Technology and Buying Patterns

Note: this post is from Mar ’07. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation.

I was reading through some fascinating research the other day. The conclusion is a little long and I’ll do my best to break it down (so that I can understand it more than anything else).

The conclusion goes like this: “Populations will shift their browsing/buying patterns (patterns of social interaction) based on technological changes that make their lives easier if they move to a new social strata where the technological innovations are more unilaterally applied.”

What does that mean?

First up, we’re dealing with a population undergoing change. “Populations will shift…” and “…if they move…”.

These changes are first psychological (“…a new social strata…”) and may be due to positive changes in their financial situation. The changes will probably generate a positive change in their environment (they’ll move to a different neighborhood, probably one more reflective of their positive change in finances).

The cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational driver for the changes will be greater access to some technology that makes their lives easier. Examples of this would be living closer to a highway for a commuter, moving to a neighborhood which has faster internet access, things like that. A demonstration of this technology (and evidence to the population on the move that they’re moving to the “right” place) will be that everyone in this new place has equal access to the technology.

Evidence of this psychological move will be changes in what they buy and how they buy it.

Well…uh…hmm…On a first read and after a little decoding, this is obvious. “People whose financial situation changes will change their buying patterns and what they buy.”

But that’s not what this research concludes. The financial change isn’t the impetus nor is it the end result. The conclusion of this research is

  1. people will change their financial situation
  2. in order to have access to certain technologies
  3. that make their lives easier

Companies wanting to incentivise their employees should give them access to neat “toys” (HDTV, up-scale cars, better hotel accommodations while traveling, send them to high-end shows and conferences are examples). Increasing their pay won’t due it. Give them a taste of the good life on the job and they’ll want it at home, and that will incentivise them to work harder to get it.

That’s what I think of as a beneficial use of this research. It also indicates something else; people will put themselves in greater and greater debt in order to have access to things they believe will make their lives easier. The above bullet points start with “people will change their financial situation” and there is no guarantee that change will be positive, only that it will change.

That’s a little different, don’t you think?


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The Complete “Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class” Arc

Note: this was a thirty part post arc in which J answered student questions. We’re reposting because J references it in Reading Virtual Minds Volume II: Experience and Expectation and he’s the boss, we do what he says. Most times.

UMass Lowell and Strategic Management

I was very honored today to be asked to sit in on UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management classes. These classes are taught by Dr. Martin Moser, a gentleman I’ve mentioned before in my blogs. The classes are working on some very interesting ideas; marketing UMass Lowell as a product to a very targeted audience — high school juniors. As Dr. Moser is going to be passing this post onto his students, I’m hoping they’ll feel free to post their comments and thoughts (and hopefully pointers to their marketing materials, if they’re allowed) here so others can get an idea of what these students are doing.

I could tell you I was blown away by the competence, expertise and skill of these students and I still wouldn’t be doing them justice. They are constructing videos of their lives at UMass Lowell, highly informative, definitely intimate (meaning one-on-one), and very personable. These videos are going on different social networking sites as a means of promoting the school. This is the brainchild of Dr. Moser and is being encouraged by Associate Vice Chancellor Joyce Gibson and Dean Tom Taylor. My purpose for attending the class was to provide some feedback on their marketing efforts and to do some field research on how that generation is thinking.

I’m not going to go into how bright, how professional, this and that. Take it for granted. What truly impressed me was that these students were so willing to learn. When I offered a response to a video they asked for explanations and follow up thoughts. Their questions were both reasonable and insightful. They were thinking! They impressed me. One student recognized the differences involved in gender-based marketing and asked how to deal with them. Other students were aware that certain things would work well for their target but not for older audiences — that’s right, they understood age-based demographics.

Okay and yes. If students are learning how to produce marketing material they should be aware of these concepts. There is, however, a broad difference between learning something, being aware of it, and putting it into practice and understanding how what they’re doing works in a business environment.

My hat’s off to the students, Dr. Moser and UMass Lowell for supporting this learning.

I also promised the students that I’d provide links for them on the various things we were talking about. Those follow at the bottom of this post.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class

A few days back I wrote UMass Lowell and Strategic Management and what a pleasure it was to meet with the students and learn what they were doing (creating online videos to market UMass Lowell to prospective students).

Imagine my pleasure when one of the students emailed me her thanks!

The student, Robyn, wrote:

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to come to our Strategic Management class. It was great to hear an outsider’s point of view on our project. You gave us many great insights like the idea placing two people in one shot to show a sense of belongingness. Also researching into the local concert arenas to find up coming events, this is much more compelling. My group, The Usual Suspects, has already been working on a way to put them into our video. Once again thank you and I hope to have the chance to learn from you again!

Let me write again that I was very impressed by all the student videos. They handled my critiques well. As I told them, “I’m talking to you as I would a client who asked us to come in and help them.” The students took my critiques far better than some clients do and (I’m sure) far better than I would have under similar circumstances.

These students are people to watch. Companies should be talking with them now because they won’t stay on the job market long with the skills they displayed in that class.

Other readers of this blog and my IMediaConnection column have written to let me know that my work is must reading or research for their ecommerce, design and media strategies classes. I’m flattered!

Please feel free to contact NextStage (we’re on LinkedIn, Twitter and Skype) if you’d like one of us to visit your class. We learn as much from these experiences as the students involved.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jessica

I’ve received several emails from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class students since my visit, which I documented in some previous posts. I’m going to be sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

First up, this from Jessica…

Thank you for taking the time to meet with my Strategic Management class. Your knowledge and insight provided me with a great learning experience that will help my team and I kaizen our videos. I learned that intimacy is the key to social structure, two people in a video creates interaction (which then produces intimacy) and interest is captured by telling people what’s going to happen, not what already happened. I hope I will have another chance to learn from you in the future.

The pleasure was mine, Jessica, and I hope we have an opportunity to learn from each other again, as well.

Remember that the “two people” rule applied to the video we were discussing. I think I mentioned to another class that a single narrator can also imply intimacy by how they talk to the camera, and also if there’s an offscreen “someone” the narrator is talking to. This offscreen someone can respond to the narrator with small words (“yeah”, “uh-huh”, “right”) and be the viewer’s surrogate. This gives the viewer cues as to how they should be responding to the material, as well.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Chad

This is another student email from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class. I’m going to be sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

This time, from Chad…

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our Strategic Management workshop.  All your suggestions and ideas were really helpful, and I really feel that our group has a better understanding of what we are aiming to accomplish with this project. I hope you enjoyed yourself and I hope I am lucky enough to learn from you again soon. Thanks for everything.

As written before, the pleasure was mine. I do hope that readers of this blog who are potential employers of these students are taking notice. These students are learning a multitude of marketing and production skills which will serve them well as Web 2.0 marketing and advertising comes forward.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Julianne

This post is from Julianne, a student in UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management class. I’m sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

My name is Julianne and I am a senior at UMass Lowell, majoring in management and marketing. I am in Dr. Moser’s 2:30 Strategic Management class and I wanted to thank you for taking the time to visit with us.

I thought your anecdotes provided very critical information for improving our videos – just because they are well edited doesn’t mean they are going to get the job done. My group has already started thinking of new video ideas and we’re going to leave the editing for when we absolutely need it.

If you have the time, I would love for you to visit the class again. We will be creating videos for the rest of the semester – I’m sure there will be points along the way where your feedback would be very important.

Thank you again for visiting our class. I was a true pelasure and a wonderful learning experience.

My pleasure, Julianne.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jonroy

This post is from Jonroy, one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students. I’m sharing the students’ emails and encouraging them to post on my blog in order to get some attention for what they’re doing.

I appreciate you taking the time to educate our class on Thursday.  It is always good to get feedback from a third party. It reaffirms the trust we have in Professor Moser.  Your input has helped me to improve our project, and help my group move in the right direction.  I look forward to your next visit.

My pleasure, Jonroy.

Some of the students have sent me links to their projects which I’ll be sharing in future posts. Stay tuned.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – James

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take part in our Strategic Management workshop.  All your suggestions and ideas were really helpful, and I really feel that our group has a better understanding of what we are aiming to accomplish with this project. I hope you enjoyed yourself and I hope I am lucky enough to learn from you again soon. Thanks for everything.

As written before, the pleasure was mine. I do hope that readers of this blog who are potential employers of these students are taking notice. These students are learning a multitude of marketing and production skills which will serve them well as Web 2.0 marketing and advertising comes forward.

Again, thanks to the class and more to follow.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Vishesh

I’m continuing with the emails from UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students in the hopes of bringing them and their work some attention. Readers interested in their work or getting in touch with the students should either email me directly or post a comment here. I’ll be sure to pass things along in either case.

Vishesh writes:

I would like to thank you for taking out time from your busy schedule and attending our Strategic Management class on Thursday. I could gather from your conversation towards our class, that you are an astute observer. I guess that’s one of the qualities you have to posses when you are in a competitive field like marketing&research.
“I would also captivated by the concept of straight line (between the consumers and the producers) which was mentioned by you, how to advertise your product to the right consumer in the shortest possible way (without deviation).

“Your comments on our presentation were very encouraging and that will help us kaizen our product for our final consumers. For example, you mentioned that we should have shown students eating in a restaurant and not just engaging in a conversation, I think that makes the video more compelling and adds to the creditability of the video.

“The same concept has been emphasized by Prof. Moser several times in class.

I had a chance to review some of your links like Improve Website Performance and Online Sales Increase [[these papers are available to NextStage Members]] and I found those to be interesting and spend some more time on those links as that that could be a benchmark for our final product (Space 2). I would like to thank you again and hope to see you see you again in one of our classes.

No problem, Vishesh. Happy to help.

Vishesh’s comment about the “straight line between consumers and producers has to do with making sure the consumer (a website visitor, for example) has the straightest, cleanest possible path between finding the product they want and purchasing the product. In other words, once you’ve identified a prospect as being in the buying cycle, remove all distractions from helping them achieve their goal of purchasing the product.

A direct application of this is knowing your target audience well enough to ensure correct product placement. Doing so insures the correct audience being both branded by the product and impacted enough to act upon the information presented.

The comment about eating has to do with visually showing a credible event. I.E., if you have people in a restaurant, somebody has to be eating, food has to be being served, waitstaff have to be moving around, people have to be at the counter ordering, … something has to be going on in either fore- or back-ground so that the sense of the place is transmitted to the audience. Showing people simply talking with no other activity doesn’t have as much impact. The moral is, whenever you show people at some specific place, something has to be going on indicative of that place so that the viewer has context within which to understand the conversation or events going on.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Astrid, Demonstrating Reasons to be Interested

This post is an email from Astrid, a UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management student.

Astrid writes:

I would just like to thank you for attending my Strategic Management class last Thursday at 2:30pm. Your insights and advice on our video clips was very helpful and now I have a better understanding to as how to kaizen our clips for the project.

For example, I now understand that we cannot simply mention the name of a place and expect High school students to know what we mean. We need to strip the name and be more specific as to simply say that UML has baseball to offer rather than say LeLacheur park. This is one of many of your insights that I will use to Kaizen our project. Once again, thank you, and I hope to have the opportunity to receive your expertise again.

Very good, Astrid.

What this deals with is cultural consciousness. Any institution or brand will have its own culture and much about that institution or brand is known to everyone in that culture, hence “cultural consciousness.”

Convincing people to participate in that institution or brand involves giving them a reason — something they understand from their present cultural vantage point — and demonstrating that its available to them from the new cultural vantage point.

People (as a rule) are resistant to change. Doing something like this — showing familiarity and known — goes a long way to helping people through “change” situations. This is true if they’re experiencing change in their friends, family, work, environment, whatever.

Nicely done, Astrid. Good work.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jaimes, Put Action Onscreen to Demonstrate Community and Belonging

This post is from Jaimes, one of UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students.

Jaimes writes:

Thank you very much for taking time out of your schedule to come in to our Strategic Management class last Thursday. Your critique of our video (to make sure there are people in the background) really helped us. We certainly are much better off having learned from your insights. I hope to possibly see you again.

My pleasure, Jaimes.

One of the purposes of the videos these students are creating is to show potential students that a community — a “belonging” — exists at UMass Lowell. An easy way to show this is to have people doing something in the background of their videos. This background action shouldn’t be distracting, only demonstrative. For example, have people walking in groups, laughing, smiling, or talking intently yet in a friendly way. “Belonging” and a sense of community stem from people believing they’re providing worth to the community.

Nicely done, Jaimes.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Saroeung, 3 Seconds Applies to Video, too

Saroeung, one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students, already posted a comment to [[sorry, the comment’s lost]] Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jonroy. I responded there that I’d be getting to her email soon and here it is.

Your visit to our Strategic class on Thursday has taught us a lot about the important elements of an effective video. In order for our video to capture the students’ mind we have to weigh the time and tone of the speaker very carefully in which for the first couple of seconds the students will be connected with the message we’re trying to say, thus drawing a straight line with the audience.

Furthermore, your article on “You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds” advised us on the importance of how far we would go in order to know our consumer, which of course psychology comes in handy.

Thank you for attending our class and we hope to see you again in the near future.

No problem, Saroeung.

Saroeung is correct. The first moments of interaction, whether in video, brochures, websites, whatever the marketing material is, is crucial. This is something I’ll be covering in more detail in my Quantifying and Optimizing the Human Side of Online Marketing [[[[these presentations are available to NextStage Members]] presentation at the San Francisco Emetrics Summit in May ’07.

One of the ways to insure interaction between marketing material and target audience is, as Saroeung writes, to make sure the tone of the material — in this case, the video’s narrator — matches the tone normally used by the target audience and matching the pacing (“time”) of the material to match the normal cognitive, behavioral/effective and motivational matrix of the target audience.

Very good, Saroeung. I hope to see you folks again soon, too.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Chau, Don’t Stage a FoodFight Unless it Gets Your Message Across

Chau is one of the UMass Lowell‘s Strategic Management students. Chau wrote:

It was unfortunate that I couldn’t make it to the meeting on Thursday. I’m one of the people that was responsible for the filming and putting the videos together. I tried my best to make the videos convey what my group were thinking since I’m the IT department, sort of.

One of the things that my group mentioned to me was that in our video of FOOD, you said that someone needs to be eating. Looking back, I notice that no one was actually eating and the restaurant was just us. I will take it into consideration to add all those missing elements in our next video. We actually had all those clips, but didn’t use them thinking they weren’t important. Thank you for attending my Strategic Management class and I hope I get a second chance to meet you.

My pleasure, Chau.

I wrote about implying action and community in a restaurant setting in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jaimes, Put Action Onscreen to Demonstrate Community and Belonging.

Regardless of what got into the video and what didn’t, you’re learning how to make things better and that’s what’s important. Even if people aren’t eating in a restaurant, something has to be happening with food to give viewers a sense of the place. I’m not suggesting you stage a foodfight, just letting you know that food needs to be in there somehow.

Talk to you later, Chau.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Jeff Attract and Stick

Jeff is one of the UMass Lowell's Strategic Management students. Jeff wrote:

Thank you again for taking time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your critiques and ideas about our Downtown Lowell video were much appreciated. I really liked your idea of using a think, attract, and stick approach for marketing. Your visit will definitely improve the quality of our project.
In the future I hope to have the opportunity to work with you again.

I hope so, too, Jeff.

Jeff's reference to attract and stick comes from a discussion about how to make online videos and other marketing material attract the correct audience and then insure that the correct audience will stick to the material (not move on to a competitor's material or site).

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Michael, Paying Attention to Your Audience

One of the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Michael, wrote me a few paragraphs which I share here. I’m very impressed by his email and has nothing to do with what he actually wrote so much as the link he included at the end of his email.

Prospective employers, take note:

THANK YOU.
I greatly appreciate your willingness to share your time and expertise with us. It has not only illuminated my understanding of our project but also of my career and business in general.

I asked you during class about the makings of a credible script. Your insights of how movie actors are merely given direction and goals and then just “go with it” and that a two hour hollywood movie can be created from only 93 pages of script hit me right between the eyes.

THE IMPACT
Within an hour after our class, I came up with over 10 messages I realized my team’s video needed to obtain and over 30 interview questions to get us there, as well as some ‘non-acting’ artistic shots as well. My team will spilt up into three groups, each having a camera and take the campus by storm on Tuesday. Its amazing how much energy comes when you ‘get it.’ THANK YOU!
IN ADDITION
Thank you for the informational arbitrage opportunity you have allowed me through connecting me to your articles (note to readers: you can find the list of articles on UMass Lowell and Strategic Management). I enjoy the possibility of being one of the few ‘finance guys’ who is aware of your marketing research and what it will allow me to bring to my employers.

MORE THAN WORDS
I intend to express my appreciation by more than just saying thank you. I will seek to bring you business as I through referring colleges and future employers to your services and research. I hope to afford you more time for your research and less time for marketing, as you expressed in class.

What really impressed me was that Michael included a link to his homepage and resume.

Yes, I’m flattered by what Michael wrote, but I’m impressed that he included a link to his resume. Michael did something I encourage others to do when I give presentations on knowing your audience, pay attention to your audience if you want them to pay attention to you.

In this case, I mentioned that I find myself doing business development more and more and research less and less.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Matt, Michael, Daniel and Frank, Demonstrating Intimacy and Immediacy in Online Video

This post includes emails from four UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Matt, Michael, Daniel and Frank. We start with Matt:

I would like to thank you for taking interest in our Admissions project. Your views have helped my team kaizen our video to show more intimacy. Once again, thank you for taking the time to meet with us and I look forward to the possible opportunity to learn from you again.

Matt is going to make one of the classes’ videos available and I’ll include a link in a blog post shortly.
Now onto Michael, Daniel and Frank…

From Michael:

Thank you for taking the time to visit our Strategic Management class. I found your advice about the marketing aspect of our project to be very helpful. I look forward to learning from you again in the future.

From Daniel:

I want to thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class this past Thursday. Your advice about realism, intimacy, and especially gender specific marketing is invaluable. That information provided me with several ideas that will benefit not only our group, but the class as a whole. Thank you again and I look forward to learning from you in the near future.

And from Frank:

I wanted to thank you for attending our 2:30 Strategic Management class on March 22. Your professional insight into how our videos can be improved to better reach our target market was invaluable.
One key insight that I had overlooked was the importance of being intimate with the audience. I had originally thought that if you just had videos of a person being interviewed it would be boring to the audience. I had overlooked the fact that this can be used as a powerful way to lock in the viewer. It would be great if you could come back to view our finished product.

Demonstrating intimacy and it’s twin, immediacy, is a necessary part of convincing an audience that your product or service is a) what they need and b) important to them now. I’ve mentioned intimacy in previous posts in this thread.

I’ll be sharing methods for demonstrating intimacy and immediacy on my next visit to the class. Perhaps one of the students will video the session and we can post that here, too.

What do you say, students?

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Erik, Place Brands and Operational Branding

This post is based on an email from Erik, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student. Erik wrote:

Thank you very much for taking time out of your day to to help us work on our myspace projects for admissions. Though your responses were not exactly what i was hoping for your insight on our dorm life video and its inability to create an intimate experience for the viewer will be very helpful in the final weeks of this project. Once these projects are ready for final submission it would be great, if you have the opportunity, to come back again and see our progress.

First, glad to be of help (I hope).

Second, what Erik is writing about is that his team produced a great video, but not a great video for their target audience. I suggested that his group keep the video they did produce on the back burner because (I’m sure) someday it’ll come in handy.

What this deals with is Place Brand and Operational Branding.

A Place Brand is traditionally “A place brand is tied to a geographic location. It uses classic marketing practices to establish a presence that reflects the values, language, ways of thinking and responding to information, etc., to create economic value. The ideal place brand reflects a geographic location’s cultural identity while separating itself from competitive products. This often goes beyond traditional branding concepts of logo and slogan.”

Whether Erik and the other students realize it or not, they’re doing place branding. The “place” their branding is the age-demographic of the UMass Lowell target audience.

Just so we’re clear on the concept, I’m not using “Place Brand” to mean branding UMass Lowell, I’m talking about the psychological place the age-specific demographic lives in. Recognizing conceptual spaces and psychological places are having meaning and (near) physical reality to a given audience is something NextStage often does for clients and I was happy to provide that insight to the UML students.

The other element (and here’s where Erik’s group was a little weak) was the operational branding elements of their video.

Operational branding is defined as “the process of consistently and accurately branding in the language and culture of the target audience while maintaining corporate strategy. Operational branding is the method of creating successful place brands.”

Operational branding often makes use of three elements:

  1. Know your audience (really well)
  2. Synchronize your place brand to what you know really well about your audience
  3. Engage alternate channels to create value in the place brand

My concern with Erik’s group’s video was in the second item above.

Again, it was a good video, I just questioned whether it was the best video for operational branding purposes.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Laura, Show Real Life Really Happening

This post is from UMass Lowell Strategic Management student Laura.
Laura wrote:

>Our group is grateful for your visit to our Strategic Management class. We took your pointers about editing the material in our video, and it was interesting to see your point of view about the tour of the rec center and actually showing the actions as we are talking about them. Your insights will be carried throughout the rest of the semester. We hope to see you again soon.

Again, glad to be of help.
Laura’s group’s video had a narrator describing what goes on in the rec center. Behind the narrator, completely unrehearsed and totally natural, were people doing rec centerish things; playing games badly, laughing, making fun of each other…being completely natural.

The goal of these videos is to demonstrate the UMass Lowell experience as a positive experience and true real life is the best way to do it.

Nicely done, Laura.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Christopher, Anjali, TeamKaizen and using what you’re learning to learn more. Good work and nicely done!

This post is from UMass Lowell Strategic Management student Laura.

Christopher wrote:

I’d like to take a minute to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to come and sit in for our class to give us feedback on our project. With the advice you gave to our team with keeping our videos intimate, we were able to come up with some great videos this afternoon. Again, thank you for your help, and I look forward to learning more from you through your blog.

Next is Anjali:

Thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your thoughts have really got my group thinking. We are now considering a whole new direction for our videos based on your comments. I hope you will have a chance to look at our final products, we would be honored to have you share your knowledge and insight with us again.

And from TeamKaizen, the first video the class is letting me share and this blog’s first video from these students!

Good work, all!

I’m impressed by two things in this video thank you note and neither has to do with it being directed towards me. First, these students took the time to put it out there and second, they made use of what they’re learning to learn more. UMass Lowell has invited me back to work with these students again and I’m looking forward to it.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Joseph, William, Tension and Purpose

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Joseph and William.

First up, Joseph:

I greatly appreciate your attending our class last week, it was great to hear about the different marketing techniques we can use to get our videos out to our prospects. I will also be sure to focus on keeping 2 people in the frame when we our taping to have some contrast between the actors. Please consider returning to our class (either to see our finished product or to gain more insight into the younger generation!) at some point this semester, it is always a beneficial experience to have professional insight into our endeavors.

Joseph’s comment about keeping two people in the frame deals with adding some “energy”, what is sometimes called “dramatic tension”, simply by the interaction and dialogue of two people who are directing their focus to a third person (the viewer) who’s completely external to the frame of reference (the video). The two people in the frame can be simply talking and their differences in presentation style will often be non-consciously picked up by people viewing the video as adding something to the presentation.

Next up, William:

I would like to extend my appreciation for taking the time to speak at my Strategic Management class. Your discussion regarding the discrepancies between management perception and public perception were of particular interest to me. I plan to utilize the concepts you elaborated on in my immediate and long-term futures. I hope to have the opportunity to learn from you again.

William’s reference to public versus management perception came from a discussion about how marketing perceives a product versus management’s intention for a product. Marketing has the difficult task of taking something serving a strategic purpose (management’s intention for a product, even a short term product, is to create long-term brand affinity) and making that product very “now-worthy” in the consumer’s mind.

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Michael, Ana and Taj, Cluster Production, Action and Intimacy

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Michael, Ana and Taj.

First up, Michael:

Thanking you for taking the time sit in and discuss production/marketing issues with our Strategic Management class last Thursday. Your views and advice on “cluster production” were helpful for my team to determine which videos were effective and which videos fell short of the objective. I also found your real world examples of marketing to be educative, especially the bit about how marketing and managements perception of a product can differ and how that affects the final marketing pitch. I believe motion-picture media is an effective form of marketing, and your “John Q. Public” opinion was very valuable for our group’s video analysis. I hope our class has the opportunity to have an audience with you soon again in the future.

No problem, Michael. Glad to be of help. “Cluster production” is part of audience knowledgeable design and involves 1) a deep knowledge of the target audience followed by 2) a thematic, cross platform approach to marketing to that audience.

Next up, Ana:

I would like to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to attend our class meeting last Thursday. My team and I really appreciate the insight you gave us in kaizening our team project video. Your emphasis on the important role intimacy plays and the links you sent us have given us a better understanding on marketing strategically that I know will definitely benefit us in the future.
Hoping to have the opportunity to learn and get more feedback from you soon.

My pleasure, Ana. I’m looking forward to your next release.

And this from Taj:

Thank you for finding the the time to come and share your important insights with our Strategic Management class. Your comments about highlighting action concepts in Space two, changed the way my group is approaching the True Entertainment section. It would be great if you could check up on us later on in the semester, to see how well we have digested your views.

I’m looking forward to it!

More from this class to follow…

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Kimberly, Christian, Kelly and Charles

This post is from some more UMass Lowell Strategic Management students, Kimberly, Christian, Kelly and Charles.

First up, Kimberly:

Thank you for joining my Strategic Management class this past Thursday. Your thoughts and comments about our project have been very helpful. Your presence gave the class an even more real-world feel than normal and it pushes me to take the project more seriously. In past classes, my projects were designed to provide a new learning experience and receiving a good grade was the only drive to do well . However, this project will produce actual results that will benefit the university, so it was important for me to see the university taking it seriously as well.

Excellent realization, Kimberly. You should be proud of yourself.

Next up, Christian:

Thank you for taking time off from your schedule to visit my Strategic Management class. Your input throughout the class was extremely helpful and has already helped my group change the way we are filming our video. We found that the little details you pointed out are very important to the success of our video. Thank you again for taking the time to join us last week.

My pleasuere, Christian. Next comes Kelly:

Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to visit my Strategic Management class at UMass Lowell on Thursday, March 29th. I appreciate that you are interested in helping us make our projects a success. It was a wonderful experience to hear your thoughts and insights.

“I was most interested to hear your thoughts on website construction. The target market for our project is high school juniors and seniors. They may not be interested in viewing a dull college website so we have to capture their interest in the first three seconds so that they stay on our page.

“Thank you again. I hope to have the opportunity to learn more from you again very soon. It was a pleasure.

Mine, too, Kelly. Excellent realizations about website design for your target audience. Very good! Now Charles:

Thank you for taking the time to visit my Strategic Management class. Your insights were very interesting, especially considering I am a marketing major and can learn from others experience. I’ve already come up with a few kaizens to our project. such things as intimacy, showing more then one person while taping, and trying to be as natural and unscripted as possible. They will definitely have a very positive impact our final deliverable. I hope to have the opportunity to learn from you again very soon.

You will, Charles. This week, in fact. See you Thursday.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Colleen’s Video

This post is from Colleen, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student.

Colleen sent me a link to a video her group did. It’s a good piece of work on several counts. First, it gives a good sense of location and college atmosphere. The opening scenes can be made stronger by showing people walking around. This suggestion comes from knowing the target demographic likes the social aspects of college life (yes, I appreciate the irony of that statement given the past few days’ headlines).

The voiceover is good because it follows what’s happening “on screen” well. It can be made better by having the social aspects mentioned above also on screen and having the narrator’s voice commenting on that social aspect. The very act of doing so will tend to soften the voice and tone being presented.

Showing the action in the rec center is also good, again because the social aspect of college life is forefront. The killer scene is about 30 seconds in; someone’s being interviewed and someone walks behind them and, basically, acts like a college student. As they say in the Visa commercials, priceless.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – James and The Usual Suspect’s Video

This post is from James, a UMass Lowell Strategic Management student, and his “The Usual Suspects” team.

James sent me a link to the latest version of their video. Here’s his email to me. My response follows.

James writes:

This is James from Dr. Moser’s Strategic Management Class at 1 P.M.. I am looking forward to having you visit our class again tomorrow. I am not sure how much time we will have to show you our video so far, so here is the link. We have attempted to have at least two people in each scene, however due to the weather recently we have not been able to redo certain parts. There is still work that we need to do in perfecting the video, including adding the HTML links in the video, however we are currently working on eradicating the imperfections. See you tomorrow.

My response:

I’m sending this along to Dr. Gibson because we talked about just this aspect of promoting the school during our meeting today; a ‘video’ tour of what incoming students can expect. This comes very close. Those interviews are excellent and close to what I suggested to Dr. Gibson.

I also laughed my head off when the camera-person interrupted the narrator in the very first sequence with “This isn’t a dating video”!
EXCELLENT!
You folks are going to be teaching me things, I’m sure.
See you all tomorrow

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1

I had another opportunity to visit with UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. They continue to do good work. One of the discussion topics was separating the marketing and sales channels. Many organizations see these departments as the same. I admit that there’s some overlap and the boundary has always been fairly clear and clean to me.

I’ve always thought of marketing’s job as to get people to “look at the menu”. This might involve getting them in the door, inviting them to take a seat and describing what the restaurant’s about and what to expect, introducing your waitperson and things like that. That’s pretty much where I think marketing stops.

Likewise, I’ve always thought of sales as the talented waitperson who describes what’s on the menu and the specials the chef’s got in the kitchen, takes your order, makes sure that what you’re ordering is something you’re going to like, makes suggestions for rounding out the meal, makes sure it arrives just as you expected and follows up in case you need anything else.

Yes, there is some overlap and it’s still basically the pitch and the close. Anyway, with that in mind, the students decided to host their own site and provide all the content in order to take their project to the next step.

What follows is my email encouraging their decision. The rest of this arc will be the back and forth as they and I learn how to best promote UMass Lowell to potential students.

Okay, now your real-world work begins.

First, what’s the overall goal of this work?

Once you’ve established the overall goal of the work, how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal? The YouTube site?

Which is your sales channel, which is your marketing channel?

Hint: Remember what I said
about the sales funnel? NextStage uses a much broader concept, The X Funnel (you can also read about sales funnels in Listening to and Seeing Searches). What part does each site play in your X Funnel?

I’d like to document your progress in my blog. BUT!!! that means the pressure is going to be on because people will be watching. If you’ve been on the NextStage Evolution site and read through our Principles, you know that I won’t knowingly put people in uncomfortable situations.

SO!!! I won’t document this effort unless you all want me to. Talk about this amongst yourselves and get back to me, preferably sooner rather than later.

Also, I’m going to start using some of the pictures you provided in your signature files on my blog and elsewhere. Let me know if you DON’T want me to use your pictures. I’ll use them unless I receive an email from you stating that I can’t.

And a last thing…I want you to know I listen to and learn from you, probably more than you might think. In the 2:30pm class (I think that was the one), we were talking about the game and one student and Dr. Moser provided some good reasons for not playing it as it was originally presented. Take a look at my signature file now and you’ll see that I’ve modified the advertising strategy.

See that? Old dogs can learn new tricks. Thanks to the class for teaching me something.

Joseph

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 2

This is part 2 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. Now we’ll start going over their answers.

1) what’s the overall goal of this work?
The goal of the piece our classes are contributing is “attraction”. Therefore, this class is working on the marketing part of the marketing and sales equation.

2) how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
This website will be used a medium to influence the prospective students in a way they are aware of their needs: freedom and belongingness. The layout of the website will follow the sales funnel concept in which the less serious, credible videos will be placed on the top center of the page whereas the more serious videos will be at the lower right corner. (this suggestion came from using NextStage’s Ad Placement tool in the class and getting student feedback on the results) The main focus here is to grasp the visitors’ attention and have them stay on the website.

3)The YouTube site?
Our videos will be uploaded to YouTube and be accessible for all viewers. It’s a great tool we can use to put UML on the market for potential students.

Nicely done!

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 3

This is part 3 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the second posting of answers.

3) The YouTube site?
youtube
is another advertising resource available to us, where we can
upload the videos we have worked on so far. You tube is more attractive
to people between the ages of 16-25 and our ” target market” market is in the initial stages of that age group.

4) Which is your sales channel?
Sales channel would just include trueuml.com
as this is the only site that we have control over i.e we can accept
quarries, answer questions and the content upload on this website would
be according to what we think is attractive to high school students.
With the help Mr. Carrabis
( and his website) i’m sure we will be able to capture the attention of these young minds.

5) which is your marketing channel?
Marketing channel would be be the place where we target the maximum amount of people that would have to be myspace, youtube and now a new addition trueuml.com.


Excellent answer to #5. Good work.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 4

This is part 4 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the fourth posting of answers.

2) How does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
It is a place that our target audience can see unfiltered information about U Mass Lowell. I’ll accept that and it’s best to understand the concept of branding at this point. It’s true, the target audience can see unfiltered information about UML. This means they’ll be able to find information you aren’t sponsoring. How can you make sure your target audience knows they’re getting your branded information and not a competitor’s?

3) The YouTube site?
you Tube is going to allow us to link the raw footage that we have to our site. By doing this, our potential students can see first hand the atmosphere and sentiment about the school. Very good.

4) Which is your sales channel?

I believe our sales channels are our MySpace page and TrueUml.com website. With these two sites working hand in hand, it should be a very efficient way to attract students. Very good. I know you can control the content on TrueUML and that means you can do all your own branding there. How much control will you have of the MySpace look, feel, content, branding, etc? Hint: Think of which direction you want people to travel; MySpace to TrueUML or TrueUML to MySpace? Where do you want visitors to spend the bulk of their time?

5) which is your marketing channel?
Our marketing channels are the sites that are most often visited by out target audience. MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and such. Brilliant and very good.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 5

This is part 5 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students about a week ago. I shared some questions I asked them in Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 1. This is the fifth posting of answers and we start with a little dissent.

2) how does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
I personally don’t think the TrueUML site will have THAT much of an effect since it will have pretty much the same contents as our MySpace. I’m sure we are not going to do anything different. Maybe if we redirect TrueUML site to the MySpace page, then I think that’s okay. TrueUML.com is definitely easier to remember than www.myspace.com/trueuml. I agree that if the two sites have much the same content, one is superfluous. A question, then, is “Should the two sites have the same content?”

3)The YouTube site?
Now this I think is the best way to get exposure since they get so many hits a day. I’ve seen people as old as 60 doing a video blog and kids as young as 7 acting goofy on cam. Also, instead of doing a text blog on MySpace, we can do video blog. All you need is a webcam. There are so many different markets here that we can target. Easiest way for people to find our videos is to make our keywords/tags short and precise. We can copy the link or embed the html code onto forums websites. Again, I agree. YouTube will get much more traffic in general than TrueUML. I think the difference is in what kind of traffic each site will get. YouTube is the mall, TrueUML is a store in the mall. So this leads to another question, me thinks, “How can we get people walking through the mall to come into our store?”

Excellent points leading to more questions. Good work and nicely done.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 6 and How a Class learns

This is part 6 in an arc based on my last visit with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students. Because I entered their strategizing late my questions caused some confusion. This can also happen in business situations where a consulting organization is brought in after a project is done and is one of the reasons NextStage always works to be involved at the start of a project.

That offered, it’s exciting when such a situation exists and the players are able to incorporate the new tools the consulting group brings. An example of that is in this post. One group of students asked a question and another student was able to answer it.

The question:

This is James from your 1PM Strategic Management class. There is a little confusion between our group members about the TrueUML site. What is the purpose of this site? Is this to serve as the Space 3? The URL the 1PM class chose for the myspace site is http://www.myspace.com/umasspace. If it is to serve as the space three, is this something that the admissions people will be working on to develop and they will be directed as what to include on the site? Also how did You Tube become one of Joseph’s questions? Correct me if i am wrong but i thought You Tube had nothing to do with our Space 2 except as a third party video hosting service provider. Thank you for your time.

This is an excellent question. Disregard the project specific jargon and notice that the question really is about clarifying the project objective; did the project goal and milestones change when the student wasn’t looking? James, the student, and his group are putting themselves in a truth to power situation. I hope they can continue to do so after graduation when they’re in a work environment.

The answer (also from a student):

I am a little confused myself now that you brought it up. But after reading other student’s email I have a picture that space 2 is myspace website and space 3 can be trueUML website. Our videos focus on the theme of space 2 and they are informal so these videos should be placed on myspace page. With limited time we can only focus on finishing up space 2.

About Mr. Carrabis mentioning youtube, I think he saw some of us using this website to present our videos so maybe he just wanted to make sure we understand what kind of marketing tool we’re dealing with and know how to distinguish the function each has in our overall project. Then again, he might see some potential strategy which might helps us with the project.

First thing, students, always assume Mr. Carrabis is just as much in the dark as you are.

This student’s ability to take information — confusing information — and synthesize a working concept that will further their project and get them closer to their goal is to be both honored and commended. Also note that this student is beginning to incorporate a “marketing” concept into their project.

These students are learning and learning rapidly. They are integrating outside and possibly confusing information in order to perfect their project and give it more legs than it might have had otherwise.

Any businesses out there, you can find these students in Dr. Moser’s UMass Lowell Strategic Management classes.

Notes from UML’s Strategic Management Class – Q&A, Part 7

I’m still posting about my Q&A’s with the UMass Lowell Strategic Management students. I’ll admit to my fascination watching these students learn.

This is from one student:

3)The YouTube site?
The youtube site offers the prospective students a chance to see what UML offers through firsthand accounts of the current students.

Very good.

4) Which is your sales channel, 5) which is your marketing channel?
I
believe that the marketing channel would be the myspace site because that is what we are using to entice students to click further onto the TrueUML site to seal the deal.

Again, very good. Think of the sales funnel (seems you are, anyway).

And from another student:

2) How does/will the TrueUML site contribute to meeting that goal?
The TrueUML site will be a great asset that will allow us to impliment our ideas and to convey to high school juniors and seniors the sense of ‘freedom’ and ‘belonging’ that college students have. We will get our message out through picture slideshows and amateur videos.

3)The YouTube site?
The YouTube site is a great place for us to upload our videos and get them on the web. Not only will YouTube help us display our videos on our website, but it will also allow people not familiar with TrueUML.com to see our videos via YouTube’s website. It may be a smart idea to put a link to our TrueUML website in the description of our videos to give the website more exposure.

4) Which is your sales channel?
Our sales channel would be TrueUML, mainly because we are not limited as to what we can do with the website and we have complete control.

5.) Which is yourmarketing channel?

Our marketing channel would be Myspace and YouTube, since these two website are extremely popular with our target market. We can use these sites to divert people to the TrueUML website .

I’ve often thought the role of higher education is to provide both theory and real-world applications side by side. As I wrote above, these students are impressing me with how rapidly they’re taking what they learn in class and applying it to a real marketing problem.

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The Complete “Responding to BT and Privacy” Arc

Note: Another four part arc presented here, single post style, and you’re welcome.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 1

In keeping with my habit of catching up on readings months after the fact, I was reading Dave Smith’s “BT And Privacy, Part I: Opt-Out On-Demand“, the first entry in a four part arc on…uh…privacy.

I’ve read this post and the others in the arc several times now (I rarely read things once and usually over several months or even years. Each time I’m reading something new because I’ve changed so my responses to what I’m reading have changed. It’s what’s happened in the silences, if you will, that tell me what what I’m reading means to me) and believe I might have something to share about it.

The premise is that site visitors should be given a chance to opt-out of advertising they find offensive via a button. My online response is:

This is an interesting methodology for opting out and I would be curious to learn how implementation would integrate with Creative’s efforts. I do agree with Dave Morgan that things could blow up. The increasing sophistication of users and the increasing felicity of mobspots (smart mobs for the web) is, I think, contributing to the increasing need for companies to proactively address consumer fears before consumers craft their own methods for addressing their fears.

I would add to the above that even opting out of some ad is a data point worth harvesting. The kindness being offered — an opt-out option for offensive material — is a worthy idea and let no one thing altruism is its intent. Even if not originally fashioned as such, anything and everything done online is analysed and, much like my reading habits, analyzed again and again and again.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 2

I’m still reading through Steve Smith’s BT and Privacy series, this time “BT And Privacy, Part 2: Tacoda’s Choice“, part 2 in this arc.

There were some phrases that gave me distinct pause:

  • “If they opt out, a Tacoda cookie is set and our targeting engine knows not to serve them an ad.”
  • “The publishers’ privacy policy will refer to the existence of third-party cookies and to the fact that data is used to target ads by other than the publisher. But as you point out, it’s a hard concept to
    grasp for the average consumer, which is why we are taking our own steps.”

  • “We think that if we are proactive in explaining what we do, that consumers and our peers in the industry will recognize and be able to separate the good and careful players from the bad.”

My thoughts follow…

This is an interesting follow-up to Part 1 of this arc. I agree that being proactive with user privacy is paramount, and definitely agree that explaining what is being done is a good step. I wrote about just that thing in A Little About Cookies. I disagree that these concepts are difficult for the average consumer. At one time, perhaps yes, now not so much so. What is pointed to by this article is that getting consumers to accept privacy as a commodity is ripe for a good viral campaign.

What I didn’t add in my comment is that the method used to determine someone has opted out is foreshadowed in my previous post. It is another data point in the system.

The final question will be the value exchanged. Is the consumer willing to exchange information for what is presented on the page? Consumers, especially web-based consumers, are increasingly savvy. That exchange is going to have to be exponentially to their benefit as time goes on.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 3

I’m now at “BT And Privacy, Part 3: Revenue Science Says Safeguards Are Already There“.

As with part 2, there were some phrases that gave me distinct pause:

  1. “…the industry already does a good job of covering privacy
    concerns and giving consumers the tools for opting out of whatever offends them online.”

  2. “They can obtain an ‘opt-out cookie’ to prevent any data from being associated with their browser. In addition, we provide complete instructions on how to opt out of Revenue Science’s network advertising services.”
  3. “It is necessary for interested consumers to be able to find accurate information about all of these issues.”
  4. “We never collect personally identifiable information, so people benefit from more relevant content while remaining completely anonymous.”
  5. “We not only have to communicate how consumers’ privacy is being protected, but the benefits that they are getting from BT, which will only increase as BT continues to become a more integral part of the economics of online media.”

Let me respond (my opinions) by the numbers…

  1. The ultimate decision maker regarding how good an job any industry is doing meeting the needs of consumers is the consumers themselves. In this case, companies using an ad network will feel the force of consumer decision before any network group does.
  2. I defer to Stephan Spencer’s, Founder and President of Netconcepts, great adage “If we want people to use it, it’s going to have to be stupid simple.” I have no idea how simple any company’s opt-out methodology is and I’m not inferring anything about anything, I’m merely offering that for any tool to be used, it must be simple. The requirements that tools be initially simple then increasingly complicated was documented in For Angie and Matt, and The Noisy Data Finale.
  3. Has anybody seen National Treasure? It’s a great movie. Rent it if you can’t find in on cable. Watch it a few times then decide if you agree with this statement (I do agree with it) and think it’s actionable by the majority of consumers (I don’t think it is).
  4. Very honorable. Neither does NextStage. We’re so finicky about being honorable, we list our Principles on line.
  5. An interesting problem to solve, much like communicating the values of inoculation; we’re going to protect you from something you can’t actually see but might hurt you if you don’t let us do this. I know that sounds facetious and I don’t mean it to be. The purpose is essentially prophylactic and phyletics are a notoriously hard sell until people are dying around you.

An issue that was raised in this post is “relevancy” and it’s a worthwhile part of this discussion. People (we are told) don’t mind seeing ads when those ads are relevant to them. To me the question is “Who decides what’s relevant to them?” The answer, me thinks, is “the consumer” and thus the circle is complete.

Responding to BT and Privacy, Part 4 and finale

This section is a response to Steve Smith’s “BT And Privacy, Part 4: Higher Education“, last part in an arc on online privacy that I found a fascinating read (several times).

I’m not going to list separate phrases which caught my attention because, when all is said and done, I admit to a great deal of discomfort with the issue. I don’t think consumers understand the difference between privacy and anonymity, I think an industry policing itself is laudable and hasn’t worked well in the past (think Big Tobacco, S&Ls, …).

Analyzing all statements made in this arc reminds me of how the general populace first learned of AIDS; it was a disease of the poor, it was a disease of blacks, it was a disease of minorities, is was a disease of Gays, it was oh my god what do you mean white heterosexual men can get it?

I also get concerned when someone says, essentially, “This is too complicated for you to understand.” Such statements minimize both who’s speaking and who’s listening. If Einstein could explain relativity to a child, an industry should be able to describe its practices to an interested public. Yes, I know there’s a catch here; you need an interested public to explain it to. This is where I complete my circle, I guess, as I think having simple explanations in place now will make addressing future concerns that much easier, should they appear.

There is an interesting merry-go-round going on here; should consumer privacy concerns increase and spread, a market will be created (one already exists and I’m thinking a much larger one would come into being). Another market will then come into existence to extract the necessary targeting information required by the types of networks discussed in this arc. This goes beyond the lock and pick metaphor, I think, and drops into opt-in marketing (which would be extremely high relevance marketing) because now the consumer is no longer worried about keeping unwanted content out, they’ve taken steps to make sure only wanted content gets in.

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DeBranding

This post, written entirely by Susan, originally appeared on her blog, “The Crofter’s Loft” circa Mar ’07. She’s directed us to post it here until she had time to resurrect her blog. We’re grateful…resurrecting one blog at a time is enough!

Branding is Experience, DeBranding is Experience gone Bad

Most everyone has heard of Branding. It happens when you ask for a Coke when you want a soda. You ask for a Kleenex when all you really want is a tissue. That’s Branding, when a name brand has become the generic term for an item. It’s a positive experience associated with a name brand being applied to a generic item. DeBranding is when a negative experience becomes associated with a name brand. You’ll never shop at so and so’s because of the way you or a friend were treated. What causes this DeBranding, and why do consumers think it’s happening – in corporate attitude if not in name — more and more frequently? Here are a few examples that might help us understand why DeBranding is happening.

It’s the Little Things That Get You

Ever notice that it’s the little things that happen that eat away at you, that wear you down? We can handle the large annoyances pretty well. It’s the little aggravations that happen here and there, day after day. They peck at you and eat away at your patience till you’re ready to explode. That’s usually how DeBranding occurs; little annoyances with a product or service become huge aggravations. These little annoyances share three traits:

  • people don’t get any satisfaction when attempting to solve the problem,
  • they tire of attempting to solve the problem and
  • they associate their failure with a company or brand.

Tangible and Intangible Annoyances

These annoyances fall into two categories:

  • Quality of Work
  • Pride in Work Performed

What happened to the quality and pride in the work place and in the products produced? According to several people interviewed there use to be a time when salespeople and stores went out of their way to help people. You never had to return items as they rarely failed to operate. People took pride in what they did. There were professional waitresses who were amazing to watch. There wasn’t a stigma of “Oh, you’re just a so and so.”

Work Ethics in Today’s World

I was never one who was happy with the concept of trying to look busy at a job. If there was something to do I did it. It didn’t matter if it was someone else’s job, I always pitched in with whatever work there was to do. I was always asking my managers if there was something that needed doing. In today’s work environment people won’t do anything that’s not in their job description. You can’t blame them — they don’t get credit for doing the extra things and when they stop doing these extra things — because no one seems to care, they are usually yelled at for slacking off. It’s a no-win situation that many workers face today. They would prefer to stand around and do nothing because they feel that they won’t get a reward for helping out.
Part of this work ethic problem is due to companies hiring 20 year olds for management positions, expecting them to have the experience and people skills to manage other people.

Experience is Expensive

From the company’s standpoint, experienced managers are expensive to hire, so instead they hire people without experience in the hopes of being able to train them. This leads to young people being set up to fail by being placed in positions for which they have neither the experience nor the training. Classes and mentoring that would make them better managers are not to be found, only classes in how to sell, sell SELL! The people that they’re supposed to be managing are now resentful because (chances are) one of them applied for the position and were told they weren’t qualified, if they were told anything at all. After the outside hire is working the current employees see what the company thought was manager material and are left scratching their heads.
This dissatisfaction of the “old” employees leads to problems when — as a consumer –you now have to deal with the results of the company’s decisions. I’ve conducted interviews with a number of people and have made notes of the various incidents that have occurred over the years. Here are some I’ll share with you.

Remember when you used to be a customer at a store?

Target™ now calls its customer’s “guests” and their customer service line “Guest Relations”. It doesn’t matter if you change the names of the departments; if consumers believe the service is lousy then changing the name only gives them two things to be upset about. One interviewee had purchased a $100 product from this particular chain. About every three months the product would fail and this interviewee would have to return the item for a new one. After the third time of returning it they were fed up and just wanted their money back. Target™ had taken the original receipt the first time that the item was returned and a return slip was issued. This, of course, caused a problem in that now this interviewee didn’t have the original receipt. The 20 something manager with their “vast” world experience couldn’t comprehend that the reason they didn’t have the receipt was because the store took it in the first place. The manager also had trouble with the concept that if a product had to be continuously returned, and others were also returning the product, then there is probably something wrong with that product. No, to this manager it was simply a case of “No ticket, no shirt”. Stores used to stand behind what they sold. If the products weren’t good then the stores wouldn’t sell it. Now it’s what ever the front office can purchase in the greatest volume at the cheapest price.

Times They Are a Changing

Back to our little tale. The best that Target™ would do was keep giving this individual a new item even though they said that they were through returning the product, that it was clearly defective and they wanted their money back. The manufactures of the product were contacted and they wouldn’t help because Target™ had the money. Both places would rather loose people as customers and let the unsatisfied customers tell their horror stories to whomever would listen than remedy the situation to the customer’s satisfaction. Calling the store’s “Guest Relations” number proved equally unsatisfactory. This interviewee explained that they would never treat a “Guest” this poorly and that Target™ had an interesting way of treating “Guests”. This interviewee wouldn’t be shopping at Target™ anymore. This individual has never been back to Target nor do they plan on going back.
It would be one thing if the above was an isolated incident, but there are many examples that share the traits in the above anecdote; quality of work issue or pride in one’s work.

Quality of Work

Let’s consider the quality of work issue first. This is where defective or inferior products get shipped. This could be because, as one company in our research stated, “It will ship and it will be a success”. It could also be because there are no real quality checks in place to catch defective goods before they are shipped.
Many people interviewed purchased items with the intent of using them at some future time. The example which came up most often regarding this was purchasing CD’s, DVD’s or VHS tapes to view or listen to them when the consumer was in the mood.
Interviewee “TK” had purchased some boxed sets of TV shows on DVD and was beginning to go through them. She found a scratched disk in one particular set. This would be something that would be easy for an automated quality control system to pick up. Barnes & Noble™, where she purchased the set, was gracious and ordered her a new one. When she went to watch another DVD set several of those discs couldn’t be recognized by the DVD player. In this case the discs weren’t finalized properly. Again Barnes&Noble™ ordered her a new set. This new set had the same problem. Barnes&Noble™ replaced that one as well, but now TK was becoming very frustrated. That same shipment contained another damaged DVD set and again Barnes& Noble™ replaced the item.
This is an example of the retailer, Barnes&Noble™, doing its job, but what about the original manufacturer of the DVDs? These problems should have been noticed before the product even left manufacturing. Doesn’t anyone check things before they’re shipped anymore?
Another example of the lack of quality was offered by “SM”; A book was purchased to be read on vacation. In the middle of the book chapters were missing. One hundred pages of the text had been replaced with a reprint of the first 100 pages of the book. A minor inconvenience, true. The world won’t stop revolving because the book wasn’t finished on the vacation. But the point is that now SM felt he has to check each book he purchases to make sure that all of the pages are there. His lament was said in many ways by many people, but he said it best, “Why do people have to do other peoples jobs?” It’s bad enough that the copy editors aren’t finding typos or grammatical errors in the books these days. Now they’re not finding printing mistakes. Borders™, where the book was purchased ordered a new copy and said that unfortunately this was not an uncommon incident.

Those petty annoyances add up

The frustration and exhaustion from the people interviewed was coming through loud and clear. If only one of these things happened then they could deal with it, having to deal with all of these, what seem like petty annoyances to most people, day in and day out is wearing on the psyche.
“BJ” was recently watching a taped series that she purchased several years ago, Joseph Campbell’s “Mythos”. BJ explained “These are the types of tapes that you need to be in the right frame of mind to watch.” Unfortunately for her she wasn’t ready until recently and, in a 5-tape set, there were two copies of tape 3 and of course no copies of tape 2 in the box. Some readers might respond “BJ should have watched those tapes when she got them” but BJ’s lament (and most consumers in our study agree) is that she shouldn’t have to. She purchased them thinking that they would be fine. Why should people have to check to make sure that there was one of each tape sent? What if this had been a gift? She checked online to see if she could exchange them and this series is no longer available on tape. Any one out there have 2 of tape 2 and no tape 3? I’ll set up a trade.
This same thing also occurred with a boxed CD music set that was purchased by CL. There were 2 copies of CD 1 in the set and no CD 2. This wasn’t noticed until they were put on an MPEG player and the CDs were played back to back. Now it’s too late to return them as they are several years old and are no longer available.
I can hear readers shouting “Caveat Emptor”, “buyer beware”. If these people were more diligent and checked things when they were first purchased then these problems could be solved. As I stated earlier none of these incidents are world stopping, at most they are annoying. Yet it’s the little things like these that try your patience and annoy you to death. It’s also little things like these that destroy consumer confidence and trust, and are how and why debranding is occurring more and more in modern society.

Pride in your work

The way I was brought up I always taught to have pride in what you did, from sweeping floors to writing a 510k submission for the FDA. It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. Take pride in the task, do it to the best of your ability, no matter what it is.
Another interviewee, “WD”, had been ordering pet supplies from a catalog for years. In the last 10 years there has been a problem only twice. A good track record I assure you. In the first goof the order was placed online. When WD received the email confirmation of the order they realized that they had ordered an item in the wrong size. They called the company and told them of the mistake and the operator told them that a note was being attached to the order and would be sent along to the warehouse for correction. When they received the order, you guessed it, the item was sent in the wrong size. And best of all there was the note on the bottom of the order form to correct the size. Now in all fairness this company is outstanding with returns and corrections. They send a return slip with the correct item, no questions asked and with no charge for return shipping.
However this incident, in several interviewees’ opinions, never should have happened. Another order placed with this company required signoffs by two people and still an incorrect item was shipped.

DeBranding Becomes Branding When Companies Take Action
On the other side of this incident is that this same pet supply company took WD’s advice and they simplified the on-line order process. WD suggested that this company incorporate some features she liked on other web sites. Specifically, if you are a returning customer, show me my previous orders, chances are I’ll be purchasing some of those same items. Also have a button going to an order form to be used with customers who have a catalog in front of them. These two suggestions were incorporated and it’s made shopping on their site on-line a better experience.

Nibble, Nibble Everywhere

Goofs happen everywhere. BP had been having problems with the oil gauge in her car. It was behaving very erratically. At first the garage didn’t believe her. Every time they had it in to work on they would hook it up and of course it behaved perfectly. Like going to the doctors, every ache and pain you had when you made the appointment is gone once you’re in the examining room. Finally she dropped by the garage when it was going psychotic and they took it the next day and replaced the gauge in the dashboard. This was fine for a few days and then it was acting up again. This time they replaced the sensor and declared the problem solved. A few days later, same problem. The garage said that they really didn’t know what else to do. After spending $250 BP was left with an oil gauge not working. It just so happened that the car was due for its inspection and she decided to take it to the dealer. She explained the history of the problem. They replaced the wires between the gauge and sensor and low and behold the problem was truly fixed. She hasn’t had a problem with it since. My question is “Why didn’t the garage replace the wires when they were replacing the gauge or the sensor?” This nibbling at a solution cost BP $250 from the garage and more from the dealers who replaced the wires.
You can just feel the patience being nibbled away bit by bit, nibble, nibble, chomp.
I don’t understand this mentality of “I’ve done what I can do and so sorry you still have the problem but I consider it solved.” “Thanks for your money, now go away.” You get that attitude with tech support calls as well. After 2 hours on the phone a scanner/printer KL purchased still didn’t do a simple operation which was the basis of the purchase, but tech support people have never seen this problem before. Ya gotta love these “I’ve never seen that before” problems. They’ve done what they can do so now it’s your problem and hey just how often are you going to need this feature? Forget the fact that this feature needs to be used right now and maybe not for months to come, but right now this feature is needed. Oh well, so sorry to be you.

They start coming out of the wood work now

After word got around that I was collecting stories like this, I started getting people emailing me their tales of woe. Friends had friends send their stories to me.
One of these stories involved SC. He had owned Jeep Cherokee Sports for years. He sold the first Jeep he had to his nephew and it now has over 200,000 miles on it and just recently went to that car graveyard in the sky because he couldn’t find the parts for it in the junk yards any more. SC’s wife has a Cherokee Sport with over 119,000 miles on the dial. So, when SC needed a new vehicle he naturally went with another Cherokee Sport. After driving it for 2 years the clutch master cylinder gave out. In SC’s case, almost an understandable problem; he never uses the brakes so maybe he was over stressing the clutch. Then after only 45,000 miles the engine head cracked.
The reason SC bought the Jeep when he did was because Chrysler wasn’t going to make the Sport anymore and they weren’t going to make a Standard shift either, two important features to SC. So, if you wanted these you had to buy now. After the cracked engine block, SC was really not happy so he contacted Chrysler headquarters, something that the dealer should have done. They agreed with the dealer and SC’s assessment that the head shouldn’t have cracked. Chrysler was kind enough to reimburse him more than half his cost of having the engine replaced. Nice when you consider that had he not had it done at the dealer they would not have reimbursed him anything.
But wait, you know there’s more. The engine was replaced in the summer and when SC originally purchased the car he had an engine block heater put in for those cold New England winters. Can you guess what the dealer did, or rather didn’t do, when the engine was replaced? They didn’t transfer or put in a new engine block heater. When this was brought to the dealer’s attention they said that they could put one in for $80. They couldn’t understand why this was not a good solution. The car was brought to them with the heater. Shouldn’t it leave with one?
And yes, there’s still more. This same dealer wanted to have the oil changed in the new engine after 3000 miles, check belts, hoses etc. So SC took it back to the dealer to have this done. As he was paying, the technician asked him if he wanted to schedule his 60,000-mile engine check up. SC stared at the man and said you just put in a new engine and it only has 3000 miles on it. The technician looked through his records again and said “Oh Yeah. So you don’t want to schedule that 60,000 mile engine check-up?” SC just shook his head and walked out. He’s still getting postcards in the mail to come in for that 60,000 mile check up.
Chrysler has now lost a very loyal customer. It’s amazing how for a $100 item, Target™ has lost a customer and for even less, $80, Chrysler has lost not just one customer but a whole family.
On the other side of the “pride in your work” issue is the new attitude of clerks at stores and the service contracts. Interviewees almost unanimously agreed that, when offered, they would not get them. After all, if these products are any good they should last and an extended warranty shouldn’t be needed. On the other hand, if the quality is so poor, then it will fail before the 21 day return is up (it use to be 30 days to return goods something I talk about below).
Finally some one explained that with the technology changing so fast the CD player you just bought becomes obsolete as you walk out the store. To avoid this “inconvenience”, it was explained, purchase the extended warranty, then physically drop the item on a hard floor or sidewalk (I’m not kidding. This suggestion or something similar was made at several different stores in several different towns to several different people) before the contract is up. In this way the store now has to replace your old technology with new. On the face of it this seems dishonest, but if the salesperson is the one suggesting it?

Return Policy Changed

Another change in customer relations is that you now have 21 days to return a product. It use to be 30 days.
Another favorite story involves IG and his experiences at CompUSAË with their shortened return policy. IG had purchased a RAVE™ MPG player. IG went through five RAVE™s in one month. They all had the same problem. The store refused to give IG his money back because, horror of horrors he thought he had 30 days to return something and didn’t realize until day 29 that he only had 21 days to return it for a refund. IG had them send it out to the factory for repairs. Within three days of getting it back he had the same problem. After going through five of them IG finally got a manager who allowed him to trade it for another one, buy the extended warranty, then return it for his money back because it, too, didn’t work. With the extended warranty you can get your money back. But why should the consumer have to purchase the extended warranty in the first place?
What the above incident taught people in our study is that whatever is purchased must be used immediately. If they’re the slightest bit unhappy with something, return it immediately to get their money back.

DeBranding occurs with people too

A lot of what has occurred in the examples given has been DeBranding with a company or item. But consider this, DeBranding also happens with people. If you have a history of people lying to you or betraying you, each of the incidents written about can be interpreted as another lie, another betrayal. Soon you don’t trust anyone. You don’t trust them to do their job, let alone a good one. Is it any wonder that we’ve become such a cynical society? Nibble, nibble.

While we’re on the topic

Why is it that when PBS stations decide to do fundraising they change their line up? Viewers have fallen in love with a particular program then find out that the station is doing another round of fundraising and have replaced your favorite with what they call “Viewers Favorites”. They usually show the same programs every time. If these are such favorites then why aren’t they shown on a regular basis, not just during fundraising. This has happened with a few shows that people have told me about.
According to interviewees, what usually happens is that when fundraising starts they stop watching those stations. After a while, as the fundraising now goes into week 4, interviewees have gotten out of the habit of watching the shows they tuned in for because “special programming” has gone on for far too long and they’ve lost interest or forgotten when their favorites are being shown. This one is a bite. It’s started to go beyond nibbling now.

Stores can get in on the fun too

Along a similar vein is the compulsion for grocery stores to change things around. Many people interviewed like to go in a store with their list, go down the aisles they need to, get their things and leave. They take no great pleasure from grocery shopping, it’s something that needs to be done, a chore. It’s not a great adventure or social event nor is it a way of filling their day. They’d rather be doing lots of other things. The stores are too crowded with people not knowing where they’re going and usually on a cell phone. These same people on the phones insist on parking their cart in the middle of the aisle and talking loudly on the phone about who knows what, then they look annoyed if someone over hears the phone conversation or asks them to move their cart.
Grocery stores move products around for a variety of reasons. One is to make room for more products. MK’s grocery store recently moved things to make room for more organic products. This is a good reason, and now MK can either ask some one where they’ve moved things or they can play the logic game of “If I were them where would I move the Peanut Butter to?” Some people like this change. Great for them. The people I interviewed are of a different opinion.
I wonder, if the large chain stores did a “How many of our customers like having the products moved around?” survey, how would it turn out? If very few liked this then that particular chain would have a unique marketing strategy. “Come to our store, You’ll always know where things are.” Interviewees said that they could handle it better if there was some type of warning. If the stores put up a sign saying that they were moving things around to give the customers a better selection, make the store easier to navigate, etc. it would go along way to smoothing things out.

Any one want to get in on the rebate issue?

I got a lot of emails about rebates and the headaches associated with them.
PD had purchased several items and had all the rebate information filled out. Of course each rebate must have a copy of the receipt, copy of the UPC, copy of the rebate form etc. and each must be mailed out separately. PD had seven to do, so thankfully one of the items purchased was a copier. PD diligently made all of the required copies, stuffed all envelopes and mailed them off, then waited and waited some more. Nothing. After 10 weeks they began phoning. The evasions were impressive. One said that PD didn’t send this, another said he didn’t send that. PD patiently assured them that he had. The companies said that the envelopes are opened in one location and mailed to another for processing and that they had no way of verifying what PD said. So PD re-sent what they needed and waited some more.
Now 13 weeks had gone by. Some rebate checks start arriving. PD is thrilled. With some rebates the customer can go online and check the status. These are good because it saves a phone call. One place said that now they were denying the rebate because it was submitted to late. Another phone call was made and this was corrected. PD told them that the original submission was well within the time frame and that all this delay has made it fall outside the date. Again the wait, nibble, nibble.

Now the Nibbles become Chomps

Week 16. Now the rebate is denied because the company doesn’t have the original receipt, the second time PD submitted the rebate it had to be a copy. This involved another phone call to sort it out and PD explained that he didn’t have the original as it was mailed to them with the original submission, so of course they’d only get a copy as they themselves had requested. Oh, so sorry, we’ll get right on that.
Week 18: Again denied, this time because, according to the letter, the items were purchased on different days, and they can’t read the date on the receipt and the required rebate item wasn’t purchased. Oh, PD just loves making phone calls. He pointed out in a call and by letter that if the company knew that the items were purchased on different days then they could read the purchase dates. Strike one of their reasons. PD also told them that if they looked on line four of the receipt it showed that the required rebate item was indeed purchased. Oh, so sorry. PD also explained why the items were purchased on different days. The store had given him the wrong item that had the rebate, so he had to go back to the store and get the one that was on special that week. PD even asked the salesman at the time of the return if this was going to confuse the rebate people. The salesmen said no, so long as the purchase was within the same week, it should be fine. PD knew leaving the store it would be an issue.
PD said that he has never worked so hard for $20. The on-line rebates, he said, were great, no questions. Type in the information, hit send and there it is. No questions, no lost information.
Finally after 6 months PD received all of the rebates.

Perhaps there’s hope?

In the summer of 2006 Rhode Island passed legislation that put an end to mail-in rebates. Any rebates would be given at the register and the store offering the rebate would then submit it to the company. This is a great idea and one that the people I interviewed loved. They thought that all states should pass this legislation.

The consumer loses again

The above experiences are truly DeBranding at its best. The people interviewed said that they wouldn’t buy anything with a mail-in rebate unless it can be filed on-line. They’d rather go somewhere else and pay full price than go through the nightmare of mail-in rebates. But that’s what the store is counting on. Most rebates are never redeemed. The store isn’t out anything, only the consumer. Again.

The other side of the coin

There is a gentleman I interviewed for this piece who, in my mind, has a great customer service policy. His company sells software. The customer gets two customer support calls. After this the company refunds the customers money. The reasoning is that if you need more support than two calls, then you, as the customer, are too “expensive for them”. They’ve succeeded as a company with this plan.
I like it. Target™ would have had to return the money; all other cases would have been resolved with happy customers and the companies would still have their business.

Branding done right

I’m not sure how many people saw the pictures of the tractor trailers from Europe on the internet. These were sent around a couple of times. The trailers had painted advertisements for various products. The art work was so beautiful that it caused people to stop and pay attention. It was also very life-like and in some instances I’m sure it almost caused a few accidents as people were trying to figure out how the illusions were done. This form of advertising makes you stop and pay attention and therefore get branded.
It may have even put a smile on people’s faces.

There are good Nibbles too

The people I interviewed also had some delights each day. The little joys – such as finding out that they didn’t get charged the late fee on their credit card that they thought they would. Seeing a shooting star when they’re out walking their dog at night. Seeing swans on a river where they didn’t think there were any in their part of the country. It’s the simple joys in life that balance out the nibbles and chomps of everyday life that get you through the days.


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“Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds” now on IMediaConnection

At the end of my latest IMediaConnection column, Websites: You’ve Only Got 3 Seconds, I offer a bibliography for interested readers. I’m flattered at how many readers have asked for that information. Thanks for reading my offerings!

NextStage does a great deal of research. Let me know if there’s something in particular you’re interested in and we’ll see what we can do.
The bibliography follows.

References

Barrs, B. 1997. In the Theater of Consciousness: The Workspace of the Mind. Oxford University: Oxford University Press.

Berger, D., and D. Schneck. 2003. The Useof Music Therapy as a Clinical Intervention for Physiologic Functional Adaptation. Journal of Scientific Exploration 17(4), Winter:689.

Carrabis, J. 2001. Internal Experience and the Web. NextStage Evolution Research Paper.

——. 2003. Utilizing Customer Goal Seeking in Web-Based CRM. NSE Marketing Paper. NextStage Evolution.

Chisholm, R., and R. Karrer. 1983. Movement-related brain potentials during hand squeezing in children and adults. International Journal of Neuroscience 19:243-58.

——. 1988. Movement-related potentials and control of associated movements. International Journal of Neuroscience 42:131-48.

Daw, N. D., and P. Dayan. 2004. Matchmaking. Nature 304 (18 June):1753-4.

Deecke, L. 1980. Influence of age on human cerebral potentials associated with voluntary movement. In The Psychobiology of Aging: Problems and Perspectives, ed. D. G. Stein. Elsevier.

Konttinen, N., and H. Lyytinen. 1993. Brain slow waves preceding time-locked visuo-motor performance. Journal of Sport Sciences 11:257-66.

Libet, B. 1985. Unconscious cerebral initiative and the role of conscious will in the initiation of action. Behavioral and Brain Sciences 8:529-66.

Libet, B., E. Wright Jr., B. Feinstein, and D. Pearl. 1979. Subjective referral of the timing for a conscious experience: A functional role for the somatosensory specific projection system in man. Brain 102:193-224.

Pocket, S. 2002. On Subjective Back-Referral and How Long It Takes to Become Conscious of a Stimulus: A Reinterpretation of Libet’s Data. Consciousness and Cognition 11(2), June:144-61.

Sugre, L. P., G. S. Corrado, and W. T. Newsome. 2004. Matching Behavior and the Representation of Value in the Parietal Cortex. Nature 304 (18 June):1782-7.

Tanenhaus, M. K., M. J. Spivey-Knowlton, K. M. Eberhard, and J. C. Sedivy. 1995. Integration of Visual and Linguistic Information in Spoken Language Comprehension. Science 268 (16 June):1632–34.

Warren, C., and R. Karrer. 1984. Movement-related potentials during development: A replication and extension of relationships to age, motor control, mental status and IQ. International Journal of Neuroscience 24:81-96Brain and information: Event Related Potentials, vol. 24, ed. R. Karrer, J. Cohen, and P. Tueting.

——. 1984. Movement-related potentials in children: A replication of waveforms and their relationships to age, performance, and cognitive development. In Brain and information: Event Related Potentials, vol. 425, ed. R. Karrer, J. Cohen, and P. Tueting.


Enjoy!


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