Sunday, July 24, 2005

Porn & Productivity

Are we just talking a good game?

New research on workplace behaviors and online porn suggest that things aren’t what they seem to be. Americans’ highly touted productivity might just be a chimera if you believe the stats developed by AOL and After surveying 10,000 American workers, they concluded that American business pay $759 billion for work that doesn’t get done because employees are surfing the Web and kibitzing with co-workers.

Anyone who has ever worked in an office knows instinctively the truth of this data. What’s funny is that HR people and managers actually budget for workers to blow an hour a day on random acts of personal interest. But employees admit to wasting double the amount of time, on average 2.09 hours per day. Using average wage figures, that’s an additional $5720 per year/per worker that bosses didn’t count on wasting.

And not surprising, some of that personal Web surfing, accept where large firms have blocked XXX URLs, is to porn sites, which now account for 18 percent of all web usage, with an average time spent per adult site of 5 minutes and 22 seconds per.

Whether we are at home or at home, Americans made 70 million unique visits to adult sites, spending on average 15 minutes per site visited during April 2005, according to Hitwise. That’s 42 percent of the total 164 million unique site visitors anywhere on the Internet in the same month.

So what does this mean?

The Europeans, who make fun of our maniacal fascination with work at the expense of personal time, might be as productive as we are but more honest about their attitudes than we thought.

Work is so dull for huge numbers of American workers that they check out even when present.
Do you suppose this underlies all those business magazine stories about the search for ideas, leadership and vision?

Time wasting is clearly part of our business culture, a pressure release valve that also enables informal communication, networking and conflict resolution.

Our Puritan conceit about repressing the influence of sex is a joke.

Pornmeisters continue to pioneer sales and customer relationship techniques on the Web that mainstream marketers only dream about.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Intercepting Online Mega-Shoppers

As our thinking about media and media buying converge, the notion of intercepting online shoppers when they are online and in the mood with a mouse and a credit card in-hand is the next marketing vista. That’s why a Media Audit study of online shopping by daypart from International Demographics caught my eye.

Online retail “whales” are people who make 12 or more purchases a year. Their most popular daypart is afternoons (1-6pm). Power shopping not watching Oprah is their afternoon delight. In 87 metros, these high value customers are 22 percent of online buyers or 21.4 million out of 93.9 million Americans (18+) who log on during an average month.

Looking at these stats you think “yes Virginia, people really do hate retail.” This time-sensitive, convenience oriented segment buys from home twice as often as they buy from the office, though mid-day office purchasing is significant.

Not surprising age and income are drivers of online mega-shopping. More than half (52.4%) are 25-44 versus just 9.7 percent for the cyber-savvy under 25 set. And 45 percent of the 150K+ crowd are 12X online buyers.

There are more male whales than female whales but the buying patterns are similar.
The largest number of 12X male shoppers buy from midnight till 8 am. Imagine an army of guys in boxers treating themselves to a gadget, a book or some music after a tough day at work. The same is true for women. Substitute housecoats and furry slippers or Victoria’s Secret creations for the boxers.

The lightest hours among high volume men shoppers are during work (1-6p) and during primetime TV (6-10p). The same holds true for women, who buy proportionally a bit more from 8a-11a than their male counterparts.

The real question is -- can we do anything about what we now know? Can we program banners, text ads or leader boards with whale-specific messages to be served in specific dayparts? Should we try “Midnight Madness” sales online? Should multi-channel retailers construct middle-of-the-night promotions or create off-beat streaming videos to entertain and engage these business-building buyers?

These and other daypart interception tactics have been tried on TV, cable and radio with measurable results. Perhaps its time to adapt them to a broadband universe..

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Is English Enough for Global Marketing?

English is the lingua franca of the global business community. English dominates communication about science, technology, commerce, media, politics, entertainment and the Internet. Eighty to ninety percent of all information in the world’s electronic retrieval systems is stored in English. 85% of all international organizations list it as their official operating language. By 2010, the number of people who speak English will exceed the 1.4 billion native speakers.

But don’t assume everyone who speaks or does business in English is getting your message, your meaning or contributing to this momentum.

There is has been considerable research done by GlobalWorks! to determine the linguistic “readiness” of foreign markets for doing business in English. They surveyed the prevalence of English language requirements in job advertisements, subscription rates at English-language magazines, studied local availability of English media, plotted the distribution of multinational corporations and their facilities, analyzed school curricula and interviewed individuals in eighteen markets.

They discovered that perceived knowledge and use of English is greater than actual knowledge and use. Comprehension, vocabulary and the ability to speak and make business decisions in English varies widely.

If “fluency” is the gold standard whereby an individual has an effortless and ready use of everyday and technical language, then the vast majority of non-native speakers are “proficient” rather than fluent. The proficient speaker can, with some degree of comfort, take part in everyday spoken and written communication but lacks the precision and fullness of comprehension that fluency requires. Speakers who are “getting by” are able to ask and answer rudimentary questions and recognize everyday phrases.

Most of those interviewed over-estimated their language capability. This tracks with existing market research. For example, in Italy, Germany and France, around 30% considered their English to be “fluent.” When presented with a fluency test only 3% from the same groups fulfilled the requirements.

Even in a market that is investing in English fluency reality lags behind aspirations. China is working hard to create the appearance of an investment friendly business climate, but the number of real English speakers is considerably less than the number reported by the government.

But the use and spread of English is still perceived as a form of “cultural imperialism” and that in many countries, culture, local laws and customs are a disincentive to learning, speaking and transacting business in English. In some cases, notably in Francophone countries, the use of English has provoked a local backlash that has influenced both the media and local language-oriented legislation.

Reactions to English in many countries fluctuate based on the political situation. And acceptance of English or aspirations to learn English is often a function of class, income, age, education, occupation and access to global media.

While English gives voice to the global marketplace, far from everyone has a functional grasp of the language. In some countries, notably Russia and Eastern Europe, the importance of English is a new phenomenon. In Asia-Pacific the focus on grammar at the expense of speaking has impeded fluency. Ambivalence about English is reflected in countries that are fighting vigorous battles to eradicate the influence of English on their native languages and purge English-isms from their vocabularies and lexicons.

For global marketers, there are several important conclusions:

1. While English is dominant, you cannot assume that everyone understands or comprehends your message.
2. Even where comprehension is high, idiomatic understanding is rare and literal translations often obscure rather than illuminate meaning.
3. Most people think in their native language and mentally translate English back into their local idioms.
4. Most people prefer their native language.
5. English should be accompanied by culturally nuanced translation wherever possible.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

The Politics of Data

I got an invitation from Oracle to a webcast titled “The Politics of Data” and it occurred to me that they hit the nail squarely on the head -- politics have taken over the issues of data in organizations dependent on data quality to grow their businesses. That’s why it is so difficult for companies to get the data right and keep the data clean, even though there are many available technical solutions to this persistent problem.

This is a real problem that requires a a process-oriented solution. But in most cases it becomes subject to internecine politics which derail attempts to put all the data in one place, clean it, up date it and manage its use.

Consider the typical data landscape:

1. Data changes constantly. People move. They change titles, jobs, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, locations, responsibilities, etc regularly. On an annual basis 30% of b2b data goes bad and 15% of the b2c population moves their primary address. Add to that people and companies buy things, return them, get credit, pay late, need support, etc. So on top baseline data changes, transactional data changes are constant since relationships are fluid and dynamic.

2. Data is often held by different players. In a typical company bits of data are held in different departments. Legal has the contract details. Accounting has the credit application and the payment records. Marketing has contact names and addresses of customers and prospects and is constantly collecting more of each. Sales knows what they bought and who they sold it to. Customer service has names and details of issues raised, problems solved and technical matters.

Each department tends to hold onto the information they have. They share only when asked and usually in the context of a specific incident or problem. In big companies each department might be in a different location and/or have its own system of filing and its own software for storing the data. Meanwhile nobody has a complete view of the customer so opportunities to better engage and sell that customer are lost and opportunities to annoy the customer abound.

3. Data control means job security. Salespeople, managers and marketers think that if they know critical stuff about the business, they can’t be fired. So they hoard information as a hedge against the zigs and zags of corporate life. Since everyone knows information is power, there is a second incentive to gather and hide information -- to attack rivals or to defend yourself in on-going corporate battles.

In too many organizations today, many messy and changing details are dispersed among competing people and organizations, often in different places using different data formats or systems, each of whom have practical incentives not to cooperate. It is the picture of Dorian Gray.

Yet with top-down leadership (or if I were king) this state of affairs can be easily reversed. Consider this formula based on best practices …

CEO decrees all data will live in a single data warehouse. Sets negative incentives for non-compliance and a timetable for implementation.
CIO selects and implements an enterprise data software system. Creates and administers a secure access and permissioning regime. Trains everyone and creates positive and negative incentives for rapid compliance.
CMO appoints a data czar/czarina who owns data collection, aggregation, privacy and integrity functions and devices routine updates and data hygiene processes. Marketing also is charged with analyzing data and sharing relevant insights across all departments.
Administrative help is hired to insure salespeople input data and commission payments become dependent on data compliance.

Its almost that easy, if you can filter out the politics.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Google As Go-To Guy

Google, and its competitors, have become the go-to source for practical information that fuels daily life in the United States. People default to search instead of using phone books, newspapers or travel and restaurant guides. If you are not factoring this into your communications strategy, you are not in the game.

Harris Interactive studied 2100 adults and found that half of all adults use a search engine every time they go online. 88 percent of those people are searching for specific information. The leading kinds of information searched are:

Directions: By car, train and every conveyance.

News: almost 1 in 8 Americans read their primary newspaper online. 4.5 out of 10 are searching for different or alternative views seeking to broaden their understanding of a topic. Women are more likely to be searching for medical and health news than men.

Shopping: 80 percent of those searching for goods or services are also searching for the best price or using comparison engines.

Names, Address and Phone Numbers: 54% prefer online to the phone book. Two-thirds of searches are for people, half are for local businesses.

Entertainment: People are searching for times, listings, prices and reviews.

The implications are that more and more local businesses need tohave a search strategy and that classic local retail advertising vehicles (Yellow Pages, newspapers, Val-Pak) must now compete with online properties.

The ROI Fan Dance

It took Forester, the ANA and MMA to figure out that half of all marketers can’t figure out how to measure ROI. Come on guys. Who is kidding who?

The “incessant” search for ROI is the biggest bogus issue in marketing today. It is a continuation of John Wannamaker’s lament that half of his ad money is wasted but he didn’t know which half and is a facet of the protracted battle between big idea brand guys and corporate bean counters over how much dough should it cost to create brands and drive demand.

The short answer, for the ADHD crowd, is that there are many credible ways to measure ROI. They have been documented and tested extensively. There is no need for a single universal formula. Anyone with an Internet browser can find them. And anyone with any persuasive skill can select a formula, apply it and use it to make credible marketing and advertising investment decisions. Surely if we can calculate the value of Pi, we can figure out which ads pay off and which don’t.

The endless search for illusive ROI is a shell game played by corporate marketers reluctant to impose the discipline of business processes on the way they plan and spend. The search for the perfect definition of ROI is an attempt to wiggle out of accountability for grand “visions” and parry the relentless demands of CFOs by engaging in fake epistemology.

Why would anyone go to the trouble, you ask?

Three reasons:

1. It is a function of who they are. CMOs generally come from the ranks of either brand marketers or PR guys. They see themselves as big picture players, stewards of an aesthetic and a magical thing called a “brand”. Their self-image is based on a big idea, executed in big media. They don’t see themselves in the same way as the suits that run Operations, Strategy, Manufacturing or other corporate functions. Their peers are at Cannes, running big agencies and hiring the latest darling director. Idea guys, strategists, visionaries and keepers of the flame don’t mess with the details.

2. It is below the line. The messy details of marketing are, in the minds of too many CMOs, below the line and beyond the pale -- lost in the mysteries of telemarketing, fulfillment, direct marketing, response rates and the ever changing and frustrating Internet. Data is always conflicting. There are few clear answers. Everything is a test. And there is much too much math. Plus there is peril in the messy details. If the average CMO lasts 22 months, there is absolutely no percentage in calculating an ROI that can get you fired even faster.

3. It is not what they watch. Savvy CMOs manage upward and orient their political game to stave off the inevitable attacks from sales leadership. Few pay much attention to the key indicators of the business. A study by the Strativity Group entitled “The Economics of Relationships” found that more than 80 percent of senior executives didn’t know the cost to acquire a customer, the annual spending per customer, the cost of a customer complaint or the value of resolving a complaint. Sixty percent didn’t know the customer retention rate. If you don’t know the fundamentals of a business, how can you possibly know how much to spend to grow it or maintain share or profitability?

Too many CMOs still think the job is about the images not about the business. Many have been successful in eluding process reengineering that has taken the ego and bravado out of finance, logistics, supply chain, manufacturing and other corporate functions in favor of a rational look at who does what, when and how much it costs and nets.

Rather than endlessly debate the definition of ROI or the number of fairies dancing on the head of a pin, more CMOs should simply embrace an existing definition, apply them and make a case for how smart marketers can truly build brands and drive the growth of businesses at every level. This will require a risk, but if you are dancing to beat a 22 month death sentence, what have you got to lose?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Manga Goes Mainstream

Manga, Japanese graphic novels, and anime, Japanese animated films, have been a rage among American teens and tweens for several years. My daughter Allison has been reading and watching these stories of empowered young women --battling evil, competing in sports and school and negotiating the world of dating -- for several years. In fact, manga has been a huge industry and export from Japan for the last twenty years.

Now that US sales levels have reached $207 million in 2004, driven in-part by a steady investment of Allison’s baby-sitting earnings, CosmoGirl will launch a monthly manga strip entitled “The Adventures of CG” in conjunction with TokyoPop, one of the leading importers of this genre. GC (clever huh?), a college sophomore living in Tokyo, will be drawn in the wide-eyed manga style and will be a “spunky every-girl hipster heroine” – the kind of aspirational figure that has attracted huge numbers of girls to a genre (graphic novels and comic books) that was traditionally a male bastion in America.

Not only is the adoption of this form into mainstream media interesting, but the strip will be drawn by 25-year old Svetlana Chmakova, a woman with a decidedly non-Asian name, suggesting that not only has this form crossed cultures but that non-Japanese are embracing and morphing the form. Viz Media, another big manga house, will bring out a US version of its hit teen magazine Shojo Beat soon and will publish its greatest hits in English beginning this Fall.

And while you can find American-drawn adaptations of manga all across the Web, it will soon be at newsstands and book stores everywhere. An agreement between Dark Horse, another manga importer and translator, and Harlequin, the publisher of paperback romance novels, will produce manga versions of Harlequin best-sellers by December 2005.

So what does all this mean?

1. Globalization is working in every direction.
2. Kids usually know about and gravitate to these cross-cultural forms long before adults and main stream media types do.
3. Word-of-mouth is the most powerful form of commercial communication.
Girls still respond to traditional female themes but rally to and embrace characters that defy traditional female roles.
4. Kids expect multimedia on-demand. They expect their favorite stories and characters will be in book, online, game and animated formats accessible to them whenever they are in the mood. Before too long adults will expect the same.
5. Mythology, science-fiction, competition, success, the future, personal insecurity and the mysterious relationship between the sexes are endlessly interesting themes.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Will Big Brother Make TV Better?

Cable companies are testing software to target commercials based on what they know or intuit about you. Could Big Brother make watching TV better for you?

Technology exists to track what you watch. Data mining techniques exist to discover who you are and what you like. What if the two were married together and harnessed to a rules engine that served up messages deemed “relevant” to you. Would you sit through a commercial pod? Be less inclined to channel surf? Or actually be interested in the stuff they were sending you?

Naturally “relevance” would be a function of how sophisticated the data models were. But assuming they got it right or gave you a say in what was served up to you, advertisers could target not only by household but by set-top box. They’d know which set the kids watch and which one you watch and send different spots to each TV, even though they might be no more than 25 feet apart.

This could actually make advertising more valuable and useful to the average viewer and create a bonanza for cable companies, who could sell much more inventory in smaller discretely targeted batches. At this point the gating factor seems to be cost to cable operators and proof of technical accuracy.

Likability Trumps Competence

Professors at the Harvard Business School and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business have found that it’s better to be likeable than competent in business. In research designed to understand the dynamics of work groups, they found that when you need to get the job done, a team will pick the likeable guy over the competent one every time.

And while this turns the standard managerial logic on its head, it is perfectly understandable. People want to work in a positive, relaxed environment. They want to succeed with the least amount of friction and feel good about what they are doing. They will suffer a friendly fool much faster than they will tolerate a know-it-all or an asshole.

You can overcome gaps in your knowledge and experience to succeed in a team environment but you cannot recover if nobody likes you. If you are liked people will work with you, look past your limitations and reach out to you. If you are not; you are on your own buddy.

Professors Tiziana Casciaro and Miguel Sousa Lobo conclude “a little extra likability goes a longer way than a little extra competence in making someone desirable to work with.”

What blows my mind is that seeming obvious conclusion is so counterintuitive to the legions of corporate weenies I’ve encountered. To help them and their beleaguered managers, our professors lay out some simple guidelines to make work teams more effective:

We like people who are similar to us.
We like people who are familiar to us.
We like people who like us.

Therefore if you are leading a team you should “manufacture liking” by promoting familiarity among the members, create a sense of similarity-- that we are more a like than not and in the same boat and create an intense cooperative experience to break down suspicions and differences between team members.

Although this sounds like the plot of every military “boot camp” movie ever shot, it is a lesson that still eludes too many of our best and brightest corporate types. Maybe the imprimatur of the Harvard Business Review will get somebody to act

The Power of Ambiguity

Yahoo is an effective brand name.

How do I know? Professors Barbara Kahn and Elizabeth Miller explained it to me in a paper entitled “Shades of Meaning: The Effect of Color and Flavor Names on Consumer Choice” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, where they concluded “consumers react positively to imaginative names even if they are not particularly descriptive.”

The research suggests that consumers give marketers the benefit of the doubt when product names or descriptions are vague. “People jumped to the conclusion that marketers must be telling this information for some reason and that it has to be good because marketers wouldn’t tell me something that isn’t good.” Understanding marketers’ self-interest, consumers seem to be willing to do the math for us interpreting names like “Millenium orange” “Gunpowder” or “Snuggly white” as positive attributes.

And although these names make me crazy, especially in catalogues where I cannot figure out if “riptide” is the blue one or the green one, this convention of ambiguity seems to please consumers who respond to names that suggest edginess, revolution or fun.

In a series of controlled experiments, these professors found that the use of these names invokes a psychological behavior known as “conversational implicature” wherein people essentially want to cooperate and adhere to certain unspoken rules in conversation. According to this theory, developed by British philosopher Paul Grice, when things are vague, people attempt to fill in the blanks to smooth conversation.

Similarly when people encounter unknown terms, they process the new data by comparing new information with past experience and existing expectations. This “incongruency theory” suggests that when you encounter a new, vague name you work overtime to figure it out. In fact when our professors showed subjects the color first and then the name, they were less happy than when the encountered a non descriptive name first. Perhaps the uncertainty triggers fantasy and imagination that cuts in favor of the brands using them.

What’s not clear is how elastic this incongruent goodwill is. If you see a name like “Yahoo” which isn’t descriptive but is vaguely familiar you think its cool. If you see a name that is equally vague but more foreign or unpronounce-able will you also give us the benefit of the doubt?

Kahn (Wharton) and Miller (Boston College) think this works best for products that rely on the senses like food or fashion and they doubt it might fly for healthcare or financial services, but I’d be willing to try it because a name like Yahoo would bust through the boredom and the clutter and possibly inject some life and real-person credibility in these commodity categories.

It is ironic but life affirming that in a world of savvy, time sensitive consumers who are quick to filter out, click away and eliminate choices, that there is a tolerance for creativity and a willingness to play along with and buy into the imaginative thinking of creative marketers.

Will Product Placement Be a Panacea?

Product placement is being served up as the all-purpose answer to zapping, TiVo, DVRs and all manner of consumers’ attention deficit to commercials. Pundits are forecasting a shift of ad dollars to product placement that is expected to reach 1 Billion by next year.

Product placement is in every media and every vehicle. Syndicators and even print publishers are finding new ways to jump on this bandwagon; a tactic that has been around since the early days of television.

The real questions are: does placement drive awareness, sampling or purchase and if everyone is doing it will individual placements be distinctive enough to make a difference?

Consider Apple; masters at the placement art. Their technology has been in countless movies and associated with memorable sequences and the hottest stars. They have a reputation for creating cool products. They have a small share of the overall market but high awareness and loyalty among a hip, fashion-forward, opinion leading psycho-demographic segment. But did seeking an iMac or a Powerbook in a film used by Tom Cruise or George Clooney make this happen or does it simply validate the expectations of Apple fans?

Part of the dynamic of product placement is an underlying fantasy about e-commerce that dates to the early days of the Internet. In this persistent fantasy, which is fuelled by data about multiple simultaneous media usage, consumers watch their favorite show on either a TV or a computer. As they watch they can click on items and buy as they watch.

The logic is that people self-select their entertainment and their favorite artists. We know that artists and stars sell products. What we don’t know is if the sales are a result of placement and proximity or if the sales are a result of either the star’s individual brand power or the attraction of a lifestyle that a star or an artist might represent or be integral to.

There is and has been product placement. There is no common source of data to measure the impact of this communications tactic. Stay tuned for the claims and counter claims as the cost increases and availability decreases.
Site Meter Subscribe with Bloglines
Search Popdex: