Kickstarter Mythology Needs Some Retail Reality


Kickstarter mythology has outgrown reality.

(But let me be very clear. I’m NOT talking about Kickstarter art, music, and movie projects. It was designed for these and they seem to be running pretty well overall.)

I’m talking about Kickstarter campaigns that raise money by Directly Selling new Products that have never been built – and taking orders for lots of them. In the computer business we used to call this selling vaporware and investing in businesses dedicated to vaporware led to the dotcom crash. Segway and Google Glass were both massive vaporware disasters.

Now, by selling vaporware with Kickstarter, we’re seeing amazing train wrecks among the most highly successful money raising campaigns. These train wrecks are all made possible by the mythologies that drive Kickstarter and other crowd funding sites. (Incidentally, a comment below points out this is a far more dramatic version of the direct mail practice of “dry testing”. There is already FTC guidance on dry testing.)

The Mythology of Kickstarter for Inventors. Inventor mythology starts with a belief that it’s enough to come up with a good idea and some money to build it. And Kickstarter appears to “unshackle” inventors so this can happen.
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Big Data Caution…from GK Chesterton

“The real trouble with this world of ours is not that it is an unreasonable world, nor even that it is a reasonable one. The commonest kind of trouble is that it is nearly reasonable, but not quite. Life is not an illogicality; yet it is a trap for logicians. It looks just a little more mathematical and regular than it is; its exactitude is obvious, but its inexactitude is hidden; its wildness lies in wait.”
…GK Chesterton, “Orthodoxy”

It was with great interest I ran across this comment the other day. And it got me thinking about the world of big data today.

The red flag for data abuse comes when people cede their human initiative and let data take over. Listen to how people discuss “big data” and you’ll start getting a sense their vision is to have data run the world. I suppose in a corporate bureaucracy this provides perfect cover for a mistake. (“The data said to do it” or perhaps “The Data Scientists said it would work!”).
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Succeeding Despite Bad Choices. Thoughts on “The Myth of the Media Shootout”

Quite often businesses succeed in spite of specific choices – not because of those choices. Yet most never stop to consider which it is – choosing to believe they must have been smart rather than admit what they don’t know.

Take the idea that media buyers for DRTV ad campaigns should be chosen based on direct, head-to-head competition between media vendors.

Constructing a valid media vendor test that accurately judges each firm’s abilities is far, far harder than it seems. So here’s The Myth of the Media Shootout (link here), an article I wrote for the October edition of Response Magazine. It looks at a popular competitive testing myth in direct response television.
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Don’t Test Whispers

Key to marketing success is a disciplined approach to testing ideas and action. After all, marketing writing and consulting is filled with tremendously attractive and detailed theories about action “X” causing result “Y”. Yet all these theories were developed based on specific experiences under specific circumstances. So there’s no guarantee that taking them and applying them in your world will create the same result.

So we should test, test test. And yet…testing experience shows that far more things are tested than are found to conclusively help or hurt. Why? One quite common testing error is to “test whispers” – small changes that simply can’t have a large enough impact to drive measurable change.

I once watched Rubbermaid test whispers in focus groups where a series of 5 statements of brand differentiation were evaluated. But rather than vary the statements with ideas that were truly significant to consumers, the statements traded off tiny wording changes. (I found it ironically enjoyable to watch the focus group participants quite frankly explain that all the statements said the same thing.) Read more of this post

At Walgreens: An Amazing Abuse Of the Customer Satisfaction Survey

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about how fed up I am with customer satisfaction surveys (link here). Truth is that companies are out of control – thinking it’s the job of consumers to fill out a constant stream of surveys.

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Sign at a drive-thru pharmacy inviting drivers to fill out a survey—inside the store!

So I’m going to pick on Walgreens here – not because they are the worst. But because I have recent Walgreens experiences that show how messed up this constant survey abuse is.

What Happened at Walgreens. At the time of my prior post, Skye Weadick sent me a photo of what she saw at one drive-up pharmacy window at a Walgreen’s.

The desperation evident in that sign seemed bad enough. Really? Asking customers to come around, park, and walk in to the store to fill out a survey?

Except… I was at a Walgreen’s this week – a different one – and heard an amazing employee discussion with two people in line.

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Agencies Need to Be Good Stewards of Their Own Brand

I’m often amazed at how poorly agencies manage their own marketing – especially their own brand. Look across the ad biz and you’ll find a cacophony of agency names in an ever changing landscape.

You might assume these changes reflect agencies going in and out of business. That’s not usually the truth. There is a tendency in the agency business to chase name fads – a practice that leads to annual or biannual name changing as a matter of course (as in “this year the coolest agency names are based on…insects…so we’re changing our name to FleaBag”). In an amazing act of euphemism, I’ve heard this called “re-branding”. Read more of this post

The Brand Building Power of Product Advertising

Funny how names are. A specific type of advertising was labeled “brand advertising”. So the myth developed that in order to build brand, you need to use brand advertising.

Except, it isn’t true. And with billions of dollars of revenue on the line, it’s time advertisers got smarter. Because here’s the real brand truth:

1. All types of advertising build brand.

2. The type which is most effective changes – depending on your company, brand, consumer, profit structure and product or service situation.

3. Quite often a mix of types is most effective – a mix which may or may not include “brand advertising”.

The Brand Building Power of Product Advertising Given this truth, it’s sad that one particularly powerful tool is also one of the least understood by agencies & the ad biz — advertising which uses the product to build brand. Read more of this post