Monday, May 25, 2009

The Recession Hits P&G

According to, we're going to see something exciting in Cincinnati this Thursday. Apparently, P&G CEO AG Lefly is going to announce a price cut for Tide.

What's more disturbing about this are the data points they post with the article:

Could this mark a down turn CPG prices across the board? I don't know. What I do know from this data is that nearly one of five consumers are leaving Tide behind and most of them are not going to come back. This situation leaves me with two questions.

1) Are stalwart brands - like Tide - not recession proof?

2) Or, did P&G rest on its market dominance laurels too long to preserve their brand during the economic downturn?

Well, if this price cut pans out we'll never really know for sure. The price cut could register in the minds of the consumer as P&G saying, "our product is great, but not great enough for you to pay what you used to."

In reality, they're probably going to run an ad that says, "Times are tough and we're going to help you out but cutting our prices because no one should sacrifice being 'Tide clean,'" or something like that.

Not So Elaborate Phishing Scams Are Making Facebook Annoying

It looks like our Memorial Day Weekends were made a little more annoying. Not once but twice did I receive one line notes from people on facebook to go to a phishing site. Honestly, if Facebook wanted to up their brand to a new level they should come out with some strategy to catch the culprits.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Danger Mouse v. EMI

DJ, producer, musician, and self-described auteur Danger Mouse (real name Brian Joseph Burton) made his mark on the record industry by disregarding any legal protections they had set up and creating the Grey Album, a mash up of Jay Z’s black album and The Beatles’ White Album.

While it did not take long for the “cease and desist” orders to come in, the young producer’s name was everywhere. Since then he’s gone on to become 50% Gnarls Barkley, produce records for a bunch of bands both big and small. One of the “smaller” – and by smaller I mean lesser known but by no means not as good - bands is the group Sparklehorse. It was a bit of a dream- team collaboration. Not only would the record feature Danger Mouse and the band, but also the likes of the Flaming Lips and Iggy Pop. PLUS, it was going to come packaged in a book of photos shot by enigmatic film director David Lynch.

Anyway, the idea was way too expansive – and dare I say cinematic – for the folks at EMI, Danger Mouse’s record label, who have tried to put the kibosh on the release of the record. Rather than let a work sit on the shelf for legal reasons, the artists all decided to release the book of photos that would have housed the record with a blank disk and a note that says go ahead and download it from wherever.

What does this mean?

Despite the fact that we will never know how many torrents and downloads of this record will occur, stories like this will do nothing to quell the demand for a record. In fact, the shelving of the release by EMI, is the best marketing for the record. (See the Jon Brian version of Fiona Apple’s Extraordinary Machine.) It may not translate to increased sales of the book with the blank disk, but it will undoubtedly give Sparklehorse added buzz behind their upcoming tour for the record. Touring is where most groups make their money, thus this looks like a win for the band.

As for Danger Mouse, he really won’t lose much either. His individual brand as an iconoclast who cares about quality products more than cold hard cash will continue to benefit him with more invitations to produce records from even more artists.

(Oh, and if you're interested in getting the album, this website will lead you to the place to get it.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Saving Terrestrial Radio By Legalizing Payola?

According to the most recent Sound Opinions broadcast on NPR, the recent attempt by the government to stop the continued use of Payola has failed once again. For those of you out there who are unfamiliar with the term, Payola is a scam where record companies pay radio stations to play their music. As a result, local musicians or musicians with less financial backing are played less on the radio.

In the days before the internet, when radio was the main medium for discovering new music, Payola was a real problem. Technically, one could argue that it was a clandestine effort by one organization to deny the market a possible alternative product. Nowadays, thatís not so much the case. As an avid music lover, I rarely listen to the radio to find new, exciting things to enjoy. (I'm sure it wouldn't take too much of an effort to find a study that proves my point.)

With all of this in mind, I would like to posit a solution to this "problem," and that is to legalize payola. As of now, consumers have little benefit to listen to terrestrial radio. The current payola scheme subjects listeners to general advertisements and music that record companies bribed the broadcaster to play, which is effectively an advertisement to purchase the music. Therefore, listeners are being given a smaller variety of what they intend to consume.

Let's bring this interaction above the table. Record companies should put together playlists of their artists and buy blocks of time from the broadcasters. During this block of time, a record company can bring down the cost by allowing the broadcaster to sell air time to advertisers, but the amount of ad time must be limited to 10% (six minutes per hour) of the purchased block.

Next, the broadcaster should post the playlist to their website. From the website, the broadcaster can collect some sort of click through revenue to the purchase of the music from whatever service the record label chooses, whether Lala, iTunes, Amazon, or what have you. This additional revenue from the consumers directly will compensate ñ and possibly overcompensate - for the loss in ad revenues from the new system.

For record companies, this system could be a win in that they can expose a greater number of their acts to the listening public and possibly get a greater return on the recording and promoting costs. For the broadcasters, this system could bring more listeners back from the other alternatives currently available with this new value proposition. Yes, they will have to pay taxes on the money that they used to take illegally, but they also would stand to make a greater level of revenue than the previous system could allow. Finally, for consumers, this system will allow them the potential of greater variety on terrestrial radio. If the record companies find that playing Britney Spears for an hour yields higher revenues than playing a greater variety of artists than they're pretty much where they are right now. But, at least this system gives consumers a chance to dictate the airplay on their local stations.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Uh Oh, Cheerios: The Matt Koppel Never Say All Theory of Marketing/PR/Advertising

The folks at General Mills made a little boo boo the other day when they stated that Cheerios is "clinically proven to lower cholesterol."

It seems in making that statement they are putting their cereal on the same level as prescription drugs, at least according to the Food and Drug Administration. If they would like to continue to make that statement they can pull their cereal from the market and have it tested, or they could think of another way to say "clinically proven to lower cholesterol."

This fiasco leads me back to a theory that I am going to claim as mine (until someone else shows me a text that says otherwise): The Never Say All Theory.

Basically, I theorize that there is almost never a situation in Marketing, Communications, or Marketing Communications where a message can be completely authoritative. Therefore, as messengers, we must never say "All." In the event we are proven wrong, the negative backlash will be much greater than the brow beating you could take for not fully backing a statement.

Remember this picture?

Or, maybe this video.

Finally, notice how I am saying that this is a theory. If someone were to show me a message using an authoritative "all" statement that's true, I could say that's why my theory is a theory and not a law. Maybe it's anecdotal evidence, but we should know nothing is 100% in this business. The conversation would be over and we can move on to something else.

Please Stop Calling Them Pits...

Okay, this may make me sound like an old man but I am not cool with these deodorant commercials calling armpits "pits."

I am a big fan of getting rid of euphemisms like "irregularity" or "not feeling your freshest" or whatever else is floating around, but "pits" is too casual. Besides, the armpit had a fine euphemism with "underarm." Now, Clogate's Speed Stick is running ads asking "What's your pit type" on Hulu. (It's not on youtube, sorry.)

Sorry Hulk, I guess we're not living up to your standards.

Monday, May 11, 2009

MiFi Will Kill Satellite Radio

With the introduction of the MiFi from Verizon, we are about to witness the end of satellite radio. Why? Despite the fact that it was a good idea, satellite radio cannot provide the expansive and infinite content of the internet.

One of the main selling points for XM/Serius is commercial free music and talk for people who have to spend lots of time in their car listening to the radio to stay sane. With a MiFi in my car, my iPod touch can now stream podcasts and music from services like Pandora wherever I may be. (It sort of makes makes the iPhone a little silly now too, because the service plan costs less than an AT&T iPhone talk and data plan, but that's for another day.)

Back to the death of satellite radio. Whether you're a long tail type like me or a Britney listening pop junky like my sister, the internet gives users "on demand" listening capabilities. Until satellite radio introduces a product that's as easy to use as a net-top or an iPod touch with "on demand" capabilities, I have no reason to assume that XM/Serius will survive this new bit of technological convergence.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Are Luddites Making A Comeback?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project is one of the most interesting reads for a marketing nerd like me.

The graph seen above is from a study covering how people perceive and use their cell phone in addition to their computer. What struck me as interesting is the growing discontent on the opposite side of the digital divide.

To me, it's understandable that less than half of these groups of people would find it hard to give up their cell phone because they are a little older and spent most of their lives without one. What's more interesting is the fact that - just one year later - big drop offs in these groups.

Can it be that technology is moving to fast for some people, and - as a result - making them increasingly angry? Now, I don't think people are to start throwing their gadgets out the window. But, I do think that as products become more advanced we will start to these groups, which are probably going to decrease in size, become even more discontent.

As a marketer, I would find this both troubling and as a gift. It's troubling in that, we've invested so much money into reaching all types of people through every medium, with hopes of maximizing it's potential; not giving up on it. Although, it's a gift because it means that there are fewer ways to get to these people, and it may mean that they are more receptive to those media. Of course, those media are changing too at a rapid pace. Are we prepared to cut some people off?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Get Ready For The Schlock

A while back I wrote about the new Jay Leno show and how the NBC execs were saying it's going to be "untivoable."

After realizing the Tivo actually might be a source of revenue for the network as an advertiser, they decided to call it "DVR Proof."

How is it going to be DVR Proof? Well, he going to do live commercials.

NBC's Reasoning: If it comes from Jay they will watch. I'd love to tap into Tivo's numbers in a few months and see how many people skip over this part of his program.

Unfortunately, I don't think Jay is as cool as fictional late night host Larry Sanders who was also asked to do on air ads.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

So Tired of The Rock Star Image... Even If You're Trying To Say "Our Rockstars Are Not Like Your Rockstars"

Everyone wants to be a rock star these days, but no one wants to play an instrument or learn to sing. They'd rather play Guitar Hero than play the guitar. As a result, the idea of being a rock star is dramatically different from what it was even a few years ago.

When Venables Bell & Partners decided that Intel employees were going to go geek chic, they put together the campaign that brought us the photo featured above. For me, this just doesn't work anymore. First off, the age of the Spinal Tap rock star has passed once again. We don't see women chasing Chris Martin down the street and most people don't really want to talk to Bono anymore. This ad relies on a parody of a parody. Do you know what happens when you try to make that happen? You get such marvelous things as Mind of Mencia, Mad TV, or the craptastic Not Another "Insert Something Here" movie.

But, I digress; back to the "rock star" brand. The image of the rock star is no longer that of the iconoclast. If you were to take some musician who makes music like the music you would imagine coming from the band in the photo, it would probably sound like Nickleback. Here's what the Portuguese think of them:

I don't think these guys are anyone's rock stars, in my poll of one Canadian (home nation of Nickleback) I found that 100% think they suck.

Hey Venables: why do you need to make me feel like a person of lesser intelligence by saying that we worship goofballs like this? We don't, and we do admire Intel for their inventions. Listen, from one nerd to another, grow the hell up.

I can just imagine the people in the room who made this ad saying, "We need to show them that we're awesome now, but not just awesome we're ironic AND awesome." Here's a tip. Next time you think you are the first person to come up with this idea, go on to Netflix and pick it up in it's best form. It's called 16 Candles. Anthony Michael Hall is this nerdy kid (SPOILER ALERT) who becomes cool because everyone thinks he slept with the hottest girl in school.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

I'm So Over Tablets

Yes, I stole this picture from Wired and yes I have an iPhone; so, why am I whining about the possibility of tablet war?

My main reason, I like keyboards. I like that I can use all of my fingers rather than just my thumbs. Plus, other people have no excuse when they write in texting language on their computer, it just looks dumb.

Then there's cleaning. I find myself habitually try to get all the schmutz that my phone acquires off all the time.

Now, we're going keyboardless. Now, we're going to see how dirty our hands really are.

Monday, May 4, 2009

ABC Shows Coming to Hulu: Thank Goodness?

While I don't watch many ABC television programs, I was a little delighted to see that Disney struck a deal with the Fox/NBC joint venture to post their programming on the website.


Hulu offers a better viewing experience than; it's less clunky and - intelligently - offers fewer frills. When viewing an show in full screen and it cuts to a commercial, the viewer leaves full screen to go to a small streaming video ad in the corner of a screen that features a gigantic banner ad. Plus, you have to click on the screen to go back to your program unless you fiddle around and find the "Settings" menu on the website, which oddly features the exact opposite of what you want to be default settings. looks much nicer than Hulu on the surface, but it lacks one of Hulu's strongest selling points: the queue. The queue - a complete copy of Netflix - allows a viewer to sit at his or her computer and pick out programming for a desired amount of time. After that he or she doesn't need to sit directly infront of the screen until that period is up.

What surprises me the most though is the fact that Disney did not try to right its course with with the advent of Hulu.'s streaming video predated Hulu by at least two years, and you would think they might be a little more apt to fix their problems rather than fold and go in with the competition. This action leaves me with a couple of scenarios running through my mind as to why this occured:

1) Disney wanted to update the site but realized it would be cheaper just to throw programming up on Hulu and then offer expanded offerings on their own webiste.

2) Disney realized that Hulu's combined network programming makes it easier for advertisers to come spend money and they were being left out. The profile of a TV on the internet viewer is a specific demo/psychographic. If Hulu continues to grow in popularity - and programming - Disney would be left out in the cold when it comes to advertising dollars.

Finally, this whole thing is leaving me wondering what Viacom/CBS will end up doing. While they post Comedy Central programming on Hulu, has a streaming player too, which is rather glitchtastic. But, they also offer programming that is both good and not on television anymore. Currently, a viewer can watch the first two seasons of Twin Peaks on, and that's a very good idea. By offering unique programming - that is good - to the internet medium CBS has a chance to make some ad revenue of off old properties other than DVD sales.