Yes, it’s another infographic featuring marketing data that may or may not be taken out of context!
I did find the stat about how social links in email improve clickthrough rates to be interesting: After a couple of years of everyone deciding that e-newsletters and promotional emails were nigh-on dead, I feel like everyone’s getting interested in email again. Don’t know if this is a last gasp or a recognition that we may all have been a little too hasty in our dismissal of email.
As always, I leave it to you to form your own opinions about how the rest of this data has been spun for your pleasure.
This morning, CBC Radio (which the baby and I listen to all day, in order to keep my brain from completely turning to mush) had a segment on viral video ads. They had a couple of advertising talking heads pontificating about this week’s viral hit, the Devil Baby video promoting the ‘Devil’s Due’ movie. (I do not recommend watching this video if you actually have a baby crawling around the house, BTW.)
The talking heads said the usual stuff about capturing the zeitgeist and creating compelling content, blah blah blah, but in my opinion they missed a key element in the whole ‘viral’ thing: At a certain point, people end up watching these viral videos simply because they don’t want to be left out of the conversation. When everyone at the office is standing around saying “Tchoff-tchoff-tchoff-tchoff-tchoff!” or doing Starbucks Drake Hands impressions, we all want to get the joke. “Ha! Ha! That cold makes you sound so Chocolate Rain this morning!”, we want to say.
It’s harder, however, to get all insidery about some of the really beautiful stuff that comes down the pop culture pipe – and there’s more of it than you realize.
With that in mind, I present the new Kusmi Tea ads. They’re beautiful, they’re technically brilliant, and they deserve to get more attention than, say, another rendition of Dramatic Chipmunk.
Note: An earlier version of this post appeared in 2012. But in the wake of the Edward Snowedon leaks, the coverage of the Sochi Olympics, and even Chris Stark’s Mila Kunis interview, this is a topic I find myself thinking about more and more these days.
Scarcely a day goes by in which I don’t see a link to another TED talk exhorting companies to be more authentic. More transparent. More aligned with core values.
I get it: In a networked world, more consumers have more access to more information, more quickly, than they’ve ever had, and they’re better at parsing messages than they’ve ever been. So if you don’t tell the truth, people find out pretty quickly – and they get mad.
But here’s the funny thing: Consumers don’t actually want the whole truth. Those of us who spend a lot of time on social media talk a blue streak about truth and transparency because we see our little blogosphere world blow up when some brand gets caught in a lie or the halfwit intern in charge of the corporate Twitter account says something stupid, but it’s not that simple. And here’s how I know.
Regular milk has dead bacteria in it
A few years ago, I spent a lot of time working on a milk account, one of the ‘fine filtered’ milks that have done such a good job of de-commoditizing the milk segment. The side of the milk carton says that the milk is “92x more pure” than regular milk because it’s been “filtered”.
The truth is that it’s more like 1000x more pure; the reason it’s more pure is that the ‘filtering’ has removed the dead bacteria that were killed by pasteurization; and the reason that it stays “fresher, longer” is because there aren’t any bacteria carcasses rotting in the milk.
But in focus groups, consumers didn’t believe the “1000x more pure” claim, and they definitely didn’t want to hear about dead bacteria floating around in regular milk – even though once you know that, you’ll never drink non-fine-filtered milk ever again.
Citronella doesn’t do jack squat
I also worked on a big household products brand, who had a big insect repellent line of products. One of the products they made was citronella candles and lanterns, but they never wanted to advertise them. Why? Because they knew – through their own, and independent, testing – that citronella does almost nothing to repel insects, especially mosquitoes. The corporate culture was one of high ethics and family values, and it killed them that stores were marketing citronella products next to ‘real’ insect repellents.
When they tried to explain to consumers that citronella products weren’t effective, they got an incredibly negative response. So they finally just gave in and made them – but, in a move that will shock those of you who think that marketers are all evil, refused to let us promote them as insect repellents.
I hope that no one reading this right now is under any illusions that we really, truly know anything much about what goes on in any of the Kardashian-related households, regardless of how often they appear in even credible news feeds. But it’s telling to me that regardless of how many times the Kardashians themselves say their show is fake, and the obviously edited racist comments (in the holiday episode, Kim says “When I married a black guy, my father was so mad…”, but the word ‘black’ was edited out to maintain the fiction that it was the marriage, not the race, that was the problem), these people still have an audience. And it’s not just a ‘love to hate them’ audience, either – marketers and advertisers are still lining up to partner with them.
No, I’m not saying consumers are stupid
…so don’t get all snippy. I mostly think that there are so many messages flying at consumers from so many directions all the time that they simply don’t have time to think too much about dead bacteria in their milk, or seek out primary-source data on citronella instead of believing their sister-in-law. (I’m a little less sanguine about the rise of the Kardashians – I wish we’d give more airtime and attention to people who do more than promote consumerist culture.) It’s not like I’m making my own soap out of lye and olive oil, and I’m quite sure I’m living in my own little world of self-delusion about the products I buy.
I’m just saying that marketers are still doing a lot of storytelling, and the stories haven’t suddenly become non-fiction.
As some of you know, I had a baby this year. The thing with babies is that while they leave you a lot of time to think, they don’t leave you with much time to actually do anything. Like the time I watched an entire Transformers movie (with commercials) standing up, swaying like an LSD-riddled hippy at Woodstock, because every time I tried to put the baby down she wailed so loudly I thought the neighbours would call the police. So I had quite a few good ideas this year, but hardly any of them made it to the blog.
Now that we’re a week into 2014, and everyone else is posting their ‘Top 10 posts of 2013’, I’ve decided to face the fact that most of my nascent blog posts will never get properly written. But don’t despair! Today, I share with you the things I would have blogged about in 2013, if only I, uh, had.
1. Chris Stark interviews Mila Kunis; viral hilarity ensues
I’ve been a fan of Chris Stark’s ‘24 Years at the Tap End‘ autobography (yes, that’s autoBOGraphy, since the ‘tap end’ refers to Chris sitting in the bathtub with his back at the tap end, and bathtubs tend to be in bathrooms, also known as ‘bogs’ in the UK) for a while now, so I didn’t find his Mila Kunis interview all that surprising. Just in case you didn’t catch it back in March:
What was surprising was Mila Kunis’ response, and how the whole exchange just ripped the top off every other boring celebrity press junket interview flooding the market. I wanted to write a post about how it was a good opportunity to address the gap between people’s stated preference for ‘media transparency’ and the fact that they just keep on consuming the same pre-packaged junk even when they’re given a choice, and how that affected the way marketers communicated with stakeholders. Et cetera. But that started to seem like it could be an entire PhD thesis (and it still could be! someone’s probably got a grant to write it right now!), which seemed like more time than I ever had at my disposal this year.
2. My continuing love of podcasts
I’ve written about my podcast obsession before, and it did not abate in 2013. I still think podcasts are the best way to maximize information intake while minimizing the amount of time you have to sit still, and they are pretty much the only reason why having a baby did not render me incapable of having a conversation about current events this year.
I kept meaning to write a post about my current favourite podcasts. I’ll probably write one in 2014, but in the meantime you should really check out the Radiolab podcasts, which are chock-full of interesting stuff you never knew about.
3. How companies spend too much time worrying about their logos
This year I did some work with a company which wanted to undertake some radical changes to their logo. “Why?” I asked. The answer, once I unpacked it, seemed mostly to be “We’re bored with the one we have.” This got me thinking about how, ultimately, a logo, as a graphic, is really much less important than what you do with it, as a part of a brand. I mean, does anyone really think the Zappos logo is attractive? And yet everyone thinks they’ve got a great brand.
The more I thought about this, the more I realized I’d probably have to do some research into the neuroscience of semiotics, and frankly, these days I find it surprising I ever managed to read The Name of the Rose, let alone Eco’s other works on semiotic theory, because that seems like more brainpower than I’ll ever have again.
4. How companies spend too much time worrying about their names
The truth is that if someone pitched up today with a name like ‘Kleenex’ or ‘Vaseline’ for their brand-new product, the venture capitalists would laugh them out of the room. And yet these names have been so successful they’ve become generic terms for all facial tissue and petroleum jelly lubricant products. I remember when Google first launched – it didn’t have the hipster cachet it does today, and no one thought it was sufficiently ‘serious’ (name-wise, anyway) to be the global dominator it is today. As in #3, a name is less important than what you do with it over time, and what it comes to mean in the minds of your stakeholders. And as in #3, the neuroscience research required to make my point in any more than the most anecdotal way seems like something I might find time to tackle in, like, June.
5. The genius of ColaLife
In many developing countries, dysentery is a leading cause of death, especially in children. The cure isn’t complicated, but getting the treatment kits to the remote areas that need it most has been a huge stumbling block: Transportation isn’t reliable, routes aren’t secure, and aid workers aren’t welcome. So this ColaLife company came up with a way to make the kits fit into cases of Coca-Cola, which does somehow find its way to even the most remote areas.
It’s a really interesting case study about supply chain, market forces, and how sometimes selling people something is more effective than giving people something. It’s the sort of thing that deserves a lot more attention, because it’s a model that sort of fundamentally changes the way we think about developing nations and their approach to consumerism. So I wanted to write about it for a whole bunch of reasons.
I feel so much less guilty now.
Well, if nothing else, I’ve cleared my conscience a little bit – there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve got ideas stacked up that need to be written before you can get to any of the new ideas you keep having. Maybe I can turn this ‘5 things I meant to blog about’ idea into a thing, with webinars and TED talks and Kindle books about Freeing the Logjam of Your Brilliance.