Friday, 27 February 2009

Dating for middle England

The Daily Mail has launched a dating website.

The temptation to imagine one of their listings is far too strong for a Friday afternoon.

Well bred home counties female (sometimes likened to a young Margaret Thatcher) seeks her Hesaltine for afternoon tea and ill-informed sensationalist conversation. Tends not to go outside much, because it's scary out there.

No foreigners.

Anyone non-UK (I know there are some of you!) can probably guess fairly well what the Mail is like. But just in case, here's a random headline generator.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

What they think, or what they do? Where do you start with a segmentation?

I should start today's post by declaring a bias. I think segmentations are among the most useful, but also among the most abused tools available to marketers.

Useful, because you've got far too many and far too wide a variety of customers to market to each of them individually - particularly above the line. A segmentation makes marketing manageable.

Abused, for a variety of reasons, including...
  • Behaving as if all of the consumers in a segment are the same.

  • Failing to understand that an index towards high income men in one segment doesn't mean that everyone in that segment is a high income man.

  • Once you've got a segmentation, abandoning any insight beyond the 'pen portrait' one-page summary of each segment. Or worse, beyond the two-word descriptive segment name.

  • Forcing every business issue through the segmentation, whether it helps or not.
    "My customers are defecting! Quick, find out which segments are defecting fastest!!"

With that out of the way, how should you build your segmentation? Let's look at two approaches - basing it attitudinally (on what the customer thinks) or behaviourally (on what the customer does.)

Sometimes, the decision is made for you. If your product hasn't launched yet, or if you're in a market without behavioural data, then it's probably going to have to be mostly attitudinal.

But if you have a customer behaviour database - if you're a bank, insurance company or other brand with a direct customer relationship, I really don't understand why you'd start with data on attitudes - and many companies do. Much better to profile behaviour, create segments, and then find out why your customers are behaving in a certain way.

By all means find the attitudinal reasons why customers are defecting, but doesn't it make more sense to start with the group of customers who are doing it?

There are five big advantages to a behavioural starting point, if you have the opportunity to take this approach.
  • It's repeatable. If you have a customer database, you'll need to refresh the segments at some point. The definition of 'lapsed' is unambiguous. You can find out afterwards why they're lapsed.

  • You get as much (if not more) attitudinal difference between your segments by basing them on behaviour as by basing them on attitudes. Seriously, if you get the chance, try it.

  • Pick the right behaviours and your segmentation immediately reflects your business goals.

  • You only get to survey some of your customers to create attitudinal segments, then you have to model where the rest of your customers go, based on probability. Every customer has a behavioural history, so if you say lapsed you mean it. If you say 'Technophile', then some of them won't be.

  • It can be a hell of a lot cheaper, as your surveys can be smaller and you don't have to model the surveys back onto the customer database.

Not everyone will agree, which is great. But I feel better for getting that off my chest...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Ethical marketing

Inspired by Seth Godin's post 'Is marketing evil?', here's a thought for the day.

Are there any brands you'd refuse to work on? Even if it meant losing your job?

It's easy to say something like 'sure, I wouldn't work on cigarettes', but can you truly say that, hand on heart? If your agency was pitching for Marlboro, would you flatly refuse to get involved?

Where do you draw the line? It would be easy to say that advertising doesn't really make a difference anyway, but you don't believe that, otherwise you'd find a different industry to work in. Either that, or you've got a record breaking lack of motivation.

It's an interesting philosophical game to play. Which clients, if they dropped in your lap with job prospects attached, would you refuse?

Monday, 23 February 2009

Apparently, TV isn't dead after all

Saw a good article today on TV effectiveness from Advertising Age, which brings together a few different studies showing that the demise of TV might have been overstated.

Lets have a look at the central claim that TV is as 'Effective as Ever'.

MMA has run a meta-analysis across marketing mix models dating from the early 1990s and concluded that the effectiveness of TV per Rating Point (GRP) is not dropping. They also found that 1/3 of brand-name Google search queries are actually being driven by off-line media spend - so some of that online ROI is actually (partly at least) offline ROI.

Interesting study, but should we be surprised by the result? I don't know about you, but I'm not.

I was asked by a media planner not long ago to show that TV was still right for their 'youth' brand as the client was pushing hard to swap TV budget for online (the question is always asked this way round, rather than 'could my client be right?')

Two things jumped out straight away. One, it wasn't really a youth brand - the client had put far too much emphasis on a segmentation - and two, the best way to reach a young audience quickly is still TV. Young people have embraced new technologies faster than older demographics, but in the UK at least, the single media consumption activity that they do the most is to watch TV. A quick TGI run confirms it, but I won't post the chart up here as its not my company's blog.

The second reason why it's not surprising that TV is holding up, is the key part of the effectiveness statement. Effective at what? Selling product. Measured how? Per GRP.

So if you put the same amount of TV in the top, you get the same sales out the bottom. This could change if the reach of TV had dropped dramatically, so a lot fewer people were watching a lot more TV. It hasn't. Alternatively, you'd get less sales per GRP if TV ads were being watched, but had somehow mysteriously stopped working. These studies say not.

Before you get excited, do TV GRPs for your target audience cost more or less than they did in 1990?

What the MMA study hints at, and where analysts are starting to find new questions, is how you can best use new media to amplify TV, not to replace it.

Another study mentioned in the article states that

"more than half the advertisers (16 of 29) in the study still lost money by running their TV ads"

Including a long term effect? It would be good to know.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Showing the data without showing the data

Jan's answer to the question 'What is data visualisation?'

Spot on.

What will it take to stop people reading newspapers?

UK Newspaper sales have been sliding for some time, with the December ABC numbers for virtually all titles not painting a picture of a growing market.

It's a slow decline though and despite predictions of the end of the printed newspaper, circulations are still high. The Sun is back above 3m again and The Telegraph, as the largest quality daily, sells around 850,000 copies.

It's going to take a step change in the market to put a real dent in newspaper sales and I think it could come from Apple. A large-form ipod Touch is predicted to launch this year

(not a picture of a large-form ipod Touch)

What's that got to do with newspapers? Well I think a big part of the reason why daily newspapers are still read on paper, is that there's not a good electronic platform to read them on.
Mobile phone screens are far too small to be useful and opening a netbook on the commute to work is a geeky pastime at best.

If Apple bring their elegant designs and ease of use to a next-gen PDA with a screen big enough to comfortably read an article, then it could start a change that has long been predicted but hasn't happened yet.

Papers on paper will stay with us, because ipods at the breakfast table just doesn't feel right. But an ipod that picks up The Times wirelessly while it's charging and has it ready to go for London commuters. That really could work and could be as easy as downloading The Times application from the Apps Store.

It could also be very lucrative for the newspapers themselves, if they use the technology to engage a young, London-based, ABC1 demographic.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Here's a little tweet

Twitter suddenly seems to be everywhere in the UK. Stephen Fry is on it and so are lots of other celebrities.

What's going on? Could it be a Tipping Point and that's why Twitter has suddenly taken off here?

I don't think so. News volume in the UK about Twitter jumped at the start of 2008, when Britney Spears (among others) had her account hacked. On this Trends chart, Google have helpfully labelled that point 'E'.

If the picture's a bit small, number of Google searches is the top line and number of news stories is the bottom one.

The next point to the right of my artfully drawn black line is the week that a photo was posted on Twitter of an aeroplane down in the Hudson River.

My theory is that the mainstream UK media has just noticed Twitter on the back of a Heat magazine style Britney Spears story and getting a free front page photo of a sinking aeroplane. There's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

Where it goes from here I'm not sure, but would be willing to bet that Twitter gets taken over in the next year or so and then integrated into a larger product. It's a fun toy, but doesn't have enough of an offering to support itself through ads or - God fobid - charge users for the service. Look for Google trying to give Open Social a kick start.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

How would you improve this chart? (Marketing relevant if you're a marketer who draws charts)

The excellent Flowing Data ran a competition at the end of last year, asking entrants to see if they could 'make a better chart using the same data source.'

This original isn't that bad, which made the challenge interesting. It's not brilliant, but as a summary of US immigration over time, it does the job.

The winner of the contest reflected the fact that the original was ok, swapping lines for stacked areas, adding commentary and building a much more visually attractive chart.

No arguments at all from me that this was the best entry (have a look for yourself).

What's interesting, is the number of entries that seem to have taken 'make a better chart' to mean 'make a different chart'.

Logarithmic scales? Seriously? Interactive flash charts are clever, but they're not really communicating more information. A large number of the entries turned a simple chart into something that took longer to understand, but didn't add anything extra once you had worked them out.

In marketing, analysts have a responsibility to communicate information as simply and as clearly as possible. Sometimes to people who hoped they'd left graphs behind when they dropped maths at college ten years ago. In data presentation, 'better' doesn't mean 'different' and 'different' definitely shouldn't be more complicated.

I still can't believe there were log scales. Two of them!

No I didn't enter the contest, but will have a go in future and please feel free to pull my entry to bits (if it gets printed!) Flowing Data's winning chart is superb. Easy to understand and rewards a deeper look.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Why a dashboard won't solve all of your problems

Business Intelligence (BI) has come of age. Assuming your IT department know roughly what they're doing and you can afford it, you can have your latest sales, market share, media spend, Google conversion rates and any other metrics you care to mention on your screen on a Monday morning.

More information is incredibly seductive. If you had your sales and media spend histories at your fingertips, you could show the effectiveness of your current advertising campaign. Surely? Couldn't you?

Well actually, no you couldn't. Marketing analysts have had this data for ages and it takes them a couple of months (and a degree in statistics) to work it out.

As analysts, we're often the ones selling dashboards, so lets be honest about what they do well. They show data. So to be useful, you have to be someone who needs to see that data - and I mean really needs to see it. Just the number. Not why the number, or where it came from, or what you might want to do about it.

Anything that goes beyond looking at a number isn't a dashboard, it's insight and analysis. Some pieces of software that can be used to build dashboards also have great tools for generating insight, like Qlik View, or Tableau. They don't do the analysis work for you though and if you haven't got staff with the time or the maths background required to go digging through the numbers then that dashboard's not going to help you make a decision.

Look at it like this; here's a dashboard in the true sense of the word.

It's got all the things on it that you might need to know while you're driving. Even some of the indicators on here might be considered surplus to requirements, but we can agree that knowing how fast you're going and whether you have any fuel left are useful pieces of information to have while you're in a car.

They're useful, because you know what to do about them if they're not right. Out of fuel? Find a petrol station, quick.

A car's dashboard doesn't tell you how to make the car slow down, how to mend it if it won't start or whether you should fit a loud exhaust and a spoiler.

Dashboards can be incredibly useful, but if you want to know how your business works, then they're not all you need.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

It's rarely that you encounter true genius

Marketing needs a bit of bullshit. Even us analysts indulge from time to time (hush, don't tell anyone.)

With the new Pepsi logo however, Arnell Group have achieved a level of bullshit so audacious, that they've distorted the very fabric of space-time. I'm genuinely afraid that this document contains such inspired pseudo-science that it might become self-aware and attempt to start its own creative agency.

Pepsi's new logo isn't just a splash of red, white and blue and it's most certainly not a rip off of the Obama campaign logo.

Pepsi's new logo has its own gravitational field. No, really.

Alternatively, Arnell Group have got somebody on their staff who owns copies of Astronomy for Beginners, A Blagger's Guide to Art History and Adobe Illustrator. And supports Obama.

Could this be an intra-industry viral marketing spoof?

With thanks to Ad Lab.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Sky, football and the back of an envelope (very UK-centric post warning!)

Sky has just won the rights to show five out of the six available Premiership football games packages from 2010, by bidding £1.62bn over three years . They're not allowed to bid for all six packages; the European Commission says so.

It's an interesting exercise to work out how much that means Sky think the football is worth to them. In 2006-2007, Sky made £4.1 billion in revenue (OFCOM) and the vast bulk of that (93%) came from subscriptions.

The first thing to say, is that Sky must think they'd lose subscribers if they lost the football. Of course they would.

Lets assume that Sky are trying to be profitable (because I'm an economist and economists like to pretend people are rational) and also that their margin is about 15%.

The 15% margin on £4.1bn means that Sky make something like £615m per year profit before tax, or 1.8bn over the three year life of the Premiership contract. That's very close to what they pay for the football - the price hasn't changed that much this time around (what's £100m between friends?) So if Sky could drop the football and all their subscribers stayed with them at the same price, they'd close to double their profit.

Or to put it another way, Sky are behaving as if live Premier League football makes up at least half of their business model.

That's not the whole story though. There's a longer term benefit of owning the football that comes from eliminating Setanta, which has been left with half the amount of football that it has at the moment. Setanta don't have much other than football to support their subscriber base and could be in a lot of trouble.

So now you know how football players can afford to insure (and then crash) £200,000 Ferraris. And don't be suprised if you see the European Commission taking an interest in the Premiership TV rights again in the next couple of years.

Update: Judging by their reaction to losing, Setanta really need that football.

Friday, 6 February 2009

Forecasting the end of Google

Forrester has released a report that suggests Google may not be the major player in Search in years to come.

The conclusion seems to be that in a market where switching costs are zero and customer loyalty is low, the Next Big Thing could come along and end Google's dominance.

It's not going to happen! Although it is true that when I started searching the web in the late 90s, everyone used Alta Vista and the rapid growth of Facebook (among others) shows how fast users of the web can flow towards a new entrant.

Google's dominance will continue. Not because their researchers are definitely building the best next generation search engine, but because with cash reserves of 15.8 trillion dollars, if anybody even looks like threatening Google's position, they'll be reporting to Mountain View before you can say 'hostile takeover'.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Open source research

We've all heard plenty about what the internet is doing, and will do, to traditional advertising. So what about advertising research?

There are already a multitude of ways to track your brand online. I pulled a Blogpulse chart for a post in this blog a few weeks ago and there's no reason you can't do the same for any brand. And that's just scratching the surface of what's on offer.

Alongside all the new toys are a few things that would make me worry if I was involved in traditional brand tracking - measuring how many people are aware of a brand, or remember its ads, that sort of thing.

Facebook has decided to become a pollster because it can't make enough money from selling advertising space.

This wonderful timeline of what ads people were twittering about during the Superbowl is easy enough to reproduce if you can code for the (free, in limited form) Twitter API.

Silobreaker has planted itself firmly in the PR tracking space and even Google Trends is a great indicator of the interest a brand is generating. If you pick the terms carefully it can be a quick and easy ad awareness calculator.

A great deal of information about how people are interacting with your brand is becoming available online, either very cheaply or for free. You wouldn't dump brand tracking yet, but it's going to have to start working harder. So ad awareness doubled last month? I can find that out for free from Google, what else have you got?

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Words in pictures

This list of the five best data visualisations of the year, has a fantastic little tool as an honourable mention.

Wordle makes word clouds from any text you throw at it. I'd managed to miss it so far, which is why 'best of the year' type lists are good I guess, although I'd shuffle the order of Flowing Data's ranking a little.

As a visual way of summarising what a document is about, I think it's brilliant.

Seeing as London ground to a halt yesterday and people built snowmen instead of going to work, lets see what it makes of The Times website lead article.

Why not run your next pitch brief through it and see if you get any surprises?

Monday, 2 February 2009

Viral videos

Look out for charts from this site coming to a powerpoint deck near you soon.
Tracking and ranking of how widespread different videos have become on the web

Like this one for the Slumdog Millionaire film trailer. (Like so many things, the film is good, but not as good as the hype.)

I particularly like the use of Sparklines on the Top 20 ranking pages.

Probably best not to compare traffic for your expensively engineered viral campaign against the number of hits for anything with kittens in it though.