Are Companies the New Consumers?
Think about it. As advertisements push the limits and our patience, Company X needs to find some way to get our attention. That is the consumer's product. We offer brand loyalty. It's no surprise that this has always been the highly coveted goal for all companies and brands… but they used to not have to try so hard.
Now, they are among us. Having their own pages on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn… interacting as though they were your friend or “part of your professional network”. They want, so badly, for us to like them. But, can you blame them? The consumer has what the brand wants… Time, attention, loyalty, and of course money.
As I said before, this is no new development, but it is an interesting concept to point out as companies explore new frontiers in advertising. The consumer has all the control – the choice as to whether to click on that ad, go to that site, or to type that company name they heard on TV into their preferred search engine.
So, how can companies counteract this choice? They need to be where we are, doing what we are doing, interacting with us to develop relevance to our daily lives. They can no longer expect a stand alone ad or TV commercial to get the job done. It has to be interactive. It needs a call to action. It needs to sync up with multiple outlets in order to 1. Get noticed and 2. Be seen as relevant. Companies can no longer stand by and expect the customer to come to them… They now need to be the active consumer, embarking on the world, living amongst their desired product – in order to understand it and work with it.
The more inundated people are with information and stimulation, the less likely they are to go looking for it. We talk a lot about consumer driven advertising, and this concept follows suit. Think about the consumer as being the driver of a bus… Not only do they get to choose what ad is placed on the side of their bus, but they get to choose where they stop and who gets on. So, Company X is at the mercy of Brand Y, with Brand Y being YOU.
Fact Where There’s Only Fiction
As we continue our pursuit to set a new bar for our industry, I too relate to the main protagonist in this series who is “on a mission to civilize”. And I suppose it should not be surprising when people we encounter are confused by this approach, but it is a little saddening when someone doesn't understand your business model when you say, “we are not looking to take advantage of you”. I kid you not; people can't quite seem to get how we could operate with this mentality. It's an explanation I'm all too ready to share every time I meet with a prospective client.
Competitive rates and good work do not need to be at odds with one another. At the same time, just because something costs a lot, doesn't necessarily mean it's the best. Take a page from the creators of the Newsroom and give yourself a second look at the processes of those around you. In business – notice quality of content and attention to detail, these things are most important. Money is how we all survive; yes, but don't judge a book by what it costs. And, furthermore, just because people aren't talking about it yet, doesn't mean they won't… it could simply be because they haven't heard of it yet. Let's civilize up folks and start getting things done right.
A Flawed System (part 1 of 2)
As I’m writing this, an advertisement for Barack Obama has just aired on the television, condemning the fiscal policies employed by Mitt Romney during his tenure as Governor of Massachusetts. The commercial uses visual aids like bar graphs and pie charts to compare the state of the economy before Romney as well as under his leadership. The advertisement cites web sites such as the Bureau of Labor Statistics as the source of their data. Can you trust the data that you read though? Surely, a government entity like the Bureau of Labor Statistics would be above the kind of corruption that cynical Americans believe to be commonplace in the daily activities of government officials, right? The truth is that we have altered different statistical models at different times in our history to skew the numbers so that they don’t look as bad as they really are.
How does the Bureau of Labor Statistics gather its data? The short answer is that they use surveys, and because they use surveys a great deal, there is an inherent flaw in employing this method of data collection. First, people are not completely honest about how much they earn. It can be a source of pride or shame for some people, so disclosing that kind of information is a sensitive subject. Second, when you do a survey, your sample size has to be highly randomized to get an accurate sampling of the population. Third, your sample size has to be large enough to extrapolate and make a generalization regarding the remaining population. The Bureau of Labor Statistics acknowledges their payroll survey’s confidence interval is suspect due to the admitted lack of randomization and built-in bias. Recently, the BLS has adjusted its bias factor. Instead of merely adding 150,000 jobs per month to account for new job creation and no job loss, the BLS have now accounted for that possibility and numbers have ranged from -321,000 to +270,000 in past years (Williams, 2004).
In order to better understand unemployment in the United States and the formula used in the past and the one used now, it would be beneficial to understand the concept of what exactly a discouraged worker is. A discouraged worker is any physically able person with the will to work, but has given up searching for a job because of the perception that there are none to be had. As much as I like President Clinton, it was during his tenure that he removed these people from the unemployment formula. Clinton removed all discouraged workers who had been out of work for more than a year and did not include those people in the data at all. Not only did Clinton shore up his unemployment numbers by omitting these unemployed people, but he also lowered the survey sample size from 60,000 to 50,000 or a 16.7 percent change. Before George W. Bush took office, the survey sample size had reverted to its original sample numbers, presumably to make Clinton look as though he were the one responsible for higher employment numbers and less poverty, leaving Bush to take the blame for economic downturn.
Please don’t get the impression that I’m trying to throw the Bureau of Labor Statistics under the bus, I’m not. They have the monumental task of accounting for statistical data in a manner in which they are directed to collect it. The only problem with the BLS is that they don’t have any way of collecting the kind of data that can be representative of the entire nation, often through no fault of their own. Perhaps the majority of the population isn’t ready to know the real unemployment numbers; maybe the outlook is just too bleak. Sometimes, ignorance is bliss.
Oh, Soft Drinks, Thou Art Silly!
Let us further assume that your preference is Coke over Pepsi. Coca-Cola has not one, but TWO zero calorie cola beverages out there. Coke Zero is advertised as having REAL cola taste and ZERO calories. My question is, “If Coke Zero has zero calories, and Diet Coke has zero calories but apparently tastes LESS like REAL cola, WHY would you EVER drink Diet Coke in lieu of Coke Zero?”. Keep in mind, I didn't say that Diet Coke doesn't taste like cola. Diet Coke's OWN parent company made that implication when they branded their other product that way.
Pepsi is no better. There is Diet Pepsi. There is Pepsi Max. There have been several iterations of a clear or “Crystal Pepsi”. To be honest, at first I thought, “Hmmmm, ok, well they replaced aspartame with better tasting sucralose, or Splenda” but NO…they didn't! Both products use the sweetener, aspartame. Basically, you've gone through the trouble and expense of creating a new beverage that creates no new market, but only further divides an existing one while only incurring greater cost by diversifying your beverage line (ingredients, packaging, etc…).
I will only briefly touch on Dr. Pepper excluding half of the earth's population by blatantly saying Dr. Pepper's new 10 calorie beverage is JUST FOR MEN. Am I then to infer, that men don't like zero calorie diet beverages, and that those ten extra calories make it bold, and tasty, and maybe that the beverage doesn't go flat as quickly as would, say, Diet Dr. Pepper, which used to be branded as tasting “more like regular Dr. Pepper”?
Ladies and gentlemen of the business-blogging community, I ask you, “Do you not demand more of your beverage companies?”.
Tune in next week for my exciting rant on the microbrew industry.
Google’s Revamped Search Engine
I read an article on this change to Google on CNN.com and wondered to myself how this will affect certain aspects of SEO, etc. The example used in the article discusses the search term 'kings'.Now kings could be a number of different things, the NHL team (LA Kings), the NBA team (Sacramento Kings), or you could be searching for an actual King. The new Google search will have separate boxes asking you which 'king' you could be referring to. This will hone in on what exactly the user is searching for so they won't have to sit and look through pages of search results in order to find exactly what they are looking for. Another quote from the article reads, “More specific searches, say for the name of a celebrity, will render boxes with basic information, as well as links to what Google believes are possibly related searches”.
This new and improved search is known as Knowledge Graph, and claims to have Google search think more like a human. In a quote from the article, Jack Menzel, director of product management at Google says, “The web pages we [currently] return for the search 'kings,' they're all good. You, as a human, associate those words with their real-world meaning but, for a computer, they're just a random string of characters.” Menzel also says, “the initial version of Knowledge Graph has information on 500 million people, places and things and uses 3.5 billion defining attributes and connections to create categories for them.” This adds another innovative idea to Google's arsenal. Knowledge Graph should directly affect the way a user searches on the web. Another great job by Google.