console was released a couple of years ago, taking the day off of work to do so.  But regardless, with all the buzz about Nintendo Wii and Apple, I think people are missing the fact that Microsoft is slowing winning the war for the Living Room.  Their victory just became that much more apparent with their latest announcement with Netflix.  If you are a Xbox Live subscriber, you can now instantly get access to over 10,000 Netflix titles with the click of a button.  No more driving to your nearest Blockbuster.  No more walking to your mailbox for the latest Netflix title.  Now if you are one of the 10 million households that already own a Xbox 360, all you have to do is pick up your game controller and download the movie through Xbox Live & Netflix.  Welcome to the future.


4 ways Web 2.0 might be flawed

July 21, 2008

I’m a huge believer in the power of “Web 2.0”; in the power of social computing to change the fabric of how society interacts with each other other.  So when I saw a book at the library that took the opposite stance and accused the Internet of killing society, I had to pick it up.  After spending the last two days reading  The Cult of the Amateur: How Today’s Internet is Killing Our Culture by Andrew Keen, I have really been thinking if there might be some downside implications of social computing that I haven’t thought about.  It’s an interesting challenge to take the position or opinion that is completely different than yours.  So inspired by the book, I decided to jot down 4 ways Web 2.0 might be flawed…and why I might be wrong for being such a strong believer: Read the rest of this entry »


Hard Knox Life on your iPhone

July 12, 2008

Thanks to a new service called MoFuse, you can now access Hard Knox Life on your iPhone or mobile at http://hardknoxlife.mofuse.mobi/.  The always resourceful Chris Brogan pointed the site out the other day and I have been amazed how simple it is.  All you do is go to MoFuse.com, plug in the URL of your blog, and just like that you have a mobile version perfectly suited for those new fancy 3G iPhones (or any other phone for that matter).  Pretty damn simple.

If you have one of the new 3G iPhones, I would love to know how the site looks.

The service also allows you to monetize your mobile version through Google AdSense or AdMob.  Not sure if monetizing through the service violates the rules of WordPress.com users though so I haven’t tried it yet.