Archive for Digital

The Silent Majority: Don’t just listen to the customers who complain

One of the cinemas we visit regularly used to sell crisp warm samosas during the interval. But the last time we went, they had taken them off the menu. When we asked why, they said they had too many complaints about the samosas being too oily or too spicy and so they had decided to stop selling them even though they used to be a top selling item.

I suppose the people who liked the samosas didn’t bother giving any positive feedback (apart from buying large quantities). Making business decisions based only on complaints from a minority of customers doesn’t make sense. Food for thought in the era of Facebook comments!


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200,000 Facebook Friends sacrificed for Burger King

233,906 to be precise.  Burger King offered Facebook users a free Whopper in exchange for “de-friending” 10 friends. 82,771 people took up the offer within a week before Facebook shut down the application citing privacy concerns.

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Simplifying Online Marketing

If you’re like me and spend most of your time and money developing marketing campaigns centred around TV advertising, you’ve probably been trying to make sense of the whole Internet / Online Marketing thing.

Josh Bernoff’s excellent graphic on consumer trust got me thinking about how online marketing is similar to TV advertising and other traditional marketing channels, and equally important, how it’s not.

1. TV advertising is one-way communication. The Internet is interactive, so a common fallacy is that it’s two-way. Actually it’s more likely to be either one-way (Audience gets your message, does nothing), occasionally two-way (Audience tells you what she thinks) and sometimes many-way (Audience tells others what she thinks about your product / message). Now the last one may be through a blog or a social network website, and these are quite the trendy buzzwords among PR firms these days, but Josh’s chart above together with HP Lab’s paper on social networks shows that the valuable part of people’s networks is (a) smaller than it appears and (b) mostly to do with e-mail. Consider: would you have more faith in something that a friend actively e-mailed to you or something that a stranger wrote on his blog, no matter how well-written or entertaining. So the task is to develop communication or content that people can share with their friends and perhaps modify or personalize, ideally via e-mail.

2. There are hundreds of channels and thousands (millions?) of programs on TV and we use data (ratings) about what consumers are watching to decide where to place our spots to achieve our GRP/TRP goal of reaching x% of our target audience with a certain frequency (usually a single digit number). The same approach should work online. With a little bit of research, we can find out (a) what the most popular search engine is in a given market (hint: it’s not always Google) and (b) what keywords our audience uses when they are searching for information on our product category. I imagine that someone who plans to buy a camcorder in an English-speaking market would probably google “Camcorder reviews”. (I did.)  This behaviour coupled with the right information actually makes it easier to develop highly effective online “media plans”, quite probably at a very low cost (yet) and at a very high frequency.

3. The data in the chart above suggests that online customer reviews are the most effective form of PR. Using the Google keyword approach above should help identify the websites where our audience most often finds these reviews. (I went to The chart makes it clear that getting honest favourable reviews onto these websites is far more effective than giving free samples to a large number of bloggers. Beware of unethical competitors who may be using “professional reviewers” to considerable effect. Don’t discount the value of traditional PR in print newspapers and magazines which still rank very highly on consumer trust. Even TV is trusted more than personal blogs, although it’s not clear if this refers to advertising (unlikely) or TV news and talk shows (more likely).

4. Yellow pages (not online) is a bit of a surprise in this chart. Depending on the context, a careful review of what the audience does on a typical day and where they look for information on our category or when they are most receptive to that information might reveal some unexpected channels or touchpoints – very likely in the real (not online) world. Like the hunt for a great advertising insight, this is one of the things that makes marketeer’s jobs interesting!

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Are social networks an obvious channel for viral marketing? New research from HP Labs casts light through the cloud of hype

Bernardo A. Huberman,  Daniel M. Romero, and Fang Wu of HP Labs have released a research paper called Social networks that matter: Twitter under the microscope (PDF).  They have divided the people in any given Twitter user”s network into:

a. Friends – anyone who a user has directed a post to at least twice.

b. Followers and followees – everyone else in the user’s network.

One interesting finding is that

…even though users declare that they follow many people using Twitter, they only keep in touch with a small number of them. Hence, while the social network created by the declared followers and followees appears to be very dense, in reality the more influential network of friends suggests that the social network is sparse.

The authors conclude that

…users with many actual friends tend to post more updates than users with few actual friends. On the other hand, users with many followers or followees post updates more infrequently than those with few followers or followees. Many people, including scholars, advertisers and political activists, see online social networks as an opportunity to study the propagation of ideas, the formation of social bonds and viral marketing, among others. This view should be tempered by our findings that a link between any two people does not necessarily imply an interaction between them. As we showed in the case of Twitter, most of the links declared within Twitter were meaningless from an interaction point of view. Thus the need to find the hidden social network; the one that matters when trying to rely on word of mouth to spread an idea, a belief, or a trend.

Easier said than done, but this certainly improves our understanding of the challenges facing viral marketing. Watts and Peretti’s mathematical model for viral campaigns seems ever more sensible in this context.

Josh Bernoff blogs about new research from Forrester which clearly shows where social networks (and blogs) rank when it comes to credibility.

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Successful online marketing: Widgets or Advertisements?

Advertising Age writes about Widgets becoming the grail of online marketing:

Fridge Magnet

Branded widgets are the refrigerator magnets of the Brave New World.

The widget may not be the holy grail, but it’s arguably pretty damn grail-ish — maybe the highest expression so far of online marketing in the Post-Advertising Age..



Al Wittemen, in an article in The Hub magazine, has an interesting take:

…digital is the way to amplify shopper-marketing programs and make them relevant to shoppers at home, outside the  home as well as in the store.

This widget from Johnnie Walker Whisky (via Contagious)  seems to illustrate what Al is talking about:

Jennie’ is a mobile based application which combines two of 2007’s hottest topics – avatars and widgets – to produce a nifty little service aimed at helping even the most sociable of bar-hoppers get around. According to Marketing Interactive, Jennie is able to do everything from planning social calendars and providing useful tips on bars and clubs to procuring event invitations. Apparently, she’ll even help you get home at night:
‘The application has four main functions on the menu – ‘Take Me There’, ‘Tell Me When’, ‘What’s Hot’, and ‘Take Me Home’ with the latter allowing the user to either book a taxi or send an SMS to a designated driver when it is time to go home.


What about online advertising? These days, the conventional wisdom is that targeted ads (eg Google ‘Sponsored Links’) are a smarter investment than banner ads.  But there seems to be value in banner ads when they are coupled with the right business model. I recently saw banner ads from this campaign on almost every site that I regularly visit and some that I was visiting just once:


That ad is hard to miss because of the choice of words and the unusual font.  After seeing the ad about thirty times in one month, I was intrigued enough to go and see what it was all about. Clicking on the ad leads to an ‘infomercial’ type website with a classic sales ‘pitch’ approach. Although I didn’t buy what they were selling, the pitch is pretty good and deserves a look-see.  See what happens when you leave the site without making a purchase! (It’s quite safe).

It’s not easy to say which approach is better and I’m sure they both have their pros and cons depending on what you’re selling. However, despite all the hype surrounding widgets, it seems to me that a smart “banner ad media plan” combined with an effective infomercial / pitch website could be very effective in generating sales – the real holy grail of online (and offline) marketing.

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The Maths of Successful Viral Marketing

In Viral Marketing for the Real World (HBR, May 2007), Duncan Watts and Jonah Peretti describe a simple way to make viral campaigns successful, even when they don’t go past the ‘tipping point’.

Malcolm Gladwell first described the ‘Tipping Point’ concept in his book of the same name. It describes how ideas spread, in a fashion similar to epidemics, with each person exposed to the idea sharing it with others, in an ever-expanding circle of ‘infected’ people who become aware of the idea. The ‘Tipping Point’ concept has itself ‘tipped’ among marketeers worldwide, albeit with the help of some good old-fashioned marketing techniques.

Watts and Peretti describe the mathematics of the Tipping Point concept. Chart 1 below shows how ideas ‘tip’ when the number of people exposed to an idea, known as ‘seeds’, go on to share it with more than one other person.

However, when each seed shares it with less than one person on the average, then the idea is doomed to never tip (see chart 2) making it a failure, especially if it happens to be a costly marketing campaign attempting to make use of Gladwell’s concept.

However, marketeers can get around this problem by maximizing the number of ‘seeds’ whom they reach at the initial stage of their campaigns.

Chart 3 illustrates the value of a high-seed campaign with rate of reproduction below the Tipping Point – start with a lot of seeds and the total number of people reached is still pretty high.

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How to build brands online: 3 successful cases

Much of the past one year’s debate and discussion at various marketing fora, real and virtual, centres on “new media” or “digital media”, meaning the Internet and Mobile/Wireless media. This is my personal selection of some of the best uses to which it has been put:

1. BMW Films
Using the insight that 85% of their target consumers used the Internet before buying a BMW, a series of short films were created by some of the greatest action movie directors, aired only via the Internet (and widely distributed over e-mail). Read the entire story here.

2. Dove Evolution
A 75-second film released only on the Internet, it showcases the typical make-over of a model into the unreal yet so-familiar beauty that we see in cosmetics advertising. Over a million views on Youtube, deep penetration of the blogosphere, and tremendous impact for the brand. Read here for the full story, including a very detailed analysis of the campaign and its impact.

3. Toyota Scion in Second Life
The first brand to enter the virtual world of Second Life, with a virtual dealership featuring customizable versions of the cars. All the details are here.

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