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?