GoogleTV: “More Returns than Sales” (Logitech)

I was skeptical of GoogleTV. It seemed Google fell prey to corporate hubris – believing they could build anything and make the marketplace think it’s valuable.

And from the start Google revealed they had no coherent strategy to deliver value to consumers. Instead, announcements made it clear they were in a desperate ploy to steal ad revenue away from traditional TV. Read more of this post

An Axiom For New Media: Big Numbers are NOT the Same as Meaningful Numbers

It seems like everything we hear about the new media world is based on big numbers. Hundreds of millions of these and bazillions of those – all delivered with mega-pico-tetra zillions of impressions. Why do we keep falling for big numbers?

I have this theory that we all have an instinctive built-in “adjustment” we apply to sales or promotional numbers. It goes like this: “They say it will save me thousands of dollars. I bet they’re over-stating. But if it still saves me hundreds, I’m happy. So I’ll buy it.” Unfortunately, once the numbers are big enough, our instinctive adjustment isn’t enough – but we use it anyway.

The yell & sell infomercial guys figured this out long ago. In yell & sell, they often make the numbers so huge that even after we adjust the numbers, they’re still impressive. And the truth is, manipulation with these numbers sells a lot of product. (There’s probably an interesting dissertation for someone in figuring out the differences between categories where we adjust by 20% and others where we adjust by an order of magnitude as in my example.)

New media evangelists have picked up this yell & sell gamut and draped it with the credibility of being “measured ROI”, by having the numbers come from a research firm, or by having them “audited”.

Here’s a great Lady Gaga one I heard at a Google presentation: “Lady Gaga posted a music video and got 95 million views in a year. Just think about it, only 500,000 people are watching MTV at any point in time.” Read more of this post

Despite Claims, Web Communication Is No More Respectful Than Traditional Advertising

Massive misperceptions lead industries into poor choices. But industry politics make people hesitant to call out those mis-perceptions – sometimes for fear of losing future work; at other times because its easier to go along with the crowd; and most often because it’s hard to find the courage to remind the world the sky is blue when “everyone” else says it’s orange.

Today’s topic of untruth is found in this line from a recent guest article on Media Post:

“In TV, you are forced to stop enjoying content in order to watch several minutes of ads. On the Web, the ad experience is more integrated and more targeted.”

Does anyone really believe this? Any honest look will tell us that the web may be the noisiest ad environment in history of mankind. And while it may be targeted, that doesn’t mean it’s any less offensive.

Web advertising regularly interrupts our enjoyment of content. On the commercially very successful HuffingtonPost, it’s random whether a new page you visit will pop down several screen inches then back up seconds later as aggressive top of the page banner ads expand.

On most news sites, pop up windows are a constant irritation. On more technologically advanced websites, ads expand and contract (apparently randomly) as you move your cursor around the page. If we choose to view a web video, we have to put up with pre-roll ads. And now we even have to fight new types of banner ads that take over the page we’re viewing and force us to click out of them or wait for them to finish.

I’d sure love to find the web utopia that guy was writing about. It sounds a whole lot better than the web we have.

Commercial messages even interrupt our enjoyment of social media. Friend a company and you’ll have to put up with their feeds on Facebook. (But isn’t Facebook most heavily used for, well, human friends? It is, after all, a social medium.)

But even worse, in social sites, companies design viral video’s to sucker people into friending their commercial endeavor, then bombard them with commercial messages. Ah, the fundamental dis-honesty of new media.

And if you have Gmail (or similar “free” services), commercial messages regularly interrupt your privacy. I went to a Google presentation here in Portland recently. The presenter proudly discussed how, after he had moved here and emailed with his wife about their car, their GMail immediately featured ads from the local auto dealer. Yikes. I think we’ve finally found Eric Schmidt’s “creepy” (and people at the tables around mine thought so, too).

Are online advertisers desperate? This aggressive interruption on the web suggests that advertisers are desperately searching for impact. And the latest news confirms they might be.

Google is desperately searching for TV ad revenue because their other online sources just don’t have enough growth to make the stock market happy. And just last week Best Buy announced that they were returning to advertising on TV because they hadn’t been able to drive their mass business from the web.

So what about this whole issue of respect? I strongly advocate respect – real respect. But the respect that matters most is the respect between the company and their consumer. Over the past 20 years I find that agencies have developed an intense disrespect for their true consumer. And I believe clients are beginning to realize how ineffective their ads have become as a result.

Many ad agencies or creative teams no longer believe consumers want to know about products and the information needed to make intelligent choices as they shop. Instead, agencies focus first and foremost on “entertainment” and end up delivering little consumer value. It doesn’t matter if you’re using the oldest of the old media or the freshest of the new, this type of advertising will offend the consumer.

And what about the web? Truth is that the web should be much more powerful than it has become. It’s only by challenging these fallacies that we can make it so.

Copyright 2011 – Doug Garnett – All Rights Reserved.

Google Says its Internal Development is Struggling

I’ve been interested by the industry hoopla surrounding Google’s vaunted approach to development. Maybe “interest” is the wrong word. Because whenever the innovator books worship a company’s policies, I get suspicious.

The Wizard's at Google search for revenue by buying companies.

It appears these suspicions may be well founded. Bloomberg reports that Google is acquiring companies to drive growth because internal developments aren’t delivering. Interesting. In fact, 2nd quarter results for Google show a 22% increase in internal development spending – probably hoping more money will solve the problem. Something ain’t quite right in Silicon Valley Heaven.

I’ve suspected development problems at Google for years. A lot of outsiders worship Google’s current development ethos. But that process isn’t the one that led to their highly successful initial development. And their current process works on some flavor of the theory that anarchy creates profit. (Reviewing several millennia of history doesn’t uncover historical precedent for this idea.)

To cap off this mix, Google never communicates the few developments that somehow rise through the anarchy to deliver significant potential value (as I noted in this article).

So, let’s please stop suggesting that Google’s discovered some unusual development magic – it’s clear they haven’t.

Only the internal team at Google can estimate the effectiveness of this new increase in spending. But, it appears it will only payout if their executive team can rein in a corporate culture that appears ready to party straight into the ditch.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

Tech Products Fail to “Cross the Chasm” Because of Communication

Communication is all-to-often the reason that products don’t make it across the chasm. Yet this is under-reported in the literature, perhaps because it’s easier to blame the technology. Or because the steps taken to redesign a product are concrete while communication is abstract.

I know, also, that too many companies have been burned by dumping big bucks into wrongly conceived communication campaigns. This is unfortunate because done right, communication brings companies the ability to gain control of the market response to their product.

Here’s a post I recently wrote for TheShelfPotato.com. It took smart marketing, communication, and merchandising by DirecTV to avoid becoming an enthusiast only product.

Many Google efforts also fail to cross the chasm – primarily because Google fails to communicate their value as discussed here.

So if you have a tech product that spends lazy days sitting on the shelf, maybe the right communication could bring it alive like TV did for WebTV.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

Marketing Tech Like Consumer Goods: Move Beyond Cool.

Apple is proving that the future requires treating technology like a consumer good. But to get there, we have to start changing our communication And that starts by getting a grip on our use of “cool”.

Today’s tech advertising rarely goes deeper than “cool”. As I walked the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) last January, I found meaningless cool everywhere. The most obvious was the video version that cluttered the show and might best be called “video wallpaper”. Action, color, and hype… And nothing more.

Many communication suppliers (agencies and production companies) love “cool” because it’s a low risk approach to keeping clients happy while making loads of money. Unfortunately, it’s also the lazy man’s approach and must become secondary as computers move into consumer goods quality products.

For years, we’ve probably gotten away with it since the craziest of early adopters respond to the mere implication that they’re missing something without that new technology. Interestingly, with the iPad Apple seems to have skipped over this group and succeeded by going directly to people who are already across the chasm.

To achieve this success not only requires more mature products but more mature communication. Because the only way across the chasm is with communication that delivers meaningful value. (In research we’re even learning that tech companies have burned consumers so often that cool often implies “gimmick” – positioning the latest advanced technology right next to the Snuggie in the consumer mind.)

“But what about Apple? They’re cool.” They are. But their brand became cool because they deliver highly unique and valuable products with high levels of consumer refinement. Continuing to deliver that value is the primary driver of sales. This doesn’t mean being cool is unimportant for Apple. But my guess is that “cool” plays a minor role – perhaps bringing a 5% to 10% added value.

So here are some thoughts to help guide us through the maze of cool options…

…Tech “cool” has been trained into an entire culture of marketers and executives. And it is the default for every communication team. But cool has a problem because it’s so common that it has become dull and uninteresting. (Just think about this while you walk your next trade show.)

…Cool changes depending on the age of your consumer. If you are marketing tech to adults over 60, cool can raise concerns and dramatically reduce sales. And for “youth” products, there are many flavors of cool so choose yours carefully. Too often mid life art directors deliver work to recapture their own youth and leave out the meaning young markets demand. (Remember that the young consumer is savvy. While they want a flavor of “cool”, they also want value.)

…There are great tech products where “cool” isn’t their school. The Netpliance iOpener press tour bombed when it pitched “cool”. Too bad. The iOpener was a great product that delivered significant benefit. But, it’s technology wasn’t new – it didn’t deliver cool. Editors never saw the value of the product and they panned it. How many tech products have failed because they assumed that “coolness” was their ticket?

…Coolness is just one of many attributes. Where does it fit for your product mix? The CES show was a great place to look around and realize that “cool” companies are a dime a dozen. The truly successful emerging companies have messages that are meaningful. (Sadly, the big boys like Intel and Microsoft too often get away with carpet bombing cool in their booths. But don’t be mis-led. This plays only a small role in their success.)

Truth is, VC’s seem to demand cool because it continues to be important for investors considering a buy-out or an IPO. So be it. Figure out where “cool” delivers meaning with your product and create a strategy for using that “cool”.

Then realize that consumers need a lot more. Deliver the thing that will generate the profit you really need: meaningful advertising that drives sales of a meaningful product.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

Even Google Can’t Seem to Explain GoogleTV

It’s not a good sign when the company inventing an “exciting new product” releases video after video quite visibly searching for a way to explain why we should care about their product.

Yesterday, quite soon after the initial announcement, Google released a new video trying to explain the consumer value of GoogleTV.

I criticized their initial announcement because they didn’t reveal much consumer value from GoogleTV – certainly not enough value to spend $400 on a set top box or over $1K on a new TV.

So, I thought maybe they’d figured it out now and we’d see it in the new video. But this video doesn’t help. This video makes GoogleTV look to be little more than an enhanced DVR cross-bred with WebTV. Adding a nice ability to customize menu’s and access to YouTube. But little else.

Worse, the video isn’t clear about fundamentals: do I still get all my programming through the cable pipeline? Google drops a quick aside saying GoogleTV has “everything you get today”. But this deserves detailed attention because internet bandwidth isn’t capable of delivering today all the TV viewing through the internet connection for the mass market.

The video is also quite cluttered with very fast perusing of confusing looking lists. Probably Google trying to minimize the complexity we’d face trying to search for programming using the internet.

The video does hint at a possible pool of tremendous value: Droid Apps. But, they drop the hint and don’t follow it up. Perhaps they don’t know how to improve the TV viewing experience themselves, so they’re hoping that App developers will figure it out for them. But this could be the hail mary pass of technology announcements. (We used to call it VaporWare. As in, “It’s not quite what you want today. But our App developers will make it better. Trust us.”)

So in the end, this video is only marginally more useful than the truly silly ones they released on announcement day. And, I continue to wonder if Google has a solid vision for GoogleTV or just a desperate desire to get ad revenues from the TV pool.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

I Don’t Care About Internet & TV Convergence

I loved this Forbes Article. Because after 30 years working with consumer goods and technology, I don’t think tech companies have yet figured out how to listen to what matters for consumers.

Here’s some things they should hear:

—> TV works pretty well today. It’s fun, compelling and interesting. And the latest studies indicate that it’s paying out better than ever for consumers, for advertisers, for networks, and for cable systems.

—> People are watching more TV than ever. The internet has settled in their lives as the top secondary activity – replacing radio.

—> More channels don’t help. Looking at the jump from 75 channels to 250 channels, consumers told us they didn’t think more channels would help (they were right). The “what’s on” issue isn’t solvable by jumping to 6 billion channels. In fact, TiVO plus any of the many types of on demand combine to solve most of the problem. 

—> TiVO almost blew it – by focusing on their least meaningful value:  “pause and rewind live TV”. Fortunately their customers figured out you can watch what you want, when you want, and as you want. But TiVO’s mistake let cable companies bring out less effective DVR’s. If TiVO had known consumers, that would never have happened.

—> DirecTV also nearly blew it – by focusing on techie enthusiast value. They pitched digital picture quality and bunches of channels. But consumers were okay with the existing picture and had lots of channels. Eventually DirecTV discovered a better value:  offering passionate sports fans access to games they couldn’t get on cable or broadcast.

—> WebTV proved that browsing the internet and checking email is not an audience activity – it’s more private.

—> HDTV shows us picture quality is merely one of many factors. HDTVs offer three things:  (1) picture quality, (2) better convenience (size/weight), and (3) more attractive sets. I’ll bet that a majority of sets are bought to get a good looking big TV in the living room without calling Allied Van Lines to bring it in. Oh, and the picture is better when compared with than those crappy projector TVs.  

To be clear, it’s not that I don’t care about convergence. But if convergence matters, it’s not for it’s own sake.

It will matter because it delivers products that make consumer lives better – with better viewing experience and minimal hassle at a good value.

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett

Google Needs an Infomercial

Google needs an infomercial – a half hour paid program. So does Kindle. And so do many new technology products made for consumer use.

Truth is, the value of most technology is hard to see and hard to understand. Infomercials reveal that value, showing consumers why the technology is meaningful. Even better, infomercials do this while reaching a mass consumer audience as well as the growing market of home based businesses.

Read my complete thoughts in Response Magazine.

The Sound & Fury of GoogleTV

Last Thursday Google TV was announced. I’d hoped for something good. The intersection of TV and the internet could create a fantastic viewer experience.

Sadly, the combined power of Google, Sony, and Intel (with bit parts for Logitech and Dish Network) will apparently deliver not much more than a better program guide.

That’s right. Google’s release material put quite an emphasis behind the idea that today’s TV program listings are too complicated. Then they promise Google TV will fix this tiny problem by creating a much bigger one: finding programs by searching the internet.

(I’m a better than average Internet searcher. But online search usually means wading through meaningless interfering hoo-hah to find what I really want. It’s hard to be excited about finding TV programs this way.)

YOUTUBE ON YOUR TV
Google does suggest some decent value in big screen access to YouTube, Hulu and other online video sources. This is an area of good interest. At the same time, my instincts are uneasy. Will consumers find it worth dropping $1000+ in equipment just for this? I just don’t know.

Apple might know this from their TV efforts. It is possible that real life usage of online video on a TV is insignificant. After all, the best programming is still on traditional TV where it is likely to remain for a very long time.

And that makes it concerning that there weren’t any network execs present – not even the barest rumor of network involvement. Traditional television is still the best, and perhaps the only, way to move the masses.

A DESPERATE SEARCH FOR AD REVENUE
The way I make sense of this announcement is to remember that Google desperately needs ad revenue growth. They own YouTube which is still searching for economic viability so perhaps they hope to take that from existing TV spending. And, they’ve been trying for several years to tap TVs dollars with an AdWords like scheme to sell TV. (It hasn’t worked.)

In truth, there’s a tremendous pitch to advertisers about the opportunity to deliver targeted TV ads on Google TV. But Google didn’t make that pitch last week. Probably because it will only become meaningful if consumers buy these TV’s.

For now, I see an attempt to use square technology to tap into a round ad revenue opportunity. But that’s just this announcement. Maybe Google has a deeper vision we don’t yet understand. Maybe the underlying Android system will let others do what Google didn’t. For Googles sake let’s hope so. Stay tuned…

Copyright 2010 – Doug Garnett