27 August 2012

The Best Reviews Money Can Buy

Good story in the New York Times about word-of-mouth marketing through the lens of bookselling:

The Best Book Reviews Money Can Buy
By David Streitfeld
image… Reviews by ordinary people have become an essential mechanism for selling almost anything online; they are used for resorts, dermatologists, neighborhood restaurants, high-fashion boutiques, churches, parks, astrologers and healers — not to mention products like garbage pails, tweezers, spa slippers and cases for tablet computers…

… Almost no one wants to write five-star reviews, so many of them have to be created…

Plucked nuggets:

» Consumer reviews are powerful because, unlike old-style advertising and marketing, they offer the illusion of truth.

From 2006:

The Brouhaha Over WOMM
My prediction: 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, print ad, or product web site. At least we don't lie about who we are and why we're saying what we're saying.

» Mr. Liu estimates that about one-third of all consumer reviews on the Internet are fake.

Betcha it’s even more since 2008.

» The Federal Trade Commission has issued guidelines stating that all online endorsements need to make clear when there is a financial relationship, but enforcement has been minimal and there has been a lot of confusion in the blogosphere…

More about that:

The Latest WOM On WOMM
The revised Guides also add new examples to illustrate the long standing principle that “material connections” (sometimes payments or free products) between advertisers and endorsers – connections that consumers would not expect – must be disclosed. These examples address what constitutes an endorsement when the message is conveyed by bloggers or other “word-of-mouth” marketers.

Even more depraved than good WOMM is bad WOMM.

And as I’ve said more than once:

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.

The Social Media - WOMM - Web Advertising Posts

22 August 2012

Coughlin on Advertising

Dr. Joseph Coughlin of MIT AgeLab has been peeking through the ether here for years: 

http://lh6.ggpht.com/_n77PqIjyySk/ShNYYrXYf_I/AAAAAAAACrY/d5wgAUOd2eQ/joecar%5B3%5D.jpg?imgmax=80029 November 2010
Tech & Baby Boomers: Universal Design vs. Universally Dull


Joe Coughlin

Disruptive Demographics is on my must-read list and always worth it.  A recent post:

Casting a New Dream of Old Age
Joseph F Coughlin
…Images of ‘aging’ have been on television for years. The famous, some might say infamous, ‘help I’ve fallen and can’t get up’ commercial for Life Call’s personal emergency response system has shaped much of the public’s perception of products for older consumers…

advbb (2)Sounds right to me.  From Advertising to Baby Boomers © 2005, 2007:

The Geritol Syndrome (pages 14-18)
The Geritol campaigns were successful because of their simple, direct messages. A similar campaign today, using vague, anxiety-ridden scare tactics might not work for Baby Boomers. We’re too smart (or perhaps too jaded) to be fooled by hackneyed situations and simplistic answers.

More from Dr. Coughlin:

… These images have done more than sell a product, they have reinforced an image of aging. Message – older people are frail, sick and need this product to manage old age.

No kidding.

16 September 2009
Boomer Backlash II
… If every time someone over fifty sees a commercial targeting them and it’s always for an age-related product or service, pretty soon their eyes will glaze over, they’ll get itchy and grumpy.

Joe sent me an email the other day about his post: 

…. I thought I would share with you my rookie attempt at observing some messaging in advertising

Hardly a rookie.  MIT AgeLab is the gold-standard for aging research, and that includes universal design and marketing:

The NavStudio provides a research platform to understand how consumers successfully navigate, become distracted, lost, give-up, or put-off decisions in the information seeking process in their interaction with print materials, packaging, the web and other forms of goal oriented communication.

While my sole contribution to it all is a fool-proof method for opening candy wrappers:

2 June 2006
Boomers in Candyland
I can rip open any dumb, stupid candy wrapper with my bare hands .... as long as one of my bare hands is holding a pair of pliers.

Collected posts about Universal Design (with Dr. Coughlin and AgeLab references sprinkled throughout):

The Aging In Place & Universal Design Posts

16 August 2012

The Ones That Got Away: Skating Device

In March 2010 a fellow called me.  He’d developed an exercise device for Baby Boomers who loved to strap on rollerblades and zoom every which way - but because of bad knees or safety concerns were hanging them up. 

imageThe device was really one of those newfangled three-wheeled baby strollers without the stroller.  The handlebars were more like a bike. I’d say it was a cross between a walker and a stroller.

imageThe problem was that it looked more like a walker, giving the impression that it was medical equipment.  I’m pretty sure he’d designed it himself, perhaps with help from the manufacturer.  It was pure function, no style.

When he called I was preparing for a workshop/presentation and getting ready to travel abroad.  I told him I liked his product and would email him in a week.

My thoughts:

  • Like the previous product in this series, take it out of the medical realm.
  • Position it as a cutting-edge, sleek piece of sporting equipment. 
  • Unless you’re a speed-skater, the average person can skate faster because they’re not worried as much about balance.
  • You can skate longer distances.
  • There is less strain on your knees and legs.
  • With a basket, skate to the store.
  • imageThe product needs a total overhaul.  Hire an industrial designer.  Today’s bicycles and other types of non-motorized mobile devices are designed for the eye, with bright colors and polished construction.  If it looks like a walker, nobody will want it. 
  • Even medical walkers are being redesigned for the eye.

I didn’t get too far:

…This weekend I’ll put together a basic, short, creative brief. My guess is that you won’t like all of it. I think your product needs to be positioned away from the medical realm.  I’ll send you the creative brief – and we can talk afterwards if it interests you.

…I didn't request anything from you. I didn't hire you. I just finished professional videos which are now being edited.

…Of course you didn’t hire me. I was going to pitch you with no cost to you…How about this – do what you’re doing and have fun and good luck. You have a good product. But if it isn’t going as planned in a few months, contact me.

I never heard from him again.  Those professional videos were anything but.  In one, a lady was practically screaming over a windstorm – with not much success since the mic was likewise getting blasted.  I guess the professional video company forgot their mic windshield that day. 

imageAnother video had a fellow pretending to skate poorly, almost falling over, looking very sad and frustrated.  He wasn’t enjoying himself.  This was followed by the same fellow utilizing the device, now smiling and happy, floating safely down the trail.  Quite the comedy sketch.

If you’re presenting sports equipment to people who are relatively fit (and they would be relatively fit if they’re even contemplating putting on rollerblades), don’t insult them by assuming they are clumsy and helpless.  You’re introducing an exciting, exhilarating product.  You can do things on rollerblades that you never could have imagined.

I visited the website the other day.  It’s a placeholder, with this message:

The ************® is no longer available.

There is a 2011 post about the same subject, but thought it  appropriate to update everything for this series.

Entrepreneurs & Baby Boomers III
imageThose measly trike things unnerve me the most. Put someone on one, and they remind me of cartoon velociraptors swerving and scurrying, looking for lunch.

08 August 2012

The Ones That Got Away: Underwear

imageCommon Knowledge: When pitching, create a campaign for the client. If they go for it, then create a campaign for consumers.

I don’t have the patience anymore for the first step, so I skip it.  If you want my opinions and ideas, that’s what you get.

And I don’t blog about clients:

Professional relationships will not be disclosed or publicized in my blog or anywhere else. This protects your  professional relationships - and mine. 

Although if the statute of limitations is up, I might.

Every so often I do blog about the ones that got away.  They’re not mentioned by name – but if you’re a good googler…

A year and a half ago an entrepreneur approached me via email:
Mr. Nyren -

My name is **** and I am President of a start up company named *****.  I have teamed with ***** to develop men's underwear most all boomers will appreciate.

We call them **** overconfident underwear. 
What separates ***** from any other underwear is their ability to keep any post void dribble (pee spot) from showing up on your slacks. Our underwear is made from the finest cotton available and look and feel like any other premium underwear. Please look at our web site to see video and pictures. We have been selling for about 2 months using Google add words, and talking to local urologists and giving them brochures to hand out to patients…

… My question is how to reach our target clients and then build momentum so our stock and sales grow together. I would like to send you a pair…
Comfy, good-looking, premium underwear.  Whatever the cup is treated with, it’s invisible.

So was their website.  Alexa ranked it 5 million plus change.
But that was OK with me, because the website was awful.  The first image/impression: a pair of pants with a big wet spot near the crotch.  Sprinkled around the site were hokey jokes about peeing in your pants.  In the midst of all this silliness, and seemingly out of place, were pictures of a top quality, handsome line of underwear. 
A few one-on-one chats, a conference call or two – and I put together my suggestions in something resembling a creative brief.  Snippets:
  • Take your product out of the medical realm and into the mainstream marketing arena.
  • You have a product that incorporates urine drip protection, a normal occurrence that is often perceived as incontinence. While the medical industry might stigmatize this as a condition (post micturition dribble), your product should be positioned as  premium underwear for men.
  • ***** doesn’t alleviate a medical problem any more than an elastic waist-band alleviates a ‘medical’ problem of underwear falling down, or constructing it with ‘high quality cotton’ alleviates a ‘medical’ problem of being uncomfortable. You are offering men’s underwear the way it should have been designed in the first place – with protection.
  • I would rethink the spotting theme in marketing/advertising materials. We don’t need to see it, we don’t need copy that explains what it is. Often, if you identify a product with a negative image – that’s the one that sticks. Everyone knows what a pee spot looks like on a pair of pants. There is no reason to remind them with videos and flash graphics. The first image you see on your website is something unattractive and ugly. Not good.
  • We can get people to the site by employing more conventional marketing.  Let them discover the protection as a feature they want in underwear. It isn’t a question of prudishness – but you don’t want to go out of your way with Baby Boomers by telling them what they need and why – especially when it involves slightly embarrassing scenarios. Let them figure it out.  The protection is simply one of many premium features.
  • Also to be taken into consideration: Women are prime customers. They buy clothes for men. They are buying underwear for their husbands – and they know that their husbands would not appreciate their wives purchasing a product for them that might be misconstrued as an adult diaper.  This is premium, stylish, underwear – not a medical garment. 
I also mentioned this.  And this.

They didn’t go for it. 

A year later I ran across a press release from a marketing firm announcing a new client – the underwear start-up.  I have no idea what they’ve all been up to since then – but whatever it is doesn’t include the web site.  It’s now ranked by Alexa as 27 million plus change.

Good product with lots of potential if positioned correctly.  I wish them well.

Related: I don't need it, but I'll try it on for charity.

Mark Hager Thanks to two folks penning nice (too nice) things about me in recent blog posts:

Mark Hager, Aging In Place Professionals

Claude Nougat The Blog