January 21, 2008

Are Influencers Unimportant?

Filed under: Advertising — Emily Reeves @ 1:21 pm

We have all read Malcom Gladwell’s The Tipping Point and latched on to the idea of spreading trends by reaching key influencers and leveraging their word-of-mouth to propel the brand we are marketing. We love this idea: spend the precious few marketing dollars that we have targeting only those people who will help us maximize those dollars by spreading the word of our products’ greatness for us. Now, according to an article in this month’s Fast Company, a network-theory scientist–Duncan Watts–is debunking the idea of influencers as a key marketing tool:

“Watts believes…a trend’s success depends not on the person who starts it, but on how susceptible the society is overall to the trend–not how persuasive the early adopter is, but whether everyone else is easily persuaded.”

While this may be true, even Watts’ own research proves the effectiveness of influencers and word-of-mouth, evident by his experiment using new, unknown music. He recruited two groups of people for his study: one group ranked the music based on their own likes without knowledge of what other people thought, while another group–subdivided into eight “social groups”–ranked the music in an environment where they were able to see what others thought about that music. “In the merit group, the songs were ranked mostly equitably, with a small handful of songs drifting slightly lower or higher in popularity. But in the social worlds, as participants reacted to one another’s opinions, huge waves took shape. A small, elite bunch of songs became enormously popular, rising above the pack, while another cluster fell into relative obscurity.” However, “in each of the eight social worlds, the top songs–and the bottom ones–were completely different.” Watts’ analysis of these results: “Word of mouth and social contagion made big hits bigger. But they also made success more unpredictable.”

Inability to predict and see regularity in what was going to be popular in each of the groups does not debunk the role influencers play in starting trend; it actually proves their importance and influence. Each group was influenced by the influencers.

While Watts’ computer generated models of social behavior are impressive, they certainly aren’t convincing when not tied back to real world examples . The Tipping Point is so convincing because the theory can be tied back to actual social and cultural events.

January 17, 2008

Mass Cultural Consumption = Mass Creative Output

Filed under: Advertising — Emily Reeves @ 10:55 am

Using the Internet as a tool, more and more consumers are engaging in culture consumption, broadening their knowledge horizons and then using that experience and knowledge to contribute their own creative expressions and deposit those right back into our culture for further consumer consumption. According to a recent article in Ad Age:

“For years, marketers viewed the cultural consumer as an elite market segment, estimated to represent 2% of the overall population. As we witness a maturing knowledge economy, it’s become evident that we must enlarge our view of who’s consuming cultural experiences and how often. To benefit from the coming era, smart CMOs need to see that American consumers aspire to be viewed as thinking, expressive human beings…Consider these facts:

  • The typical adult attends an average of 1.9 cultural events per month.
  • 68% of the American public is interested in independent films.
  • Gen Y-ers (those ages 18 to 29) attend an average of 2.3 cultural events per month.
  • More Americans visit museums, historical sites, zoos and aquariums than attend all professional sports events combined, including auto racing.
  • In 2006, 65% of households ranked “avid book reading” as their No. 1 at home leisure activity, according to the Standard Rate and Data Service.”

(Then again, according to a recent article in The New Yorker titled The Twilight of Books, you might not believe consumers are more culturally inclined and reading literature “…if you consulted the Census Bureau and the National Endowment for the Arts, who, since 1982, have asked thousands of Americans questions about reading that are not only detailed but consistent. The results, first reported by the N.E.A. in 2004, are dispiriting. In 1982, 56.9 per cent of Americans had read a work of creative literature in the previous twelve months. The proportion fell to fifty-four per cent in 1992, and to 46.7 per cent in 2002. Last month, the N.E.A. released a follow-up report, To Read or Not to Read, which showed correlations between the decline of reading and social phenomena as diverse as income disparity, exercise, and voting. In his introduction, the N.E.A. chairman, Dana Gioia, wrote, ‘Poor reading skills correlate heavily with lack of employment, lower wages, and fewer opportunities for advancement.’”)

If your target is an avid Internet user, they are more likely than not consuming cultural experiences frequently. And, as that Ad Age article notes, “Knowledge is power. Ideas are the killer app. Learning is the new status skill. This is an enlightened age, and culture consumers revere brands that teach them new things without pontificating.” What can brands do to feed that consumer hunger for cultural and knowledge?

January 10, 2008

Influence

Filed under: Advertising — Emily Reeves @ 10:36 am

Consumer Influence in Potential Buyers’ Purchase Decisions: What Does This Mean for Marketers?

A study sited in MediaPost’s Media magazine noted that “75% of shoppers say it is extremely or very important to read customer reviews before making a purchase. And they prefer peer reviews over expert reviews by a 6-to-1 margin.”

I always read consumer reviews of products when the site I am purchasing from provides the reviews next to the product I am considering. And, these reviews almost always help me decide one way or another. Zappos.com is great about providing this kind of feedback, and it is so helpful to have people tell you about the fit, size, color, etc. when you are buying online—where things don’t always show up the size or color you envisioned them, or you can’t be there to try it on. I love iTunes for this reason too—many times I have been influenced to try new music because others who bought something I liked have also purchased xx.

When I buy products online that do not provide these consumer reviews, I typically don’t actively seek out other consumer reviews. And, I am almost always disappointed with my purchase because something wasn’t as I thought it would be. You would think I would have learned my lesson by now: consumer reviews are helpful.

So, if consumers themselves are selling our clients’ products/services for us, then what are advertisers responsible for in the purchase cycle? If the product is good enough, it will sell itself, right? Maybe, but not always. Admittedly, our tactics must shift a bit, but how do consumers find out about products and services? Advertising. How do think about those products and services, and come understand the brand? Advertising.

What changes need occur in our marketing efforts? According to one of my favorite blogs, Influx Insights:
“If we shift over from the media to the marketing world, it appears that most marketing departments aren’t yet designed and organized to manage and cope with Marketing 2.0 [the Marketing 2.0 trend suggests a new open environment of participation between brands and their customers], most are still working and structured for a 1.0 world.

“The Marketing Department is going to need to change radically, but there are some questions.

“How do they make the transition?

“When does the “tipping point” occur?

“Marketing departments need fundamentally new skill sets, new positions/job titles and they are also going to need some smart technology to assist them.

“Given how little bandwidth most departments have these days, it’s safe to assume that there are quite a few brands out there who risk damaging their reputations because they simply aren’t structured to cope with the new era of conversation and participation.”

Clearly, advertising/marketing and public communications must work hand-in-hand in this new Marketing 2.0 era to craft our messages and inform consumers about our clients’ products and services, and then correct any misperceptions. And, we must learn from and leverage the consumer feedback and influence that is out there to constantly improve our communications tactics, and if necessary, make recommendations for improving the products/services we are selling. We should feel lucky that consumers are that interested and we should listen and learn from what they have to say. Let’s get out there and listen to them. In fact, let’s invite them to tell us what they think.

Wasted

Filed under: Advertising — Emily Reeves @ 9:27 am

According to MediaPost’s Media magazine, if the entire North American magazine industry used just 30% post-consumer recycled (PCR) paper:

1,448,487 tons of wood would be saved, or the equivalent of 10,027,984 trees.

6,275,322 million BTU’s of energy would be conserved, or the equivalent of the energy used to power 68,960 homes in a year.

1,694,830,791 pounds of greenhouse gases would not be released into the atmosphere, or the equivalent of greenhouse gases emitted by 153,894 cars in a year.

3,377,016,271 gallons of wastewater would not be produced, or the equivalent of 5,113 Olympic-size swimming pools.

760,160,370 pounds of solid waste would be conserved, or the equivalent of 27,149 fully-loaded garbage trucks.

It is amazing what a difference 30% can make. Seems like advertisers can influence magazines with their advertising dollars by insisting on the use of PCR paper in the publications where their advertising runs. How difficult could this be?