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January 2006

To Print or Not to Print

New study findings announced last week are sure to create a gleam in the eye of the beleaguered print media industry.

In recent months there has been increasing focus on marketers' shift in spending away from broad-reach, above-the-line advertising (e.g., TV, radio, print, outdoor) toward more targeted, measurable below-the-line approaches (e.g., direct mail, interactive).

But now academic researchers at Ball State University's Center for Media Design suggest print media such as magazines and newspapers are far more engaging than electronic media like TV, radio and the Internet by virtue of the fact that people don't multitask when consuming them. Print continues to garner a smaller share of consumers' total media consumption (where digital channels dominate), but is not subject to the fragmented attention spans for which other channels compete (e.g., it's not uncommon to be surfing the Web while watching TV).

While this is all well and good for the print media industry, advertisers can't overlook 2005 average response rates recently published by the DMA:

Direct Mail: 2.77%
Dimensional Mail: 3.67%
Postcards: 2.19%
Catalogs: 3.67%
E-mail: 2.48%
Telephone: 8.55%
Package Inserts: 1.74%
Statement Stuffers: Less than 1%
Coupons: 4.29%
Banner/Rich Media Ads: 3.52%
Search Engine Marketing: 1.07%
Newspaper – Space Advertising: 0.5%
Magazine – Space Advertising: 0.17%

DRTV: 8.14%
Radio: 0.31%

At the risk of stating the obvious, I'll note that marketers need to consider their audiences and their campaign objectives when determining the appropriate channel mix, rather than adopt or dismiss tactics based on any one data point. I strongly believe there's room in the mix for all - if not most - of them; the real challenge is in determining how to make them work best together.

Etch-a-sketch Caricature

EtchasketchFor a cool five thousand dollars (!) you can have your child's portrait preserved for all time on an Etch-A-Sketch, that classic toy invented in 1959 by Frenchman Arthur Granjean and later introduced commercially by the Ohio Art Company. Toy retailer FAO Schwartz has teamed up with artist Nicole Falzone to make these one-of-a-kind portraits with a turn of the knobs, and then make them permanent so they can't be erased.

While it sounds like a cool - albeit expensive - idea, the portraits on display in the FAO Schwartz catalog are kind of frightening...Falzone doesn't do justice to the pretty little girl and cute baby pictured (click image for a close up). I can think of better ways to drop 5 Gs.

Detroit Welcomes Super Bowl XL

Super_bowl_xlDetroit's all abuzz in anticipation of Super Bowl XL. The GM Renaissance Center has been designated NFL Headquarters, and a legion of workers is frantically working to complete its transformation in time for the big game on February 5th.

The GM Wintergarden, a five-story glass atrium overlooking the Detroit River, has been converted to the ESPN Media Center - complete with a stage and broadcast desks where ESPN TV and related radio programs will be broadcasting live all week.

GM World is set up with banquet tables, flat panel monitors, broadcast desks and "standing areas" for the inevitable crowds that will show up to watch live NFL broadcasts and festivities.

I've decided to stay in Boston next week and avoid the craziness, but that means I'll miss celebrity sighting at all the parties scheduled throughout the week, including: Campbell's Soup, Cadillac MVP, Wishing on Stars, Gatorade, The NFL, Legends for Charity, NFL Alumni Gala, Frito Lay, Athletes in Action, NFL Retired Players, Ebony/NFL, Microsoft, and a 2,300 person media dinner that starts after the game on Sunday. Should be a good time!

View pictures of NFL HQ set-up here.

Planet Starbucks

StarbucksOn the heels of being named one of the most influential brands of 2005, Starbucks has announced plans to make itself even more relevant in our lives: soon, shop visitors will be able to load up their MP3 players with new songs when they stop to buy a coffee. The chain is adding this service - in addition to its existing music CDs for sale - at the request of its customers, according to Ken Lombard, president of Starbucks Entertainment.

It's so interesting to watch this coffee brand morph into a entire lifestyle. People will wait in the longest of lines at this place...and it's ok: something about the Starbucks experience makes you feel relaxed, and you'll gladly wait your turn (not so at Dunkin Donuts, whose long lines move more quickly but seem frantic and stressful by comparison).

Starbucks' original success stemmed from its ability to turn the morning coffee break into a destination experience. Sure, the coffee is tasty, but it's about the whole Starbucks experience...the comfy chairs, the background music, the frothing noise from the cappuccino machines. People no longer just stop by in the morning on the way into work, they come back around 3 for the afternoon pick-me-up.

Then Starbucks added WI-FI, and it became an acceptable spot for "meetings." Business travelers and local workers alike will meet at the Starbucks for a cup of java and a brainstorm.

Next, they introduced dating. Brilliant! Find another coffee-lover on Yahoo! Personals, and meet at the local Starbucks for a chat. They even developed a cobranded site with Yahoo! where singles can find dating advice, locate the nearest Starbucks, and pick up a $10 Starbucks gift card for subscribing to Yahoo! Personals.

And just last week, they announced a partnership with Lionsgate Films to promote its new film, Akeelah and the Bee (via cup-warmers and a trailer on the chain’s in-store Wi-Fi network), and plans to add a few select books and DVDs to their existing CD collection.

Experiential marketing doesn't get much better than this. Can't wait to see what they do next.

UPDATE: In their April 17, 2006 newsletter, Peppers and Rogers note the following aspect of Starbucks' efforts to create an experience:

Experience transcends commodity
Starbucks Global Creative Director Stanley Hainsworth noted that when selling coffee the challenge is that the product is ubiquitous. Starbucks succeeds by connecting with customers personally. For example, he explained that baristas at each store memorize up to 200 customer names and what they drink, to promote a neighborhood feel. And all employees on the corporate side must work in a Starbucks store for a week as part of initial training. "It's more than just a product," Hainsworth said. "It's about creating an experience."

Most Influential Brands

Google_logoBrandChannel's most influential brand of 2005 survey results are in, and this year's Global winner is Google. No surprise there, really; with its multitude of product launches over the last year (Google Mini, Desktop Search, Google Earth...) one may think there's nothing Google can't do (except maybe avoid the Bush administration subpoena). And what did we do before Google?!Apple_logo_1

Close on the heels of this mega-brand is Apple, creator of iPod Nation (iPod Shuffle, Nano, Video, iTunes...) and a previous year's winner. The final three in the top five - well behind the two leaders - are VOIP-provider Skype, brewmaster Starbucks, and furniture seller Ikea.

Each year, BrandChannel asks its readers (predominantly marketing professionals, although the survey is open to the public) to vote for the brands that had the most impact on them that year (good or bad). It's interesting to see the brands that come and go from year to year (Skype, for example, is a new entrant due to the recent popularity of VOIP). Detailed rankings by country/region are available on BrandChannel.com.

The Collective

CollectiveI saw a great band this weekend at the Pickle Barrel nightclub in Killington, VT. The Collective is a Philly-based ensemble that delivers an array of hip-hop and pop covers with a bit of funk thrown in. The band is high energy with two particularly animated frontmen on vocals that love to engage the crowd, and a set list that kept the entire bar hopping. TC has issued an EP of originals as well, called Live Underground, which is available for purchase at CDBaby.

Yahoo Mail

Yahoo2Yahoo! has a slick new DHTML interface for its Mail Plus web-based email. It's modeled on Outlook (folders on the left, preview pane on the right) and allows for drag and drop of messages. Plus, users can have multiple messages open at once via a tabbed structure, and messages come in upon arrival...no more need to check mail by refreshing the browser window. They've also added an RSS feed feature to aggregate all of your favorite feeds into one place, and a fun automatic subject line generator (my first hit returned "Re: four and twenty blackbirds"). All of which makes for a faster, more enjoyable experience.

Add Me to your Wardrobe

Plus_sizeThose who know me know how much I love clothes.

So imagine my surprise and delight when I saw a lot of traffic coming to my site via the search engines, based on the keywords "Stephanie Rogers clothing." I imagined there was a hot new label out there...the next Theory, Vince, or True Religion. With my name on it!

So I did a little searching of my own, and this is what I found: there is in fact a Sr_beach_shirt Stephanie Rogers clothing line. It's tough to locate - there doesn't seem to be a coporate website - but the determined shopper can find one-off pieces across the Web (like the great beach shirt pictured at right) and advertised in some regional  publications.

So, not the must-have line for '06, but flattering nonetheless ;)

Oh, and the stunning pink silk number (top left) is available on eBay - but hurry, bidding ends in 22 hours! Sr_on_sale_4

Lost Theories

MagnetosphereLost fans will enjoy this theory my nephew, Stephen, found online recently: Andrew Smith, a "Lost Expert" from Northampton, England, suggests that scientists engineered this island community, hoping it would thrive, grow, and eventually repopulate the world after an imminent cataclysmic event. 

Smith cites [alleged] real-life research conducted in the late 90s from which scientists concluded a polar reversal is imminent, meaning the Earth will someday lose its magnetosphere and become vulnerable to massive radiation from the Sun. Building on this, he thinks the Lost story starts wtih scientists who created their own magnetosphere on an island, and populated it with a cross-section of the human race (and animals) to create a self-sustaining community that could (hopefully) survive such an event.

Smith goes on to explain all of the unusual happenings and events on the island using this theory, and a lot of it seems plausible. (NB: I haven't attempted to confirm any of his assertions; the theory just seems plausible on the basis of what's contained in the post)

Until now, I'd avoided consumption of all the Lost web sites, news groups, and podcasts. There's just too much out there and I have enough trouble keeping up with the episodes themselves. But this one has sparked my interest.

I've long held that the island is a metaphor for Purgatory. Each of the main characters has sinned in some way and must look inward to resolve her/his issues before s/he can be saved. In addition to hunting down the above theory, Stephen also did some research on "Dharma Labs" and conveyed that "dharma" is a Buddhist term for individual conduct that leads to enlightenment; that is in keeping with a Purgatory/self-reflection and atonement-type theory. Jeremi took it one step further, wondering if it's possible to map the various characters to the seven deadly sins (pride, avarice, envy, wrath, lust, gluttony, sloth). There are clear religious overtones in the show; whether it's intended to be an amalgam of several or based on just one isn't clear.

Only time will tell what the writers truly intended, but real fans will keep working overtime to discover the true story before it is revealed.