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FACEBOOK IS CAUGHT FAKING IT

September 23, 2016

I am constantly telling companies to be very careful about asking their marketing department, ad agency or marketing firm to conduct market research. Why? They can have a vested interest in showing you positive results. You really need a third-party working with your marketing team to develop, conduct and analysis research data. This is especially true for online analysis. Yes, Google, Facebook and Yahoo love to share their metrics, but perhaps this is because they are faking it.

CASE IN POINT: For two years, Facebook overestimated to ad agency and firms the average amount of time people spent watching Facebook videos. They finally disclosed that a key metric was accidentally artificially inflated by only including videos viewed for more than three seconds. This may have caused Facebook to overestimate average time spent watching videos by 60% to 80%. Facebook’s solution? A new name for a new metric for what was meant to be measured in the first place.

As reported by the Wall St. Journal, this “miscalculation means marketers may have misjudged the performance of their video ads as well as decisions to move budgets into Facebook, while publishers who post videos on the platform are also affected. Maybe it’s time for the internet’s so-called walled gardens to finally allow true third-party verification of their data.”

Totally agree. I think that is one reason why our research business is growing. More and more people want real data that they can count on.

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THE DANGER OF CHANGING A PRODUCT

September 8, 2016

I’ve been struggling for the past three weeks with upgrading my computer and changing from Windows 7 to Windows 10. Not a fun task. The learning curve hasn’t been easy. I constantly ask myself, why did Microsoft have to change a product I liked?

Then along comes Apple with their new iPhone 7 which now lacks a headphone jack. Now isn’t that super convenient for the billion people who currently own an iPhone! Don’t worry, Apple will sell you a blue tooth headset for an extra $150 to all those users that want a new phone. Or you can simply make a daily decision, “should I charge my phone or listen to music” since the same jack is used for both.

I agree with Megan McArdle, a columnist for Bloomberg View, that did an opinion piece for Ad Age: “Apple’s move represents a trivial gain for a large loss: the vital commodity that economists call option value.”

Option Value is why many businesses change a product. Basically, the idea is that a new option has value, even if you don’t want it or use it. That’s because it increases the range of possibility, and some of those possibilities may be better than your current ones. This is exactly what I find frustrating with Windows 10 and the new 2016 Office – dozens of more options (and commands) than I want or need.

As Megan McArdle points out, option value can make a big difference to businesses. Consider the disaster of New Coke. Coke developed a modern formula that did well in focus groups. So, in 1985 the company changed the formula and customers went crazy. Within months, the old formula was back as Coca-Cola Classic. And then a funny thing happened: The old formula did better than New Coke in beating Pepsi. Losing the option value of having the familiar beverage available reminded people why they had liked it — and they started using that old option more often.

McArdle believes that Apple may end up facing a similar dilemma. Even if the number of people who want to use their old wired headphones is small, there’s a risk that they are really, really attached – much more passionate about it than people who thinks it is cool to have a new, thinner, waterproof phone. If those people can’t get a headphone jack from Apple, they may decide to look for a phone that can provide it.

Marketing Bottom-line: Do not believe 100% in Option Value. You need to do research with your customers prior to making any major change to your product or service. Especially if you have brand loyalty like Coke and Apple. This goes for new websites too!

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DONALD TRUMP WILL WIN THE ELECTION

August 31, 2016

I saw this headline on a Facebook post recently and I’ve seen similar ones. Given the current polls, why would anyone think Trump could win? Before I tell you why, I want to remind you that this is a marketing, not a political, blog. I believe the election offers some great marketing lessons. So, what does Trump have going for him?

Customers do not always tell the truth. As a researcher, I believe the polling models are under-reporting Trump’s level of support. In social science it is called: Social Desirability Bias. Respondents want to answer questions in a manner that will be viewed favorably by others. If you are a college educated white male, a woman, a Hispanic or an African-American, are you going to tell pollster that you are supporting Trump? Especially when it seems that everyone is telling you, you would be crazy to do this? So, you lie, until you get to the voting booth. MARKETING LESSON: If you are conducting a survey it is critical that you structure questions to reduce all types of bias. That’s why firms continue to hire us even if they do their own data collection.

You are in trouble if your customers don’t like you. The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that 56% of Americans view Clinton unfavorably. Of course, Trump isn’t real popular either and that is the marketing takeaway. MARKETING LESSON: Many people do not have a favorite product. They have ones they avoid. They often pick the least objectionable product. That is what we are seeing in Trump vs. Clinton. Remember, it is essential that your customers respect and like you, if you want them to come back.  A variety of research tools can be used to track how you are doing with your customers. Dr. Lougee and I will be happy to share this information with you.

Journalism is entertainment. Have you ever sent a story out and you barely recognize it when it is published? The unbiased journalism model I studied at the University of Oregon is, dead. Today news is entertainment and Trump is, first and foremost, an entertainer. Seriously, if you were going to a dinner would it be more fun to sit next to Trump or Hillary? MARKETING LESSON: News is almost always slanted to the audience a media must entertain. That’s why when you send a story out, you must know who will be reading it – so you can tailor to their self-interest.

Skilled communicators create the world we perceive. Trump now has one of the best professional communications teams you can buy with pollster Kellyanne Conway and Breitbart News Chairman Stephen Bannon. These people know how to take advantages of today’s 24/7 media. They helped create the current media model. MARKETING LESSON: Most often, facts do not change a person’s personal opinion. We live in a world of perceptions – what is in it for me. That’s why retaining communication specialists are critical in shaping your brand (or candidates).

Now, Trump does have an uphill battle because of the electoral college structure. But never count out a competitor until you have a sale.

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THE DARK SIDE OF EMAIL MARKETING

August 26, 2016

Email turns 45 this year. It remains one of the top reasons why most people use the internet. That’s why I am a big believer in having a robust email marketing effort. But the dark side of you using email to promote your business is most emails never show up in your customers’ inbox.

According to a new Return Path report,  less than 70% of emails are delivered. Reviewing the report, here’s some of the challenges your emails can encounter:

Primary Mobile Challenge for Premium Publishers (% of 300 US premium publishers)
Challenge % of Respondents Saying “Primary”
Ad blockers 49%
Quality of consumer experience 44
Quality of content/creative 42
App installations 38
Measurement deficits 31
Platform and service costs 30
Off platform monetization 30
Off network traffic/audience 27
Lagging advertising spend 27
Inadequate revenue/ROI 24
Source: AOL Platforms, August 2016

If you are looking to boost your deliverability, the report outlines the best practices for a successful email marketing effort:

Building and maintaining reputation – If you send email, you have a sender reputation, a rating that helps mailbox providers and spam filters determine whether your emails are trustworthy, safe, and wanted. Looking up your sending reputation, or Sender Score, is free at senderscore.org

Acquiring and maintaining quality subscriber data – An unclean list has severe consequences on your deliverability. Every spam trap, unknown user, and inactive account on your list can damage your reputation, your deliverability, and potentially can land you on a blacklist. Consider investing in a list validation service to ensure each address you add will maintain the quality of your list

Generating subscriber engagement – Mailbox providers like Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail, are focusing more and more on subscriber engagement in their filtering decision process. Marketers who frequently generate high positive engagement from their subscribers are more likely to reach the inbox, while marketers that generate low or negative engagement from their subscribers find their emails landing in the spam folder

Defining seed data – Information captured from high volumes of monitored email accounts (seeds) controlled by senders to sample mailbox providers’ placement decisions irrespective of user-initiated or engagement-based filtering. For new programs with little or no history of subscriber interaction, seeds can provide an accurate assessment of inbox placement

Defining Consumer Network data – Information captured from monitored email accounts controlled by real subscribers to sample user-initiated and engagement based filtering decisions by mailbox providers. Uncover behavior-based factors and thresholds that influence inbox placement at large mailbox providers, and can’t be identified by non-interactive seeds.

For more information from ReturnPath please visit here. Need help in setting up an email marketing program? Contact me for a no cost evaluation of your needs.

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AD BLOCKING IS REAL

August 15, 2016

I haven’t talked much about ad blocking, but it is a real issue online advertisers. The digital ad industry has tried labeling it as a “fringe” activity popular among young men, gamers and Europeans. But it can no longer be dismissed as an underground activity.

According to the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), reported by the Wall St. Journal, 25% of web users in the U.S. now employ ad blockers on desktop computers. What to do? The IAB believes two-thirds of those people could be talked out of using ad blockers, reports CMO Today.

How exactly? The IAB recommends a multipronged approach for website owners/publishers, including cutting off some content from people who use ad blockers, cleaning up annoying ads like autoplay video and making sure ads won’t slow down web experiences. Is this view overly optimistic? Yes, given that people who have already chosen to install ad-blocking software aren’t likely to give publishers the benefit of the doubt.

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CAN YOU TRUST POLLING DATA TODAY?

August 5, 2016

As many of my blog followers know, my firm does numerous research projects a year. So, I am often asked if you can trust all these political polls? This is actually a tough question. The truth is, collecting quantitative data today is very different than just a few years ago.

Why, primarily do to the demise of landlines, the portability of phone numbers, the use of cell phones, and the increased use of automated telephone surveys known as interactive voice response (IVR). That is why you are seeing such an increase use of online panels – people who have agreed to participate in surveys ahead of time.

One of the best essays I’ve read recently on the challenges of contemporary data collection is from the Pew Research Center. They are the gold standard for contemporary social research. If you are considering a study or are just curious if you can trust political polls, it is a must read. Here’s a link to the essay.

If you are interested in conducting a poll, let me know and I can help explain the pitfalls that make research more difficult today. Contrary to popular belief, just using survey monkey doesn’t does not create reliable data.

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ARE YOU READY FOR THIS?

July 27, 2016

I gave my annual speech to the Southern Oregon Rental Association last month and outlined my predictions for the region’s economic future. One of my predictions was “the impact of recreational marijuana cannot be overestimated…” While the full impact of legal marijuana won’t be felt until 2017, it has already impacted the ad agency business. A well-known ad firm in Portland (Sockeye) has now created the first ad for a cannabis-infused drink.

As reported by the Portland Oregonian, the video ad (click here) features a casual backyard party where people sip the soda call: Legal. It underscores how much cannabis has already merged into mainstream culture, at least in Oregon.

“We were raised with, ‘This is wrong,’ and it’s hard to shed that predisposition,” states Andy Fraser, Sockeye CEO. “It’s a polarizing subject matter, but we have just taken the approach that here is a great entrepreneur making a great product and doing it really well.”

The agency researched the market to figure out the best appeal to consumers. The catchy jingle highlights Legal, whose retro label and stubby brown bottle could easily be mistaken for a craft beer. The ad doesn’t feature pot leaves, green crosses or bikini-clad women, which are common images associated with marijuana.

Aimee Huff, an assistant professor of marketing at Oregon State University who has studied marijuana advertising in Colorado, said Sockeye’s ad targets consumers new to cannabis or people who don’t want to smoke. She said the ad, which echoes alcohol advertising, is clearly an effort to give the product mainstream appeal.

NEED A SPEAKER? I’ve got a brand-new talk “95% of Us Don’t Know What is Going On.” It’s a fun and light-hearted look at the importance of business research and why you can’t trust most polls and research. Email if you would be interested.