signals of noise

Category: marketing (page 1 of 2)

The ‘McDonald’ Hotel Rooms

A summary look at the brand and re-branding of Holiday Inn. How it standardized hotels to launch a travel revolution.

Wilson’s idea to create a standardized hotel chain was more astute market timing than genius innovation. The post-war baby boom was producing a record number of nuclear families, while improved working conditions meant more workers could travel using paid vacation time. Hotels in cities were lavish and expensive, while motels in rural areas fluctuated wildly in quality. Holiday Inn, which offered consistently clean rooms and a pool for the kids, became an instant hit, with more than 100 of them popping up before 1960.

The McDonald’s of the hotel business.

Piggyback on an Acquisition to Enter a New Market

Early last year Kraft acquired Cadbury after trying to fight off the giant for some time. The deal was supposed to give Kraft a footprint in emerging markets, probably especially India. And that is what happened last month when they launched the legendary Oreo biscuits in India.

What is interesting in the launch is the fact that it is being launched as Cadbury Oreo. A parent brand that Indians are well aware of for a long long time. The Kraft brand is a total unknown outside some pockets. This is a great example of how to use an acquisition to enter new markets by re-branding under popular names.

Using Cadbury’s brand recall Kraft can easily launch all its biscuit and confectionery range in India, but it still doesn’t give them the brand recognition to launch other products that will not fit into a Cadbury portfolio. It will be interesting to see how Kraft plans to do that.

Here’s the India commercial used for the launch: YouTube.

[image: source]

The Stationary Web v/s the Mobile Web

The growth of mobile web will fundamentally change the nature of marketing on the web

Over the last decade we have seen the evolution of Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. Some are already heralding the advent of Web 3.0. Though there is no consensus of what exactly is Web 3.0. But there is another evolution underway. Not the evolution of the web itself, but how we access the web.

For long most web access was via the personal computer. Desktops and laptops. Even though laptops were built to allow computing power to move with us, the web was still accessed, in what I like to call, a very stationary way. You had to sit down somewhere to access the web. Be it in the bus, train or your desk. But all that is changing.

We are have already moved from the completely stationary web to the primarily stationary web. And now on to the primarily mobile web. This change in consumption pattern has been driven by the smartphone revolution that is happening today and the tablet revolution that is just beginning to happen. The iPhone, iPad, Android devices, Blackberry and Windows Mobile driven revolutionary evolution is set to completely change the way the web is accessed.

And this shift means the online marketing will have to adapt to this changing pattern. Differences in consumer behavior calls for different approaches to marketing. With the stationary web you could try and follow browsing behavior and adapt marketing communication. Interest was the primary signal that drove marketing and Google AdWords ruled.

With the mobile web a very important new signal has been added. Location. Now the interest of the consumer at a particular location is what matters. Which means that marketing communication has to be optimized for both signals. Websites need to be customized for mobile browsing. Or have a dedicated mobile app. If you are hotel and someone checks your mobile website and she is near the hotel, don’t tell them about the discount that is available if you book 2 months in advance.

[image: eMarketer/UK Consumers Are Doing More Online, More Often, With More Devices]

Marketing is About an Ecosystem, Not Channels

Social media marketing is a channel and it should be treated as such within the larger marketing ecosystem

If I were to close my mind and rely on what is being, largely, discussed as the future of marketing on the web, I would be stuck with two words. Social Media. “Free Social Media Marketing Plan”, “ROI of Social Media Marketing”, “What is Social Media Marketing?”, “Social Media Marketing tips”, “X Do’s and Dont’s of Social Media Marketing”. Just some of the article/topic headings you are likely to come across.

Somehow every expert, guru, maven, specialist etc. are able to come up with differently similar articles lauding the utility of social media marketing. And how anyone not using it will go extinct in the not-so-distant future. If there is anything I agree with them on it is the fact that social media is a powerful channel for marketing. But it is just that. A channel.

One among many available channels that a marketer has at her disposal today to reach the target market. I have already written earlier that a channel should not be treated independent of the segment. The segment should define the channel. It cannot be the other way round.

According to one study 73% of shoppers use more than five channels for their purchase. Assuming social media is one of them, what if you are just concentrating on that one only? The number of ways a customer can be reached is increasing. The number of ways the customer is accessing information is also increasing. But what is decreasing is how much time the customer is spending on a single channel.

So go ahead and decide for yourself whether you want to do marketing, or you want to do social media marketing.

[image: Flickr/Oliver Lindner]

Brand of Culture and Culture of Brand


I had recently wrote an article on why thinking of social media replacing all other marketing channels is not the right way to go. Customers are your primary stakeholders and only they should decide the channel you adopt.

In this article from the HBR blog, William C. Taylor, the cofounder of Fast Company magazine, discusses about the more fundamental issues to tackle in marketing. Thinking about customers, about employees of the organization and how the organization conducts itself.

The new “power couple” inside the best companies, I concluded, was an iron-clad partnership between marketing leadership and HR leadership. Your brand is your culture, your culture is your brand.

He supports his views with two really wonderful examples. One a small local bank (Corner Bank) and another a big insurance and financial-services company (USAA). Both these examples illustrate how you can make your customers happy by working inside out. The culture in an organization reflects in its engagements with its customers. So the brand value is driven as much as by culture as anything else.

You want to look elsewhere? Another industry perhaps? Try Zappos


[image: Flickr/Larry Tomlinson]

Marketing is Easy

That is the thought of the moment.

It involves essentially just three steps:

  1. Reach your customer.
  2. Convey you message to the customer.
  3. Convince her to buy your product/service.

And you’re done.

Of course there’s a lot involved in each step. Which makes it not so easy.

Remember the Marketing Filters

Remember the filters affecting your marketing message

Marketing has changed over the last few years with the advent of social media. Communication between the marketer and the customer is no longer one-way. There is a conversation going on out there. Between the marketer and the customer (existing and potential). Between the existing and potential customers. Between experts and customers.

So the marketing message now has to pass through multiple filters before it actually reaches the customer which the marketer cannot directly control with the message only.

  • Recommendations
    From existing users, review sites, industry leaders.
  • Brand image
    Perception among users on multiple facets such as quality, price, design.
  • Company image
    Perception of executives, social (as in society) actions.
  • History of product quality
    Product recall history, service delivery track record.
  • Response to feedback
    Responsiveness to users’ needs and requests.
  • Service/product comparisons
    Comparison to substitutes and competitors on all above dimensions.

Are you considering these filters yet? It is important to understand how these influence the customers before you try to influence them.

[image: Flickr/Aslakr]

Parallels Between Physics and Marketing

Physics and marketing don’t seem to have much in common, but Dan Cobley is passionate about both. He brings these unlikely bedfellows together using Newton’s second law, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, the scientific method and the second law of thermodynamics to explain the fundamental theories of branding.

All I can say is that this wasn’t a very good TED talk. It was almost like forcing some specifically chosen concepts of physics on the world of marketing. Something that can be done with any other management discipline or any facet of life.

Disappointing. See the video and judge for yourself.

Dan Cobley: What physics taught me about marketing

[thumbnail: Flickr/Marvin]

Selling a Solution? Have You Sold the Problem Yet?

Another pearl of wisdom from Seth Godin.

If you go out to sell a solution – a product or a service – you must first sell the problem. If your potential customer does not know about the problem in the first place, I am sure she would not be interested in the solution as well.

And yet, most business to business marketers jump right into features and benefits, without taking the time to understand if the person on the other end of the conversation/call/letter believes they even have a problem.

Seth also reveals an interesting paradox in his post. People are generally not willing to buy a problem unless they know there is a solution available for that problem. If you carefully notice, most television ads (at least the good ones) follow this pricniple. They will talk about all kinds of problems, and then intorduce t

Imagine, for example, getting the data and publishing a list of the top 50 firms, ranked by efficiency of space use. All of a sudden, the bottom half of the list realizes that yes, in fact, they have something that they need to work on. If you knew that your firm was paying twice as much per associate as the competition, you’d realize that there’s a problem.

So next time you go selling a solution sell the problem first but remember to drop a hint that you have the solution too.

[thumbnail: Flickr/Casey Marshall]

Why we Should be Excited about Early Adopters…

…And ReadWriteWeb is wrong.

Innovation diffusion curveJust a few days before I posted the video of Seth Godin arguing the necessity of pursuing innovators and early adopters, Audrey Watters of the ReadWriteWeb wrote a story on “Why We Shouldn’t Get Too Excited About Early Adopters“. I had marked it for reading and managed to catch up only today.

In that article she argues, drawing evidence from a Clive Thompson article for the Wired magazine, that it is not right for companies to target early adopters. After all they constitute just 13.5% of the market compared to the majority 85%. This based on the argument that early adopters are anyway going to buy the product. So why bother.

All this is clearly prompted by the demise of Google Wave. Which despite efforts of the early adopter community failed to gain wide spread adoption. However, the point she misses here is that Google Wave failed not because it was not targeted towards the late majority. It failed because it was not a product that would ever appeal to the majority in its current form. It was way too complicated. And the use cases were not clear. No argument against the fact that it was indeed revolutionary. But, it suffered from bad timing?

The idea of pitching a product to the innovators and early adopter is to gauge market response to the product and establish some sort of a co-creation platform where the early adopter community helps in the evolution of the early product. If they love it they will spread the word to the late majority and adoption will spread. Whether the late majority adopts is or not will ultimately depend on how well thought out the product is to target that segment of the population.

There is no doubt that taking a product from the early innovators and early adopters to the majority is a major challenge. And to say that just start at the majority is trying to solve this problem too simplistically. There is a significant difference in the wants and needs of these groups of people. This topic is very well covered by Geoffrey A. Moore in his book Crossing the Chasm. The focus should be on choosing the product features wisely, targeting the right group of customers, positioning and marketing strategy among others.

There is a separate problem with bypassing the early adopters and targeting the majority. This group (the majority) of the population is generally risk averse. So no matter how good or bad a product is they are not going to experiment with the unknown. (Unless it is a product from a brand with a reputation for well designed products spanning all segments. Such as Apple.) They depend on others (the innovators and the early adopters) to lead them towards adoption. They are unwilling to listen to what marketers have to say. Status-quo is good enough. As Seth said, if you want to make average products then for sure make them their target. Otherwise it is wiser to ignore them at the beginning.

The failings of a single product (here Google Wave, and Audrey’s opinion is clearly biased by her love of Wave) cannot be a solid reason to start ignoring the early adopters. We can then say good-bye to innovation.

[image: Wikipedia]

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