Monday, 20 December 2010

Take the long view. Except in a crisis.

There are many similarities between marketing mix modelling (econometrics) and weather forecasting. They both use data on the past to try to predict the future - though I'd be the first to admit that weather forecasting is harder - and they both struggle badly when you knock them out of their comfort zone. Neither forecasts well when they're in a situation that they haven't seen before.

Weather forecasts in the UK are, to put it kindly, struggling this week. My lovely new HTC phone brings me weather alerts and on Saturday it went from forecasting not really any snow, to heavy snow, to very heavy snow in the space of a few hours. Half an hour after it made up its mind that we were going to get some proper weather, the heavens opened and London went very white and very pretty in the space of about two hours.

There's a marketing angle coming, I promise.

I'd normally argue against taking a day-by-day view of marketing ROI. It's unproductive and it hides the big picture. Retailers especially have an obsession with yesterday's takings which is brilliant for stock control but terrible for working out whether your ad campaign is effective. Advertising has at least medium term effects and you're really looking to build a brand over the long term, so asking your analysts to spend their day working out why Tuesday was 0.5% down year-on-year is distracting at best.

This short term obsession ties in nicely with social media reporting. We're sure we need to track it - how many new Facebook friends, twitter mentions and positive blog posts - but nobody really seems to be able to explain why. If I've got an up to the minute tweet dashboard, what do I do with it? What do I change in my business?

The weather's just given us an example. Forecasts are unreliable and we're out of our comfort zone. What the hell is going on? Is the snow headed our way?

#UKSnow knows.

#UKSnow takes a hashtag on Twitter, a postcode and a report of how heavy the snow is, then maps all the tweets for you. Fabulous! It's doing better today than the Met Office rainfall radar; it updates faster and is reporting snow where the Met Office isn't (in places where it's definitely snowing!)

Most of the time the long view is the best one, but just occasionally, when our models get knocked out of their comfort zone there's a real use for social media dashboards. They can bring us information far faster and more accurately than a model ever could. Provided every day isn't nominated a crisis day, social media tracking is a powerful analysis tool.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Hotmail turkeys in voting for Christmas shocker

Microsoft did a brave thing last week. They sent the Hotmail team onto Reddit to ask users why they didn't like Hotmail.

I should probably have said 'to get feedback on Hotmail' but since nobody really likes Hotmail (I think I'm on safe ground there) it was a brave thing to do.

Some of the replies were a real surprise. I used to use Hotmail - most thirtysomethings did at some point because it's what there was when we first needed email. Apparently we're all leaving now though and when Microsoft asked what it would take to get us back, the first reply and one that kept coming up was...

"Rebrand it and run an ad campaign"

So much for focus groups. Everyone's an amateur marketer!

There's a good point hiding in there somewhere about how "@hotmail" sounds a bit unprofessional and lots of people would probably like an "" address but it's really not why we all left for gmail in droves.

Quick taste test. Is this a Microsoft product or a Google one?

That was too easy.

Hotmail's a mess. It's had half hearted attempts at social networking and news feeds bolted to it, is awkward to use and it doesn't play nicely with smartphones (through the web UI or IMAP) to name just a few problems. Actually, being a Microsoft tool it doesn't play nicely with anything that Microsoft don't build.

These are huge issues that need to be sorted long before you even think about a re-brand, otherwise you're just spending advertising money bringing people to your site, so that they can remind themselves how bad it is and disappear for another few years.

it's been a while since this one came out. Apparently some email users think it really works too.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Sure the Marketing Directors are wrong?

Brand Republic is reporting on a survey that says one in five marketing directors would rather the IT department handle their social media than the in-house PR unit (original press release here.)

"Seriously that is what the survey (by Wildfire PR) of 250 marketing directors and heads of marketing even found — one in five marketing chiefs believe the IT department should have control of a firm’s blogging and tweeting"

And PR Week on the subject...

"Rob Dyson, PR manager at children’s charity Whizz-Kidz, said: ‘Clearly a number of marketers believe social media are technical tools or an extension of the company website that IT should manage. But it is not just a bit of software and needs to be run by a part of an organisation that is personable."

Maybe they do believe it and maybe they don't, but rather than assuming - like a lot of commenters on the articles - that all those marketing directors don't know what they're doing, how about an alternative conclusion?

One in five marketing directors think so little of their PR team's ability to handle social media, that they'd rather IT did it instead.

Disagree? That's why the question is crying out for a follow up.

1. Who do you think should handle your social media?
2. WHY?

Otherwise what can you learn except to assume that 20% of marketing directors don't understand your industry?

Friday, 19 November 2010

Whatever the accuracy, this is brilliant PR.

Hungryhouse claim they see takeaway order spikes during bad performances on the X Factor and can predict the losers. Genius!

Read the press release.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Happiness: Not a bad KPI as it happens.

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) is to begin measuring happiness, apparently with David Cameron's blessing.

Predictably, the comments section on The Guardian, where I first heard about it, has gone into meltdown. I can only imagine what the comments section on The Daily Mail website looks like, because I refuse to add to their unique visitor numbers by taking a look. Please don't encourage them and they just might go away...

I agree with a lot of those comments; right in the middle of slashing public spending is not the best time to announce that you're going to try to measure happiness. If you do you should expect large numbers of people to rise up unbidden and inform you that they're "f***ing unhappy Cameron, you t**t", plus many other comments to that effect that you can find on the Guardian site.

"Bloody hell, Cameron - which part of having your HQ smashed up didn't you get?" OrishMartin

Right, so PR disaster. But is it a good KPI? It could be.

I've said before, when talking about dashboards, that KPIs are useful when you know what to do about them if they change. A fuel indicator on your car dashboard is a good KPI - if you're running out of fuel you'll stop and fill up, instead of needing to make an embarassing call to the AA from the hard shoulder.

A goverment could try to achieve lots of things: Full employment... a brilliant NHS... low inflation... I think that on balance, trying to achieve the happiest population that they can is not a bad goal. At least it's not a purely financial goal and that's an achievement in itself for the Tories.

Tracking whether or not you're achieving your goals is definitely a good idea, if that tracking helps to put you back on course should the KPI fall.

If the ONS's 'happiness tracking' is made up of a clear set of component parts - quality of housing, disposable income, health, free time... such that when you get a bad headline figure, you can see what caused it and try to fix the problem then it could well be worth the effort.

Isn't David Cameron lovely? He just wants to make us happy!

Putting the stats aside for a minute and my cynical hat on. What's he really up to?

I'd be willing to bet that this is actually the Government's attempt to give a voice to what they believe is a silent majority who are mostly happy. Unhappy people are very vocal and the internet, together with the need for rolling 24 hour news to fill its schedules, is making it easier to be a very noisy minority.

Hard numbers you can point at, "proving" that depite the complaints of a few, people are generally happy and are getting happier must look very tempting. (Especially when they're as easily rigged in your favour as a happiness statistic. Too cynical yet?)

I hope Cameron doesn't think that he will be able to point at a statistic which proves that those who complain are wrong and that the majority of the country is happy. It's the equivalent of an airline delaying you for twelve hours and losing your bags, then telling you you're one of a very few unlucky ones and they get it right for thousands of people every day. Want to see somebody really pissed off? Try that as a complaints tactic.

Monday, 8 November 2010

The battle for mobile phones

It's crystal ball gazing time again, this time in the mobile phone market.
I've recommended a phone once before, but I was wrong. Sorry about that. I'm right this time though, honest.

That LG, which I described in my previous post has been replaced by an HTC Desire HD and it's partly the experience of LG's effort that has inspired this post.

I'm going to stick my neck out and try to predict where the cards will fall in the new world of smartphones...

Never mind the individual companies in the market right now, there are three types of company currently trying to gain the upper hand on (and the most revenue from) that clever little device in your pocket.

- The manufacturers. HTC, Nokia, Apple, Motorola (please God, not a Motorola)...

- The carriers. Vodafone, O2, Orange...

- The operating system providers. Apple (again), Nokia (again), Palm, Google...

I'm not going to write an essay on Android vs. the iPhone OS. There are loads and you've read them already. Either that or you got bored before you got this far.

Let's keep it relatively short and sweet - out of the three above, who's going to win?

On simple handsets - the ones that make calls and send texts and not much else - the carrier wins. It's a small prize, but they can try to bundle in other services (home phone, broadband etc.) and can market to you in a limited way through texts. The manufacturers have got very little potential to play with because the person who uses this sort of phone really doesn't care who made it, or what it can do beyond occasionally sending a text or two. It also doesn't have an operating system worth getting excited about because it only needs basic functions.

The big prize is the smartphone. The one where you can be sold games and applications and be shown lots of adverts for lots of shiny new things that you need to buy right now. That you can actually buy right now, on your phone.

Control of the smartphone is through the operating system that it runs. This is what controls the ad platform and dictates who gets the revenue from the app store.

The carriers drop out of this fight in the first round. They don't make operating systems for phones, they pay to plaster their branding over operating systems that other people build. You might get a smartphone with a Vodafone logo on it, but Vodafone won't get the new revenue streams, just the money they've always got from carryng your calls (and texts and data.)

It's not a bad place to be. In the Gold Rush, prospectors gambled on the chance of making a lot of money, but some people made guaranteed fortunes. They sold picks and shovels to the prospectors...

But back to the theme in hand: Who gets the new revenue that has opened up in the mobile market? It's whoever makes the operating system. My prediction is that the traditional handset manufacturers still attempting to make an OS for their smartphones - Nokia , Palm and RIM - are doomed to fail.

They don't have the critical mass to succeed because their OS, with its limited distribution, won't attract so many software developers to their app store. For developers, the potential market (and revene) from programming for a Nokia is smaller. As a user, you want the phone that does all of the things that you need and that means lots of apps.

What about Apple? Well, they're obviously different. Apple are succeeding where Nokia aren't and the difference is that they're coming into the market with an expertise in building software as well as hardware. Reception issues aside, building the handset, or getting a manufacturer to build you one, is easier than building an OS now that Apple have set the useability bar so high with the iPhone OS.

Handset manufacturers used to be able to compete back in the days of the N95, when good was good enough, but not any more.

So we've got a battle between two OS manufacturers - Google and Apple - who have just been joined by Microsoft with Windows Phone 7.

Google are going to win. Again.

iPhone OS is brilliant. It's an amazing bit of software. But in terms of holding the largest market share, it's not going to win for two key reasons: It's only available on iPhones and iPhones are expensive.

Smartphones will come to mirror the PC market - they are fully fledged computers now after all. In the PC market, Apple has around 5% market share globally and 11% in the US. They're running the same strategy in mobile phones that they run for computers - high end, beautiful products at a premium price - and they'll end up with about the same market share.

So we're down to Google and Microsoft building an OS running across many handsets, which allows allows developers to reach a large market with their software. In this shootout, I'm backing Google. Microsoft seem incapable of producing simple, easy to use software that runs fast - which is the pre-requisite on a phone - and I can't believe Windows Phone 7 will be any different. Try Skydrive for a recent example, though you might have to wait for it to load. It's so close, but just not right. Neither is the New Busy.

I'm aware that I've missed out Blackberry. Blackberry, in my humble opinion, are the next Nokia, and by that I mean that they're screwed. Their handsets used to have the USPs of a proper keyboard and push email but the first of these has gone and the second is not far behind. RIM also suffer from Nokia's problem that an ok user experience is no longer good enough - the Blackberry interface is barely passable.

Dell has just dumped Blackberries in favour of handsets that use wireless connections (free) rather than RIM's servers (expensive) and I can see other businesses going the same way. Most business users don't really need instant email away from the office; a handset that stores up replies and sends them when it finds a wireless connection is more than good enough.

And that will do for today. I'm off to play with Google Goggles.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Brilliant, from Tippex and YouTube

This is brilliant. Click it!

Only thing they missed? A 'share this' button. It looks like the clever video they've put together breaks all of YouTube's usual sharing features. It's viral media guys, we need to be able to spread it.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Misleading Statistics: B+, Good Effort

American app tracking company Flurry has realeased some data showing that iPhone apps in the US are now as big as prime time TV shows.

In a blog post, Peter Farago of Flurry claims that "Social games on iPhone, iPad and iPod touch devices are competing for television viewers". Personally, I doubt it; in my experience they're either used with the TV on at the same time, or at times when you couldn't watch TV anyway - like on the train.

Still, they might be competing and they might not. The data doesn't tell us either way though. Let's have a look.

Wow, that's impressive! Social games on the iPhone are bigger than Sunday Night Football on NBC!

Before you dump TV from your plan, what's the catch?
  • Nothing about this chart suggests that the iPhone is competing with TV. Even if the data is as stark as represented here (which I don't think it is), there's nothing to say TV viewers are switching off and playing iPhone games instead.

  • All the iPhone apps aggregated into one bar and all the TV programmes separated out? Now come on chaps, that's not really a fair fight is it?

  • The Flurry blog post talks about minutes of use, penetration and frequency but that's not what's on the chart, which shows number of viewers divided by number of sessions.
    That's a cracking way to mask the fact that the TV shows don't have exactly the same audience every week, so their overall reach is higher than the chart suggests.

    When you add this point to the previous issue (that all the TV programmes are separated out) you're potentially vastly underestimating the overall reach of TV vs. apps.

  • Those TV programmes are an hour long each. Flurry themselves claim people spend 22 minutes per day using iPhone apps.

  • How attention grabbing is a TV ad vs. an in-game game ad...?

  • ... and so how effective is a TV ad likely to be vs. an in-game ad?

Nice try, B+.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Marketing first? Not a chance.

In return for speaking at an evening they had arranged, the Marketing Society recently gave me a copy of their book on the Future of Marketing. It was a nice gesture (and some compensation for a trip to Coventry...) You can read an excerpt from it here.

Reading it on the train on the way home, it had the usual contributions from the usual contributors, including Sir Martin Sorrell (of course) with his standard essay on how it's all about the growing markets - Asia and South America - and how measurement is the way forward. Measurement is the way forward and it's great to hear somebody with that kind of profile banging the analytics drum, but even as an analyst, I can't help feeling he puts a little too much faith in numbers.

To be honest, even with a train journey to kill, I skimmed quite a lot of it.

Two contributors stood out though, as interesting pieces written by people that I find inspiring, and also for the fact that neither are primarily marketers.

When asked "What is the future of marketing?", James Dyson and Richard Branson both replied (essentially) "Product". Then added, "It's always been product".

Get the product right and people will come back. They'll also do a lot of your marketing for you. Ask any business traveller who they most like to fly with and in my experience the vast majority immediately start singing the praises of Virgin. These companies advertise, of course they do, but it's secondary to the business of making products that work.

I was reminded of those two articles this morning by a Guardian interview with Jamie Oliver. Have a read, it's got a couple of cracking rants in it and is refreshingly sweary.

One point stood out for me.

"You know that government advertising campaign, Change4Life, cost £20m on billboards? I could have built over 100 Ministries of Food in towns all over the country for that. The public doesn't need to know that we're in a fucking state, that we need five a day. What it needs is skin on skin, it needs beacons locally where you can find out stuff for free, and have lessons. It's the only way forward"

Change4Life is a classic case of advertising without a product and it's throwing money away. He's a marketing genius that Jamie Oliver, mainly because he's not trying to do marketing.

As part of the public spending bonfire that we're about to experience*, I'd like the Tories to instil a new advertising principle. Government departments can't advertise until they've got a product. One that is already selling. Launch with a huge marketing campaign and it's too easy to take your eye off the ball and to concentrate on that campaign. Especially when (God forbid,) it's the biggest line item in your budget.

* Labour had a public spending bonfire too, but theirs was different. They just burned cash. In large part by funding daft ad campaigns.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Clever proxy data

I'm back! But why? Well because this is cool...

Via The Guardian. Half of Europe is on strike today and as usual, the unions say everyone's on strike and employers are saying virtually nobody is. What's the truth?

This is a brilliant bit of thinking to find some proxy data when the official figures are unreliable. We can have a look (live) at Spain's electricity consumption. Usual expected consumption for today in green and actual in yellow (and based on Google Translate, red is a projection for the rest of today.)

They're down about 16% vs. expected demand at the moment, which is somewhere between what Saturday and Sunday usually look like. So enough people have walked out in Spain that it's turned into an unofficial weekend.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Selling your marketing

There's a copy of Winning on Betfair for Dummies on my desk. Not sure where it came from but the 'For Dummies' bit definitely hits the mark.
Guess who wrote it? The head of Brand Marketing at Betfair and the former head of Horseracing Communication at... Betfair. Nice.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

A good cost per acquisition. If you're selling superyachts.

It's no secret that I don't like ID cards.

That said, it's time for a fair and impartial look at the government's investment of half a million in advertising money to publicise their trial run in Manchester. It can be fair and impartial and still anti ID cards because... well you'll see in a minute.

1300 people have signed up.

For half a million pounds.

Lets pretend loads of them aren't civil servants and journalists and say 1300 people saw the advertising and thought "I've just got to have one of those".

That's a cost per acquisition of £385. Bargain.

At that price, persuading 48 million adults for a national role out will cost £18,480,000,000 (yes, I know that's a silly calculation, I've stopped being fair and impartial now.)

Can we just abandon this monumental waste of money please?

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Has it occurred to anybody else...

That the Met Office seem to be treating outside chances of bad weather as a PR opportunity?
Take tomorrow. There's a weather warning in place for London*. It's not going to snow.

The Met Office know it's not going to snow too, so why the weather warning? Either they're absolutely terrified of not issuing one when there's a blizzard coming (which is possible) or I have a strong suspicion that they use them for PR.

A weather warning generates lots of Met Office coverage. And then whose name is in your head when you need to buy some weather expertise? Never mind that you could always get it for free from (Sshhh, don't tell anybody.)

I'm being very, very cynical but the damn things are issued so often that nobody takes them seriously any more. Rain, fog, snow, a bit of a stiff breeze... Weather warning. I think they like being on the news.

If you want non-sensationalised weather (which has been more accurate than the Met Office since Christmas because they don't worst-case-scenario everything) try meteoblue.

* And a lot of other places, which actually do have lots of snow.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Which clown at Sky...

Come on, who at Sky didn't know that Avatar has clever new 3D glasses, rather than the old fashioned blue and red ones?

I went and saw the film last night (cheesy plot, you pretty much know what's going to happen in the finale and it's properly brilliant) and was surprised by the lack of 3D ads. Bit of a missed opportunity there, I thought. Everybody was already sat in their seats during the ads, which never happens, and it was just the same old mobile phone spots as usual.

Then a big sign flashed up. "Put on your 3D glasses now". Here we go...

Hang on, this isn't working. I can see a sky box but it's sort of blue and red and flickery through the 3D specs.

Did some clown in marketing at Sky think they'd just run a 3D ad and not check what technology Avatar was using? Or was I supposed to get some old fashioned blue and red 3D glasses in The Sun or something? If so, I couldn't see one person in the cinema who had them and could hear lots of confused people who didn't.

The PR people knew. They said:

"As Sky's 3D TV services uses the same underlying technology as that being used in cinemas, it seemed natural to use Avatar as our first marketing platform. We also wanted to give consumers the opportunity to sample first hand the quality of experience we will offer next year."

Oops. Marketing money well spent...

Monday, 4 January 2010

A New Year thought (yes, I'm back!)

The updates might be less frequent, but I'll be back for 2010 with some more data-based marketing type thoughts. And probably some musicial musings thrown in along the way too as a whole new work obsession, but we'll have to see.

Oh, and Happy New Year!

So what's brought about the change of heart? Well, it seems marketing hasn't gone away despite me leaving Mindshare and apparently a few people are still reading Wallpapering Fog now and again (thanks Grace!) Actually, I'm perversely disappointed the traffic didn't drop off all that much - it just brought home the fact that I only wrote three vaguely interesting things last year and people are still reading those. Must try harder...

'here's a Facebook strategy and I can give you a bucketload of data to prove while this Facebook strategy is a good thing'.

Steve over at Analytics Arbitrage has been speculating about disjointed planning and ideas for 2010 and mentioned a Facebook Strategy. He's not suggesting that having one would be a good starting point for planning, don't worry.

So what is a good starting point? What's fundamentally wrong with saying 'here's a Facebook strategy'?

It's wrong because it doesn't start with what you've got. It starts with what somebody else has got.

Football managers lose their jobs this way. They compromise their own team by setting it up to counter what the opposition are doing. They've got a good winger? He'll need man-marking. They play a man in the hole behind the striker? We'd better have a holding midfielder this weekend then. And before you know it your team's tactics are negative and all you're really trying to do is not get beaten.

So a here's first thought for 2010, whether you're building media plans, contemplating Facebook or looking for a new job. Before you react, what have you already got? And what can you do with it to give everybody else something to think about?