Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Most Overused Stat of 2014 (and How to Make it Irrelevant)

I've seen this stat used a few times in the past few days, so thought it would be a good time to bring back this post (originally posted on www.pr2020.com). Simply put, people still pay attention to quality content. Read below how to make sure yours is the content that people look forward to checking out.
By now you've undoubtedly heard it, especially if you're in marketing. It had to be the most overused statistic of 2014. Can you guess what it is?
Yep, you got it. Our attention spans (eight seconds) are now less than that of a goldfish (nine seconds), according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Researchers blame the decrease on the increase of external stimulation. Many marketers used the stat and equated the increasing external stimulation with the increasing amount of content we're bombarded with every day.
The stat was used in presentations, webinars, social media, blogs, you name it. I get it. It's attention-getting. I even posted it myself when I first heard it. But, has our attention span shortened because of all the content? Or, do we put out more contentbecause our attention spans have decreased? What's the chicken and what's the egg?
From a marketing perspective, we already know that we're inundating people with messages and content. Some marketers (not all of you who are reading this, of course!) look at the attention spans and draw the conclusion that they need to keep churning out even more marketing messages in order to gain and retain attention.
However, consumers now have a million ways to tune out messages if they don't want to hear them. They don't have time or patience to sit through commercials or wait for something to download.

Consumers Aren't Tuning Everything Out

That said, they don't tune everything out. It's similar to when the Great Recession was starting. All we heard about was how people weren't spending. But, when my wife and I would go to a restaurant, there were plenty of people there. I worked for Cox Communications at the time, and we didn't lose a ton of customers. Some customers cut back on a few of the bells and whistles, but they stayed.
People weren't completely cutting back on spending. They were just being more selective and looking for more value for their dollar. It's the same with marketing.Consumers will tune in for truly relevant, valuable content.
Now that 2015 has set in, how do you make an eight-second attention span irrelevant? Here are three suggestions on how to make sure your content reels in your customers and doesn’t end up swimming circles in a fishbowl.

1. Build and Document Your Content Strategy

How do we break through all the clutter? You’ve probably been hearing or reading it for months, if not longer—it all starts with a documented strategy. See Joe Pulizzi's (@JoePulizzi) article "New B2B Content Marketing Research: Focus on Documenting Your Strategy."
Align your strategy with the company’s overall business goals. Identify your buyer personas and their pain points, and make sure your content speaks directly to them. There are analytics tools available that make it easy track what your buyer personas care about and what earns a response.
This isn't groundbreaking. Make your first 2015 goal to put your strategy in place. Document it. Review it regularly. 

2. In 2015, Less is More

Another big trend for 2015 that I've heard multiple times is to focus on less, but more relevant, content. It’s about quality over quantity. Three great posts are more valuable to your customers than 10 so-so posts. In "The Wizard of Moz Talks SEO and Shares Tips for 2015," Rand Fishkin (@randfish) recommends concentrating on attracting the right kind of customer instead of forcing out daily posts. Let that dictate the content you produce and the rate at which it comes out. Make an impact.
Don't worry about length (unless it's Twitter, and you have no choice). If the content is compelling and relevant, people will read it. You can make it easier on them, though, by using bullets, sub-heads, photos, etc.
Reallocate your saved time from creating content to analyzing what content is working best. Look for opportunities to improve your conversion to make your top-performing content work even better for you.

3. Don't Forget Your Hook

Finally, make sure your headlines are eye-catching and interesting. Spend as much time as you need to create titles that will stop readers in their tracks and hook them in.
As Jay Baer (@jaybaer) says in his book, Youtility (and in articles and presentations), "Your company is literally competing for attention in social media and email against your customers’ and prospects’ closest friends and family members."Give them a reason to pay attention to you. Just make sure you deliver once they do. Do it consistently and your audience will be hooked.

Monday, May 11, 2015

My Writing "Aha" Moment (aka My DUH Moment)

Throes of Creation by Leonid Pasternak
This will be a pretty short post, but I had what was somewhat of an "aha" moment the other day. Really, it was just a DUH moment as it was something I already knew but had gotten away from.

Lately, I’ve been having a hard time coming up with blog post topics consistently. It wasn’t until I sat down to read a bunch of marketing articles over the weekend that I realized why.

I read about ten articles that I didn’t have time to read the week before. Very quickly, I came up with a handful of ideas for blog posts. And it hit me. Duh. I wasn’t coming up with as many blog topics because I hadn’t been reading as many articles. So simple.

Articles aren’t my only inspiration (books and podcasts are also big), but after it hit me, it all made sense that that was the biggest cause of my writer’s block. Maybe it’s the variety of articles or the different viewpoints, but they definitely get me thinking.

So that’s it. Nothing earth-shattering. Sometimes you don’t realize how a change in routine impacts other areas…probably because you don’t think about it (like I didn’t).


What "aha" moments have you had? What did it lead to? As always, thanks for reading and please share this post with your friends.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Comcast and Time Warner Cable: An Update on the State of the Cable Industry

It's been over a year since the announcement of Comcast's intention to buy Time Warner Cable and there's still no approval decision by the FCC and Department of Justice. It's been a while since I've posted anything about it, so figured I'd give an update and some further thoughts.

The current status is that the FCC and Department of Justice review of the merger is on hold. The delay is due to a pending court decision on 3rd party disclosure of channel material information including pricing. The FCC believes it to be useful in reviewing the merger, while a few channels (including Disney and CBS) want to keep it private.

In a U.S. News and World Report article, Comcast Merger Rejection Could Doom Cable, Tom Risen writes that the once sure approval is now uncertain. While I don't buy that (they'll get it approved), he goes into the scenarios of the merger passing or not.

If It's Approved

If the merger is approved, expect to see a lot more consolidation. AT&T/DirecTV is the next biggest merger (also on hold pending the court decision).

Just announced is Charter Communications' deal to buy Bright House for $10.4 billion. The acquisition, contingent on the Comcast/Time Warner Cable merger being approved, will make Charter the 2nd largest U.S. cable provider. Dish Network is heavily rumored to be the next to be snatched up by one of the remaining cable companies if this all goes through.

With the cable companies merging to increase their ability to secure better channel contracts, the trend will extend to the parent channel companies to counter their negotiating power. 

From a consumer standpoint, the consolidations will lead to fewer choices. Fewer choices will lead to higher rates. Part of Comcast's argument for approval of the merger is that lower channel costs (they hope to negotiate for) will lead to lower customer rates. Anyone buying that? At best, rates will remain steady for a short timeframe - my guess is two years.

Will customer service improve? Ok, you can stop laughing now...


If It's Denied

Here's where Risen's article gets interesting. He says that if the merger is not approved, it'll lead to the doom of cable. Aren't we already there either way?

Besides ending the trend of mergers (which would be a good thing!), he says it would lead to more providers exploring more offering online video services. Oh, they would start offering packages people actually want? Sounds like win/win to me.

TV Everywhere, the cable industry's version of online video, is getting to be a pretty good service. There's just one catch. You've got to have a regular cable subscription to access it. It doesn't solve the issue of people not wanting to pay high cable prices.

HBO and CBS have announced online only packages. See my thoughts on these here. HBO Now has since announced their service will be $14.99/month and available exclusively on Apple TV for the first three months when it launches next month. 

Dish Network's Sling TV is an over-the-top Internet TV option for around $20/month. This package includes ESPN. That's big because it is an expensive channel. ESPN's Senior Director of Digital Strategy Tom Condon says they are targeting "cord-never-haves", not "cord cutters". They're going after the younger generation that have never paid for cable and trying to ease them into a subscription service.

The job outlook whether the merger is approved or denied looks bleak. If there are mergers, workers will be let go. If it's approved, the companies will downsize and cut jobs. Unfortunately, I don't see a benefit to either choice.

Final Take

Overall, although I hope the merger is denied, I'm still pretty confident it will pass. I do believe either way the cable industry is doomed. Just like the music and newspaper industries, it hasn't evolved with the changing times. Their business models are outdated and their technology is slow to adapt. Not a good combination. Customers have been telling them what they want for years (a la carte pricing, cheaper channel package options), yet they're ignored.

Their saving grace may be their internet service which they hugely overprice (the good margins make up for the bad video margins). But, even that can only take them so far. As cell phone companies continue improving their data plans, customers may begin opting for smartphone only access. It's only a matter of time before the time spent on an actual computer decreases enough to make it hard to justify $50-$70 per month.

Well, that's my thoughts. What are yours? Have I missed any major points? What are you hoping happens? Do you have any questions for me? Let me know in the comments below. As always, thanks for reading and please share this post.

If you like that post, you might like:


Are HBO and CBS Bringing About a Cable Revolution?  Oct. 24, 2014

Every Simpsons Ever: The Epic Marathon by FXX - But Now What?  Sept. 1, 2014
Netflix vs. Verizon: My Thoughts on the Latest  June 10, 2014

Monday, March 16, 2015

Unselling and the Dreaded Car Buying Experience

Unselling by Scott Stratten and Alison Kramer
Is there anything we dread more than the car buying experience? What makes it awful is that most of us feel like we’re at a disadvantage. We never feel like we have all the information, and we usually don’t. Car salespeople know this and use it to their advantage.

If a car dealership would be transparent, they could be hugely successful. Instead of preying on our insecurities, ease our tension and make us feel confident about our decision before and after the sale.

The Pulse

Unselling by Scott Stratten (@unmarketing) and Alison Kramer (@unalison) is about creating repeat customers instead of one-time buyers. They talk about the relationship between a brand and its customers as the “pulse” and customer experience is tracked on the “pulse line”. 

The pulse line travels through three sections depending on our experience:
  • Ecstatic – This is the area for your most loyal customers. These are the customers that sing your praises and are not vulnerable to competitors.
  • Static – This is where brands can have the biggest effect on customers. That can work for or against them.
  • Vulnerable – This is the stage where we are most open to competition. Brands do not want their customers in this area. 
Each experience leads to a “pulse point”. According to Stratten and Kramer, there is no neutral experience, so the points are always moving up or down. These can be personal experiences (such as your interactions with the brand’s products or service) or broad actions taken by the brand that affect everybody (such as a price increase or bad publicity based off of something they say or do).

My Car Buying Pulse Line
The pulse line of my experience with Metro Toyota
To illustrate, I’m going to use the “pulse” as I describe my car buying experience from the last couple of weeks. I had bought two cars at Metro Toyota (one of our local Toyota dealerships) and always had a good experience. So, going in, I was starting out pretty high in the Static area.

I test drove the car and then talked to the salesman. He worked out the total cost, including the trade-in value from my current car. He simply asked me if I had looked up the value of the car. I told him Kelly Blue Book had the value at $2700 for fair condition. He put that number into the price he was quoting (without even looking at the car).

He even offered to give an additional $500 on the trade-in value to bring it to $3200 (still without looking at the car) to buy it that day. I didn’t intend to buy that day as I was just starting to look, but was tempted.  He said the current promotions were good through Monday (it was Saturday), so I left with the numbers he wrote down.

I went through the numbers closely at home and was satisfied that the price was pretty good. So I called back with, admittedly, an aggressive counter offer. I wasn’t surprised when he said that it was too low. However, he said he might be able to work a little more on the trade-in value, so I told I’d come back on Monday so they could examine my car.

At this point, my pulse point had gone up in the Ecstatic area. The visit was short and easy, and I had hard numbers to work with. I was ready to buy and had every intention of doing so come that Monday. I should have known better.

The Downturn

On Monday, after looking at my car, he said he could only give me $1000 for the trade-in…maybe $1500. I was not expecting that. He said that I had told him the car was in good condition and it’s wasn’t. Not only was he undercutting the offer he already made by $2200, he blamed it on to me as if I had lied to him.  My pulse point plummeted to the Vulnerable area as I left without buying the car.

Don’t get me wrong. His explanation of the value of my car was valid. If he had looked at my car before putting the Kelly Blue Book value (and then offering an additional $500) into his quote, I wouldn’t have been upset. This just felt like a standard rope-in tactic to get you to spend more. Even friends said it sounded like a bait-and-switch.

Redemption

I hated the idea of starting the whole process over. So, I decided to Tweet the experience to see if I got any response (Social media is a great place to get some help. I wrote about that here). Here was my Tweet:

To their credit, Metro Toyota’s sales manager, Rich, called me about an hour after the Tweet. They also replied to my Tweet shortly after that apologizing for my experience. They even named the salesman which show me that they looked up my information to be familiar with the situation. That moved my pulse point back up…a little. Reaching out was positive, but I didn’t know what they would offer me.

Long story short, when I called Rich, he apologized and, while he couldn’t give me the original quote for my trade-in, he was able to make a good offer. We were able to agree on a deal that I was comfortable with and I ended up buying the car…happily.

A shout out also needs to be made to Tony who took care of me when I went back to finalize everything. He was actually the one that replied to my Tweet and was very friendly and treated me like a person and not a disgruntled customer.

My pulse point is now back up to Ecstatic. I would absolutely recommend Metro Toyota (with the caveat of having them look at your trade-in car before believing any offer they make). They were able to save my business by paying attention to social media, reaching out and regaining my trust.

Competitors

One last note: at the time of my Tweet, I would have listened to any of their competitors, but no one else responded to my Tweet. I had visited a Nissan dealership after my initial visit with Metro Toyota. I couldn’t get them to even talk about price. All I got was a vague “we’ll work with you” and I felt like I was wasting their time. Had I felt comfortable with them, they would have been the first place I went after Metro Toyota fell through. Instead, they weren’t even a consideration.

The Pulse is a great way for brands to understand customer experiences and how it affects their loyalty or buying behavior. Do you have an example of how this might apply to one of your buying experiences or, if you work for a brand, how you can work this into your marketing strategy. Thanks for reading and please share this with your friends.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Steven Tyler vs. Joe Perry: Who Rocked Their Aerosmith Autobiography Better?

Steven Tyler Joe Perry Autobiographies Aerosmith
Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, also known as the Toxic Twins, have survived the rise and fall and rise again of Aerosmith. They're one of the few bands that can boast they've been around 40+ years and still have all their original members and still play incredibly well. During those years, there's been countless stories and rumors surrounding the band. Now we're starting to get some insight of what really happened.

In 2011, Steven Tyler released his autobiography, Does the Noise in my Head Bother You? A Rock 'n' Roll Memoir. Late last year, Joe Perry released his own, Rocks: My Life In and Out of Aerosmith. Each gives his take of their history and infamous stories.

Steven Tyler Aerosmith Cleveland
Both talk about the drugs, the sex, the fights, the success and everything in between. With Steven Tyler, you can hear his excitement, enthusiasm, frustration and every emotion he felt through his stories. Joe Perry, on the other hand, really lets us in to what was going through his mind. He also gives a great look at why he left Aerosmith in early 80's and how he kept the Joe Perry Project going until his eventual return to the band.

The biggest critique I've got about both books is that the music is glossed over. Both talk about their early influences and what led to forming Aerosmith. But then, they just touch on the recording of the records. They seem to be included more as a timeframe reference or a lead-in to another conflict. I get that there's a lot to get to (60+ years in about 400 pages), but unfortunately, some of it falls a little flat due to the lack of depth in this area.

In reading both points of view, here are the couple of conclusions that I'm left with. First and foremost, if it wasn't clear before, it definitely is now. Joe Perry is the "rock" in Aerosmith. Steven Tyler is pushing for the pop hits. Perry said a couple of times (paraphrasing) that when you try to write hits, the heart and soul get lost. He wants to write the music he knows and loves (blues and rock) and the hits will come because the songs are authentic.

Joe Perry Aerosmith
Second, when it comes to the band members' relationships with each other, and especially with Steven Tyler, there's a lot of damage. The sad part is that the majority of it was likely caused by management and their representation. There was a lot of "Steven said this..." and "Joe said that..." coming from their managers and most of it was done to manipulate the other members. When Steven was in the hospital after falling off the stage in 2009, he was mad because none of the band member contacted him. Meanwhile, Perry and the rest of the band were told by Tyler's management that he didn't want to hear or see them. Who's right? They probably both are and neither know what was really said and to whom.

That's not to say any of them are completely innocent. Perry all out says he no longer trusts Tyler (and told him as much). There were a lot of reasons that led to that, but the biggest reasons were Tyler auditioning for Led Zeppelin and then accepting the American Idol gig without telling the band about either. Tyler's book ends as he's accepting the American Idol job. Perry's book goes a bit beyond and includes his reaction to hearing the announcement through a press release.

Overall, who rocked their book better? It really is interesting to read both and get their viewpoints...especially when they differ. If you were to just read one though, I'd go with Joe Perry.  The biggest reason is that after reading Rocks, I was rooting for Perry to take control of Aerosmith and get them to make at least one more CD that truly rocks. Meanwhile, after reading Tyler's book,  I really came away liking him a bit less...and I've always been one of his biggest fans.

If you're a huge Aerosmith fan like me, a couple of other books worth checking out are Walk This Way by Stephen Davis and Aerosmith and Hit Hard: A Story of Hitting Rock bottom at the Top by Joey Kramer.

Are you an Aerosmith fan? Have you read either or both books? Which do you like better? Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

2015 Pre-Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses

Social Media Command Center
While many brands may be releasing their Super Bowl ads early, I won't be peeking. I like to watch them live during the game, especially if the game is a blow out. That doesn't mean that I'm not paying attention to the news and the social media chatter surrounding the ads and the game leading up to Sunday. We've already had some drama and successes.

Pre-Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses
#DeflateGate
Deflategate, while not an ad, may be the biggest drama out there. Whether you think it's a big deal or not, it's definitely been entertaining to watch the responses by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. The best of which may be Belichick's deadpan delivery of the Mona Lisa Vito reference. If it was meant to be a joke, no one told him. Nothing like a dated reference to get people distracted from the PSI of a football. If nothing else, it's created a fun hashtag, #DeflateGate (close second being Gillette's #Flexball), and has the social media world in an uproar. It may end up being the most used hashtag of the Super Bowl, including before and after. 
Pre Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses
GoDaddy.com
If that's not enough drama, just today, GoDaddy.com released their ad about a lost puppy that ends being owned by a puppy mill. Well, it didn't take long for social media to be filled with negative comments for support of puppy mills. A Change.org online petition received over 42,000 signatures calling for the removal of the ad. So, GoDaddy is pulling the ad. It's no longer available on YouTube. You can read the full story here.

Pre Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses
Newcastle Band of Brands
In good news, to follow up on the post I wrote last week about Newcastle Brown Ale (Check it out here), they've succeeded in finding brands to partner on a Super Bowl ad...37 of them! Brands like Brawny, Match.com, Jockey and Sharper Image are being crammed into a commercial that will only be seen on air in Palm Springs. Everyone else can watch it at www.newcastlebandofbrands.com.

Pre Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses
Halftime Show Options - Katy Perry or YouTube
In other Super Bowl programming news, this year YouTube will be live streaming their own halftime show (what? no Lingerie Bowl this year?). So, if you're like me and can't think of a worse halftime performer than Katy Perry (thank God they added Lenny Kravitz to try to make it watchable), now you have an alternative. They'll be featuring Freddie Wong and other YouTube "celebrities" I've never heard of. However, they have 60 million subscribers combined for their YouTube channels, so don't go by me. And, one of the draws will be people diving into a pool of cheese! That sounds just weird enough to be fun. 

Pre Super Bowl Social Media Hits and Misses
Selfie World Record
Finally, in other "who cares?" news, NBC Sports and Patrick Peterson broke the world record for the number of selfies taken in an hour on Tuesday. Peterson took 1,449 selfies. The record had been 657. Pretty lame promotion and who knew they even kept track of that.

Overall, I'm looking forward to the game and the commercials during the game. I'll be tweeting my thoughts on commercial hits and misses throughout the game on Sunday. If you want to follow along, follow me
@jeremybednarski. What are you most looking forward to with the Super Bowl? Tell me in the comments below. Thanks for reading and enjoy the game and all that goes with it.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Super Bowl Commercials for $4.5 Million? Newcastle Brown Ale is Smarter Than That

Newcastle Band of Brands Super Bowl Promotion
It's Super Bowl commercial season again...What? Oh, sorry. It's "Big Game" commercial season again! The time of year when brands attempt to kick up their content a notch or two. Unfortunately, very few succeed. It seems more like brands pour all their money into buying the ad time ($4.5 million this year) and on making a splashy commercial without thoughts of how to make it last past their 30 second allotment.

However, last year there was one clear stand out. I wrote about the Newcastle Brown Ale "If We Made It" online promotion. Their online videos were about the commercial they would have made for the "Big Game". It was so well done I thought it would start a trend of brands creating online promotions instead of paying for the actual "Big Game" spot. At least a few cheap copycats.
Super Bowl Promotion

Well, I've got good news and bad news for this year. Here's the bad news: I haven't seen any other companies promoting online promotions yet. There's still time though. If you know of any, please tell me in the comments below. Here's the good news: Newcastle Brown Ale is back with a new promotion! This year they are trying to place an ad for the game - as long as they don't have to pay for it.

Their first attempt was to create a Newcastle ad disguised as a user-generated ad submitted for a snack chip contest (Doritos). Unfortunately, a number of rules prohibited Newcastle from being selected. They're listed in the behind-the-scenes video.

Now, they're trying to find additional brands to pool their money together for a commercial and calling it the Newcastle Band of Brands. As convincing as only Newcastle can be, they have released two videos so far starring Aubrey Plaza soliciting brands to join them. From their website, www.newcastlebandofbrands.com, it looks like they have at least 7 more videos still to come.

While I'll be watching all of the other commercials and analyzing them with all of you, I'm most looking forward to the rest of the Newcastle promotion. I love their edge and their whole "we-don't-need-the-Big-Game" attitude. On a related note, they also ran an Independence Eve promotion last year called "If We Won" (ifwewon.com) that was also very well done.

Take a look at the Band of Brand videos and let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks for reading. If you like this post, please share it with your friends.