Quick post regarding Social Network URLs in marketing campaigns

Here’s my response to a post at Marketing.FM by Eric Friedman about companies linking to social network sites rather than their own in their advertising campaigns.

“Great article, Eric.  First time commenter, long time reader here.  I think any time you get a potential customer to view ANY targeted media, it’s a win in my book.  In the case of advertising during the olympics, it’s a double win.  The people at Toyota, let’s say, know the demographics of Olympics viewers when they buy ad time from NBC.  Thus, not only are they getting millions of eyeballs on the TV ad, they get extra brand awareness and when people go to youtube to view something else related to what they saw on television.

On the other hand, I agree with you.  The execution of both of these strategies seems a bit bumbled. If companies go to the trouble of producing additional video content for the internet to supplement their ads, it’s MUCH easier to get valuable metrics for their effectiveness if it hits their own domain.  So why send viewers to YouTube?  The only reason I could see Toyota putting an ad on YouTube is to save bandwidth on their own server.  Although usually, it’s a GOOD thing to get millions of hits on your website.  Maybe then YouTube would want to place ads on Toyota’s site!

The Uniball case is a little different.  Having people sign up for a free pen and get their valuable personal information is a smart idea.  Why, however, direct someone to Facebook for this? One possible reason is ease of use.  A LOT  of people spend quite a bit of time on Facebook and are familiar with it.  Perhaps the marketing people at Uniball thought customers wouldn’t take the time to go to their website or may forget the URL.  If they pushed them to go to a Facebook page, it would make the customer do less work since they already spend most of their online time on the social networking site.

I liked Matt Daniels’ comment below mentioning if Uniball has a subpar (he used a different word) website, perhaps using the Facebook functionality is the way to go. However, it appears as though even if the customer goes to the Facebook page, they still have to go to Uniballsuperink.com for the free pen.  I agree with you, Eric.  This can be very confusing to people who want more information on the product or just want a free pen. They should use Facebook to supplement their ad content and have it be just another integral part of their marketing strategy.”

More Apple tablet speculation!

The rumored announcement of an Apple tablet device is making techies and fanboys jittery with excitement.

Since I have an iPhone and a Macbook Pro, I’m not really in the market for such a device but wondered what people (other than first adopters) would find useful about it.

The Kindle concept-

One theory is that the new iTablet (we’ll call it that until tomorrow when the name is released) would be used similarly to Amazon’s Kindle reader. I can see how that would be a useful device and it could possibly take a big chunk of market share away from Amazon.

The “big iPhone” concept-

Another theory is the new device will be used as a big iPhone (maybe a big iPod Touch since no one would use it as a phone) and be compatible with all of the apps the iPhone uses.  This one I don’t get.  If it’s a tablet “computer” the apps aren’t really necessary.  I’m assuming it will have Safari installed and I could go to say, Pandora.com instead of running a separate app for it.  Then again, the iTablet version of Safari would actually have to work with flash, so in that case perhaps apps would be still useful.

The “business use” concept-

Bringing a laptop to a meeting can be cumbersome.  Using the iTablet for presentations or demonstrations could be very helpful.  Clinics and hospitals use tablet pc’s for patient check-in.  Pharmaceutical Reps use tablets to outline information for Doctors and to have them sign something that says they saw the rep that particular day.  By entering the health care industry vertical, it creates a huge opportunity for Apple to produce new revenue streams and to compete with Microsoft in the same arena.

Overall, I think a tablet device is/would be a great idea for Apple to release at this time (compared to the Newton days) since the number of uses for such a device has skyrocketed due to the millions of apps out there.  Having Kindle as a well-known competitor device for customers to compare it to will also help.   We’ll see tomorrow what Steve Jobs’ vision is for the device.  I’m hoping for something Earth shattering that will change computing forever.  Or maybe we’ll just get a souped-up, much larger iPod Touch.  We’ll know in just a few short hours!

-Chris

Domino's the disruptor?

Recently Domino’s Pizza announced they were changing the recipe for their pizza.

In the above-linked USA Today article, consultant Howard Gordon mentions “I don’t know of any (restaurant) company that has attempted this.” In any industry, changing a winning formula seems like business “suicide.”  Gordon later makes a powerful statement; “Once you’ve built a brand, that’s your brand,” says Gordon. “To change it means that everything you’ve stood for isn’t right.”

This youtube video is a short documentary that was edited into a commercial I recently saw on TV.  It tells the story of how Domino’s received feedback from customers about their pizza (via Twitter users, mostly) and took those criticisms and used them as motivation to make a better pizza.  Dominos has set up an exclusive website for the campaign where customers can view the documentary as well as a Twitter feed featuring tweets about the new pizza.  Obviously they haven’t filtered or changed the tweets because some of them are pretty critical of the pizza.  One such tweet says “Dominos new pizza crust recipe is like eating really buttery, garlicy bread…fail. Bad breath factor, over the top!”  Yikes.  Again, this is all part of the campaign, so I suppose you have to take some bad with the good feedback.

So why make such a drastic change?

Many companies try to improve the quality of their product or even advertise they have a “new and improved” product.  However, publicly admitting in one of your advertisements that people didn’t like your product is either sheer madness or pure genius.  Perhaps this means Domino’s is the first mature company that will drastically change how others do business.  There are numerous companies in the mature stage of the product/company lifecycle.  Maybe when growth stagnates, you throw a “hail mary” and go for it all? Due to the unprecedented nature of Domino’s Pizza’s strategy, there isn’t really much to compare it to.  Again, maybe since no one has thought to do this before, they are on to something here.

Think of the costs associated with doing something like this.  I’m sure there were plenty of focus groups (some were featured in the documentary), new product development, marketing research, advertising, etc.  This was not just an ordinary marketing campaign.  I can only guess that either the execs at Domino’s thought the amount of publicity a “stunt” like this would create would exceed the value put in to the change or they were truly desperate to make significant change to turn around the company.  What other reason would there be for alienating your best customers that loved your pizza and have kept you in business for fifty years?  I would think they’d have to gain _many_ new customers and retain a lot of their long-time ones to make this venture a success.

AT&T = iBrand killer?

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

Photo courtesy of just2me.com

I have had a love/hate relationship with my iPhone.  Most of the time it is the as billed “Jesus phone” and other times it is well, NOT the “Jesus phone.” On the days I am frustrated with the device/service, it makes me doubt the machine that is Apple.  A past mantra/marketing campaign of theirs claimed- “It just works.”  Well Steve in this case, it doesn’t just work.  Not the iPhone….well I should say, not AT&T.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the device.  It has the easiest mobile operating system to use, best browser that can view entire webpages on the screen, seemingly billions of apps in their app store and the 32gb version can hold multiple hours of songs/videos/contacts, etc.  However, the simplest tasks like making a call or opening one of the apps can be a nightmare after one of their OS upgrades (see this example and this one).

After having a dropped call for the umpteenth time, I wondered if AT&T’s poor service would affect Apple’s brand image.

On one hand, the first answer is an obvious “yes.” If a consumer’s first experience with the Apple brand is with the iPhone and they have a negative experience, the chances of them buying another Apple product are slim.  This is especially critical as the price point for the iPhone is a lot lower than an iMac or Macbook, which have much higher profit margins.  The risk here is the Apple and Mac brands becoming stale because of these negative experiences with the phone and consumers may end up not viewing Apple as a symbol of quality, but as just another computer brand.

On the other hand, the strength of Apple’s pre-existing brand equity coupled with its constant marketing blitz (I’ve seen at least 3-4 commercials since I’ve started this entry) for the iPhone have overcome any hit they have taken from AT&T’s lack of reliability.  Also, Apple/Mac users are incredibly loyal and it would take a gross misstep by the company for them to go to another product rather than sticking with their favorite computers and iPods.

There have been rumors of the iPhone being available on the Verizon network in the future.  I think this could only help the Apple brand if there were competition between cellular service providers for the iPhone.  It could only help improve service reliability, increase loyalty to the iPhone and Apple, and increase revenues for all companies involved.

Banks REDUCING overdraft fees??

Yes, really!

I was a bit perplexed as to why Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase, and Wells Fargo would make the decision to lower overdraft fees, especially considering service fees are the lifeblood of financial services companies’ bottom lines.  Then I realized the marketing impact of these decisions.  These companies can take advantage of the fact that they were the initial leaders in making this drastic change to their respective overdraft policies. Whoever can effectively communicate this fact first could have a huge advantage in attracting new customers and positioning themselves as the bank that “cares” about its customers.  I’m sure advertising, direct mail, and branch promotions are soon to follow this news.

The other question that comes to mind is- where is the additional revenue going to come from for these banks?  Obviously reducing fees takes away from the bottom line and these institutions may gain market share by attracting new customers, but the additional revenue from the new business wouldn’t be enough.  Since these banks are the few large banks remaining after the recent credit crisis, perhaps they have more resources available for acquiring smaller banks and attaining additional business that way.

Regardless, this is a major move in the financial services industry. Perhaps impending legislation was the motive behind the policy changes.  Or, perhaps the banks’ “dirty secret” is out and they need to make the move to save face.  In this case, it appears as a public relations move to increase goodwill.  It will definitely be interesting to see how the changes affect the industry going forward. We’ll see in the future, when these banks announce earnings and if shareholders agree with the decision or decide to sell.

Wells Fargo effectiveness on Twitter

For most of my career after college, I have worked in the Financial Services industry;  primarily for banks and mortgage companies. I’ve had the experience of working for Wells Fargo during that time so I am familiar with their culture.

With social media being so popular, there are a glut of companies that are participating in it and Wells Fargo is no exception.  Since Twitter is the current “next great thing”, what company wouldn’t want to increase brand awareness and put their message out to millions of new potential customers?

I think, however, they’re going about it the wrong way.  Their Ask_WellsFargo Twitter account (the only one they appear to have other than a placeholder account under WellsFargo) acts as a customer service web portal for their customers to ask questions and get responses from whichever Wells Fargo employee is “manning” the account at the time.

Here’s a sample of what Wells is doing on Twitter now-

Wells Fargo on Twitter

Wells Fargo on Twitter

While I think this is an effective customer service strategy, I think using this venue makes for a poor brand/marketing strategy.  People interested in finding out more information about the different business units of Wells Fargo will come away with nothing from their tweets.  Where can someone find details about the merger with Wachovia?  I’m sure if I sent an @reply at them I’d get some sort of response, but the space could be used so much better.

Wells Fargo does a good job sharing this type of information on their blog, but I think Twitter could be a useful tool to get quick bits of information about their products out to the “Twitterverse” and Wells is passing up the opportunity.

Just think of the opportunities that banks could take advantage of with Twitter.  Followers could get early notification of a bonus rate if they open a savings account.  Or Card Services could offer a low introductory rate on credit cards through a tweet.  Home Mortgage could communicate changes in interest rates.  There are many, many possibilities.

What are other banks doing in this arena?  Not much really.  Citibank has one post just saying hello.  Bank of America has the same strategy as Wells.  This is obviously a topic that can be further researched and the financial services industry as a whole has a ways to go before they are a significant presence on Twitter.

One would think with all of the regulations in the banking industry, banks would be more careful about dealing with customer service issues online.  Ask_WellsFargo always tells people not to share confidential information when posting, but sooner or later someone will include their account number or other sensitive information and might blame the bank.  The other drawback to this strategy is Wells Fargo is making a lot of problems their customers are having with their bank public.  Yes, they also communicate when the problems are fixed, but it seems risky to have a public forum where all can see what goes wrong with your brand.

In essence, I think this is a weak marketing strategy and Wells Fargo should consider other ways to effectively use the great marketing tool that is Twitter.

Hello world!

I’ll just use the default WordPress greeting for now.  I have decided (finally) to do a blog.  Topics I will cover will range from marketing, tech products, software, social media, music, sports, and whatever else pops into my mind.  Can’t wait to get started on this.  Hopefully I’ll get this changed over to my domain at chriswalterbach.com once I figure that out on WordPress.   I also hope I can do another post very soon!

Thanks for checking this out!

-Chris