Go Home Black Friday

The latest import from the USA appears to be “Black Friday”, that day falling between Thanksgiving (on the last Thursday of November) and the weekend when everyone goes shopping and the retailers offer amazing bargains.

It’s got nothing to do with Europe, so why in the last 2-3 years have retailers here started offering Black Friday deals?

MediaMarkt – The Netherlands

“Giga-many offers on top products” for their Black Friday Cashback.

MediaMarkt – Spain

“Save on your Christmas Shopping”, and a countdown of the hours left to shop.

Amazon – UK

Amazon have a complicated series of offers for “Black Friday Deals Week”, extending their one day campaign to seven.

News promoting offers  – UK

It’s even making the news, where are the best deals for Black Friday, and Cyber Monday – that’s today, the day where there is apparently a peak in online sales. The video is set to the stirring tunes of Rossini’s William Tell Overture and the scenes it depicts are enough to keep me out of stores, I guess that means that I hate crowds more than I love a bargain.

This is all happening at the same time as a movement begins in the USA to point out how consumerist Black Friday is, this popped up on my Facebook feed;


But my favourite action come from Cards Against Humanity; They closed their site for the day leaving just a “donate” button on the site. They collected over 70,000 USD.

This is one American import I hate. I do understand the marketing angle on this; all sales are good, lets drive sales. But take a moment to think about it. We’re heading into the busiest shopping season of the year, discounting right before that can’t increase your profit. But it’s a race to the bottom, once one retailer jumps on the American Bandwagon their competitors are under pressure to do the same.

I did shop on Friday, I bought milk, coffee, soap and toilet paper. There were no “Black Friday” discounts.

Marketing 101; CiTea sells coffee

If you open a tea specialist in a coffee city how do you let people know that you sell coffee without straying from your chosen specialty? Like this:

CiTea is a new cafe in Amsterdam which specialises in tea, offering forty two different types of tea and the chance to smell the leaves before you choose. They also offer delicious things to go with your tea, and advice on preparing tea. Plus wifi.

But this is a coffee city, and every time I’ve walked past I’ve been in the mood for coffee, and I’m probably not alone.

This cute sign lets potential customers know there is coffee – but it’s a side show, Tea is the main act.

How can you communicate your “extras” without undermining your main offering?

Linkedin ads are designed not to annoy you

Screen Shot 2013-08-31 at 11.16.56 AMHave you been annoyed by ads on Facebook lately? You’re not alone. A while ago I was served an ad for a product to quit smoking. I’ve never smoked, and I’m pretty sure I’ve never talked about smoking.

Have you been annoyed by ads on Linkedin? It’s rarer, and after a meeting with some of the guys working for Linkedin I started thinking about why.

Internet advertising works by matching your online attributes to the target audience of the advertiser and serving you their advertisement.

What online attributes are used? Your search or viewing history and your IP address, any information you’ve given the website (those popups asking you to help them optimise the experience are part of this) all contribute to a profile that allows advertisers to target  you.

If it’s a login service then any information in your profile or that you’ve contributed online can be used to build a profile for advertisers. Both facebook and Linkedin are sites where you are logged in, you build a profile, and you make ongoing contributions. So why is there a big difference between the perception of ads on the two platforms? It could be a difference in how the match is calculated between the profile and the advertiser – but I’m guessing that both companies have smart mathematics behind their algorithms and enough data to validate them thoroughly.

There are a couple of differences in the data collected;

  • on Linkedin members contribute data in a very structured way, it is possible to scan a profile and find out seniority level, occupation, membership of a group, fields of expertise and location.
  • Linkedin is valuable to grow your business network, and if you’re job hunting so there’s a clear benefit to adding more data to your profile
  • since your colleagues are also on Linkedin and likely to be among your connections you’re likely to be honest about your background
  • it’s a platform for professionals, so not every advertiser wants to be there – weeding out the tackiest advertisers

Facebook can also target based on your demographic information when that information has been added – but facebook profiles are often not completed in detail. The will also target in a way that works on probabilities, they know that if you liked Heineken there’s a 4o% chance you will also like Renault (a completely invented example). So the more brands you like on Facebook the more information about you Facebook has to sell to advertisers. This is pretty sound, brands have overlapping target audiences, so are likely to appeal to similar groups of people, and the masses of data collected about likes on Facebook will make pretty good predictions.

And that’s the biggest difference. Advertising is by far facebook‘s biggest revenue stream, at about 80% of revenue, so they need to keep advertisers happy as a priority. As the old saying goes if something is free it’s because you are the product. Whereas Linkedin has a range of revenue streams, most of which relate to services and professional subscription, so their need is to keep their members happy.

Or as the Linkedin guy said “we look at everything we do from a member first perspective.”

Which explains why their advertising is causing less interruption and irritation than Facebook advertising.

Image; push advertising / CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pointing South

HSBC posterThere’s so much wrong with this poster.

It’s an ad for HSBC I spotted in the airbridge at Athens airport. It shows a terracotta warrior, most definitely from China, wearing Havaianas, famously Brazilian. The slogan says “South-South trade will be norm not novelty”.

Well we can get the grammar out of the way, norm and novelty need articles in this sentence structure so it should read “South-South trade will be the norm, not a novelty”.

But the thing that struck me most forcefully, and prompted me to rummage for my camera on the way down the airbridge was the implication that China is South. It’s not, it is entirely in the northern hemisphere, and Beijing is further north than Athens.

Maybe HSBC wanted to reference the BRIC nations (Brazil, Russia, India, China), but that makes no sense – of the four Brazil is the only nation that is in the southern hemisphere and even then small parts of the north part of the country are above the equator.

Maybe they meant that trade between the southern hemisphere nations will become normal – except it already is. Unsurprisingly nations tend to trade with their nearby countries so Australia is big trading partner for New Zealand, and Chile is a major trading partner for Brazil. (According to the US State department site). And if it’s China’s role HSBC were seeking to advertise – they’re already a big trading partner for Australia, Brazil, South Africa and New Zealand. In other words; it’s already normal, not a novelty.

In any event the sign is part of the bank’s “in the future….” branding; maybe in the future HSBC will use an atlas before they write the copy for their campaigns.

image: compass

The 4 Ps of Internet Marketing

In the “old days”, back when I did my MBA, one of the key models of marketing was the “The four Ps“; Product, Price, Placement and Promotion. The theory wasn’t new then, it was developed by Professor Neil Borden at Harvard Business School in the early 60s.

I picked up an article via twitter that theorised that these four principles have changed due to the transformation of business by the internet. According to the writer the four Ps have been changed into; traffic, conversion, growth and content.

Can you spot what’s missing?

Internet marketing is different, but you can have the best marketing campaign in the world and if the product is not clear, and the price is not stated you’ve got no sales. So your campaign is a waste of time. Conversion and growth are a result of your campaign – not part of it. I don’t see this model replacing the tradition one any time soon.

Let’s look at how the old model has changed in the online world. Continue reading “The 4 Ps of Internet Marketing”

Bienvenue à…

It’s a cute ad, there’s a nice twist, clever shots to trick you initially, and the styling is very “French Art Movie”.

The seaside resort of Blackpool in the UK, famous for Blackpool rock (a teeth-breaking candy invented by dentists), a roller coaster and a tower. The tower has a very approximate resemblance to the Eiffel Tower, which seems to have inspired the Blackpool tourist board to create the ad designed to appeal to French visitors.

I like the ad, it’s funny and well done. If they’ve done their homework it could get some viral spread. But I don’t think it’s effective – there’s not enough in the ad to make me want to research Blackpool let alone visit there. They are competing with some wonderful beaches along the Mediterranean, I’m not sure this is enough sell.

Will the French Spot the Difference?

by kevinzim, via flickr


by johntrainor, via flickr

by jayneward, via flickr


by Mitch Allen, via flickr

4 Business Models in the Age of Free Content

According to CNN Rupert Murdoch expects News Corporation newspaper websites to charge users for access within a year. The comments on the article are pretty negative, only three of the most recent 50 comments would pay for content and two of those specify that they would not pay for News Corporation content. Most of the comments indicate a high expectation for free content to continue some of the rhetoric paints this as a threat to the democratic nature of the internet, while some analysts predict a shake up the culture of free content.

So who’s right?

WSJ requires paid subscription to access content.

Amongst all the commentary on the death of the print media I came across this chart from the Silicon Alley Insider, showing an overall drop in newspaper circulation on newspapers across America, with one notable exception, the Wall Street Journal. News Corp owns the Wall Street Journal, and they require a paid subscription for almost all content. It’s an incomplete picture but it may indicate that maintaining a fee based subscription for content online provides a dis-incentive for people to switch to online content.

It’s been clear to me for a while that there’s something a bit screwed up about the business models of most web 2.0 sites. I wrote a couple of weeks ago about YouTube’s money worries, their ad income doesn’t cover their bandwidth bill.

There seem to be three possible models to make money from online content;

Subscription: It can work, but it is tricky to get people to subscribe. It seems to be most successful when some content is available for free and some available as premium content, this has worked for Salon for example.

Advertising: Only a few high traffic websites will make significant advertising alone. This was true back in 1997 when Jakob Nielson wrote about it and it’s certainly now when the growth in online content has been growing significantly faster than the number of users. As site numbers drop the advertising spend drops rapidly, compare the user numbers and advertising revenue of AOL.

Plus there can be a significant dissonance for the reader between the content on the site and the ads served  – although this is getting better all the time.

Commissioned Content: Writing and publishing content as commissioned by a company blurs the separation of editorial and advertising copy. It’s generally considered bad journalistic practice and it’s not a quality strategy. It’s the content behind sites like ArticlesBase.com, their “top authors” produce 25 articles on one subject in a sort of link farm attempt.

But there’s one further model not widely used; Micropayments. In this model some content can be freely available and some content can be for pay. The “for pay” content is sold for a small amount per read. This model replicates the iTunes model for music, and has a similar transforming potential for written content. This model can work at the blogger end of the publication schedule right up to New Corp.

Some bloggers have already been experimenting with micropayments, often providing blog content for free and seeking a small payment for an ebook. This model was discussed for WSJ but generally slammed by the blogosphere, many of whom deplore the idea of paying for news.

In other media we pay. We pay because we want a measure of independence and quality. So why not on the web? Why do we suddenly feel we have the right to free news? I think our perspective has got skewed by television. We feel we don’t pay for news on TV, we feel it’s beamed for free into our homes. It’s free content (or nearly free, if you pay a licence). What we fail to realise is that in the TV business model we are the product. Television funded by advertisements sells those advertisments based on viewer numbers.

Back to the original question; I think both are right. The bloggers are right in that our expectation for free content is not going to disappear, and there’s so much of it available. The commentators are also right, content driven sites are already facing the challenge of finding a sustainable revenue model. It’s unlikely that one model will fit all – and it’s unlikely that it will feel as “democratic” as the blogosphere expects.

coin photo from dichoheco via flickr

And the ads for the girls?

I went to a movie this weekend, a movie that featured a lot of sparkly shoes, pretty clothes, champagne parties and a predictably happy ending. A movie some would call a chickflick. The few men in the audience were on dates, at a guess the audience demographic was female (80%) and young (18-35). So the movie had found the right target.

The ads presented before the movie were interesting.

Ad 1: Grolsch
It’s a beer I like, but this particular ad features a famous architect (Roberto Meyer) and a famous rockstar (Barry Hay) discussing blueprints. Two middle-aged guys making witty comments about architecture and sharing a beer.

Target audience male, 30+.

Ad 2: Killzone
Killzone is a playstation multiplayer game. It’s a particularly violent game, you can get a taste of the ad here.

Target audience: male, 30+

Ad 3: Adidas
One of the “houseparty” advertisements from Adidas, with shots of skateboarding, tagging, dancing, painting, swimming… all young and happy people. Ratio of men to women = 3:2

Target audience: both sexes (more male?) under 30,

Ad 4: Axe
This is an ad for male deodorant, set in a caveman village. Where the caveman wearing axe gets to wear leather, ride a bison, and of course – get the girl. The ads can be seen in its entirety here.

Target audience: male, 30ish

There’s not really anything wrong with the ads per se, but they’re missing their demographic. Women do drink beer, play online games and wear sports shoes. Potentially they may buy deodorant for their boyfriends or partners. But none of these ads really targetted women. None.

Why is that?

A similar line of ads could have included Coke, WiiNike, L’Oreal. All of whom have products that suit women and produce ads that are more relevant for women.

The media sellers from the movie theatres are not smart about their sales strategy. They’re lazily selling in bulk avoiding all the tools marketers should use. If they used market segmentation tools to understand to whom the movies are targetted they could sell the advertising space to the right companies at a premium.