30 June 2008

'Elderbloggers' Shy Away From Money Talk

Here's a revealing piece in U.S. News and World Report by Candice Novak:

'Elderbloggers' Shy Away From Money Talk

usn A Weber Shandwick study found that "despite their extensive dialogue on other topics, [baby] boomers follow a 'code of silence' when it comes to financial services." Only 5 percent of those surveyed had made a recommendation in the past year about financial services.

Ronni Bennett was certainly the 'go-to' person for this article.  She's the expert on all things elderblogger:

rb Bennett knows there's a need for more money talk among her peers ... When it comes to finances, she says, "We're going to go to our grave not being as open and loose as the younger generation."

My quote in the article refers to the sleaziness of Word-of-Mouth Marketing - and some of the silly financial planning ad campaigns and websites:

My Blog Was WOMMed!

ING's "Your Number"

Dennis Hopper for Ameriprise

27 June 2008

U.S. Bank's Retirement Planning Center

A snippet from a short piece on The Finance and Commerce site:

U.S. Bank aims to take apprehension out of retirement planning
fnc “There is a level of discomfort out in the marketplace,” said Dan McCormack, senior vice president for U.S. Bank Investments, which manages the centers. “Our vision for the Retirement Planning Center is to provide a relaxed, interactive experience where clients can … feel comfortable.”
Comfort starts with a coffee bar at the entry to the center where visitors can begin to review U.S. Bank’s retirement products on their own via laptops and online presentations. They can take their next step at the bar, too, visiting with the center’s concierge, who will listen and suggest some next conversations – at a time that the customer chooses. 

Two reasons I'm blogging this:

  1. Yesterday I was interviewed by U.S. News & World Report about this subject.  (If I get ink, I'll blog it.  Maybe even if I don't get ink, I'll blog it.)

  2. In the 2007 Edition of my book I tackled financial planning ad campaigns.  As an exercise I came up with an idea for a campaign. This 'pretend' campaign would work perfectly for U.S. Bank's Retirement Planning Center.  Summing up the exercise, an excerpt:

advbbpfrt I would want Baby Boomers watching the spots to simply say to themselves, “That’s what I need to do. And it doesn’t look frightening. Or difficult. Or mind-numbing.”

No high-concept branding silliness. No empty, aspirational gobbledygook. No scare tactics. Your financial advisor is not a loveable rock star, the Pillsbury Doughboy, or the harbinger of homelessness.

I'm not thrilled that U.S. Bank uses the word 'retirement' - but other than that they have an intriguing marketing/business model.

24 June 2008

Nuts for Boomers

tog For a moment I thought I'd spoken too soon by already announcing the winner of The Most Inane Campaign/Commercial Of The Year Award (Category: Targeting Baby Boomers). After all, we have six months to go.

But, no. The winner is still securely crowned. Although Frito-Lay's goofy TrueNorth bags o' nuts briefly rattled my confidence:

BWNuts for Boomers
By Todd Wasserman

The snack food category is known for being several things, but inspirational? Frito-Lay thinks it can be and is positioning its new nut-based, Boomer-targeted snack line, True North as "a truly inspired natural nut snack."

Clusters... (One that) provides more protein and thus fewer empty calories than carbohydrate-laden items like potato chips, fits in with Frito-Lay's health and wellness platform as well.

I guess healthy isn't good enough branding anymore. You need transcendental positioning. It has to be healthy and walk on water.

"We're defining it as a purpose in life or a calling," she said of the brand's name. "Our calling was to bring inspiration to the nut category."

What's driving me nutty is that she didn't call me for some inspiration. I meditated on it and within minutes had a bunch of positioning epiphanies. Pick your favorite slogan cum mantra (or make up your own):

Nirvana never tasted so good!

He eats them. Do you?

A Meaning of Life in every bag! Pistachios, Almonds, Clusters, Crunches, or Crisps! Collect all five! Trade with your friends!

Across the pond, Dick Stroud bemoans his lack of purpose in life because he can't partake of the passion and do extraordinary things.

Nuts To You: A Haiku

23 June 2008

Ergonomic Design: Booming Business

Here's a good piece in The Las Vegas Review Journal:

lvrjErgonomic Design: Booming Business
To help homeowners remain in their homes as they age and their mobility becomes more limited, manufacturers such as JACLO offer conveniences such as decorative grab bars.

I talked about this, had a slightly different take on it, in 2006 at the NAHB Building for Boomers 50+ Housing Symposium - and wrote an article about it around the same time:

Selling Universal Design to Baby Boomers
thematuremarkett ERGONOMICS. That’s not such a negative word to Baby Boomers. We’ve been the fodder for the ergonomic revolution. We almost feel as if we invented it. The concept resonates.

But an ‘ergonomically designed home’ sounds rather cheesy. Using the word sparingly (but using it) in any marketing/advertising collateral is a good idea.

20 June 2008

Ronni Bennett to Wall Street Journal

rbWell, she's not really going there -  but will be penning a semi-regular column from her cozy condo in Maine.

Ronni created the #1 blog for people over fifty: Time Goes By.

Last year she interviewed me.

Here's Ronni's first piece for The Wall Street Journal:

Put It in Writing
WSJBlogging often is seen as a young person's game. But I think it's a near-perfect pastime for me and others who have retired or are approaching retirement -- and our numbers in the blogosphere are growing daily.

It's all part of a major section of the WSJ: Encore.  Other writers include Kelly Greene.

Keep Ronni's contributions on your radar. 

18 June 2008

Henry Stewart Talks

I've just signed a contract with Henry Stewart Talks:

HSTHenry Stewart Talks publishes animated audio visual presentations by world leading experts - advanced content in a user friendly format. We cover biomedicine, life sciences, advertising, management, marketing and finance. Every talk has been specially commissioned with informative visuals and synchronized narration.

This is thanks to Dick Stroud.  He's putting together an audio visual presentation package and asked me to jump on board. I'll be one of a half-dozen or so contributors:

Dick_Stroud_ImageHenry Stewart Talks Series
Latest thinking in marketing
to the older consumer

Series Editor: Dick Stroud 

There are 20 million people in the UK aged over 50 years old. That’s over 7 million more than in the marketer’s favourite 18-34 age group. In ten years time the 50-plus will outnumber this group by 10 million. When this fact is combined with their huge levels of wealth (over £5 trillion) they become, without question, the most important group of consumers that marketers must understand. The situation is the same in other European countries, the US and Japan.

17 June 2008

Executive Session With Rance Crain

advertising age Rance Crain has been helming a series of video podcast interviews on the Ad Age site.  As befits his position in the industry, he doesn't do much slummin':

KRDDB Chairman Emeritus Keith Reinhard contemplates the ways creatives and CEOs go wrong in today's rapidly changing marketing industry. The tendency of many young creatives, he says, is to veer into the "weird" rather than the "relevant" in advertising ideas. He also notes that many CEOs hurt their brand by failing to be its ultimate steward in an age of revolving-door CMOs.

arIs the internet only a communications utility or is it an effective venue for building brands? That question is a central issue in this nine-minute video interview with BBDO Chairman Emeritus Allen Rosenshine.

Much (but not all) of what they talk about reflects what I've been saying for years in this blog, in my book, during consultations and presentations. 

As I've said about Mr. Crain: If you don't listen to me, listen to Rance. Now you have two advertising legends you can listen to instead of me.

12 June 2008

My Blog Was WOMMed!

It's been WOMMed before but not so deliciously as this time.

The irony is that I've been railing about WOMM lately - yet the WOMMer had no idea because the post WOMMed wasn't about WOMM.  He/She was probably flying around cyberspace searching for places to leave his/her droppings.

jbl Here's what happened:  I blogged about the Jitterbug phone recently.  A comment showed up in my inbox. I moderate comments before publishing.  Instinctively I knew it stank. 

Usually I don't publish obvious anonymous shilling.  But since I've been talking about WOMM so much - why not use it as the perfect example of such shenanigans?  I clicked the publish button.

Read the first comment - and my comment:

It's from the GREAT CALL IP - the company that owns the Jitterbug phone. Someone who works at the company left the comment - and here's the most egregious part - trashed their competition (The Pantech Breeze phone).

This exemplifies the darkest of the dark side of WOMM.

ftc As an exercise, I tried to track down a way to report this incident to the proper authorities (whatever they are).  I know the Federal Trade Commission is keeping an eye on the WOMMers.  Here's a funny, astute comment on their site.

Then I went to the Church of WOMM: The Word of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA).  Surely they'd have an online form where you could report incidents of WOMM abuse.  That's because they're so very concerned about abuse of their new-found faith.  They want to know about any and all vile misdeeds.

Tell me I'm just an incompetent slob - but I could not find a complaint form on their site.  If there is one, let me know.

In England it's all becoming illegal.  Good for them.

I have a few other stories/examples of WOMM and this blog - but I'll save them for another time.

10 June 2008

Selling Bicycles to Boomers

I don't remember how I stumbled upon the first two vids below.

A long time ago in an earlier incarnation I produced, wrote, and directed corporate, PR, and marketing videos not much different from these. So I'm not about to make fun of them (for fear that someone would dig up my forgotten masterpieces).

The first one is Selling To Baby Boomers:

What I found fascinating: There's an age gap between salespeople and customers? Is that really any different than what I've been saying for years?

Same message, same lessons. If you don't believe me, believe to Rance Crain.

And much of it likewise applies to Selling to Women:

But because I'm Mr. Boring, Mr. Flat-Paved-Trails-Only, I was really salivating over these beauties:

5 bikes for boomers
5 bikes for boomers

I want all of them.

09 June 2008

Baby Boomers & Firefox

Firefox 3.0 is about ready for its gallop out of the gate. I test rode a pre-release version and it was lean and fast - but scratched it only because a few of my favorite add-ons weren't compatible yet.

I was also reminded of a post from a few years ago:

"There are more than 63 million baby boomers and 25 million senior citizens online, and Mozilla figures the best way to reach them is for their more tech-savvy kids or relatives to install Firefox for them."

Do you think their antediluvian attitudes have changed since then? Probably not.

06 June 2008

The Crystal Ball of Common Sense

I've been having a bit too much fun lately with my alter-ego NostraChuckus. Sorry - but when you write a biz blog for free you can be as silly as you want. (And it's one of the ways people find me for consulting, speaking, and creative work - so my tiny corner of the ether is serving its purpose quite well.)

Even so, I'll stand by everything NostraChuckus has predicted and will predict. After all, his sole method of conjuring is The Crystal Ball of Common Sense - and common sense is all it ever invokes.

I was about to put on my turban again for this post, but I'll leave it off and just talk about boring facts:
New Survey Reveals the Surprising Reality of Boomers' Behavior Online
The results of the survey may surprise even the savviest online marketers looking to capture the attention of the coveted boomer market.
Of course, there's nothing much new, surprising, or revealing in the press release above. Let's call it a Refresher Course.

Social Networking I've covered extensively. And you should see me go on and on in my presentations about the power of Print/TV and their potent connections to product web sites. (Or, you shouldn't. I do go on and on and on ...)

WOMM? I've blabbered about that too many times for too many years. Here's a post with links to previous posts about WOMM:
What's the Word?
And two that were posted after the one above:
Diarrhea of the Word-of-Mouth

Smart or Sneaky?
Part of the confusion seems to be defining the concepts. Word of mouth is simply consumers talking amongst themselves about products and services. We've all been doing that since the beginning of modern advertising, for over one hundred years. Actually it's been going on since the creation of civilization and trade - for thousands of years. It's nothing new.

Now there's something called Word of Mouth Marketing where 'citizen marketers' march into the ether and other places and, for baubles and beads and often more, create clumsy illusions that they're giddy over some product or service. Here's the best article I've found on the subject:
Is Word Of Mouth All It's Cracked Up To Be?
By Jack Trout
The real story is this: Baby Boomers read, listen to, and watch news. They're technologically savvy, and pick and choose the technology they think will be useful to them.

They might not visit many blogs, belong to many social networks - but they've read about them. They know a little or a lot about blogs, or have some vague recollection of news stories like the ones about the WalMart RV Blog and the Microsoft Vista free-giveaways-to-bloggers fiascos. If they can't quite remember the specifics, they know it's getting very weird out in cyberspace and they shouldn't believe big chunks of what they come across on the Web. It's spam, its scam, it's something sleazy.

And if they're one of the ones (and there are a lot) who've been around since the beginnings of the Web, they know exactly how sleazy it can be.

And they know how incredible it all is - all this information, entertainment, and connection at your fingertips! It's not much different than stepping outside your door and entering the real world: amazing stuff out there - but you'd better look both ways when crossing the street. And bring an umbrella.

So … most Baby Boomers are on the web, use email, use a few other means of communicating and gathering information that is web/internet-based, watch short entertainment, informational, and commercial videos.

But what about when they casually discuss products and services they use or are interested in? As I've said over and over, first they do deep research, usually trusting news sources and product web sites. And just as important: they email, phone, and talk face to face to friends.

Is there better word-of-mouth to be had?

Word of Mouth Marketers would like to contaminate this honest communication with all sorts of tricks and sleaze and invasions. It all seems counterproductive to me.

I've been around the web since 1994. In 1996 I was writing an online column (now they're called blogs) as part of a web community (now they're called social networks).

In 1999 I was working for an international company that manufactured and marketed audio equipment to professionals and non-professionals. I fought for and supported a message board (now they're called online forums). It was a tough sell:
"What if they write things we don't like?" I kept hearing.
"We can answer them," I'd say. "Officially answer them. It's called PR."

Finally the powers-that-be warmed to the idea. Nowadays it's obligatory to have some sort of online forum on your company or product web site.

Is that word of mouth marketing? No. It's PR. It's simple, straightforward marketing. It's also great for research purposes.

What if you find negative comments on the web about your product or service? You bring in the professional PR folks, the marketing folks, and decide how to deal with it. You might want to respond, or ignore it. Nothing new here. It's called PR. It's not word of mouth marketing.

Word of mouth marketing is when people leave messages in the ether just about anywhere - and they're getting paid to do so. Even if they happen to be transparent about it, it's still WOMM - and kind of silly. Of course, there are other (and more devious) ways of shilling in cyberspace. I'll leave those alone for now.

Why any advertiser would want to mess with good ol' honest word-of-mouth is beyond me. From a previous post:

So your product or service is getting some sort of positive response from users/consumers? Maybe a cult is forming. Or something. People are talking.

Take advantage of this. You'd be stupid not to. Bring in the PR professionals, the marketing people. Reference it in advertising campaigns. Support this grass roots excitement.

But trying to create buzz out of nothing? Paying shills to hand out lipstick and gum, paying bloggers for their so-called objective opinions?
I often wonder who's really being taken to the cleaners with Word of Mouth Marketing. Consumers … or advertisers?

For the umpteenth time on these ethereal pages, a slightly tongue-in-cheek quote from my hardcopy (they used to be called books):
When it all comes out in the wash, WOMM will be the best thing to happen to (silly retronym ahead) traditional advertising. Pretty soon, consumers won't believe anybody - even their best friends. They'll realize that they receive the most honest and straightforward information about a product or service from a TV commercial, radio spot, print ad, direct marketing collateral, or product web site. At least we don't lie about who we are and why we're saying what we're saying.

Remember this: Advertising didn't die with the invention of the telephone.
But don't believe me. This is just some blog, and I'm just some blogger. Who knows if someone's paying me to trash word-of-mouth marketing ...

One thing's for sure: You'll never know.

04 June 2008

“Oh, nooooo!”

Mr. Bill Returns (in One Piece) to Pitch a Debit Card
by Wendy A. Lee
The small clay figure that appeared in “Saturday Night Live” short films three decades ago — being dismembered, pulverized and humiliated to his falsetto cries of “Oh, nooooo!” — will be the latest star of MasterCard’s “Priceless” campaign.
You can watch the spot on the online article page. Scroll a screen.

Even with their self-imposed cultural censoring, Mastercard/McCann-Erickson had the perfect opportunity to do something special and (I'm humiliating myself by using such a cliché) cut through the clutter.

The Mr. Bill Show was shot in deliciously grainy Super-8, had homemade lighting, sets, props – and hysterical special effects (handled mostly by "Mr. Hands" - a big reason for its appeal). A send-up of 1950s children’s programming, The Mr. Bill Show really wasn't much different from the originals. Certainly most local children's shows budgets weren't much bigger.

Here’s a typical one:

Watch an original episode of The Mr. Bill Show: Mr. Bill's Circus (Not available for embedding.)

The creator of Mr. Bill directed the Mastercard spot. Too bad they didn't take a big chance and have him shoot it in 8mm, using only handmade props and special effects - and edit it in the herky-jerky style of the originals. (I wonder if he still has the original equipment.)

Not only would this spot have stood out – but something else might have resonated with younger (and older) consumers - nudging it along virally. Walter Williams is the Godfather of homemade YouTube offerings.

As is, this Mastercard spot is merely your typical, computer-enhanced, bland commercial.

“Oh, nooooo!”

02 June 2008

A Revelation!

Not an hour passes since my last posting – and up pops some truly earth-shattering news on the internet:
Study: Baby Boomers Not Interested in Social Networking Web Sites
Separating itself from the Internet’s younger generation, the population bulge known collectively as the baby-boomers say they’re not interested in social networking Web sites, according to a new survey.
What brilliant and fresh insight, I tell myself! A revelation!

But on the mantle, my crystal ball again begins rattling. I get up, place the mystical orb onto my divination table, and slowly wave my fingers over it. Through the murky vapor appears these spooky messages from the past:
Sleepy Baby Boomer Internet Villages

Hopping Around Those Social Networking Sites

Invasion of the Baby Boomer Pod People

Invasion of the Baby Boomer Pod People Returns

Then pages and pages from my book, first published in early 2005, reveal themselves through the hazy sphere ...

I’m not sure I like being a soothsayer. It’s kind of scary. I’m gonna take my crystal ball and smash it against the wall – and from now on I’ll simply wait three or four or five years for all these myth-busting, cutting-edge surveys to come out.

NostraChuckus Predicts The Future

Who is NostraChuckus?

From a post in December 2007:
No pictures or video? How will you instantly see your granddaughter smiling at you? Or watch your grandson actually splashing around in the bathtub almost live, sort of like 'instant replay'? ....
What'll happen unless the Jitterbug folks get wise: The Jitterbug concept will influence other cell phone manufacturers and service providers. Easy-to-read, easy-to-manipulate phones will be developed - but with more features. And the Jitterbug will go the way of … well … the Jitterbug.
And now there's this:

Finally, a stylish phone for baby boomers
Pantech … is now targeting the baby boomer market with its stylish Pantech Breeze phone which includes simplified menus, an oversized display, a large keypad, and quick-call keys under the screen to keep emergency contacts on speed dial … What's nice about this particular phone is it still includes a camera, Bluetooth, and video capabilities, which means you can still send grandma and grandpa multimedia messages.
I should open up a fortune telling booth.

01 June 2008

Deep Digging Your Target Market

Although crossing over on occasion, I don't consider myself a journalist—or certainly not a professional one. Usually I'm interviewed by journalists.

But if it gets me a press pass to some fun event, I tell them I'm one.

Even so, if you're in advertising and marketing you'd better be aware of what's happening out there in NewspaperMagazineInternetMediaLand.

And if you're targeting the 50+ Market, a good way of keeping up is by reading Aging Today - a bi-monthly report put out by the American Society on Aging. Here's an issue (and if you dig deep enough, you might find an article written by Yours Truly).

But what you should really do is dig even deeper. Paul Kleyman, the editor of Aging Today, also publishes Age Beat Online - a newsletter specifically for journalists. This is the grit, the insider news. Read the May 27th, 2008 issue.