Fueling the Army of Stupid


The 24 hour news cycle was first popularized on television and led to the creation of a multitude of “news” shows and channels.  This conditioned consumers into believing that all of this “news” was actually “news” worthy and hence, needed to be consumed.   The internet has exploited this human condition and is continuing to spiral out of control with the online media outlets and social networks enabling the masses to share, tweet, like, +1, or worse yet, comment on these largely sensationalized and manufactured news stories – resulting in the current real-time news cycle.

This is all well and good if those that are most “engaged” are not members of the Army of Stupid.  So who exactly pledges allegiance to this flag of ignorance?

My totally unscientific study concludes that approximately 75% of internet users who comment on articles, stories, and other postings, suffer from a debilitating symptom of the “real-time” news cycle.  Stupidity.  These consumers share no common demographic or geographic traits (unlike a closely related faction, UFO abductees) other than a narcissistic belief that a) they are right, and b) someone cares.  Not to be confused with ignorance, which is somewhat excusable and even curable, this condition can be best summed up by the great Ron White – “You Can’t Fix Stupid“.

Let me offer three recent maddening observations:

The Casey Anthony verdict – If you were not a) a jury member, b) an observer in the courtroom, c) a lawyer with access to all of the evidence, or d) a Kardashian, please don’t clog up the social sphere with your opinions.  It’s pretty bad when national TV networks and the plethora of cable news channels are streaming tweets and comments across the screen – since when does “Joe”, a plumber from Des Moines, have a newsworthy opinion on a criminal court case?  And don’t get me started on the “legal” media figures propagating and rewarding this behavior, ahem, Nancy Grace, you know who you are.

Facebook’s integration with Skype / Launch of Google +1 – I have been in or on the periphery of the technology industry for about 20 years, and it still amazes me how polarizing technology can be, with legions of (blind) followers on each side of the proverbial fence accusing the [insert favorite tech giant] of “copying” [insert hated tech giant].  IBM vs Apple, Apple vs Microsoft, AOL vs Compuserve, Yahoo vs Google, Google vs Microsoft, Microsoft vs Yahoo, Google vs Apple, and so on – bottom line is that once you become “giant” the innovation largely stops – they just keep repackaging the same stuff with improvements to design and functionality – appealing to the audience of the moment.  Video chat is not new, nor is social networking – and frankly, the combination of the two isn’t new either.  No one accused Mercedes of copying BMW when they added Bluetooth as an option, right?

The belief that [insert favorite tech giant] is infallible – While many believe that the likes of Google, Facebook, Amazon, and Apple will never be anything but dominate in their pursuits, one doesn’t have to look too far back to see former darlings reduced to rubble (AOL, Netscape), slowly plodding along with little growth (Microsoft, Cisco) or even fighting to hang on (Nokia, RIM).  There will always be something newer, shinier, better, cheaper, and faster around the corner – companies were not made to last forever and the giants of today will eventually be displaced.  So save your “so-and-so is the greatest” and “so-and-so sux” (the ending in “x” is another greater marker for stupidity) comments to yourself unless you can back it up with some sound supporting evidence.

If the World is Flat, why do you need a Sherpa?


Flat Earth Sherpa

By now, I am sure you all have read The World Is Flat: A Brief History of the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Friedman?  If you haven’t read this book yet, I highly recommend you read it right away – it will change the way you think about the future that is already here.  With that said, the basic premise that I took away from the book in a single sentence is that technology has essentially “flattened” the  Earth by enabling real-time collaboration on a global basis. The concept of a small manufacturer in India, sourcing raw materials in China, perhaps on Alibaba, with funding via micro loan from the UK, and selling finished goods on eBay to an American consumer is now a reality.

This is where the irony enters.

This new flat Earth has been a tremendous enabler for small and medium-sized businesses, but has muddied the waters for much larger companies.  I spend a great deal of my time consulting with some of the world’s largest and most recognizable consumer brands, and for the most part these companies recognize and are actively trying to exploit this new flat Earth, but frankly they have no idea how to choose the best countries for expansion, how to maximize growth for those countries they are already in, and in either case, how to navigate the myriad of technology, data, cultural, legal and consumer privacy challenges.

Hence, the need for a Sherpa (hint: ME).

If your company or if you have a client that is facing these types of Global Expansion challenges in this new flat earth, please let me know – I can lead the way.

It has been a while since I have posted an article, and I certainly have no shortage of topics to write about; the fact remains that  I simply do not have enough time in the day.  And to add insult to injury, my travel schedule and client load keeps me flush with article ideas, but  no time to write about them.  I actually did some of the final editing for this post on my new iPhone 4 (more on that in future articles) while my son drank his milk and watched Little Einsteins from my lap!

Anyway, thanks for stopping by and keep your eyes open for a few rapid-fire posts over the next week or so – having not written in a while, they will be based on my travels and observations over the last couple of months.  Don’t forget to leave your comments and provide feedback.

Thank you for reading and Happy Hunting!

If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing RIGHT…


We’ve all heard variations of this sentiment – many credit it’s creation to Hunter S. Thompson in his epic adventure “Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas” (yes I called it epic).  Having spent nearly 7 years in the Army, I vehemently subscribe to this train of thought and often find myself discouraged when business owners and marketers take short cuts to save a buck now, when in reality they could be costing themselves more in the long run. 
Here are 2 recent “personalization” experiences that illustrate the point (I have changed the names to protect the guilty).  In both cases, these prestigious, national brands are applying technology to reach consumers with personalized communications, but the effort is lackluster at best due to some shortcomings on the data side:
 
I am a subscriber to the print edition of Super Cool Business Magazine, although I have not activated or created an online profile with the companion website.  My subscription to the magazine was offered to me via direct mail, and I responded (and paid) via the web, and this is not the only title from the publisher to which I subscribe.  So – let’s recap.  The publisher has my name and postal address, as well as information about other magazine titles they offer to which I also subscribe.  They have my personal email address derived from the online subscription activation/payment as well as online profiles associated with other titles
 
Herein lies the rub – over the last month or 2, my wife has been receiving emails from Super Cool Business Magazine and “trusted partners” personalized to me (“Dear Mark”).  Obviously they have performed some sort of email address append to their file and/or performed some data massaging to “household” my record – the result is that my wife’s personal email address is associated with my name and postal information.  I say to her – “No problem – just forward me the email, and I will go online and update my communication preferences to include my email address instead of yours”.  Easier said than done.  When I clicked the link in the email to make changes to my profile, the only option was to completely unsubscribe.  So I did – too bad for this publisher – now their database is short one email address and who knows how many others experienced the same thing?  All of this results from having the right intentions (combination of marketing + technology) but with poor execution. 
 
My second example comes to us from a respected German automaker; my wife and I both drive cars from this brand and we loyaly use the local dealership for our maintenance and repair needs.  Our vehicles are both model year 2004 sedans, but different models.  The dealership’s use of email as a CRM extension and marketing tool has been sporadic at best.  The various emails we receive related to marketing promotions, coupons, and service appt reminders all seem to be coming from different systems – to the point that the email templates (colors, logos, fonts) seem to have no cohesive design elements connecting them. 
 
Herein lies the rub – the dealership cannot seem to get my email address associated with me and my vehicle, and my wife’s email address associated with her and her vehicle.  They will personalize a marketing message with “Dear Mark”   and reference my Model/VIN# in an email to my wife and vice-versa.  Sometimes, the emails will have her name and my VIN# to my email address.  There does not seem to be any rhyme or reason.  To add insult to injury, there is no way to go online and self-police the data in a communication preference center – again, the only option is to unsubcribe, and the unsubscribe page for each email is different.  We have even made calls to the dealership providing updated information to no avail – it appears that the dealer marketing system, the dealer service scheduling system, and the corporate marketing database are not synchronized. 
 
So what’s the lesson?  Don’t take shortcuts and make sure your data is in order before personalizing communications or at least offer a 2-way dialogue that enables consumers to contribute to the conversation.  Here is a great article on personalizing email communications from MediaPost:
 

“You Put Your Chocolate in My Peanut Butter!”


We’ve all come to love the irresistible combination of chocolate and peanut butter served to us by the folks at Reese’s and can probably name scores of other perfect combinations in nearly any context. Things like cell Phones with cameras and Gin & Tonic; or people like Sonny & Cher or Will & Grace! Not to mention the ever-present “Value Meals” and Price Fixe menus in nearly every segment of dining these days. I guess 1 + 1 does equal 3?

To this end, my blog is aptly named marketing+technology and I wanted to share with you some fine examples of how the combination of sound marketing principles with appropriate technology can yield tremendous results.

I assume you’ve read my recent post about getting reading glasses? Anyway, yesterday I received an automated phone call from the retail eyeglass location where I purchased my glasses. The computer voice on the other end of the line was a very pleasant-sounding young lady, British or Australian I think, who identified herself as calling from the store in question and asked to confirm that I was Mark Donatelli (she even pronounced it right – better than many people!) and if I was willing to answer 2 survey questions about my recent experience. After I pressed 1 (Yes) to continue, I was asked to rate my experience from 0 to 10 (10 being best) and rate my willingness to recommend them to others. After pressing my entries I was then asked to record a short message about why I rated the experience as I did. Done and Done. After this 20 second process I immediately thought “They put chocolate in the peanut butter!”.

By this, I mean that they took the solid marketing and CRM practices of:

1. Follow up with your clients after their purchase.
2. Survey your clients to measure satisfaction.
3. Ask your clients for an endorsement or quote regarding your satisfaction.
4. And as a by-product, they were also able to verify my phone number in their database.

These steps if done by a person would be time-consuming and costly, but with the injection of some technology the process is automated and efficient.

To take this a step further, I imagine that about 11 months from now I will receive a postcard reminding me to stop in and have my annual eye exam. If they were really cookin’, I might get a birthday card with a discount coupon on prescription sunglasses – we’ll have to wait and see on that one. Regardless of industry, these types of automated “campaigns” can have a positive effect on your business by deepening customer loyalty.

From a prospecting standpoint (as opposed to the CRM scenario above), the combination of technology and sound marketing principles can be even more powerful. For example, a national home improvement store might have ongoing, automated direct mail programs for New Homeowners, New Movers, Households expecting a child, or those will children headed to college. Each mail program has a creative design and content relative to the “lifestage” the recipient is experiencing. This allows the store to call attention to specific, relevant products likely needed by the recipient. Without technology to automate the data acquisition and delivery, then merging with creative and print, this would not be possible.

Imagine if Peanut Butter and Chocolate had never met? Tell me about your marketing+technology idea and let’s make it happen!

A trip in the way back machine below – 80’s commercials for Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

If you build it they will come…


I know, I know, it’s actually  “he will come” in the movie Field of Dreams, referring to Shoeless Joe Jackson and eventually even more members of the 1919 Black Sox.  That’s probably the only situation where it rang true.  In the real world it just doesn’t work that way.  Regardless, my blog is now “built” and the rest is up to me….

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