Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cyborg Beetles - The next big grassroots opportunity.

Although this is really has nothing to do with communications, this is likely one of the craziest things I've seen in a long time. UC Berkeley is experimenting on insects to basically create armies of cyborg beetles. Or as they put it "implanted devices are designed to hijack control of motor functions, induce physiological changes, and to serve as a self-contained platform for various transducers."

You have to watch the video, it will blow your mind - Click here.

Now there are lots of applications of this beyond the obvious creation of cyborg armies of Dolph Lundgren type super humans - there are some really interesting applications for this from a marketers standpoint. Think of the mystery shopping research you'd be able to do by flying a few bugs into the store to monitor a few sales transactions (in real time via the web!). Maybe control a few swarms of locusts to create a living and changing billboard in the sky. Or the intel you can gather from your competitors by flying a few of these into their boardroom.

I just hope those folks over at Berkeley have some decent security and are watching to make sure no evil super villains are lurking about.

Thanks Engadget for the image.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mini launches iPhone game - and it's not what you think.

I'm a big fan of things that the crafty marketers at Mini do. They constantly surprise the market with engaging outdoor installation pieces and insightful advertising that is unique to their brand.

So when I heard they launched a new iPhone game I thought to myself - those guys are so smart developing another cool branded experience. Then I saw the game 'Liquid Assets', which is a new take on an old game that has nothing to do with their product, and I thought - what a odd thing to do.

So maybe I'm a purist when it comes to these types of things or I just like the obvious - but why didn't they lead off with a driving game? They could have commissioned a game developer to tailor a existing game featuring your fav Mini utilizing the iPhone/iPod Touch's unique interface. I'm sure that Mini fans everywhere would have jumped at the chance to push a Mini to the limits in various courses. This just seems like it would be tighter to the product and enable them to learn a bit more about their audience (ie. data collection, tracking behaviour, etc)

Games rule on the Apple handheld platform - but they still have to be great to engage the user. Sometimes it's better to just do the obvious. And do it really well.

Friday, January 23, 2009

2009, The Year of mCommerce?

There have long been the promise that the mobile phone will become your wallet - finally enabling you to point it at a pop machine and purchase that tasty carbonated treat. But the reality is your going to have to fish in your pockets for spare change - that form of mCommerce is a long way from mainstream.

Although the technology exists and some banks are wireless providers are piloting this lovely technology, sadly your phone will not become your wallet anytime soon. But really, who even needs this on a mass scale - when was the last time you tried to buy something and didn't have a credit card, debit card or even cash to do so.

So where does that leave the world of mCommerce? The real question is how are marketers using mobile to drive commerce.

2009 will be the year that marketers finally realize that the mobile can be an incredibly powerful marketing tool - in particular for the retailers who want to drive store traffic. Recessions have a wonderful effect of forcing marketers to try new strategies and tactics to drive sales. And mobile marketing firms want to demonstrate the opportunity the channel creates, opening the door to alternative results based compensation structures.

Lots of retailers are already experimenting. Jack in the Box launched a mobile couponing campaign - deploying coupons at different day parts, as well as a variety of different offers to gauge what works in the best in mobile space to generate response. And in an interesting move, the agency Mobile Posse guaranteed double digit results or the campaign was free. H&M also launched a fully integrated program, creating a branded experience with their products to drive loyalty and retetion.

Microsoft announced the launch of their Tag product, which essentially creates interactivity on anything that has their mobile 'tag'.

Consumers install the application on their phone, then simply take a picture of the tag and more information is delivered via the web. Now this product is not anything new - QR codes and Datamatrix codes have existed for years, along with the old standard of SMS shortcodes.

The thing marketers should take note of is that they are missing a massive opportunity to create interactivity - the much sought after 1:1 relationship. The fact that marketers rely on consumers to remember a URL, 800# or key search term until they can access the web, is utterly ridiculous.

Marketers should try to continue the conversation -whether it is delivering and additional branded experience or a coupon - they can add value to a consumer's day and try to use every moment to bring that person closer to purchase. The opportunity exists, but very few are taking advantage of it. Mobile is simply another tool in the marketers warchest and it should be leveraged against virtually all strategies.

2009 won't be the year of mCommerce. But it will be the year of mMarketing - amongst the smart marketers who want to drive transaction.

Friday, January 16, 2009

iPhone Applications - What we can learn from the top 5, it's actually quite sad.

I like to look at the top 5 unpaid applications for the iPhone (and iPod Touch) as a barometer of what marketers should look to leverage in the mobile applications space (much like marketers should also monitor applications on social media platforms like Facebook).

Not surprisingly, games dominate the top 5 (as of Jan 16/09) as has been the case from the launch of the app store. In fact, 4 of the top 5 applications are in the gaming category. Interestingly, gaming has been a space largely ignored by the wireless carriers as a revenue channel - notionally because they simply sell themselves and marketing investment isn't required.

So what is the trend?

The core insight is that technology and ubiquitous connectivity has created a culture needing constant stimulation and affirmation of their place in the world. People cannot be one with their own thoughts, they need to have an external source that reaffirms they are part of something larger - even if that is simply a game of pac man.

Think about your experience when having lunch with a colleague - the minute your lunch partner gets up to go to the washroom, you reach for your iPhone or Blackberry and look for messages. If there are no messages, you go play some brickbreaker or suduko. Long gone are the days of quiet introspection and spending time with your inner thoughts. Much to the chagrin of philosophers everywhere.

The opportunity for marketers is to:
1) exploit this, provide entertainment and branded experiences to consumers in an effort to deliver their key messages.
2) capitalize on the movement when the pendulum swings the other way and consumers strive to postulate and spend time with their inner thoughts for general self improvement. Brain Age (nintedo DS) is a good indication this movement is starting and people of all ages are looking to replace mind-numbing games with something that is more positive.

Let's try to make people think again.

PS. iFart is the #3 application. That may motivate you too.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Brand Integration - A New Idea? I Don't Think So, But the BIG Opportunity is Content Deployment

With the challenges that broadcasters are having on the future to advertising sales with the advent of digital TV and DVRs (see my perspective on this topic), they are turning to the 'new' idea of brand integration. We all know that this is obviously not a new idea, as product placement has existed for years and P&G were the inventors of the soap opera.

Here is a nostalgic advertorial that leverages the entire line up of prime time stars circa 1965 - from competing networks even! Makes you wonder if an advertiser could produce something like this today - negotiating with all the broadcasters, distributors, production houses, unions, agents and managers.

This is the exact type of material we should be looking to produce to keep viewers engaged in traditional commercial content. But advertisers need to take it further and develop an overall Integrated Content Strategy. This content should be leveraged by the advertiser for additional deployment in other channels - sales rallies, direct mail, in-store materials and a whole host of other marketing efforts.

Imagine after seeing this in your favorite show - a DM piece comes with Lorne Green inviting you for a test drive - you go to the website and sign up and there are out-takes and additional content for you to view. And after you sign up for your test drive you get a follow up OBTM call from your favourite actor thanking you, along with an MMS of the car/actor sent to your mobile. Then you get in store and you're greeting with life sized cut out's of the whole gang? Makes we want to test drive a Corvair...

Friday, January 9, 2009

Why is Interactive Always the Last Part of the Presentation?

Here is a follow up to the very funny advertising parody short "The Break Up".

There is so much to talk about here - but I'll keep it short to two points.

1. Online is always relegated to the end of the presentations, when most people are getting their coats.

This is a massive problem, but it is simply the fact that 80-90% of advertisers spend the budget on above the line 'traditional' media. As well, most advertisers and their internal stakeholders (Sr Marketers, CEOs, etc) see the traditional elements of campaigns in market - and don't spend time reviewing the online portions (likely because they either don't fit the online target profile and won't see the ads, or they simply just don't participate).

Everyone knows online is important, but marketers need actively work to elevate it's profile and rethink it's role in the overall communications mix. Stop presenting it as a separate part of the communications plan and begin integrating it in other parts of the strategy and presentations. Display is simply another form of push advertising, just like the TV ads, billboards or newspaper. Social web (social media, blogs, etc) is a 1:1 channel, so it should occupy the same part of the strategy as grassroots, PR or even retail. So often do marketers divide their activity by discipline, their 'integrated' campaigns a fallacy. Stop thinking of the importance of media in terms of the percentage allocation of budget (or the perceived importance to internal stakeholders). Start thinking of it in terms of what will actually change consumer behavior and influence purchase.

2. This campaign is sponsored by Microsoft advertising, good for them.

I applaud the fact that MS saw a successful industry parody and decided to capitalize on it. Take a good viral program and use it to drive home the core values of their product and department 'brand'. And this is not simply a one off, they clearly believe that the industry is full of relics that don't understand the online world (see this for a scary interview with the Executive Director of Brand Strategy for Interbrand). Hopefully they can work with advertisers and deliver some amazing online programs integrating all their properties. Not just say it, but actually deliver it.

If anyone is interested in making parodies like this, contact me and we'll go sell them to MS.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Every Marketer Should Be Very Excited About Tivo

Tivo has two killer services that every marketer should be very, very excited about. StopWatch and PowerWatch. StopWatch gives second by second national viewership data for shows and commercials. PowerWatch is a service that provides marketers with valuable information about viewer behavior - on a base of 100k viewers, it can drill down to find out who is watching what commercials and when. That is, if they are watching commercials at all.

Both services are amazing for a few reasons and will (hopefully) change the face of TV planning/buying. As a marketer, here is what you should be thinking about:

Internet Metrics Applied to TV- and Then Some...
Marketers can now start to understand the performance of their advertising show by show, creative by creative. Not only will they know what shows actually are pulling better engagement with their commercials, how many are being viewed live vs timeshifting, but they will actually be able to drill down to understand if how they are performing against their target demos.

Negotiating Power Has Shifted
Knowledge is power, right? Now the power has shifted as marketers know what kind of audiences their advertising is pulling, not just how the show is performing. This is a fundamental shift in the mindset of media planning as we no longer have to rely on sketchy 1950s Nielsen ad models - we know know exactly who is watching what and when - and we can start to value the inventory based on the performance of our advertising, not the performance of the show.

This is a double edged sword as this could throw the whole TV financial model into chaos. Advertisers won't want to pay the rates broadcasters are demanding, the devaluation of ad inventory results in an an inability for broadcasters to pay cable/satellite providers to be carried on their systems and broadcasters won't be able to provide the product. Sounds eerily like the music business, but it is still exciting.

Will the Direct Marketers Please Stand Up
The other very exciting opportunity is the potential to target - and target very precisely. With a digital box in every home (in the US this year, Canada in 2011), marketers should be able to drill down and target by area code, demographic, ethnicity, and behavior. We can even start of use propensity models that we've set aside just for the direct communications.

Thankfully the ad ecosystem isn't just the in-broadcast inventory, but also extends to other 'internet-like' ad units with on-demand services, in-guide advertising and otherwise. Hopefully enhanced digital guides that will evolve dramatically and provide much more robust ad opportunities (if you have ever been on xbox live - it should be providing a similar type experience if the cablecos and tivo are to keep up).

The Creative Question
The elephant in the room understanding what DVRs will have on the creative product. The initial results Tivo published cited three commercials as being the 'least skipped': 1) A furniture store, 2) A tourism ad for Dominican Republic and 3) A Hooters commercial. The obvious conclusion in a Business Week article was that the ads need to be relevant to the viewer. It also noted that Bowflex was a top performer, primarily due to it's placement in wrestling. Yes, I think we get that - relevance, check.

But my conclusion is something slightly different, sex sells. Sad, but true. When skipping over ads, the things that grab a viewers attention are scantly clad men or women working out or running in slow motion across a beach. I just wonder if Bowflex or Dominican tourism saw an increase in search terms, site traffic or call centre traffic? The reality is that much more work will need to be done on this topic to develop creative that will not get skipped. And if you are getting skipped, how do you tailor your ad for at least some brand recall (make the logo bigger!).

Every media company or advertiser buying TV should be subscribing to this service. Or pushing their cablecos, satellite providers or broadcasters to get this type of learning. The opportunity is understand the performance of your advertising, negotiate better rates, get more targeted, and compliment your campaigns with other efforts (online, search, traditional, etc). The end result will be a stronger ROI on your campaigns.