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.