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 Kindle...no 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 Amazon.com)

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, (Amazon.com, half.com, eBay.com, 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, WiseBread.com 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 http://www.wisebread.com/ 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.