It’s Not About You, It’s About Them
Patricia | May. 17, 2010

obamaiphoneappAdam L. Penenberg’s new book, Viral Loop: From Facebook to Twitter, How Today’s Smartest Businesses Grow Themselves, has me thinking that no matter the medium, one too often ignored maxim remains the same: it’s not about you (or your service or product), it’s about them.

Penenberg chose to illustrate his definition of a viral loop, where “a company grows because each new user begets more new users,” with lessons from the 2008 presidential campaign. He said the first reason Barack Obama won was his presentation of, “a short, clear positioning statement:”

Unlike Hilary Clinton touting her “experience or John McCain bragging that “I have the record and the scars to prove it,” Obama’s two core messages were “Change” and Yes, we can.” A call to arms, these taglines offered supporters a clear rallying cry, while Clinton’s and McCain’s messages were more nebulous and top-down (that is, elect me because I’m more experienced). Obama’s campaign galvanized its supporters, who in turn virally extended his message.

I would go further and say that Obama’s message had little to do with what he would do and more about what WE could do. He ignited our imaginations simply by including us in the equation. With Clinton and McCain, the request for our participation stopped at giving them our votes. Obama, in contrast, asked us to be in a relationship.

Nothing is more annoying than a sales rep who just wants to make this one sale, and won’t take no for an answer because he or she isn’t listening to our reasons for not buying. Penenberg is right that “a short, clear positioning statement” is great, and I advise my clients to never give an audience two or more messages at once, but it doesn’t end there. People buy our product, or donate to our cause, or vote for us, or use our services to meet their own needs, not ours. It was this way long before Facebook but it’s never been more important to incorporate this simple truth into our marketing efforts.

So don’t tell them about you, ask them about them and then offer the answer: you.

The Beginning of the End of Facebook?
Patricia | May. 11, 2010

This isn’t the monthly Facebook-has-jumped-the-shark warning that people post in seeming anticipation. But with all the discussion of privacy concerns in light of Facebook’s last round of “upgrades,” I am wondering if it’s all gone too far. And I’m not talking about invasions of privacy.

It’s not just the privacy concerns, which almost block out the sun, it’s also the question of how much time I can take from my life to observe yours

Ever since people were given the opportunity to “like” things from the web at large, my news feed, and I’m sure yours, runneth over. I’ve hidden more friends (but not YOU!), I’m reluctant to accept offers to “like,” and I find myself spending less time on Facebook in general. The endless streams of who likes what are forcing me to acknowledge just how much of a time-waster Facebook is.

Before, I could focus on the social aspects, such as reconnecting with people I lost track of that I actually do like, and making new “friends” that I’ve never met or only know peripherally but enjoy trading witty or profound comments with. By hiding Farmville and its players, ignoring quizzes, and otherwise trimming the fat, I could feel that a lot of the time spent on Facebook was worth it, both personally and professionally. But Facebook is trying my patience.

I recently read that more people access Facebook than online porn, so that’s saying something. But if we continue to be asked to care what every single friend likes, who they’ve become friends with, AND how they scored on that quiz, I’m willing to predict that it won’t be long before we all begin to take a hard look at what we’re getting out of Facebook and how much time we’re putting in.

Even more potentially annoying is the Facebook version of Foursquare, wherein we can know the whereabouts of every friend at every minute of the day. Again, it’s not just the privacy concerns, which almost block out the sun, it’s also the question of how much time I can take from my life to observe yours.

I don’t think the idea of a Facebook will die. But as it continues to pursue profitability by thinking of new ways to deliver consumers to marketers, it will be viewed differently. I think new networks will come along that will offer less — and to me, that will be more.

Quid Pro Quo: Is the LinkedIn Recommendation Function Legit?
Patricia | Apr. 2, 2010

itsadealI’m stuck and I need some feedback. How do you feel about asking for recommendations on LinkedIn?

I have recommended a few people, most spontaneously, just because it’s fun to get to tell others how great you think someone else is. I have also been asked for a recommendation, and was pleased to provide it, kind of kicking myself that I hadn’t thought of it first.

So why does asking for recommendation for myself feel awkward? LinkedIn makes it easy, after all, providing the message and everything. Is it because it looks like, “You say something nice about me and I’ll say something nice about you?” Or does it? And how much value do such recommendations have anyway? Are they worth all this soul-searching?

Let me know what you think.

Hype as a Part of Nature? The Gartner Hype Cycle
Patricia | Apr. 1, 2010


One of the concepts introduced during the 60SecondMarketer’s online social media roundtable I recently attended was the Gartner Hype Cycle. Developed by Gartner Research for nearly every industry, the hype cycle helps marketers decide where a technology falls in its lifespan and time their efforts accordingly. There are five phases:

Technology Trigger: A potential technology breakthrough kicks things off. Early proof-of-concept stories and media interest trigger significant publicity. Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.

Peak of Inflated Expectations: Early publicity produces a number of success stories—often accompanied by scores of failures. Some companies take action; many do not.

Trough of Disillusionment: Interest wanes as experiments and implementations fail to deliver. Producers of the technology shake out or fail. Investments continue only if the surviving providers improve their products to the satisfaction of early adopters.

Slope of Enlightenment: More instances of how the technology can benefit the enterprise start to crystallize and become more widely understood. Second- and third-generation products appear from technology providers. More enterprises fund pilots; conservative companies remain cautious.

Plateau of Productivity: Mainstream adoption starts to take off. Criteria for assessing provider viability are more clearly defined. The technology’s broad market applicability and relevance are clearly paying off.

Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention lately would agree that social media networking is solidly atop the peak of expectations, and headed into the trough of disappointment. Taking the long view, though, and paying attention to the hype cycle, we know the ride will get smoother.

For those who worry they will miss the social media boat if they don’t act immediately, the good news is there’s plenty of time. Most applications like Facebook and Twitter, if they continue to provide worth, will likely make it through to the plateau of productivity. Some would argue they already have.

Driving Through the Clutter
Patricia | Jan. 8, 2010

The case for the difficulty of modern marketing is enumerated by Augustine Fou, a social marketer for the health care and pharmaceutical industries.

“Studies have shown that 1) ad recall is at an all time low, 2) banner ad click-through rates are usually rounding-errors to zero – i.e., very, very low, and 3) consumers’ eyes avoid the top and right of Web pages because they know that’s where ads are typically placed.”

These three facts (which I haven’t checked independently but which sound right) total one thing: the human mind can only take in so much and after a point, adapts by efficiently filtering out the surplus, or in the case of advertising, what is referred to as “clutter.”

It’s like driving. If you registered every single detail as you moved across the landscape, it would be impossible to proceed. To survive, we assign categories of importance to the things around us: pedestrians and bicyclists in the road are number one, other cars are number two, red lights and stop signs are number three…and so on. If we allowed billboards to be number one, we’d have a lot more wrecks.

Of course we already know this. What we don’t always know, and continue to try to crack, is how to be the one message that breaks through. And since our desire for products, services, ideas, candidates, etc. is as complicated as a busy street, there are no blanket answers to that.

Golf Digest Obama/Tiger Cover: Hilarious Fail
Patricia | Dec. 23, 2009

tigerobamacoverNothing quite sums up the differences between print and new media like the January 2010 cover of Golf Digest. Print — despite the likely fervent wishes to the contrary of the editors who came up with, “10 Tips Obama Can Take From Tiger” — is forever.

The story is not available online but promises, “Writers and players share what they think the president can learn from the world’s best golfer — and vice versa.” The mind reels at the possibilities of what Obama could learn from Tiger, but let’s face it, there’s only one thing we can think of that Tiger might learn in return: “Keep it in your pants, son!”

A Product in Search of a Problem to Solve
Patricia | Dec. 6, 2009

cocktailcarouselThe four P’s of marketing are product, price, place (as in, where the product – or service – is available), and promotion. Marketers should have a role in designing the product, ostensibly because we know what the public wants. So who, I’m wondering, wants a cocktail carousel?

Let’s look at the original product: a bottle of booze. In order to dispense the contents, you must twist off the top and tilt it over a shot glass. When the glass is full, you straighten the bottle out and twist the top back on.

With the cocktail carousel, you take the original product, twist off the top, attach the dispensing apparatus, turn the bottle upside down, fit it into the carousel, hold a shot glass under the dispenser, and flip the lever. Wow! That’s so much easier!

Maybe the product is intended to help after you’ve been using it awhile, say after your fourth shot when tipping that bottle over a tiny glass gets trickier. On the other hand, according to the description, the red levers allow 1.5 shots to come out, the black ones provide “continuous flow.” Hilarity no doubt ensues as we try to remember if it’s the red one or the black one. And where is the red one anyway? How about if we just lay down under the black one with our mouths open?

I know this will probably be a popular item under the tree, what with people doing shots like nobody’s business in these tough economic times. Still, I can’t help but feel the cocktail carousel answers a question no one asked.

Dare to View Holiday Decorating Ideas from Real People
Patricia | Dec. 2, 2009

Everyone has their favorite time-waster web site, where they go to confirm the superiority of their personal tastes over others. People of Wal-Mart certainly springs to mind. But for a real look into the psyche of Americans, not to mention their living rooms, I love the Better Homes and Gardens “100 Days of Holidays,” where the reader-submitted pictures are off the chain.


I can’t see using this theme in Florida, where the humidity would have those suckers dripping in no time.


There is no way to view this tree and not get a mental image of the home owner. I can see her now…


If you were going to all the trouble to wrap your cabinets and range hood in gift paper, wouldn’t you use the good stuff?


This just makes me sad. Poor Tiger. Something tells me his Christmas will be neither merry nor bright.


Of course, my favorite is this shot someone submitted of a two-headed dog under the tree. Clever!

The Best Time to Contact Donors
Patricia | Nov. 18, 2009

handsJeff Brooks always makes great points in his column for Fundraising Success magazine, but a recent column about how often an organization should ask for donations had several. And it looks like the best time to contact potential donors is…

Any time.

I’ve yet to find any evidence that asking donors less makes them more responsive. In every test I’ve seen of contact frequency, donors on reduced-contact schedules give less often and lapse at higher rates.

Donations are not mere transactions; they are the result of a relationship between you and your donor, and relationships are complicated. A donor’s decision to give might not be motivated only by the piece of mail she received today, but by a whole matrix of interactions. It may take two, three or more points of contact to create the tipping point that leads to a gift.

A more paranoid way to look at it: While you are letting your donors “rest,” someone else is talking to them, asking for gifts — and possibly getting them!

The fundraiser/donor relationship is like any other human relationship: Communication builds it; lack of contact can strangle it.

Brooks also has a wonderful idea for how to stay in touch.

Send newsletters: Donors usually respond positively to newsletters. They are a great way to thank donors and show them what their giving accomplishes. For many organizations, newsletters are as effective at raising funds as appeal letters — sometimes better. If you aren’t sending a newsletter, start now!

Hey, why didn’t I think of that? Oh yeah, I did.

Newsletters are one of the best ways organizations can help donors understand and support their missions. They are also a great vehicle for donor recognition. A profile of the donor and what it is about your cause that reaches them offers far better gratification than a plaque, and might help those reading it get their own ideas.

Don’t assume that because something is on your web site, it’s top of mind for potential donors. Send them a newsletter and if it’s well-executed,* you’ll be hearing from them soon.

P.S. The same advice holds for contacting current and potential clients as well.

* Call Got Lucky Communications, and it will be!

Tea Leaves and Psychographics: Beer Brand as Personality Profile
Patricia | Nov. 2, 2009

photo-blglue-moonThe basic premise makes sense. Since, as the recent “beer summit” at the White House proved, people have strong associations with brands of beer, this preference must provide clues to personality. Even not drinking beer says something about you. Based on that idea, Mindset Media launched a survey designed to predict personality traits according to people’s tastes in beer. And here’s what they found.

  • Budweiser: Sensible, practical yet spontaneous anti-authority types who are 42 percent more likely to drive a truck than the average person and 42 percent more likely to use breath-freshening strips daily. Sound like you?
  • Bud Light: Obama’s choice in beers (and mine) reflects a person who does respect authority while lacking carefulness (what?), is accepting of people, and is easy to get along with. They are also 48 percent more likely to play the lottery (not me) than the average person, and 34 percent less likely to buy organic (not me either).
  • Michelob Ultra: These trendy, hip folks think highly of themselves and want to appear “perfect.” They have strong opinions, and can be confrontational in expressing them. Maybe for this reason, they are 34 percent more likely than the average person to buy life insurance.
  • Corona: Busy party animals who never get tired of the company of others, these fun folks see themselves as giving and warm, and as such are 91 percent more likely than the average person to buy recycled products and 38 percent more likely to own a startling three or more flat-screen TVs.
  • Heineken: Let’s just say what you lack in modesty you make up in self-esteem. Energetic and dynamic, you love to be the center of attention, and are 58 percent more likely to whip out an American Express card than the average person and 29 percent more likely to drive a sports car.
  • Blue Moon: (Full disclosure: if someone else is paying, I’ll order a Blue Moon. With the orange.) Socially liberal, these people hate moral authority and can be sarcastic when trying to get a point across. Wow, who’d have guessed? Sorry, I was being sarcastic. They are also a whopping 105 percent more likely to drive a hybrid car, 77 percent more likely to own a Mac laptop, and 65 percent more likely to buy five or more pairs of running shoes annually.
  • Craft Beers: People who go out of their way to order the most obscure beer on tap are open-minded, intellectually curious, and seek out interesting experiences. They are happy-go-lucky as they buy their organic products (which they are 153 percent more likely to do), and watch The Office, which they 52 percent more likely to do. They are also 36 percent more likely to be the one who gets to choose which movie we’re going to see.
  • No Beer: Remember all those people who wanted to have a beer with Pres. Bush, who himself doesn’t drink? Well, they probably didn’t vote for him but the abstainers did. People who don’t drink beer were found to be social conservatives who don’t like loosening up and see most issues in black and white. They honor authority and are 50 percent more likely to register Republican.