23 November 2008

So long, farewell, we bid you all adieu....

So it is already the end of the fall quarter... hard to believe I know! I probably won't delete this blog (at least for a little while), and if I come across any really really interesting internet marketing articles, I may post links here with a bit of commentary.

Still, before I head out, I'll leave you with a bit of optimistic news. James sent us this article last week (or maybe the week before by now??) that delivered the unsettling news that e-commerce and online sales are falling off and experiencing quite a stomach-turning drop in growth. While this is certainly alarming, there is a faint rainbow further down the horizon..... I believe it is a topic I have covered before, specifically in CMOs of the Roundtable. Online ad spending is growing!

If you do business in France, the UK or the US, you can rest assured that your online advertising dollars are going to good use. According to Mediaweek, online ad spending is poised as the strongest ad channel to withstand the current economic downturn compared to television and print channels. Still, the author, Mike Shields, warns us to keep a wary eye on these figures saying they likely don't yet reflect the developing ad recession.

His thoughts are reflections of Karin von Abrams of emarketer.com who highlights the significant online ad spending increases in France compared to the negative growth of television, radio, print, and cinema methods. However, like Shields, von Abrams points out that while still growing, this channel is beginning to slow down as well and the current state of the world economy could do any number of things to these partly sunny forecasts.

The silver lining? As long as internet use by individual consumers continues to grow, online advertising will continue to grow as well -- especially in France, where active home internet users grew by 3.18% in one month alone.

One thing for companies and ad agencies to consider: just because you advertise online, doesn't necessarily mean you should expect your sales results to arrive through online channels. Consumers do still visit brick and mortar outlets! Really! Circuit City (although imminently closing a wholllle bunch of stores) is currently running a tv campaign that highlights the research capabilities of their website compared to competitors (who shall remain guiltily nameless!). They guarantee that the price consumers see online is the same price consumers will pay in the store. I've personally experienced such a price conflict between an online quote and an in-store quote at another electronics store, and if Circuit City had talked about their price match guarantee sooner, I might have been more interested in shopping there. C'est la vie!

20 November 2008

Motrin's Mommy Headache

Last week over a span of a mere 48 hours we were able to see a very mobile and responsive mommy audience use the internet to bring down an online and print ad campaign for Motrin ibuprofen tablets (aka pain relief from the ridiculous headache finals week is giving us!) that apparently some mothers felt was offensive and picked on them for carrying their babies around town in a sling as though it were "fashionable." The biggest outrage stemmed from a commercial that was broadcast online via the company's website (and has been endlessly replicated on YouTube. Lisa Belkin of the New York Times compiles their arguments neatly in her blog:

Online Moms did not respond to the ad by racing out for Motrin. They were offended by the suggestion that they carry their babies to be “fashionable”. They were outraged at the idea that they look “crazy”. They vehemently disagreed with the phrasing that “in theory” carrying your baby around is a good idea.

Ok, so I'm not a mother, but I think if I were, I'd have a headache from rolling my eyes over and over at this ridiculousness. I've watched the commercial and sure I agree it comes across a little snarky, but in the end, it's saying, "Hey, moms! Let us help you out with that back pain!" Still, instead of debating the silliness of this argument, let's have a look at how the mommy audience mobilized online to get Motrin to suspend this campaign.

The heaviest road traveled on the digital superhighway? Twitter! The mommies had a HUMONGOUS impact through micro-blogging and tossing Motrin's name through the virtual dirt. You can skim through the tweet history of the frenzy here.

Many others took to their blogs and some even came up with anti-ads, spoofs and response videos that go on and on and on. Moms online were coming out of the woodwork calling for boycotts of Motrin -- and remember, this was all within a window of 48 hours!

So Motrin responded by pulling the ads and putting an apology right on its home page.

What's the big lesson learned?? This whole debacle has set the stage for all companies to be much more careful with and attentive to online audiences. Unfortunately for Motrin, it had to serve as the poster child for making an advertising mistake and suffering a blow to its reputation from online tools that quickly turned into stinging weapons.

Gene Grabowski sums up the whole issue quite well:
We now have indisputable proof that online marketing, YouTube and Twitter and all that it encompasses is meaningful and has arrived. We are seeing real consequences to a mistake. If [social networks] didn't matter, you wouldn't see this type of reaction from J&J or consumers. -----AdvertisingAge article
The WSJ's health blog even got in on the action pointing out that of all the pharmaceutical companies, Johnson & Johnson has been the most adventurous in reaching out to its audiences online. Most of their other online applications have been very successful and brought a new avenue towards awareness to consumers. I only hope that this fine mess doesn't discourage J&J or anyone else from using the online channel to reach out to people. It's certainly clear everyone has learned a big lesson from the school of hard knocks.

P.S. Back to the original commercial... doesn't the female voice-over sound like she took lessons from John Stossel's "Give Me a Break" segments on 20/20??? I'm just sayin'.....!!!!

11 November 2008

Away from my desk......

I am finally back from my vacation on NyQuil Islands. I guess my punishment for missing class and not blogging last week was to get the mother of all colds. Fear not, I have a couple good internet marketing topics to blog about this week.

Since I've been sick, I have neglected not only my schoolwork, but my office work as well. This morning as I was cleaning up my email and voice mail messages, I came across some correspondence from a company called Keyword First. This company wants to get in touch with me about our corporate website and optimizing its content for search engine optimization. What timing since I'm taking an internet marketing class this quarter and actually know about what they are trying to sell us! At the start of the quarter, I was wondering if there were any businesses in place or starting up that specialized in SEO for corporate sites. Well, yep... here's at least one, but there are likely plenty more out there. Keyword First has been around since 2005, but says their personnel have been in the search industry since 2000.

In any case I checked out the PDF brochure they sent me and was glad to find out that we've covered in class pretty much everything they offer through their SEO services including:
  • Website Analysis
  • Meta Data Creation / Improvement
  • URL Re-structuring
  • Content Creation & Optimization
  • Directory Submissions
  • Link Building Strategies
  • Position Reporting

My company is planning to revamp its website in the coming months, so maybe I can score a nice bonus from the boss if I tell him I can handle optimizing our new webpages in house. Cha-ching!

Ok, next topic, also from the hallways of my office....

My boss was so impressed with my appearance in Entrepreneur last month that he had the article posted on a plaque for me to keep forever and ever and ever (and hang on the walls of that corner office I'll eventually end up in). The company he ordered it from put some of their sales materials in the packaging and one of the brochures was from a sister company called "That's Great PR!" I would characterize TGPR! as a semi-PR company with a digital twist. What they focus on is writing press releases about you, your company, whatever you pay them for really, but optimizing the documents for search engine optimization so they will help increase your corporate website's rankings on sites like Google, Yahoo! and the like.

Of course, they charge per release, and encourage you to have a "regular" stream of press releases because, "...regular press releases will help boost your placement on search engines. The more places your company is found, the better your ranking online (and the more people can find you)." Yes, we know this is true, at least for Google rankings, but does it make sense to issue press releases "just because"? Won't people eventually see right through these countless pages? I'm sure there are companies with little to no internal resources for PR management, and for them TGPR! can provide a really good service and help some businesses increase their web presence. On the other hand, once a little bit of an investment is made in PR writing, companies can learn how to write their own press releases and submit them to online sources without the (overpriced) assistance of TGPR.

28 October 2008

CMOs of the Roundtable

Well, well, well.... the Google site optimizer has a valid competitor! HubSpot won two Silver W3 awards for its website grader which provides FREE feedback and recommendations for smaller companies to be sure their sites are being found and listed on popular search engines. What makes HubSpot different from Google??? Well, as they put it -- their site can be used by marketing people, not techies (ouch!). Once you get past that slightly inflammatory statement, you'll fall in love with HubSpot. It's a nice complement to use with Google's optimizer to be sure all your bases are being covered, because, believe it or not, there are people out in the world who use other search engines. For real.

HS also carries a blog which is chock full of tips and advice for keeping your company's internet presence at the top of the search list. Today's topic: landing pages! It seems kind of obvious that a company website should be using these to increase conversions. In the days of paper coupons, there were often preprinted codes on the slips that allowed a company to track what coupons were being used and where. When did marketers forget this? Just because we are getting green and saving paper, doesn't mean we should stop tracking where our leads are coming from!

Next, we arrive at at a CMO roundtable article on Advertising Age. Towards the end, the interviewer asks the CMOs of Denny's, Hyatt and Wachovia how their marketing plans will change for 2009 and what ideas they are considering now. All agree that the investment in online marketing dollars will be a bigger slice of their budgets next year.

Mark Chmiel of Denny's talks about the chain sponsoring bands online to get their brand identity out to a new late-night audience. When their tv purchases weren't returning well, Denny's focused on how to reach the consumer where they are, not where Denny's thought they were or wanted them to be. Chmiel also reminds us that marketing is not always about ROI for sales, but is a method of shoring up brand identity - something it seems a lot of executives and boards forget about when asking marketers why sales increases don't match periodic department spending.

Ranjana Clark of Wachovia goes on to say her marketers will take some time now to be sure their websites are optimized, but more importantly easily laid out for the customers to use and find the information they need to make important decisions about their accounts or investing with Wachovia. I for one appreciate these CMOs getting back to a consumer-needs focus instead of trying to figure out the cleverest way of driving up sales.

Finally, here is an article from the Wall Street Journal that discusses the imminent disappearance of many online-ad networks. This may just be a little bubble burst, as the market had become inundated with firms that could all pretty much do the same tasks, while the cream of the crop will stick around because they provide quality, up-to-date results to their clients. Despite what the CMOs in the above article said, the WSJ feels that online advertising investments will also be cut during this current downturn in the economy.

I think more than just the economy falling apart, internet marketing is being reshaped because consumers are getting smarter, ignoring obvious advertising, and expecting real and valuable content from online channels. Like tv and radio, people don't go online to see commercials - they just change the station or look away. The current challenge for online marketing is to package the sales pitch in such a way that the consumer is getting value through information which will then translate into sales for business.

Rain Delay!

I'm joining the World Series in a rain delay -- even though I haven't been stuck in the rain since last week.

I flew back to Chicago from New Orleans this morning and didn't have a chance to update my blog before I jump on the CTA to class tonight. I'll have something posted before Wednesday, so come back soon!

If you are totally let down, read this article.... you'll encounter someone you already know (promise)!

12 October 2008

Show me the (marketing) money!

Ok, let's get the Google talk out of the way early.... the monster company is set to release its 3rd quarter earnings numbers on Thursday, followed by Yahoo on October 21. A market analyst has downgraded the ratings of both of these internet companies based on the overall deterioration in the economy citing that he sees "no business model based on advertising or consumer spending that will be immune to a downturn."

Hmmmmm..... honestly, I feel that internet marketing is the least expensive advertising method, especially considering many people may cut back on newspaper, magazine, even cable/satellite programming purchases. Most people will still have access to the internet, either at home, school or work. During the upcoming days of belt-tightening and penny-pinching, I think consumers will turn even more to the internet to do research on necessary big purchases and more scouring for coupons and deals on everyday items and utilities. If a company cuts out or lessens its web presence, it most certainly will be missing out on sales or at the very least increasing brand exposure.

Check out the NY Times
article for details.

What if a company just doesn't know where to push its marketing dollars? TV is too expensive with ever-decreasing audience size, newspapers and magazines are also diminishing on audience returns, so how can a company tackle internet marketing with more than just its corporate website?

As mentioned in class, blogs are the place to be and be seen these days. But a branch away from blogs are online articles. This
story in the American Chronicle suggests companies should write articles about themselves and their products, post them online, then take the step their competitors seem to stop short at - spending the hours of time necessary to submit these articles to online directories. It seems so simple, but many businesses can't seem to grasp the return on investment of someone's time seeking out all these directories. Even so, the benefits are clear - the more places your article is linked, the higher your article will likely place in a keyword search on the big search engines. Money in the bag!

Ok, one last return to Google.
To celebrate its 10th anniversary, they have made their oldest available search index available online (it's from January 2001). It's kind of fun to search for today's big names and businesses and see where they were ten years ago. A tip - click on the "View the old version...." link to get a blast from the past!

06 October 2008

Is that Google underneath Johnny's bed?

I've just riled myself up posting on our class discussion board. Sure I looooooove Google to death and can't imagine using another search engine for my daily queries, but in the back of my mind is a creeping fear that one day Google is going to take over the world.

When I noticed all my friends were getting Gmail accounts, I asked one of them for an invitation --- ooooh, I was going to be part of the exclusive Gmail club. However, what they don't tell you until you've mostly signed up and filled out the registration screens is that Google actually SCANS YOUR PERSONAL EMAIL for advertising! They try valiantly to frame it as good for you and from what I've seen, the Gmail program itself is really well laid-out and very productive, but even though it's cost-free, what is the price people will ultimately pay?

So, I don't have a gmail account, but I seem to be in the minority of my peer group. It seems like most of my generation is fairly comfortable allowing strangers, brands, and companies to have access to their personal, used-to-be-private information. How far will we let internet marketing go? Like James mentioned in one of our earlier classes, online marketing is getting smarter and companies are using cookies to track where we go online in order to optimize the ads we see during our web browsing. Are we going to turn around one day and say "Hey! What are you doing there?" By then, won't it be too late?

I also posted an article on the boards I'll link to here as well.

I think as more and more of the corporate sector gets fed up with spam, junk websites, and brand infringers, those highly regarded lobbyists (one day I'll get my sarcasm formatting button) will start whispering in the ears of politicians, but by then, will it be too late?