My 100th Blog Post. Feeding The Beast & The Dark Side of Content Marketing

WordPress tells me this is my 100th post (the celebration commences immediately). So is there a more fitting topic than content based marketing’s need to “feed the beast”?

Want a higher Klout score (thinking it actually means something)? Then work, work, work. Read more, comment more, pass along more, write more. And connect with people you don’t know, but who have higher scores. (By the way, don’t ignore all that other work you have to do – or your family.) Read more of this post

Why I Don’t Use Dial Testing (Perception Analyzers) to Research Infomercials

I’ve spent nearly 20 years improving infomercial sales based on audience testing our shows in research. To do this, we don’t use dial groups. That surprises many of my colleagues so I’m regularly asked “why”. Read more of this post

A 10% Audience: Social Media’s Bad News…and Good News

My 4th of July post included links breaking out social media consumers. With this foundation, let me suggest the following:

Your effective social media audience is about 10% of your potential customers.

First, let me clear about “effective”. One of the problems looking at social media is that “everybody” has an account. But that doesn’t mean you can reach “everybody” through social. The only people who are reachable are those who rise above a certain level of activity and who pay attention to/pass along commercial messages.

So in these terms, “effective” means those people you can actually get in touch, motivate, or otherwise influence with through social media.

Secondly, the lessons taken from this numbers seem pretty solid. About half of the US has a social media account and about 20% of those are active enough to be reached commercially (posting, checking in). Hence, 10% seems a smart choice.

This number is postulated as a planning estimate – realistic, even slightly aggressive, without being curmudgeonly. It’s not intended as the be all and end all of counting social media impact. Even better, the lessons it tells us seem resilient. Double the number. Does it change the role social plays in your marketing? Not really.

But Aren’t There Hundreds of Millions of Facebook Accounts? Yup. There are. Many are duplicates and a great many are foreign. And of the remaining, are they active enough? To reach someone commercially they need to be active enough that your messages don’t scroll below the page break on the social media screen.

So new data finally helps us see through the outsized claims from the social media companies, the research manipulation by VC funded PR efforts, the gaga news coverage of Tweets (where you reach far fewer than 10%), and hip new ad agency claims to have bred a new type of man who populates this Brave New World.

Some might suggest the number will grow in the future. I’m not so sure. Because the way social media works a consumer has to sort through a tremendous information load. And that suggests that it may be limited to 10% for quite some time to come.

Isn’t This Bad News? No larger company can survive communicating to only 10% of their market. So if you can’t reach any more than 10% of your target through social media, then it cannot be the core of your marketing.

Taking it one step further, it’s my experience that many of your most valuable customers probably aren’t reachable on social media. I’m close to three “enthusiast based” social communities for very high end craftsman topics. Social media plays a strong role for companies marketing to all three. And specialty topics like these are predicted to attract experts.

The truth is, I’ve found that the best craftsman aren’t socially active. And, that many of the most socially active are NOT great craftsmen. (Showing how mere social activity doesn’t guarantee that someone has significant influence.)

But while SoMe isn’t going to take over the world, it isn’t all bad news.

The Good News: 10% Is Pretty Good. Think about radio. If you can find a radio show that reaches 6% of the audience, you’ve got a VERY large shows. What about TV shopping? QVC and HSN used to proudly talk about having around 8% of TVHH’s as viewer/shoppers. Traditional TV? Except for the absolute biggest of primetime shows, 6% of the population is a very nice number.

That comparison isn’t really fair. Hedging for viewing activity, “TV” in all forms reaches probably 70% of your potential audience even though a single network show is unlikely to get more than 2% or 3%. Hedging for listening activity, radio in all forms probably reaches 60% while a single show typically reaches less than 1% of a market.

Still, all-in-all a 10% potential (after a LOT of spending and hard work) is a pretty decent number. There is one qualitative difference that is important.

When you buy a TV show, you buy a direct connection with a known audience. But when you attempt to market through social media, you probably need to figure that each endeavor gets little audience pieces whose size is unknown until after the effort is complete. That means it’s difficult to set a goal and know what it will take to meet that goal. How much effort does it take to get 10% of your market to see your message with social?

C’mon, You’re Ignoring Lady Gaga. Someone might point to the hundreds of millions of Lady Gaga video views on Youtube. But big numbers aren’t the same as meaningful numbers.

First, those views are driven by huge traditional media coverage – Gaga is brilliant in her ability to drive “buzz” with outrageous actions.

And, of course, Youtube isn’t social media. Those views are driven by massive TV and Magazine coverage. So what is social media’s contribution here? I think it’s that social media raises her latest antics to the awareness of the traditional media.

This is, in fact, a very solid use of social media – showing that the buzz is high enough that it is picked up in the traditional media. And it makes sense that it’s effective with the 10% number.

Only A Starting Point I don’t think this is, in any way, the last word on social media. Rather, it’s a starting point. And I hope that there continues to be quite a bit of conversation in three areas:

– Can we get more accurate on this general number?
– How can we develop estimates for specialized markets?
– Assuming the number is below 25%, how should we use social as part of our mix?

And THIS discussion will be much more productive for marketers than the hype we’ve endured for the past few years.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Want Consumers To Pay Attention To Your Ads? Make Them Meaningful.

A few weeks ago I ran across this article titled “Four Reasons Why We Choose to Watch Ads”. Seemed like a smart read because I always love to see simple lists about advertising. Read more of this post

Is Classic “Brand Advertising” Right for Your Brand?

The advertising and marketing industry has let the term “Brand Advertising” come to mean “the only advertising that builds brand”.

This is VERY wrong. All advertising will build brand just as all marketing efforts need to build brand. Even worse, depending on your business needs, the emotional advertising specifically called “brand advertising” may be exactly the worst type of advertising to use. Read more of this post

Mid-term Status on Web Delivered TV – Chaos Only a Geek Could Love

My family upgraded to a beautiful new 55″ flatscreen, moved over our Comcast and TiVO, then added an AppleTV and upgraded our sound system. And, so, in one grand swoop, we became a modern TV family.

How is this new world? No longer needing to go to the video store for old movies is quite nice. But prepare yourself for four types of chaos.

Content Chaos

You’d think that a monthly Netflix subscription would deliver everything we need. But Netflix streaming has massive content holes. Even worse, there’s no way to predict whether the content you want will be available or not. Besides, Netflix only has old stuff. Old movies. Old reruns. And Disney isn’t on Netflix – at all.

So how about Hulu? The Blazer’s playoff game bumped 30 Rock. Of course, this season isn’t on Netflix. I find it on Hulu – the paid version (cha ching). We have a monthly now, but we really don’t need Hulu. Our cable/DVR combo is much better except for those few times there’s a problem with the cable feed.

Ah, but what about new movies? They are not available on Netflix. That means we have to either seek them at Redbox, TiVO them from the HBO feed, or pay through Comcast OnDemand or AppleTV. Hmmm, $4 a pop.

So we thought we’d figured a lot out. But then the Bin Laden raid pre-empted The Amazing Race. But who wants to miss that episode. So, we dashed off into Digital TV. Where to look? Netflix? Nope. AppleTV? Nope. Hulu? Nope. CBS’ website? Not on my iPad. Ah, its on the website if we choose to access it with my wife’s laptop. And as long as we wait some period of time after it was supposed to have aired.

Format Chaos

Before content chaos we confronted format chaos. These devices bombarded us with format options. HDMi or RGB? Svideo or RCA? 720p or 1070p? HD or SD? And each device (except AppleTV) has a huge range of input or output settings. Which one’s work well together? My former network manager wife shook her head as we tried to sort out the alphabet soup.

Remote Chaos

After basic setup, we entered “The Remote Zone”. Our TV is surrounded by 5 devices – each with it’s own unique remote. Then, I remembered a programmable universal remote I’d been given. About 3 days of tinkering later and one remote carried the whole system. Whew.

Reliability Chaos

So we get this all cobbled together… And then there’s an unreliable signal. With Netflix at least once or twice per movie or rerun we lose lip synch and have to restart. At other times Netflix stops in its tracks and pops us out. This didn’t happen wtih – what’s do you call that not so old way – cable?

Not Ready For Consumers

This world is far, far from a consumer quality world. Why?

Too complicated. You REALLY have to want to watch something to figure it out. (And, no, this won’t be fixed by making it 100’s of times more complicated with Google searching on the web.)

It is waaay too expensive. 10 monthly bucks here and there. Then little bits of $4 to get one movie at a time. So right now we are probably paying $30 to $40 per month over our cable bill. But Cable offers more and is easier to use.

With all this in place, we still mostly watch Cable using our DVR – a simple system that is cheaper and delivers the vast majority of what we want.

My kids watch the most on these digital gizmos. It seems to fit their developmental stage interest in watching the same basic program over and over.

And yet, have the digerati claimed about all this digital so-called freedom? That it’s simple and less expensive. NOT IN MY EXPERIENCE!!!

A Call To Action: Fix It

It’s true – none of this was possible 6 years ago. But that’s not the point.

Right now Netflix is real, but Hulu and most of the other options are toys. For them to move beyond this stage, they must rise to mass consumer quality. Consumers won’t pay extra monthly fees without getting far more in a far easier format.

The way things are going I expect we are entering a period with 5 years of bankruptcies, sales, mergers, and acquisitions. Then, maybe someone will bring it together under one roof.

Who might that be? Love ’em or hate ’em, my guess is that it’s the cable providers (e.g. Comcast) who are going to create a unified system. And given their track record for making easy-to-use technology, that should probably concern us all.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

Research Proves Netflix is the Internet Hawg. What Will the Angry Birds Do?

A recent report looks at all Internet bandwidth (upstream and downstream) and concludes that Netflix is now the single biggest consumer of bandwidth. (Report here.)

And so it begins.

What begins? That’s the big question. Fundamentally, the Internet universe we have come to know and love is threatened by the onslaught of movies online.

For example, in my neighborhood we can tell when our neighbors start watching movies – because our bandwidth slows down dramatically. And, talking with folks, it’s a pretty universal experience to lose Internet speed on Friday afternoon/evenings as well as weekend evenings.

Does this mean an apocalyptic Internet disaster? Probably not. But it looks like Netflix has stolen the internet eggs that we’d like to use for other things. And, from what I can see, the consumer, the movie business and the Internet business are all unprepared for the havoc Netflix is wreaking.

Netflix’s Loophole. I’m told that Netflix dominance is made possible in large part by a short term loophole. Right now, high speed Internet relies heavily on past investment in infrastructure that contributed to the dot com crash, then was bought for a song and expanded in the past decade. My guess is that this means that the current equation (you get all the movies you want to watch for under $10) isn’t likely to last.

So Netflix is using a type of bait and switch tactic: hook us with low prices and it sure looks like they’ll have to switch to high fees later. All this made possible because they don’t have to pay for the bandwidth they’re using today. The result will be that we end up paying more for Internet delivered entertainment than we ever have for cable.

There is an alternative outcome. Comcast (and other cable operators) seem to be the Timex watches of the entertainment business. Nothing exciting. Nothing particularly motivating. But they take a licking and keep on ticking. So in truth, Comcast may dominate and Netflix could be forced out of the picture.

I never believe companies who claim they have suspended fundamental economic truths. And Netflix’s statements about bandwidth lack economic truth. Fortunately we were reminded recently that economic laws can’t be broken when Blippy had to return to a sane business model.

So let’s hope that sanity comes back to the discussion of TV over Internet. Because right now it’s stuck in an imaginary economic universe where bandwidth performance is free.

And lets hope some of those angry birds get their eggs back so we don’t move back in time and end up with the neighborhood equivalent of dial-up because the Hawg stole the bandwidth.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved

The New (Old) Truth: Mass Media is the Key to Building Brands

For some time, marketing has been dominated by the theory that the way to success is getting your most loyal consumers to buy more. As a result, it’s become popular for marketing “guru”s to declare the end of mass marketing.

There’s just one problem: it’s not true. The best discussion of this reality that I’ve seen recently is found in Byron Sharp’s book “How Brands Grow” (2010, Oxford). Let me share a few of the realities I found in this excellent, and challenging, read. Read more of this post

Do You Insult Consumer Intelligence With Entertainment Value?

I wrote recently about the advertising business’s mis-understanding of the idea of “likability”. I think we have a similar problem with the idea of “entertainment”.

Listen to many agencies and you’ll think that the only things that entertain are movies, concerts, comedy shows, and video games. That’s quite scary because movies, concerts, comedy shows, and video games FAIL TO ENTERTAIN far more than they succeed.

So the good news for the ad business is that people are more interesting than Hollywood thinks. Read more of this post

Does “Likability” Create Advertising That Consumers Hate?

Long ago studies began to suggest that advertising tends to be more effective when it’s “likable”. And very quickly, likability became an advertising absolute.

So disagreeing with the concept of likability would seem to be advertising death. But I do disagree — with today’s interpretation. Because the way agencies have decided to make likable advertising creates advertising that consumers hate. Read more of this post