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Is marketing value hiding in your family name?


Urban Bellwether Gallery

Marketing’s feature vs. benefit lens is older than you think. It’s positively medieval. In Medieval Pet Names, explores how people in the courts and monasteries applied different naming conventions to cats vs. dogs.  It got me to wonder: Is marketing value hiding in family names—mine or yours? I’m not talking value by association, e.g., Rockefeller, but value linked to attributes or achievements.  (Read on or click for the visual story.) Read more…


Citi bikes deliver two-up on customer service

NYC Citi Bikes (NY Daily News)

New Yorkers and Citi Bikes (NY Daily News)

Bicycling in NYC? Never easy, the Citi Bike℠ bike sharing program brought its own tribulations and triumphs on launching just after Memorial Day. No customer service appeared in sight to get riders started. Just a docking station and what looked like a tall, narrow ATM. And, of course, an app for smart phone users.

Quickly, Brooklynites were empowered and engaged to pay-and-bike. Usage patterns quickly emerged as station docks were full, then empty depending on the time and location. Those who weren’t bicycling, were asking the same question.

Is it a bike or a subscription?

(Click for the full story or my pinterest gallery)

Read more…

Tread softly and bring Stonyfield yogurt

Stonyfield covers

Stonyfield 60 Days, 60 Ways

Be careful whom you wake up with morning aspirations and hashtags. Tread softly, as the saying goes—unless, of course, you’re Stonyfield yogurt. They know their organic tribe and their tribe loves them back in every store aisle and social media venue.

During May-June 2013, the lid of each individual yogurt cup covers extends a warm invite to a cool and creamy brand experience. Both the message and the product do your heart good. Read more…

Frye boots do their own brand talking


An iconic brand’s sound trademark (aka sound logo, audio logo) took over my Sunday am solitude  this week. The noisy experience proved so disruptive during a quiet walk that I remembered to blog about it.

An audio logo, as you might guess,  is the sound of a brand and the experience it evokes in brand fans and outsiders.

I heard someone approaching from behind—with strong intention.  Rather, it wasn’t that I heard “someone.”  I heard someone’s footwear rolling up the blue slate sidewalk.

  1. The loud shuffle began to identify itself first as shoes, not athletic wear.
  2. Then boots, but not any boots.
  3. Intrigued, I began to identify a brand from the distinctive sound.

Do your boots walk to a trademark sound? Read more…

Five Brands Strive Greatly – January 2013

Brands are engaging fully Jan 2013

Tagging reveals a powerful story of brand engagement to kick off 1Q 2013.

Brands are striving greatly — that is at all costs — to engage consumers. If you’re not feeling it from your own brands, you’re probably hearing about it from someone else. In today’s financially strapped but digitally savvy culture, pricing and shopping prove a natural complement (see slides). Online is officially the new Main Street.
Here’s a tag-cloud essay of the forces at work this January. Click through to review the full discussion.

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Read more…

Radio’s first commercial – 90 years ago


Thanks go out to John McDonough of NPR for his article, “First Radio Commercial Hit Airwaves 90 Years Ago” (August 28, 2012).

It got me thinking. And so I pulled out my lens of Web 2.0 marketing relationships, and here’s what I saw.

Popular Radio, Dec. 1922 from glowbugs.conus

Popular Radio, Dec. 1922Step back in radio air time: 1922

A New York City resident, you tune into WEAFN  (66AM), owned and operated by AT&T Western Electric. (Yes, the same people who placed your long-distance calls.) Someone named H.M. Blackwell comes on the air, introducing his radio program. Over the next ten minutes (people had longer attention spans back then) you hear something no one has ever heard before: a commercial advertisement.

Mr. Blackwell tells you about a new apartment complex in Jackson Heights, Queens that’s close by NYC’s new underground subway system. Except for telling how lovely and convenient the residence is, that’s about all you get to know, thanks to Herbert Hoover, then US Secretary of Commerce and soon-to-be 31st US President. No price…no deals…no events.

With no context for absorbing the programming, how might you respond? Would you hop on the train and check out the new real estate? Or would you turn off your set, proclaiming the end of radio? (Think how you feel when Justin Bieber hashtags his favorite cause.)

O.K. Back to real time Web 2.0

Why the low-sell in radio’s first commercial advertisement? How did AT&T get in the middle of all this?

AT&T, owner of the airwaves, had airtime and a bottom line. In Selling Radio Direct (1992), Michael C. Keith describes how they invented for-profit airtime sold to advertisers. Marketed as “tollcasting,” the rest is commercial history.

Keith goes on to credit Commerce Secretary Hoover with shaping the context/content of the new airwaves. Unlike direct marketing pioneer Claude C. Hopkins, Hoover held direct selling in low regard. He would allow “sponsored programming,” however. As consumers, we reap the legacy in TV “soap” operas sponsored by CPG companies like Procter & Gamble. It’s become so much a part of our culture, that it’s become transparent.

So the first sponsored program was born and New Yorkers looking for real estate heard something new: sponsored airtime for the new apartment building in Jackson Heights, NYC. The complex still thrives 90 years later. Imagine the ROI: 10 minutes of airtime for $50. Hopefully, there was a real estate agent on site, asking potential renters, “How did you learn of this new property?”

What made the first radio ad work

What made radio’s first commercial work, long before focus groups, testing, and behavioral targeting? To begin, the blue ocean of uncluttered airtime didn’t hurt. It’s also a bit ironic that the first commercial radio ad appealed to New Yorkers’ sweetest spot: real estate. Content-wise, it sold the benefit of convenience.

To our media-saturated eyes, ears, and fingers, it’s hard to imagine. Would you have welcomed the information and the change? Obviously, something worked as radio, the first broadcast medium, changed rapidly. Surely, there was a curmudgeon, hunched by the radio, who rocked back in horror, witness to the crack that would become the great divide between public and non-public (i.e., commercial) broadcast media.

Close to a century later, the impact of radio is clear. Except now you’ve got digital radio and traditional broadcast. Wherever you have access, you’ve got the sound. As consumers, we love our radio. So do advertisers. According to the Internet Radio Advertising Impact Study (© 2011, TargetSpot, Inc.):

Online ad recall and response rates significantly increase when combined with Internet Radio use (Figure 2).

The data reveal that users who listen to Internet Radio are twice as likely as Internet-only users to respond to an Online ad.

Chart: Internet Radio Use Increases Online Ad Response

So, it wasn’t just beginner’s luck or a blue ocean that made the first radio commercial work. Radio, it seems, has a unique power to capture our imaginations, no matter how few or many the tasks at hand.

Upstairs, downstairs at the digital household


Advertising Age (April 9, 2012) reports on a new study that describes two types of digital users

  • Digital Natives – those who have grown up in a digital universe
  • Digital Immigrants – those who have come to the digital universe from the shores of TV, print, and radio.

What’s so interesting is the behavior of these Digital Natives. Commissioned by Time Warner’s Time Inc., Boston’s Innerscope Research conducted a non-scientific study 30 digital natives. These young adults in their 20s  followed their media-content whims for 60 minutes. Researchers found that they jumped ship and “switched” media 27 times in the space of an hour.

Imagine what that means for a standard :60 minute commercial television slot that leaves 14-16 minutes for advertisers. These digital natives may not be opting-in to the media or the programmer or the show. Instead, they’re controlling the content of individual whims. How do advertisers compete with that?

Hosted by

Interestingly, the Magazine Publishers association (MPA), explored the ratio of time spent to advertising’s impact in 2009. Magazines, it seems, came out on top, i.e., suffering the least damage. Marketing Charts featured this earlier study in Magazines Reap Most Ad Value Per Minute via Media Buyer Planner.

If the latest results scale, does this mean a new placement model for advertisers and publishers. It certainly seems that brands will continue to follow the content, creating their own highly engaged hubs. It also seems ripe for gamification that will provoke digital natives to follow the trail of content across media and engage with it actively.