Archive for May, 2008

Old Shcool Kool AidThis one’s been eating me up inside for a week or so. Did you catch the research report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project regarding the web’s influence on purchases?

Consumers were asked questions regarding their product research, shopping and purchasing habits and the results were analyzed and parsed based on four dimensions: 

  • Search:How much people rely on the internet in product research and to what extent
    online information smooths the path to a purchase decision.
  • Influence: Where the internet’s influence is great (or not) in consumer’s decisions.
  • Participation:Whether internet users get involved in online chatter or take other
    steps after purchase to engage with what they bought.
  • Disintermediation:Whether the internet serves as a way to go around traditional
    means (e.g., going to retail stores) to buy products.

I like these delineations, they are great indicators of overall impact of a medium and therefore by indirect correlation, the marketing within the medium.

Here is the one line take away from the report: Online resources are tactical tools in the online shopping experience, but online resources do not play a large role in the the products consumers choose or how they consume them.

To that I respectfully say: “You gotta be figgin’ kidding me!?!”

I ordinarily appreciate the research from Pew, it is objective and usually fairly meaningful.

This flies in the face of all online based research, which indicates the web has become a primary research and influence channel in purchases for many categories among online consumers.So this begs the question about methodological equalities between online based research and random telephone surveys. Is there a disparity between the type of person who willingly answers a telephone survey and those who take online surveys? Does a random telephone survey of 2,400 consumers accurately represent the online universe? Probably not (subjective, I know).

I clearly understand that Pew is trying to represent the American public versus the Online American public. But to marketers, we really want to understand how the internet influences the ripe digital media market of 219 million users in the US (Nielsen April 2008)…otherwise known as most civilized adults with actual buying power. 

Is the internet a major influence in the purchasing process and decision for music, cars, or travel? The answer to that starts with a resounding “DUH!”. For years we have been studying how the internet influences online and offline purchases, various methodologies have been employed to research this objectively. Transactions need not occur online for the influence to occur here. Likewise, the increasing scope of influence of the social media ecosystem, including all the tools from consumer reviews to blogs, forums and of course social networks also plays a major role in purchasing decisions across various categories (as in virtually all). Both the medium itself and the people participating online create influence. Do you know anyone who can’t claim this for their own behavior as a consumer? I try to never look at the ‘focus group of one’. Seriously, I was disturbed and borderline angry to see such data spewed into the market without further scrutiny.

Again, I ask – do random telephone surveys accurately represent the online consumer? The Pew report stated that the internet does not play a major role in influencing music purchases — excuse me???

Of course the internet is just a cog in an influence chain that includes many other factors. I am not a digital elitist by any stretch, but come on – does anyone believe this research?? Well the US Census counts 304 million Americans, so I guess that would make about 90 million possibilities – let’s give them a call and ask them.

I’m back – and figured I’d kick off the blog again with something really funny. This is actually amazingly funny, maybe because it is such an accurate depiction of the brand personas of the different social media brands. Some of the subtle humor is great, particularly if you are actively working in the space. I almost hit the floor laughing during parts of this. Enjoy!

I’m headed off to Indonesia once again. The internet access in the remote area where I am traveling is incredibly painful and acts as a reminder of how dependent we are on high speed access. I finally figured out how to get Twitter to work while abroad (they have an international # to use versus a US based shortcode), so I’m going to try and Tweet updates daily if I indeed have mobile access.

You can follow me on Twitter and keep tabs on my adventure and generally on my ongoing Twitterisms on digital media, traveling and life.

See you on the flipside!

Do you have an ecommerce component to your business? Are you leveraging the recent hike in gas prices to drive more online sales?

According to a report issued last week by iCongo, one third (33 percent) of online U.S. adults indicated they are more likely to shop online rather than in-person at a store due to the high price of gasoline.

The iCongo survey also provides insight into consumer attitudes regarding the upcoming U.S. federal tax rebate. A full 45 percent of adults said they plan to make retail purchases with their rebate, if they receive one.

On a related note – President Bush says that if he had a magic wand that he’s say “Ok, Drop Price! I’d do that” … “but there is no magic wand to wave right now”…you had to see it on the Jon Stewart show, it was too funny! Anyway, here is the original video, but the way the Daily Show pieced it together was ROTFL funny…

MySpace launched their developer area earlier this year, and last month announced new tools for marketersto manage their branded pages. Up until now marketers have had to work with the creative team at MySpace and provide assets that were ultimately put together by MySpace. I’m seeing more and more social network integration deals across all of the nets (MySpace, Facebook & Bebo are really the only ones that I track), so this makes a ton of sense. Oh yeah, did I mention that MySpace’s revenue in 2007 was around $1 billion?

I’ve heard rumors that MySpace is now deleting pages from marketers when they are not paid branded pages (although that rumor is still unconfirmed).

I caught this postabout MySpace charging for App promotion yesterday (it includes slides from MySpace’s powerpoint where they are pitching this product). Ultimately I believe that this is a good thing. Consumers are swimming in widget/application overload, it’s far too cluttered already. Clutter makes discovering relevant experiences more difficult, and it’s good to see some of ther reigns being pulled in on that. On the other hand, diversity also fosters the potential of the creation of relevant content and experiences in the first place. So it’s a balance that needs to be struck. This move of course also unevens the playing field for the little guy once again – but in business the playing field has never been, and will never be even anyway. Let’s just say that new media has made it a little more balanced, but “even” is a pipe-dream.

Ultimately, providing the distribution platform to developers, so they can produce applications for consumers, and making consumers available to marketers (with all the associated vaults of data behind them) is the formula for growth and success here.  I love this space – social media rocks.

Google TV is now out of Betaand pulicly accessible.

Although not embraced to the degree they expected during the beta itself (my old agency’s TV buyers scratched their heads at it), this does offer the potential to create a marketplace similar to that of search, although the media dynamics are altogether different and the inventory is currently limited only to DISH. Media marketplaces represent a level of automation that commoditizes certain low value aspects of the buying & selling process that are labor intensive and erodes margins – it’s part of the future. Google TV merely sets a precedent on what is possible – trust me they are not the only ones attempting to create and automate a TV buying marketplace. Agencies have however been watching Google move into areas beyond their home turf, so to speak, and some of getting nervous.

I mentioned previously that in 2007 Martin Sorrell, chairman of WPP has referenced Google when discussing the competitive climate in the industry more often than he publicly discussed other agency holding companies such as Omnicom, or IPG. WPP also acquired or made investments in many media/technology companies in the last year or so, hedging their bets on a potential competitive suite of tools and products? Or simply diversifying a portfolio of complimentary companies to keep a level of spending under the same umbrella? Only time will tell.

Agencies are further recognizing the need for a new model, but still haven’t done much but talk about it. The AAAA’s leadership conference kicked off last week and the NY Times even covered the bold statements from the speakers. I’ll just pull a few quotes from the piece:

Strap on your seat belts,” “All these challenges will no doubt put a strain on all our organizations,”  “Every one of us will be re-engineering and re-inventing, but the end result will be a positive one.” – Irwin Gottlieb, Group M

“Stop whining,” “shouldn’t be scary,” “a huge opportunity for us” “If you want to participate, you’ve got to start hiring young people,”  “and don’t tell them what to do — ask them what to do.” – Lee Clow, TBWA Worldwide

“The system worked well for 40, 50 years,” “Now we have to think differently and do each other’s jobs.” – Ben Silverman, NBC/Universal

“Create new opportunities for advertisers and new opportunities for information.” “The scale of this is underappreciated.” – Eric Schmidt, Google

You gotta love how Eric Schmidt seems to be the only one focused on data and information – in my humble opinion that is what it’s all about – he who has the most data (and knows what to do with it), wins.