Thursday, September 17, 2009

Buying Facebook Friends – uSocial and Social Media ROI

(Photo courtesy of

Social media has never been about the number of followers you have. It’s about the relationship and interaction you have with your followers. However, According to AdAge, Australian based is trying to convince you otherwise.

USocial is already famous for selling votes on such popular social bookmarking websites as and They also sell Twitter followers ($87 for 1000, $147 for 2500, all the way up to $3479 for 100,000).

Adage reports that uSocial is now selling Facebook friends…yes, you can buy “friendship” now.

What I find most interesting, is that uSocial attempts to put a value around each follower. According to uSocial:

Traditional ROI

(Net Profit / Total Investment) x 100 gives the example: If net profit is $30 and the total invested is $250, the Return on Investment is:

30 / 250 = 0.12 × 100 = 12%

Social Media ROI

(Net Profit directly related to social media / Total Investment in Social Media) x 100 = Social Media ROI


(Net Profit directly related to social media) / (# of followers) = Net Profit per Follower

Social Media ROI and USocial

Where uSocial goes wrong, is that they are confusing subjective or potential ROI with actualized ROI. Olivier Blanchard of The BrandBuilder eloquently explains: “If I’m going to invest money in, I want to get money out. Currency is not variable.” The ‘R’ in ROI is based off of a monetary value. If a company is going to invest money into their social media marketing strategy (their ‘I”), then they need to see a monetary return (the R). The return cannot be based off of potential or subjective numbers. It doesn’t matter how many followers you have, how many fans you have, or how many sales you think will directly correlate to your social media marketing efforts. The only thing that matters is your actualized return – money you have already gotten back on your investment. A financial investment demands a financial return. (For a great vid on ROI check out The BrandBuilder's video here).

Let’s take a closer look at that social media ROI equation. Let’s say that you purchase 1000 “friends” for $1000 from USocial. These “friends” aren’t actually doing anything. They aren’t passing along your message. They aren’t interacting with your brand. They are just a number, therefore you will never see an actualized return from them. Given that $1000 investment in “friends” from uSocial and knowing that you will never see an actualized return from them, the ROI equation looks like this:

$0 / ($1000) x 100 = $0 Social Media ROI

$0 / 1000 friends = $0/friend (not $1/month like USocial boasts)

Until buying followers or friends from uSocial actually realizes a monetary return, it is completely worthless. When buying from uSocial, all you are getting is a number, not an actual customer or relationship.

What are your thoughts around buying followers and friends through uSocial and its implication on your ROI?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat—

Josh Groth

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

The 5 Worst Times to use the iPhone’s Shazam App

I absolutely love my iPhone (minus not having mms). I also love discovering new music. Enter Shazam - the prodigal love child that came about when someone far better at programming than myself also discovered that they had those same interests.

Now Shazam is not new. It is no longer featured in Apple’s iPhone commercials. It’s buzz has all but completely worn off because anyone with an iPhone already has it. But by God is its sex appeal still there. It’s the Jennifer Aniston of iPhone apps - it keeps getting sexier with age.
With each software update, it keeps getting better and better.

It’s because of it’s raw sexiness that I find myself compelled to write this article. If the darn app didn’t get so my action from everyone, we wouldn’t have this problem. The problem is that this app is so amazing, that it is constantly being used, and often, during highly inappropriate times and places.

So I have highlighted what I consider to be the 5 most inappropriate times and places that I have actually seen people using the Shazam app. And please, feel free to leave a comment detailing any of your sightings of inappropriate usage of Shazam.

The bathroom at Red Robin

I honestly couldn’t make this up. After recently grabbing a burger at Red Robin (aka The Dirty Bird) with some friends, I decided to hit the bathroom on our way out. As I walk in, some guy is just standing next to the sinks with his iphone out, arm extended slightly towards the ceiling speakers, trying to have his phone recognize Crazy Town’s Butterfly. It was just awkward. And what’s the etiquette on something like that? It’s tough not to stare, he’s just hanging out in the bathroom. Do you tell him the name of the song? No, probably not. You don’t want to talk to someone like that.

During the toasting of the bride and groom

I was at a wedding a little while back, being reminded yet again of my relationship status (darn weddings). Time comes around for the toasts for the bride and the groom. The DJ turned the music down, but not all the way off - guess it added to the ambiance. Anyways, as one of the groomsmen is giving his toast, some guy at the table right next to me whips out his iPhone, opens up Shazam, and tried to casually extend his arm out a little bit so that his phone would be a little closer to the speaker. Sure not too many people probably noticed, but I found this hugely disrespectful not only to the person giving the toast, but also to the bride and groom.

Packed elevator

We’ve all been there; in the painfully slow elevator packed elbow-to-elbow like you’re up at a bar on Dollar Beer night trying to get another beer (or two) before last call. In the midst of this already awkward social situation where everyone stares blankly at the back of the head of the person in front of them, some woman starts fumbling through her over-sized purse for her iPhone. After successfully finding her phone, she had to find a way to maneuver her arm above her head, bumping the people around her, to get her phone closer to the speaker.

First off, it’s elevator music. You don’t want it anyway. Secondly, there was no reason to extend her arm, the only sound in that elevator was the music.

So there we stood for the remainder of our slow descent, in complete, awkward silence, with this random woman in the dead center holding her phone to the ceiling. Really?

Doing 70 on the freeway

Nothing like riding shotgun to someone that is in no way, shape, or form paying attention to the road. I was riding with this girl once, and while flying down the highway into downtown, her “new favorite song” came on the radio and she needed to Shazam it right then and there. So she grabs her phone out of her purse, and starts thumbing through it to find the app. Then selects the app, and if you have experience with it, you know that it takes a little bit to load. So there was probably a good 10 seconds where there was next to zero attention paid to the road. Not cool.

I’m sorry, you may love the song, but don’t endanger the people around you (and me) because you need to Shazam it while on the freeway.

While talking with someone at a bar

A little while back, I ran into a buddy a the bar who was in from out of town. As I began responding to one of his questions, he reaches down and starts thumbing through his iPhone, finds Shazam, and opens it up to tag the song that was on. He then extends his hand up and out so it right near the side of my head (since I was closer to the bar’s speakers) and then continued to “listen to my response” as the program goes about tagging the song. Talk about an awkward 20 or so seconds. It was one thing when I knew the song was more important to him than what I had to say, but then to stand there with his hand right next to my head while the song tagged...just weird.

So what are some of your awkward/offensive/inappropriate experiences with Shazam?

--Now let me clear my throat--

Josh Groth

Monday, August 31, 2009

CNN: An Example in Trying Too Hard to Reach Gen Y

I have seen a lot of good and a lot of bad when it comes to big name companies trying to connect with Gen Y and become more ‘relevant’ to them. Companies have made these changes in a variety of different ways, with the two prominent methods being: rebranding efforts and/or a social media presence.

CNN is a little bit different. They decided to make themselves more relevant to Gen Y by creating new segments. Not a bad idea - in theory. Content that is pertinent to Gen Y should attract Gen Y viewers...right?

The problem does not pertain to the content, but in the branding of the segment. They decided to name the segment after what they perceived to be trendy Gen Y slang. They then have their Gen X and Baby Boomer news anchors painfully using this slang in the segments. The whole thing just comes off unbelievably forced.

The segments are seemingly satirically named: Just Sayin’, Are you kidding me?, and What The...?

The result (besides losing entirely too much credibility in the process) is that CNN gets put on blast by perhaps the most influential and popular news anchor in the eyes of Gen Y, Jon Stewart of The Daily Show.

Stewart has some excellent jabs at CNN’s “Slangtastic new strategy,” asserting that “they report the news like I talked...when I was a 12 year-old girl.” While some claim that all press is good press, I can only imagine that CNN lost even more credibility in the eyes of Gen Y after Stewart was done with them.

What should CNN have done differently? How about speak to and engage Gen Y intelligently! It should be natural; no need to force it. We may be younger as a generation than their news anchors, but that doesn’t mean we’re unintelligent. There are ways to cover news pieces that are relevant to Gen Y without demeaning us in the process. Just Sayin’ CNN...

--Now let me clear my throat--
Josh Groth

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

5 Reasons Why Gen Y is the Minority on Twitter

Before going any further, I think that it is imperative to clarify that teens are indeed on Twitter - they’re just a minority (a clarification I attribute to my friend Joey Mucha ( @mucheazy ).

Last week, Mashable published an article that seemed to get everyone’s underwear in a bunch - Stats Confirm it: Teens Don’t Tweet. They cited a recent Nielsen report that shows that only 16 percent of Twitter users are under 25. Later that same day, one of my favorite editors over at Mashable, Ben Parr ( @benparr ) came out with a very interesting piece titled Why Teens Don’t Tweet. This took a closer look at the numbers and tried to add reason to them. If you haven’t read his post, you should. It’s very well written. Below I’ve put some of my thoughts around Gen Y and twitter. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts on the subject as well!

1. Perceived Value vs. Actual Value (the status update)

Twitter is a social network, therefore it must be like all social networks. Wrong. I’ve heard this a lot from my non-tweeting Gen Y peers. Just because Facebook and Twitter both have a place where you can update your status, it doesn’t mean that they are used in the same ways or even for the same reasons. I have seen a decent amount of my peers get on Twitter expecting it to be like Facebook, only to not really “get it” and close their accounts.

2. Snowball

Like any other hit new thing, at some point it’ll reach a tipping point and go viral. There will always be the first movers, but the masses begin their adoption when the they see the majority of the peers following suit. While other demographics have snowballed with Twitter use, the under 25 segment hasn’t. But who ever said that every demographic adopts things at the same pace? It could simply mean that there haven’t been enough movers in that segment to instigate the viral affect yet...

3. Push vs. Pull

Twitter is best utilized as a means for accessing news/articles in real time (pulling) and pushing content to others, not for finding what all of your friends are currently up to (especially if most of your friends aren’t on Twitter). If you’re following several hundred to several thousand people, trying to keep tabs on all of your friends updates will prove difficult as their tweets will get lost among the tweets of all the other news agencies, celebs, and randoms that you’re following as well - that is, unless you’re utilizing a client like TweetDeck.

4. The Friend Zone

If teens are mainly using social media to connect with their friends, then Twitter is not the most efficient means of doing so, Facebook is. If all of your close friends are already communicating in one area, why move them all over to another social media site unless it has some amazing value-add (might I remind that Facebook is launching real-time search functionality as well...)?

5. The LinkedIn Syndrome

My observation is that Twitter is a lot like LinkedIn: it is great for people trying to build a professional network, or substantiate themselves as subject matter experts on something. Which is why both struggle to attract teens. Why do teens need to build a professional network? Their network consists of their friends and little more. So what is the value-add for a teen to join?

What are your thoughts on the subject?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

5 Easy Steps for Gen Y to Go Green

I’m all for green. I love the color (I’m a UO Duck...what can I say) and I love the environment. What I don’t love, are how most of the suggestions I hear about being environmentally conscious from the media, aren’t relevant to me and a good portion of my fellow Gen Yers. What I mean, is that a lot of the focus of the media is solely around driving an eco-friendly car. For someone who is unemployed and has student loans to pay off, dropping some serious coin for a green ride is something that isn’t feasible at this time. Moreover, the tips on “going green” that I receive in the mail from my local utility company seem to relate solely to home owners. I, like most of the younger half of Gen Y, live in an apartment. I don’t need to buy new energy efficient appliances, re-caulk my windows, or re-insulate my walls.

While I don’t have the money for a new eco-friendly Prius or for a LEED certified new house, I still want to make a difference. Below are five suggestions for how Gen Y can positively impact their environment and simultaneously, their wallets without exerting too much effort.

Use Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs (CFLs)

An Energy Star qualified CFL can save you $30 over its life time! This means that this little guy will pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses about 75% less energy and lasts 10x longer than a regular bulb (just remember to turn the lights off when you’re not using them too). If that isn’t convincing, check out this stat from the Energy Star website:

“If every American home replaced just one light bulb with an Energy Star qualified bulb, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, more than $600M in annual energy costs, and prevent greenhouse gases equivalent to emissions of more than 800K cars.”

Use appliances during off-peak hours explains: "Peak" energy hours are the time of day during which the most electricity is used – typically daytime. During peak energy hours additional power plants, "peak-hour plants", are needed. If energy usage is spread out more evenly throughout the day, peak-hour plants will not need to be used.

So simply run your energy-sucking appliances like your dishwasher and washer/dryer between the hours of 9PM and 7AM. Moreover, many utilities companies will offer reduced energy rates during these hours.

Wash clothes in cold water

Approximately 90% of the energy used to wash clothes is used to heat the water. So grab some of that new Tide Coldwater detergent and go to town.

If you don't use it, you lose it

Even if you aren’t using your electronics, if they’re plugged in, they’re still sucking power. So instead of plugging your electronics into the wall, plug them into a power strip. This way, when your not using them, you can shut them all off at once. This also goes for things like your toaster and blender. Only plug those bad boys in when you’re using them, then unplug them when you’re done.

Use public transportation

What I find interesting, is that a lot of “green tips” put the C02 emission savings in relation to the comparable amount of cars you’re taking off the road. So why not just take your car off the road in the first place...

Yes, I recognize that this is not possible for everyone. But if it is, do it. It’s hugely eco-friendly and saves major cash.When I started using my city’s public transportation, I was saving around $200/mth in gas and parking expenses. That’s 200 items on the Dollar Menu or 200 rounds of beer on Dollar Beer Night for your 200 closest friends. Either that, or it’s a good chuck towards rent.

If you want some more tips, check out these sweet sites:

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Monday, July 27, 2009

Social Media Marketing Case Study: Express

I’ve decided that I do a lot of critiquing of social media strategies, rebranding efforts, Gen Y marketing tactics, and general business strategy. While I enjoy these mini case studies, I’ve decided that it’d be a nice change to spotlight companies/brands that are doing an excellent job in their social media and Gen Y marketing efforts.

Today’s spotlight, my long-time favorite clothing brand - Express.

I’ve been a loyal Express customer since it was originally named Structure (8-10ish yrs or so). I was originally drawn to the brand for its bold colors and tailored fit clothing - it use to be a hassle finding clothes that fit someone with an athletic build. I’ve remained a loyal customer not just because of the styles, but the customer service and incredible sales that have.

As someone with a marketing background, it’s been fun watching the digital marketing efforts of the brand explode like Vegas on Fight Night. After reflecting on Express’ digital and social media marketing strategy, I’ve decided that their success is due to three key characteristics: Brains, Brawn, and Balance.


A good marketing strategy is only as good as the person at the helm. In Express’ case, it’s their CMO Lisa Gavales (@ExpressLisaG). What I’ve enjoyed about her approach to social media, is that she’s incorporating a nice blend of push/pull marketing via Twitter. With her 7500ish followers, she alerts followers of upcoming sales, as well as quickly responds to individual comments/questions (an essential and often overlooked aspect of social media).

Example: When I was recently shopping on, I was getting frustrated with my inability to sort shirts and pants by size. I kept clicking on shirts I was interested in, only to find that they were sold out in my size. I tweeted @ExpressLisaG saying that it was hindering my shopping experience, and I’d be more inclined to purchase items from from their website if I could easily view everything that was available in my size. I promptly got a reply, and was informed that IT would get working on a fix. Awesome.


Many times, I see companies take a stab at social media marketing and open a Twitter or Facebook account and call it good. While it’s a good first step, social media is bigger than just Facebook and Twitter and it requires constant interaction with the consumer via these communication tools.

What Express has done well, is establish themselves in several social media mediums. They have a Facebook fan page with approx 50,000 fans, a Twitter account with 7500 followers, and a Bebo and YouTube channel to boot. Moreover, these accounts are all continually updated and they are interacting with their core consumers on a regular basis.


Every marketing campaign needs balance. You can’t focus only on social media, or only on direct marketing. To stay relevant with your consumers, you need to interact with them and create impressions across several marketing channels. By experiencing the brand’s message over several marketing channels, the likelihood of being able recall the brand and its messages is greatly increased. The marketing tactics are even more effective when all the communication channels compliment each other instead of being attempting to stand alone.

Over the past year Express has stepped up their opt-in email marketing efforts. The emails now come more frequently, are aesthetically pleasing to view, and most importantly, they direct the consumer to each of their four social media webpages.

Their direct marketing mailers contain additional sales coupons, as well as direct the consumer to their social media webpages. They also feature verbiage explaining a 15% savings off your first purchase when you signup for email alerts.

Finally, the social media strategy not only provides their consumers with info, but interacts with their consumers. Their Facebook and Bebo pages provides the information, as well as a blurb about the 15% discount for signing up for email alerts. Their Twitter account interacts with their customers and their YouTube channel provides videos with fashion/styling advice.

Each marketing channel supports the others seamlessly. This impeccably balanced approach to their marketing campaign is perhaps the most impressive and effective facet of their strategy.

Four for you Glen CoCo! You go Glen CoCo! (yes, I realize I just quoted Mean Girls, but it seemed appropriate given Express’ utter dominance in the social media marketing field.)

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Starbucks to Sell Beer and Wine...?

It’s been quite the year for big-ticket rebranding efforts. Kentucky Fried Chicken has been transitioning over to Kentucky Grilled Chicken in an effort to ditch the negative health connotation linked with deep fried food. Pizza Hut has begun its transformation to The Hut - in an attempt to connect more with Gen Y. Starbucks has now started down the yellow-brick road of rebranding in an attempt to gain the upper hand in the Coffee Wars.

Two days ago USA Today broke the story that Starbucks is not only experimenting with a new name, but also several new additions to their menu - beer and wine. Opening next week in Seattle, the birthplace of the Starbucks brand, is the pilot store called “15th Ave. Coffee and Tea inspired by Starbucks” (seems a little long winded to me, but what ev).

15th Ave. Coffee and Tea will feature all of the same menu options as any other Starbucks, however it will have a liquor license. It will offer a half-dozen kinds of beers and wines — most with connections to the Northwest, and priced between $4-$7.

Starbucks has been attacked from all sides like Kobe on game night. However, unlike the Black Mamba, Starbucks isn’t coming home with a ring. During the recession, Starbucks has endured store closures, layoffs, and same-store sales declines. They’ve also been hit with a full-court press by McDonald’s, as their competitor infused their McCafe with a $100M marketing budget.

Starbucks’ solution: increase foot traffic during the evening hours, where store sales are at their lowest. It’s a viable strategy, but are beer and wine the answer?

In order to address Starbucks’ proposed solution, I think it would behoove them to take a closer look at the problem at hand.

The Problem(s):
  • Starbucks has the highest price point among its competitors (McDonald’s and Dunkin’ Donuts).
  • Demand for coffee peaks in the afternoon then tampers off into the evening.
  • Coffee can be considered a luxury good in a recession (easily replaced by brewing at home).

Bite the bullet and compromise on price. While it may have an immediate negative result on net profit, they could start making up some of the ground they’ve lost to McCafe and Dunkin’ with consumers who are price conscious. Their competitor's biggest selling point (in relation to Starbucks) is that their product is less expensive. If you take that away from them, what do they have?

Give recession weary consumers a reason to come to Starbucks instead of brewing their coffee at home (i.e. FREE WI-FI). When I was at school, there was a small locally-owned coffee shop right next door to the campus Starbucks called Espresso Roma. It always got the same, if not more, traffic than the Starbucks. Why? It was a better place to get work done at because it offered free Wi-Fi. This seems like a no-brainer, which makes it even more impressive that Starbucks is seemingly the only company left that actually charges customers for Wi-Fi.

If they’re still hell-bent on increasing traffic in the evenings via alcohol, why not sell alcohol that at least has something to do with their pre-existing brand image? Rather than beer and wine (yes I recognize that these are common in European coffeehouses), why not sell drinks like Spanish/Irish coffees and peppermint schnapps infused mochas around Christmas? Unlike beer and wine, this would not be a complete 180 from the brand image and would actually complement their current product offerings quite nicely. After all, Starbucks already produces their own coffee flavored liqueurs.

What are your thoughts? Would you go to a Starbucks for a late night beer with your friends? What alcoholic drinks (if any) would you consider purchasing from a Starbucks?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--

Josh Groth

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Consumers React To Pizza Hut's Rebranding Efforts

(Photo Courtesy of

As a follow-up to my previous post on the rebranding of Pizza Hut to “The Hut,” I thought that it would be interesting to highlight consumer’s reactions to the news. So, I went to several prominent news sources that posted the article, as well as several popular social bookmarking websites such as Digg and Reddit. I then copied and pasted them here so that you can get an idea of how consumers are reacting to the rebranding efforts (none of the posts have been edited). Some of them are offensive, others are crass. However, the majority of them are pretty hilarious.

From the article’s thread on

HAL_9000: “Already printing up stickers in the same font style that just say "JABBA" on them to be ready.”

alesis: “Yes! Eat pizza at The Hut and wind up like Jabba!”

Rantastic: “Because naming your restaurant after the fattest villain in cinema history is a good marketing strategy. I hope they fire that marketing team and kick them in the balls for good measure.”

Shiggityx2: “Seriously, "The Pizza" would have been way cooler.”

From the article’s thread on


Mika Hutchison: “It sounds like a very bad joke. Too bad it's not. Lame.”

Robobot: “I was dearly hoping to see a link to The Onion at the bottom of this post.”

From the article’s thread on MSN Money

Fedup in VA: “Wow, wheel of fortune. Can't get any hipper than that.”

jimmyjoejack: “a little late for an april fool's joke!”

Amanda Hugankiss: “They should start by serving beer. Who wants to hang out and JUST eat pizza and maybe watch a little "Wheel"? I'll have a Sam Adam's with that cheese pizza, then we'll talk about hanging out.”

healthyeatin’girl: “These fast food restaurants can change their names a hundred times and they're still going to have the same greasy, unhealthy food and the image that comes with that.”

chaostheory6682: “This is Pathetic!!! I will never eat at a pizza hut again, o sorry,"the hut ". I'm so sick and tired of companies and people changing and often shortening their names in an attempt to look more hip. It's bull and I won't have anything to do with it.”

Throttlemonster: How about "Jabba the Hut"

Caffeine Clone: “Hmmm. The Hut... makes me think of Jabba the Hutt... which makes me think of something grotesquely fat and disgusting... qualities that I am sure that Pizza Hut doesn't want to bring to mind when thinking about their restaurant.”

theadrock13: “I just called a few friends and asked what do you think of when you hear the name "The Hut" as a place to go eat or hang out. Everybody says it sounds like a gay bar.”

Michaellane: “The Hut? Ewww. Sounds like some 70'sish- Long Island-Christian rock-coke drinking-"Wheel" watching-hipster-dude, (or Travis from WKRP) saying ‘let's do The Hut guys!, come on- it's almost six o'clock.”

Rittenhouse-Wise Family: “I think that it is hilarious that they think young people want to sit around and watch CBS... My dad watched Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy. As far as Entertainment Tonight... Don't we get most of our entertainment info from the net anyway? Hilarious... Next thing they will do is add a disco ball and take names at the door... LOL”

From the article’s thread on

fiendishMuffin: “Good luck getting people to not say "Pizza Hut." Saying "The Hut" makes me feel like a tool.”

seattlegirluw: “Maybe they watched Spaceballs too many times?”

onechad: “Maybe I'm just completely out of the cool-people loop (okay, I definitely am), but it seems to me that the harder a business tries to be "hip," the less likely they are to be viewed as such. It's like when parents try to use slang to sound younger and relate to their kids.”

FirstOne1: "Let's order The Hut tonight!" Sounds pretty stupid actually.

BDOUG: “...this will simply remind people of Jabba the Hutt, probably not a good idea when you want to sell fast food. I have a better idea, how about not putting 14,000 tablespoons of sugar into your nasty pizza sauce instead?”

MrColdHeart: “Add wifi and beer and I would go.”

greenvortex: “Leia felt chained down by her Job at the Hut.”

relaxeder: “They will include televisions that broadcast CBS-programs such as Wheel of Fortune and Entertainment Tonight." Oh boy, I can't wait to watch crap while I'm eating it.”

ErrorLoading: “Let's connect with youth by showing "Wheel of Fortune"! Are these people like 900 years old and consider 60 year old's youth?”

SnuKs: “Jabba?”

Pizza Hut Rebrands as "The Hut"...Hilarity Ensues

To rebrand or not to rebrand. It’s a question that many companies are dealing with as they attempt to reposition their company/brand in order to better align themselves with current hot topics (i.e. clean and green energy, organic/healthy food, etc). This repositioning is often times in attempt to make the brand more relevant to Gen Y.

Case in point, Pizza Hut.

Pizza Hut is currently rebranding in an attempt to change their image. They’re currently testing a new name: The Hut. They are also introducing new items such as a multi-grain crust and all natural tomato sauce in an effort to cast their pizza in a healthier light. While The Hut is just a marketing effort and not a permanent name change, it’s got me scratching my head. But more on that later.

Brian Niccol, Pizza Hut’s CMO explains the rebrand in BrandWeek:

“There's a big trend in general around having confidence in the foods that you eat. People over the age of 35, whose frequency with pizza is declining, said one of the big things that would reignite their passion with the category is to have a pizza made with multigrain crust and an all natural tomato sauce...

Design is a great way to create an emotional expression for your brand. But the pizza category has been a real laggard in doing that. Our red box is a game changer in packaging and design. And yes, we're also introducing another vocabulary word with Pizza Hut, which is 'The Hut.' That ties in nicely with (today's) texting generation. We wanted to make sure that Pizza Hut and 'The Hut' become common vernacular for our brand. Red is our mark and when you see that red roof, people will refer to it as 'The Hut' or 'Pizza Hut.' As we expand our online and mobile businesses, 'The Hut' is the perfect icon for our mobile generation.”

Additionally, Pizza Hut is introducing Hut TV, an in-store video channel that allows customers to watch shows like Wheel of Fortune and Entertainment Tonight while eating.

Instead of putting this rebrand on blast (like I have a tendency to do), I opted to offer some quick observations of mine. Then to add insights into other consumer’s reactions, I will highlight some of the comments that I’ve seen popping up on popular social media sites in a follow-up post tomorrow.

My Initial thoughts:

  • “The Hut” may be shorter, therefore easier to text, but dropping one word in a text, one that’s in my phone’s predictive text anyway, is not going to affect a purchase decision. Now if you had an iPhone app for quick orders, that’d be a completely different story.
  • The first thing any Gen X or Gen Y consumer thinks of when hearing The Hut (especially male consumers) is Jabba The Hutt from Star Wars. The second thing they think of, is Pizza the Hutt from Spaceballs. If you’re trying to associate your brand with a healthier image, why is the first thing I think about when I hear your new brand name, a 4000 pound, drooling alien?
  • Pizza is about convenience and price, it’s rarely about a dining experience (outside kid’s soccer parties). As Gen Y consumers, we’re not going to be dining in, but out. Make it more convenient to order; don’t try and entice us to dine in with Hut TV.
  • Address both cost and convenience by ditching the store front, and have more stores like a Dominos where all they do is deliver. Make a phone app for easier ordering. With the money you’re saving on the lease, buy healthier or even organic products and differentiate your brand that way. Convenience and Organic = Gen Y = increased sales.
--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The RIAA: Where Profits Outweigh Domestic Violence

Chris Brown and the RIAA (Recording Industry Association of America) have two things in common - they are two of the most recognized and influential “brands” in the lives of Gen Y. More importantly, their brands are intrinsically intertwined. Brown, at the age of 16, became the first male artist to have his debut single top the Billboard Hot 100. At the same time, millions of Gen Yers flocked to their favorite torrent sites to download his work (yet he still managed to sell over 2 million copies of his debut album). Then the RIAA slapped many of those same Millennials with lawsuits (the RIAA has allegedly settled with 30,000 people that they’ve sued over illegal downloading).

What I find sad, is that these “brands” are both setting horrible examples for malleable, young minds.

Chris Brown just pleaded guilty to beating up his girlfriend Rihanna, and was only given 180 days of community labor and 5 years of probation. Oh, and he can’t go near Rihanna for 5 years. No jail time. No huge fine, just community service.

Then there’s the RIAA. They have shown Gen Y the ways of a successful business plan. The RIAA has gotten so huge, that their sue-and-scare tactics have netted them $100M in settlement money! This week, a federal jury found a 32-year-old Minnesota woman guilty of illegally downloading music and fined her $80,000 each - awarding the RIAA a total of $1.9 million for 24 songs.

What have they taught Gen Y?

Illegally downloading 24 songs is worse than domestic violence.

I am sorry, but this is absurd. The RIAA is a business that represents the record labels that employ the recording artists. Instead of spending time and money to publicize the very real issue of domestic violence in an effort to condemn Chris Brown’s actions, they took the people that downloaded his music to court and profited from it. Unforgivable.

In my business law class, my prof pounded two things into my head: a business has fiduciary and ethical duties. Businesses have a duty to accurately report their finances and to conduct their business in an ethical manner. I’m sorry, but there is nothing ethical about the way the RIAA is conducting their business, especially since they are an industry leader (they represent 85% of all distributors and labels in the US).

If we Millennials are going to be the leaders of tomorrow, then how about setting a good example for us on how to run a business? Huh RIAA, is that too much to ask? If the very artists that you represent are speaking out against your disdainful sue-and-scare profiteering (Radiohead, Moby, etc.), isn’t it time for a change?

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Thursday, June 11, 2009

The Tipping Point for Charitable Giving and Social Media

In my prior post, I addressed the issue of involvement (or lack-there-of) in charitable or philanthropic events by Facebook users. Of the 25M Facebook users that have installed the Causes app, less than 1% have ever actually contributed money to a cause through the program.

My friend Jessica Lomelin brought up an interesting comment: “I think many people like the idea of being philanthropic and self-less, but only do it until it affects their day-to-day and time.” Amen.

This got me to thinking of Causes in terms of a social epidemic, as Malcolm Gladwell would call it in his crazy good book The Tipping Point (I hear it did decently well...). Causes sure seems to fit the bill as a social epidemic with 25M users, but how come so few actually utilize the app for charitable giving?

According to Gladwell, a social epidemic has 3 key players:

Connectors: These are the people that seem to know everyone despite what circles they run in and seem to “link up the world.”

Mavens: These are the people that we rely upon to get us new information - aka the kingpins of word-of-mouth marketing

Salesmen: The persuaders. They’re charismatic and have powerful negotiation skills.

It appears that Causes has utilized both Connectors and Mavens. The people that seem to know everyone and the people that we rely on for new information and trends got the word out. They told their friends, who told their friends, and everyone signed up because of it.

What Causes is missing, is the Salesman. There is nobody out there persuading us to give our money to worthy causes. And the subtle Facebook messages that remind us to donate don’t count. We all know that it’s a good thing to do, but there is nobody busting our balls about it that gets us to empty to empty our pockets for AIDS research or starving children in Africa.

So far, I honestly think that comedian Dane Cook has the best answer to this. In one of his standup routines, he talks about how the soft sell tactic is ineffective. That the guy that comes onto the screen to tell us to give 15 cents to help a kid in Africa “Is too nice. He’s too sweet. And we’re Americans, and we need our f***** asses kicked once in a while. If you’re too nice and too sweet, that’s not gonna work. They need to have a f****** dude in a leather jacket, few days of growth, just step in the frame...” and in fewer words, tell us off and put us in our place.

Do yourself a favor and watch the clip, you’ll laugh because you know it’s true.
Dane Cook: Uncensored - 15 Cents
Dane Cook Kool Aid VideoMore Dane Cook VideosJoke of the Day

So how does social media leverage this tactic if the soft sell doesn’t work? I honestly don’t know. Maybe Causes installs a widget on your computer that sporadically yells at you and tells you to think of others. Or maybe emails you your monthly expenses and in big bold red font displays what you spent on clothes and booze as compared to what you donated to charity. Maybe if you sign up for Causes, it charges your credit card 25 cents (or something seemingly negligible - that you agree to of course) every month, but when multiplied by 25M users, is $6.25M every month.

I don’t know what the solution is, but I feel like there’s a simple answer out there - a way that social media can be leveraged to kick our asses and persuade us to give money to others.

What are your thoughts on how social media can be leveraged to help change this problem?

-- Now Let Me Clear My Throat --
Josh Groth

Monday, June 8, 2009

Do we Need to Start a Facebook Cause for Facebook Causes?

(Picture Courtesy of FB Causes)

First off, I want to apologize for not posting in the past two weeks. Evidently typing is difficult to do when your middle finger has been crushed by a huge dumbbell. Who knew?

Now onto the good stuff - Facebook Causes is a total waste (might as well come out swinging). Ok, more accurately, those that sign up and support Facebook Causes are a complete waste - or pretty close to it. Full disclosure, I lump myself into this "complete waste" category, so don't think I'm calling just calling you out.

According to the WSJ, “Only a tiny fraction of the 179,000 non-profits that have turned to Causes as an inexpensive and green way to seek donations have brought in even $1,000.”

While one might argue that Causes at least brings free publicity to the non-profit, the goal of publicity is to drive donations. If the free publicity isn’t equating to donations, then is it really helping?

Free publicity aside, what is truly shocking is that “More than 25 million of Facebook's 200 million worldwide members have signed on as supporters of at least one cause, making it the third-most popular of the more than 52,000 applications on the site. But just 185,000 members have ever contributed through the site. The majority of Causes' participants have received no donations through the site.”

Looking at the numbers, less than 1% of us are truly cause-conscious, and the other 99% of us are just really, really good at signing up for things (again, I'm lumped into that jaw-dropping stat).

This is reminiscent of the 2007 Project Red campaign to raise money for AIDS research. With Bono as the spokesman, and consumer product manufacturers Apple, Gap, and Motorola (along with many others), the cause was hugely publicized, and simultaneously, a hugely publicized failure. In fact, the companies that were taking part in the Project Red campaign spent $100M dollars marketing their involvement, making sure everyone knew that they cared about AIDS research and were associated with the cause, while the cause only raised $18M. That's right, the campaign would have been 5x more successful if the companies involved simply donated the money they spent on marketing their involvement with Project Red rather than spending it on marketing.

It seems that whether its huge corporations like Apple or Motorola, or the lowly Facebook user, we’re all statistically more concerned with other people knowing that we give a damn about a cause than actually doing anything about it.

So what are your ideas about how to make Facebook Causes more effective? How do we get even 1% of Facebook Causes users to actually donate to the cause of their choice? It's not like there's something wrong with the application, just those of us that use it. Do we need to start a Facebook Cause for Facebook Causes?

-- Now Let Me Clear My Throat --
Josh Groth

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Social Media: Are You Listening?

Here's a thought; so often we yak about using social media for our benefit and communicating through this amazing medium.  Let's drive market share, increase customer loyalty, communicate with our old high school classmates, and stalk our exes (or is that just me?).  However, how often do we ask, "What does social media tell us and what exactly can I learn if I listen to it?"  Oooh...I feel so sensitive and in touch with myself.  In this analogy, I'm the sensitive male who just listened to a woman for the first time.  It feels so rewarding.  For both of us.

The epiphany of social media is its not only about how businesses and people communicate with consumers and friends.  It's also about how we listen to what social media tells us and apply its lessons to our businesses.

I suppose this hit me today after Josh had a rocking post on the Kindle DX.  After Josh e-mailed me, I clicked through to the article.  The comparison of the cost-benefit ratio of the Kindle DX as a replacement for the college textbook immediately brought to mind the cash-strapped college kid who loves gadgets thinking, "Ooooh...what sort of complicated financial analysis did Josh use to justify me purchasing this neat new toy?  It is SO sustainable!"  My first reaction was, "Wow...if people love reading about this and its the top gadget story on Reddit, we obviously know the demographic for the Gadget section on Reddit."

And then it hit me; social media is not only a portal for communication, but its also a raw insight into what interests people.  If you want to use social media, you have to be interesting to the people who are using it.  For example; if Josh blogged about AARP's use for the dice.  However, blogging about college textbooks?  Front page of Reddit.

For businesses, entrepreneurs, and serious bloggers/vloggers/tweeters, the lesson is simple; find the pulse of your target consumer, communicate with them in the medium they use (preferably social media), and you will be successful.

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Kindle DX Costs College Students $1050.60 More Than Traditional Textbooks

(Photo of crazy expensive Kindle DX courtsey of

The internet is having a very public love affair with Amazon's Kindle DX. So let's cut through the foreplay, and get right to it. Will the $489 Kindle DX replace the textbook for Gen Y?

All the buzz has been about how the Kindle DX is going to replace the textbook and how it's the future for college campuses everywhere. Mashable reports that Princeton, UVA, Case Western, Arizona State, and Reed College are all onboard with the Kindle DX and helping to digitize textbooks. While I'm all for digital textbooks, since textbooks are hugely inconvenient, we need to address the numbers first.

To get some other insights, I opened this topic up to HARO and to Twitter. Two of my responses were quite interesting (and polarizing at the same time):

Tim Lytle writes: "With a not quite a year old daughter, I think about what her education will be like. I wouldn't be surprised if she had most of her 'books' on a Kindle, and did most of her work on a tablet pc styled netbook or a 'smart' pen (the livescribe). The technology exists today, and it will only get better, more portable, and more accessible. Sure, maybe it won't be the 'Kindle' from Amazon that she uses - it will probably be something even more integrated, more 'natural'. Maybe something like a netbook with a second screen instead of a keyboard. She'll use it as a laptop with one touch screen displaying a keyboard. She'll use it as her book, flipping it 90 degrees to view two pages. She'll lay it flat and grab a stylus to take notes or work on her art project.

As for cost? Ask any college student if they'd rather pay $500 once then $10/ebook, or buy all paper books. Of course, textbook publishers won't be happy, but there's a change growing in that field as well."

Kit Yarrow, Consumer Psychologist and Professor of Business at Golden Gate University writes: "What Gen Yers will love most is the mobility. They lead active lives and are famous for multi-tasking. I think the idea that they could snatch a few minutes of reading in anytime will appeal to them. Those texts are weighty in more ways than one. The problem lies in their ability to buy used texts via Kindle. Now that they have multiple online resources available to them many college students are circumventing their college bookstores in favor of less expensive options."

Tim and Kit bring up an interesting point - costs associated with adoption. Kit says that the abundance of online resources for buying and selling textbooks drive the cost of textbooks down already and that the inability to resell texts via the Kindle is a deterrent to adoption, while Tim brings up the idea that if the ebooks are cheap enough, it'll increase adoption rates.

So Let's look at the numbers:

The National Association of College Stores conducted a study that found that students spend on average $702/year on textbooks. This equates to a total expense of $2808 on textbooks over a 4 year college experience. It is also important to note that e-books are already available and contrary to popular belief, textbooks will not be $10 – publishers and authors still want their share. E-books were generally around 70% of the price of the regular print textbooks at the college bookstore and could not be sold back

(Looking at the UO bookstore, MKTG 420 Section: 41830 has their required book ISBN: 9780132224154 for sale at $159.75 new, $120 Used, $95.75 e-book. The e-book is 60% of the new price and 80% of the used price, or an average of 70%) Also important to note, is that the website states that an e-book can only be downloaded once, and will be auto-deleted after 150 days.

The Kindle:

1 Kindle DX = $489

Yearly E-Book expenses = $491.4/yr (70% of the yearly $702 average)

$491.4 x 4 years = $1965.6 + $489 for the Kindle

= $2454.6 for four years of e-books and a Kindle DX

The Traditional Textbook

$702 (avg cost/year) x 4 years = $2808

Given the alternative online resources for reselling textbooks, (,,, or simply selling them to my friends) I was on average able to recoup 40-60% of what I paid for my textbooks. For argument's sake, let's average that out at 50%.

If I'm able to make 50% back when I resell books at the end of the term I get:

$2808 x 50% = $1404

Total cost of traditional textbooks over four years = $1404

Total difference in cost over 4 years between traditional textbooks and a Kindle DX: $1050.60

While the Kindle DX may be slim and sexy, I'm pretty sure that any college student on a strapped budget is going to elect to carry their heavy books if it means saving $1K. Moreover, according to the National Association of College Stores, 26% of students said they usually pay for course materials with scholarships and grants. If the Kindle DX isn't can't be purchased with scholarship money (like some high-end electronics, i.e. computers) then the DX has even more pit against it.

Most importantly, you can buy a pretty sweet netbook for $489 which has way more functionality than a Kindle DX. Or alternatively, buy 489 rounds of drinks at Dollar Beer nights…just sayin.

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

McDonald's + Marketing = Better than 6-Piece McNuggets

Thank goodness marketing improved since this picture was taken.

I really love that Josh always picks sexy topics like Star Trek's new ad campaign, car ads, and the like, but I choose topics like the Les Schwab guy and McDonald's.  This probably says a lot about why I live at home with my parents.

For those of you guys that haven't had a chance to be inspired (and filled) by your neighborhood McDonald's, I would encourage you to all go and visit one.  If you actually take me up on that advice, please order a #10 six-piece for me.  Oh.  And two apple pies for $1.  What a deal.

McDonald's has come a long way from the old days of horrible salads, entirely processed foods, Morgan Spurlock's Supersize Me, and a clown for a spokesperson.  Seriously...who thought up the idea that Ronald McDonald would be a good spokesperson for your brand?  Haven't clowns always been creepy, or is that just a Gen Y thing?  If this was the pinnacle of advertising in the 80's and early 90's, I obviously was born ten years too late.  I would've been brilliant.

McDonald's latest venture in their rebranding and business evolution is the introduction of the McCafe.  This line of pseudo-premium coffee beverages at slightly lower prices is designed to undermine Starbucks and create market share for the hamburger giant.  In the spirit of eating into the market share of the Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts of the world, McDonald's is committing over $100 million to its efforts to spread the good word to consumers everywhere.

McDonald's latest venture is fantastic; the company launched the business during an economic downtown, its Seattle-based (and snobby) competition is closing stores, and people are looking for tasty escapes from everyday life.  The integrated marketing communication plan involves TV, radio, print, online, and outdoor ads.

The only critique I have about McDonald's integrated marketing communications plan can be summed up in one world; integration.  Especially in online ads, we see a lack of connectivity between a Facebook group, the McCafe theater banner ad posted on Youtube yesterday, and communication to the end consumer.

McDonald's failure to utilize social media lessens the impact of its $100 million campaign.  By creating and official Facebook group run by the company and promoting the McCafe website through the Facebook group (and vice versa), McDonald's could increase touch points and develop a stronger connection to the consumer by furthering the integration of the marketing campaign.  This move, similar to the moves made by Pinkberry, increases the possibility of seeing a more loyal (and zealous) fan base.

Please, McDonald's...step up the one area that can really bring you great bang for your buck (a marketing "value meal" if you will); social media.

I'm hungry; good thing the dining room is open 'til 10 p.m. at my favorite McD's.

- Mama said knock you out -

Phil Jones

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Not Your Father’s Star Trek: Marketing Star Trek to Gen Y

Full Disclosure – I’m not a Star Trek fanboy. I’m a Star Wars guy. I’ve grown up stereotyping and poking fun at Trekkies. I remember growing up and seeing my dad engrossed in everything from the original Star Trek episodes, to spinoffs like Deep Space Nine. I’ve spent my entire life looking down on Trekkies – so why the hell can’t I, or anyone I know, wait until May 8th to see the new movie?

Paramount faced a monumental challenge when making the new Star Trek. How do they get Gen Y on board for a Star Trek movie? Sure, it’s easy to get all the Gen X Trekkies onboard, they’d go see the movie if it had a $1M budget and actors found on Craigslist. But how do you get an entire generation psyched for a movie that’s based on a tv show they’ve grown up with a negative opinion of? Seriously, is there any tv show out there that is more polarizing than Star Trek?

Selling Gen Y on Star Trek:

Casting: There are plenty of good actors/actresses out there. However, certain actors draw certain crowds. If you’re struggling to figure out how to attract Trekkie-hating Gen Yers, cast actors they know and like. Enter – John Cho and Zachary Quinto. Cho starred in the mega hit Harold and Kumar, which is on most Gen Yers all-time favorite comedy lists. Then there’s Quinto, who plays the infamous Sylar on the hugely popular Heroes (let’s face it, Sylar is one of the best villains in a long, long time). Cast actors Gen Yers like, you'll win them over (it's so simple it hurts).

Directing: Like casting the right actors, there’s also smart marketing in who you choose as a director. Paramount brought in J.J. Abrams who wrote and produced the tv shows: Alias, Lost, and Fringe. On top of that, he wrote and directed Mission Impossible 3 and produced Cloverfield. Abrams has a proven track record when it comes to Gen Y, and the experience with big budget films to pull off a blockbuster like this. That, and he'll bring his whole cult following along for the ride too.

Marketing: Like any movie, the marketing comes with the trailers. Audiences got their first peek months ago, and since then, the trailers have gotten increasingly more action packed. However, unlike traditional trailers that try and sell you on what it is, the Star Trek trailer come out and tried to sell you on what it isn’t. With rock music blaring, and cut scenes of bar fights, sex, and a goofy looking John Cho, the bold text flashed across the screen:


Want to change Gen Y’s perspective on something, take a page out of Star Trek’s marketing campaign. Because Lord knows I couldn’t have EVER foreseen myself writing anything positive about Star Trek…and I haven’t even see the movie yet.

--Now Let Me Clear My Throat--
Josh Groth

Friday, May 1, 2009

Will Chen of Wisebread: Wise Indeed

**To conclude my analysis of Ford’s Fiesta social media marketing campaign, I sought out the opinions of several social media marketing experts – to have them weigh in on the Fiesta Movement, but also the broader idea of making a social media marketing campaign sustainable over a long period of time (6-12 months)**

The following interview is with Will Chen, the social media marketing director for Killer Aces Blog Network. Their flagship blog, has over one million page views a month. He has run several successful social media campaigns via Digg, reddit, twitter, blogger reviews, and forum development.

How do you keep Gen Y interested in a campaign that is 6 months to a year long?

There are two types of viral content. One type has a high WTF factor that gets a ton of attention. For example, this awesome picture of an eagle was a huge hit last month on Digg and Reddit. It is funny, it is fresh, and in a few more weeks it will be gone.

The second type of viral content sells a specific lifestyle. My favorite example is Where in the Hell is Matt. Matt is a game designer who travels the world and videotapes himself dancing in every location imaginable. People love his videos because we all dream about leaving our dreary cubicle jobs to see the world. Matt's videos started in 2006 and they are still going strong (just a few months ago one of his videos hit the frontpage of Digg, again).

The Fiesta Movement is trying to do the same thing. It is selling the dream of the "college road trip" lifestyle. Sort of a Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance meets MTV's Roadtrip.

A lot of people make travel videos, but none of them did them as creatively as Matt. There are a lot of "Matts" in Ford's campaign. Autoblog reports that Juston Laipply, creator of the über-viral "Evolution of Dance" video applied to be an agent. I think they are going to create some awesome content.

Finally, if Gen X is the "me" generation, then Gen Y must be the "me me me" generation. Everything in their digital life is customized to revolve around them. Pandora plays music based on their tastes. Twitter broadcast the flavor of coffee they drank this morning to all 27 of their friends. They watch only the shows they want on Hulu.

These kind of people want to see a campaign that shamelessly panders to them. The traditional car commercial with a authoritative announcer talking up a car while a butler serves champagne on the sun roof is not going to get the job done. Gen Y people want to see themselves in that car. And Ford will show the Gen Y people, not just themselves, but the best version of themselves they've always secretly hoped to become.

Is a social media really the correct medium for a long campaign?

This movement is designed to brand Fiesta for the long term. Ford isn't just looking for a couple of Digg home runs or mentions on Autoblog. The online viral campaign is probably part of a much larger campaign that looks 1, 3, 5, or 10 years into the future. My marketing budget for Killer Aces Media is probably a drop in the ocean compared to what Ford has to work with, but even I do media plans for up to at least 24 months.

It would be a mistake for Ford to rely completely on social media, but it was shrewd of them to use it as part of a bigger plan. I suspect they plan on sponsoring more traditional things like college sports events, print campaigns, product cobranding, etc.

How do you make word of mouth marketing sustainable for the entire length of the campaign rather than having it die off after people stop blogging/tweeting about it?

Blog posts leave anchor text and links. Due to this campaign, 3 months from now when you Google "fun car for road trip" or "great college ride" you'll see Fiesta at the top of that list. Industry analysts and journalists also use Google to help them find information about products. I personally get tons of media inquiries from journalists who found my site because they saw our site while Googling for "best personal finance blog" or "personal finance forum."

Instead of stuffy marketing material, these analysts and journalists will see a bunch of "testimonials" from users of the car. Some of them might not even be aware of the fact that this was a paid campaign and mistake it for a grassroots type of consumer love.

What Ford needs to do to keep this momentum going is to make sure the campaign evolves beyond existing social media. They need to anticipate game changing applications like Twitter before they become the industry standard. I know Scott's body of work and I think he will have no problem with this.