On email marketing – two deadly SINS!

Wasp I hate email marketing to anyone besides your affirmed customer list.  And even then you need to tread carefully. The fact that email marketing works is the yellow and black pattern of a wasp to warn you to be careful around the beast.

To start positive, some companies like Victoria Secret and Amazon find the appropriate balance and partially use email to maintain a strong branded relationship with their clients.  But these brands are not buying lists and sending spam.  They are building their brand and driving traffic and customers to their sites by email and search.  Their moderate campaigns are designed for increasing and personalizing a TRUST relationship with the brand.

THE FIRST DEADLY SIN I see with email marketers in particular is an obsession on email open and delivery data that is so wrong it defies logic.  Tracking read rates for starters.  I was at a meeting recently and the man said "I saw you read my email".  I had not.  We use a remote blackberry server which had downloaded it and sent a false read notification and he made an assumption based on that erroneous piece of data.

Email read receipts are of course blocked on most mail servers so those in the business use graphics in the email to track reads.  First I view this as an invasion of privacy until they CLICK and take some action.  I can’t define the exact reason, but it is MY inbox so stay out of it.  Keep it up and I will use RSS exclusively or just abandon the relationship with your company.

Here is an example of that logic – note how assumed it is that tracking email opens is a good thing.  (link found on NetTakeAway – http://www.nettakeaway.com/tp/article/180/analyze-by-domain)

Are All Clicks Created Equal?  (MediaPost)
by David Baker, Monday, Sep 12, 2005 3:15 PM EST

WE LIVE AND DIE BY metrics. We measure the success of our e-mail programs by metrics, and justify our budgets based on these very sensitive variables, yet should they all be looked at the same way? I’m a huge proponent of domain modeling–that is, modeling behavior by the recipient’s e-mail domain (hotmail.com, yahoo.com, aol.com).
Add to that the fact that each ISP’s interface is littered with obstacles to gaining a measured response (view or click); image blocking, filtering, and preview methods.
If all these environments are so different, why do we put equal value on response metrics? Continually challenge the value of your metrics, your approaches, and how you put value on response.

The author even says that they "live and die" by the data and that the metrics are "very sensitive variables".  The full article outlines a clever plan of adjusting your statistics based on the likelihood of a user on a particular domain system getting to the email graphics.  This sounds fun and cool, but from a statistical perspective I see data being jammed into two or three standard deviations through a miracle-adjustment-factor when it could be hundreds of deviations away! 

This data method only makes sense in marketing, not in a real science.  And more importantly connections between this data and profitable marketing are dubious at best.  The author mentions justifying budgets but not any connection to profit.  Ergo… a problem.

THE SECOND DEADLY SIN I see with email marketers is setting up temporary web sites to track response from different email campaigns.  This is typically done because they don’t have advanced tracking capabilities or any control over the main web site so the agency dude circumvents the problem to feed his data addiction.  But in the process the mini branded sites appear and dissappear which undermines long term global branding goals for the company.  More on this on a future post….

Publicity Stunts Live On in TiVo VCR Funeral – from Engadget

TivofuneralGreat publicity stunt by TiVo – via Engadget

ENGADGET: "TiVo’s VCR funeral – Yup, it was totally a publicity stunt, and yes, we totally fell for it, but dozens of people with VHS tapes in hand hit up TiVo’s VCR funeral at DigitalLife yesterday. Everyone who dropped an old tape in the casket was given a wristband guaranteeing them a free 40-hour TiVo “” as long as they signed up for a year of service, that is."

No exactly Lights Jubilee, but still an interesting concept.  And perhaps take some consumer heat off of the recent TIVO DRM deals with big media.

Donaton on Verklin Contradicts Measurable Branding Results Online

Scott Donaton, the editor of Advertising Age just wrote an article gushing over what a visionary leader David Verklin is.

Will someone other than David Verklin please stand up?

I mean, really, is there a single other human being who has been as much of a leader, visionary, a force for change and a voice of optimism industries over the last 15 years? The answer is no, and that’s remarkable, as a statement on Verklin’s talents and as shameful commentary on the leadership vacuum.

So, being a student of leadership and branding both, I wanted to check out Mr. Verklin’s company to see how a visionary’s company presents the brand online. While I have no doubt Mr. Verklin is indeed an amazing visionary leader, I also have no doubt that he has NOT held his people accountable for baseline branding on the web. Why do I say this? Because I can’t find the site in google BY NAME, which to most of us is a completely fair measure of half-hearted-capabilities.

Specifically I wanted to find the Carat America site. I googled it as "Carat America". By brand name no less.
I get a portfolio listing but not one on their site or even a listing for their company.

Then I tried "Carat Verklin"
I get a media week listing but not the company site. Ironically the article is about eyes shifting to media dollars.

After numerous searches and finding the Carat Group site (not Americas but the main group – I realize that) I ran a keyword density analyzer on the site trying to figure out how it was possible that they did not come up at all. First, they have a redirect on the home page which gave even the density analyzer an error. Then I tried the redirected subpage and got this:

Single Words
Occurrence: 4
keyword count density score
carat 1 25.00 1
enter 1 25.00 3
global 1 25.00 3
site 1 25.00 3

That is the complete report. All of it.

BY clicking "services" I got a long URL which at least had some content.
Note that it does not say the word advertising at all and only says "media" once on the page. Television, brand and interactive are also missing.  Who wrote this stuff?

I am glad Mr. Verklin is getting some nice press. But the arrogance of big media assuming everyone will find them, that people will jump through hoops to track them down, smacks of cluetrain type big business arrogance and nothing less than brand foolishness.

Ad Agencies need to hold their people accountable for online branding results, and that includes making sure your site is found in the search engines. To hire creative people who count on you, and to ignore the media landscape, to ignore online branding and then lay everyone off and say "hey, I guess there was a slow down" like so many agencies do, is irresponsible. It is bad for the brand, and definitely bad for the people. It is arrogance and arrogance doesn’t play.

Infosys is talking about branding

Infosys_competitive_image Infosys, the wall street darling of outsourcing is expanding services (or has been) to compete directly with IBM and Accenture for consulting contracts.  This excerpt from the interview with Nandan M. Nilekani is worth noting:

Q. Do you think you will be able to accelerate your consulting services as fast as companies like I.B.M. ramp up their operations in places like India to lower their costs?

A. I think the challenge is fundamentally different. For us it’s about hiring and growth and building a brand; for them it’s about restructuring the work force and I think, frankly, I wouldn’t want to do that job because it’s very painful, whereas this is exciting.

This is part of the great economic circle of cities, global cities in this case, and Nandan is correct that it can’t be stopped.  And that it shouldn’t be stopped from a capitalist perspective. And that it IS all about the BRAND

If a brand like Infosys can deliver the same service, or a better service, at a lower cost it will get back to the consumer in the form of savings that can be spent on other things.  Which is all good as long as the consumer who lost their job at IBM or wherever can innovate and create or find a new job.  I am in favor of this even knowing how hard it is to create a culture of innovation.  Having read Jane Jacobs book The Economy of Cities followed by The World is Flat, it all makes megatrend-economic-sense. 

In fact it makes so much sense that an outsourced provider of tasks would expand to include total consulting offerings that it makes we wonder what the heck the folks at IBM and Accenture were thinking as they built up a future competitor like Infosys?  First you import, then you start exporting the chairs you used to import because you figure out how to make them and it is cheaper to make them locally in a flat world.

Interesting Links at 6:00 AM

Can Branding differentiate? – Lipitor vs Generic – Billion-Dollar Battle Looms

Wal-Mart Wants to Open a Bank – Another PR Problem for the Megachain

Per-Link Valuation of Blogs is Crap

Google Adsense Makes This Guy Happy (but with 105 "employees" the math is tough)

Visit to Graceland 2005 – Memphis Tennessee

Elvisgrave This has nothing to do with Public Relations, Software or Technology.  But it is cool in a "am I really that cheesy?" type of way.  I finally visited Elvis’ Graceland in Memphis (see previous post).  Graceland was not on my list.  Sort of like Vegas isn’t on my list – I am not a gambler so I just don’t see the appeal.  But I was there in Memphis, and I definitely make an A+ tacky tourist when given the opportunity.  In fact, I am typing this in a XXL black Elvis shirt.  Even the buttons have the king on them. You gotta love it.

I purchased a great Elvis clock for the front entry for the office where little Elvis gets his groove on with each tick of the clock.  Basically, if you can’t visit Warhol’s factory, Graceland is next.  Or am I missing something?

Anyway, please enjoy these pictures from Graceland in Memphis Tennessee.  And remember – they don’t allow flash so some of the pictures in the darker rooms like the Jungle room aren’t quite focused because of the long shutter time.

PRSA Memphis Site Launch October 2005!

Prsamemphis I finally got to visit Memphis for the launch of the new Tendenci organization based web site for the Public Relations Society of America Memphis chapter.  The PRSA Memphis web committee did a great job of launching the site on a tight timeline. 

Shout out to Kim Lange on our team for driving this project.  Definitely in the category of "easier said than done" – not that guiding PR professionals is like herding cats, but there are easier tasks in the world.

Medical Marketing Online – 3 great bullet points

Medicalmarketing_1 I was asked to prepare for a conference call about medical marketing recently. I have written on the subject and see a ton of data from our medical marketing clients, but sometimes being in a hurry creates a nice concise result.

These are my top three bullet points that I wanted to get across to someone who already knows marketing and advertising. I didn’t harp on headlines, rather this is a “online marketing is like regular medical marketing but you need to focus on these additional items to get success online:“

1)      The patient is driving the relationship with their medical professional.  You are not in control ““ don’t kid yourself.

2)      Docs must become content providers.  Articles, case studies, etc.  (Pubmed is NOT enough)

3)      PR is more important than advertising

a.       Public speaking

b.      Monitor blogosphere

                                                               i.      Detractors

                                                             ii.      Advocates

                                                            iii.      Off site testimonials either way

That was it.  Those were my bullet points to talk to a current advertising professional on the three main things that they needed to think about to adjust to the new reality of medical marketing online. 

Ann Iverson, Lou Congelio and Aaron Long conversation on OiH creative

Schipuliversoncongeliolong Ann Iverson, formerly of BBDO and now with Creating Selling Opportunities was at our offices today with Lou Congelio and Aaron Long to discuss branding for the Only in Houston initiative of the Houston Advertising Federation.  The branding PPT describes branding and creative goals as well as an upcoming opportunity for a web design or creative firm to submit creative for OiH (besides Schipul – we do enough already) that needs to:

Marry outstanding search engine capability with creativity that sizzles with ingenuity, sparkles with wit, grabs with emotion, and sells with heart…

That bullet seems to capture the spirit.  More information as it comes available probably posted directly to OiH at www.onlyinhouston.com/en/articles/search.asp   

Also, if you haven’t picked up the Houston issue of Create magazine yet, it is at Barnes and Nobles now.  Aaron Long, our Creative Director, has a review of numerous web designs from Houston firms.  Also note Joe Fournet’s article on OiH.

Game Theory, The Nobel Prize and Social Software

First, congratulations to Nobel for seeing the importance of game theory in economics.  It DOES matter how people interact.  Even more so going forward given the new level of transparency provided by the Internet.  From the NYT article American and Israeli Share Nobel Prize in Economics by LOUIS UCHITELLE October 11, 2005:

The Nobel judges said that the work of Mr. Schelling and Mr. Aumann "was essential in developing noncooperative game theory further and bringing it to bear on major questions in the social sciences."

Game theory departs from mainstream economics, which assumes that people behave rationally and act independently of one another. Game theorists assume that in a given situation people are affected by what other people do or what they imagine others will do, particularly when their goals are conflicting.

Emphasis added by me.  The article goes on to talk about the novel "Red Alert" and how a doomsday device is NOT a deterrent if the other side doesn’t know you have it.

So all of this has me thinking about "Flame as performance art" (Shirky) and has me wondering about the overlap between game theory and social software.  Would negotiations with North Korea be different if we did not know their capabilities?  If their population had a voice to increase transparency?  The Iraq conflict continues to be discussed as far as who knew what when. Whether for or against it is safe to say that a game theory analysis of the conflict would be interesting.  I have no answers this AM, just questions.

Distributed Authoring and Virtualization for Associations

Cluetrain I am rereading The Cluetrain Manifesto which reminded me that many of the ideas behind Tendenci, the philosophy of the software, are simply derivatives of Cluetrain.

Engaging Your Membership: What Are You Doing and What Should You Be Doing?
The Concept of Distributed Authoring for Membership Associations ““ Getting Your Association to “Virtualization“

If, like me, it has been a while since you read cluetrain, I highly recommend a refresher on the 95 Theses.  Most of the venting in cluetrain goes against corporations but is equally applicable to associations.  It is all about being human and overcoming bureaucracy to get to true conversational intelligence.  And I kind of dig watching the whole process play out in real time.

So what DO they do? Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories for crime and advertising

From the HBJ article "Brain biz eyes ads" (what a bad headline!) a company called Brain Fingerprinting Laboratories (what a bad name) is shifting from criminal brain fingerprinting to advertising.  See excerpt below:

Brain biz eyes ads
Heidi Dietrich, Staff Writer
By hooking humans up to machines that measure cerebral activity, the company believes it can determine whether specific information is stored in a person’s memory.

Now, Brain Fingerprinting believes it’s found the ideal first business application: advertising.

The company just completed a study with global marketing firm Millward Brown indicating that its brain imaging machine tracks the same reaction in ad viewers as survey questions asking viewers for their feedback. Armed with this data that helps validate its technology, Brain Fingerprinting now says it plans to spin out an advertising company within six months. The company projects a spin-off staff of more than 100 people within a year and a half, and it believes revenue from ad firms ultimately can exceed $250 million.

"Advertisers want to know if someone has paid attention to an ad and can recall it," said Larry Farwell, Brain Fingerprinting chairman and chief scientist. "They want to know: Do our ads make an impact?"

I am not sure hooking me up to a machine with a bunch of electrodes tapes to my head will yield reliable marketing data, but it sure looks like a great CYA for the next superbowl commercial.  We even tested this ad by measuring brain waves!  Hopefully the study subjects won’t wear tinfoil hats.

ASTROS WIN: The Longest Post Season Game Ever

Stros versus Atlanta – going into the 17th inning.  The longest post season game ever. 6 to 6 and Roger Clemens pitching relief.  Two grand-slams.  Now this is Major League Baseball!


You can’t examine the life of a shark from just looking at where the fin breaks the water

Sharkteeth PRSA Houston is a great organization that frequently challenges my thoughts on Public Relations.  Many of their events force me out of my comfort zone, and that is all good. Yesterday’s event was presented by Marti Gazzier of BP on the crisis response to the Texas City explosion March 23, 2005.

I am not writing about that.

Rather I am writing about a sidebar conversation. I was in a group of people and three of the APR professionals were discussing books they had read, recommending others.  Tipping Point, The World is Flat, Ewen’s PR!; these are pretty standard these days.  I would even call them baseline for strategic thinking.  And then one young person spoke up and said something to the affect of:

All we read are the trade rags.  Those books sound interesting.  Can you email me a list of recommended reading?

No cards were exchanged so this was an empty request regardless.  The conversation above was followed by talking to someone in the media who was switching to public relations from being a reporter.  But in conversation they never read any books on the topic of PR apparently just assuming that “hey I was media so how hard can this be?“  I was direct enough to question this and the response was "I am just getting started."

I was trying to think about how to explain what was so very wrong with this approach and all I could come up with was this was like trying to get an accurate picture of the life of a shark by only looking at where the fin breaks the surface.  That is the stuff in the PR journals and in the media.  The fin.  The stuff that sticks up. But watching just the fin skips over the hunting process, migration, evolution, and shark-fish-are-friends support groups (Finding Nemo anyone?) that constitute the daily strategic life of the shark.  This small world view misses the subtleties of different shark species.  To look only at the fin on the surface is NOT representative of the life of a shark and will lead you to believe it is a gentle kind creature that exists to entertain you with pretty ripples in the water! 

If the output is what you are looking at to gain an understanding of public relations then I believe you will be wildly off the mark.  Read and research.  Study and strategize.  Do your home work.  It is not about sending press releases and making phone calls.  Reread Propaganda.  Challenge yourself with finding the great strategy that will generate word of mouth and press coverage.  But whatever you do, do NOT mistake a fin for a shark.

Alchemy ““ Sports branding is not a zero sum game.

Alchemy ““ Sports branding is not a zero sum game.  Football grows if Fútbol grows.

The NFL is one of those companies that make me go “what the hell are they thinking?“  At least every time I attempt to watch Monday Night Football.  The reason is simple; there are more commercials than football.

“Right now the NFL looks invincible. Everything about pro football keeps soaring: popularity, ratings, gate receipts, licensing. The reason is product quality — NFL games are fabulous. But could the NFL take a basketball-style tumble? Sure.“ ““ Gregg Easterbrook

I remember years ago swearing never to watch a major league baseball game again after one of the 932 different strikes.  America, me definitely included, finds a prim Dona millionaire vs. prim Dona millionaire dispute reprehensible.  The phrase “just shut up“ comes to mind.

So the NFL pitches Monday Night Football to television stations through an auction.  Bidders.  Winners.  Winners saddled with a bill they can’t cover.  Ridiculous commercial content 95% of the time.  And now ESPN is going to step in and save the day, and increase shareholder value by advertising even more on our cell phones.  Really?  Oh freakin’ please!

Fútbol on the other hand is known for NO commercial interruptions.   Discrete logos are shown at the bottom of the screen, and on the field, during play.  But there are no bustiere beer commercials during play.  The clock counts up, not down; as if tension is not the point.  The “stoppage play“ mocks the time clock with a variable hanging out there the entire time.

The NFL is hosting football games in the home of Fútbol games, Mexico City, because they want to recapture some of the alchemy they specifically killed.  Like a 60 year old wearing a too-short-skirt they yearn for days gone by.  And of course they SHOULD do this.  But it is nothing more than chemotherapy on a limb in an alternate country; it does not address the root cause.

From a social software perspective the NFL has successfully created a monopoly (commons) through legislation.  They have not found auctions successful in solving the problem of the commons.  From a socio-political perspective, neither has anyone else.  The real problem is deeper than that, obviously, and requires a more complex systemic solution.  We get that.  The details are challenging.

Google streaming “Everyone Hates Chris”

From Palmer – I think this is significant

And, in a historic move, Google is offering an Internet streamcast of last week’s TV premiere of Chris Rock’s UPN comedy “Everybody Hates Chris,” marking the search company’s first foray into primetime TV program streaming. The 21 minute-long show, sans commercials, is available on Google Video through Thursday.
http://msnbc.msn.com/id/9492639/ This sort of blows up the concept of illegal file sharing or editing out commercials — I’d love to hear your comments on this.

Also from HappyKat who seems to be one step ahead of me so many times…

I like this idea -  I also like the word “˜versionitis’.

Ford Commercial – Bad Branding with Zombies Assembling Stuff

Dallas game – Oakland is winning.  Ford Commercial comes on.

da…da-dat…da-dat…da-dat (cosmic music)

Masses of people walking towards the same destination carrying thousands of auto parts.  Parts of an SUV to be assembled.  Like zombies they crush towards the middle to add their part.

"If you could build your own SUV … blah blah … you’d build the 2006 Explorer.  The best Explorer ever."

They walk like zombies.  Am I the only one who jumps to ask if those zombies are the ones who died in the less than "best" Ford Explorers that kept flipping over a few years back?  I recognize the need for buzz, but I can’t be alone in this mind connection.  And at this moment I am more likely to purchase anything other than a Ford Explorer.

Kids who did NOT want to go to the movies

I came home yesterday to a house full of kids.  Kids who did NOT want to go to the movies.  They actually chose going to Target over going to the movies.  When exactly did going to the movies become such a downer to the youth?  Are they just tired of parents saying "no, actually you can’t have an $10 bucket of popcorn"?

The LA times, as picked up by every blogger and slashdot, is running an article entitled "This Just in: Flops Caused Box Office Slump" which points out that crappy movies keep people away from the theatres.  But the boys, ages 8, 12 and 11 (the last one not being mine) didn’t even know what was showing.  You can’t say that they didn’t like any of the movies; the conversation never got that far.  They classified going to the movies with bowling, which they also turned down.  Skateboarding – that still rocks.  Target, yes the store, was a second choice.  Times are a changing.

I concluded with the thought that as an adult I decide if I want to go to the movies, and then check what is playing (typically at least).  Kids appear to choose the movie first and consider the location secondary.  The theatrical presence of the theater has no value, only the entertainment and they probably want it to be a few nanometers north of crappy for the amount of parental grief they put up with during the process.  The process of going to the movies.