Marketing is broken, at least marketing as we know it. A non-marketeer dredges up the ugly and the beautiful in the marketing world.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005

NBA: how to alienate your customers

In a move that may further send attendance and popularity downhill, the NBA is preparing to announce a fan "Code of Conduct", where fans at a game can be ejected for something as simple as a "you suck" to a player. Nothing builds sales like telling your customer exactly how they can use your product. Funny how visting teams in an arena can weather the challenge of overwhelming cheers for their opponents, but can't take a few derogatory remarks in the line of earning several million dollars a year. I know plenty of people who could take 8 hours a week of heckling for a million dollar salary.

I'm not saying the customer is always right, or that it's not okay to fire a bad customer. Telling your customer if they can't say something nice about the product, don't say it at all in a league where the "employees" have highly publicized and largely undisciplined bad behavior is a pretty dumb move when your attendance is lackluster and you're asking them to shell out their hard-earned cash in large chunks.

Newsflash to the NBA - your customers don't NEED you. Telling the customers you have that you don't need some of them doesn't fix a thing. You have an image problem, but it's your customers mimicking the product.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Burning $12 million - the 5 worst

USA Today has their Ad Meter posted, listing all the ads and how they ranked. Let's look at the 5 worst:

Taco Bell - Chicken enchilada dropped on sports card collection.

Replay of an existing wide-release commercial that wasn't that funny to start with. This ad has been on for weeks, and making a few hundred phone calls or a few focus groups would have told them this ad is barely good enough for network prime-time, much less the biggest stage for ads in the world.

Bubblicious - LeBron James blows big bubble for Bubblicious.

LeBron James... and gum. The problem isn't as much the ad as it is that the pairing of LeBron and gum makes absolutely no sense. This mistake was made in the partnership, not the ad itself.

Anheuser-Busch - Introduction of Budweiser Select low-carb beer with no aftertaste.

Wrong ad for the situation. And perhaps not as bad as it was rated. Their goal was to introduce a product, and people got the point - they have a new, low-carb, light beer. Not sure it was worth the money for the airtime, though - this sort of ad is most effective drilled into people's heads with repetition. It didn't help that Miller launched the pre-game preemptive strikes against this product, saying they did their light beer right the first time.

Ciba Vision - People float in bubbles for O2OPTIX silicone hydrogen contact lenses.

I know they were also trying to introduce a product, but what does it do? After seeing this ad, I think there's some brand of contact out there called O2. I don't know why I'd want it. This money would have been better spent in marketing the product to eye doctors who prescribe it.

Napster - Feline icon at football game holds up sign comparing price of new Napster service with rival iTunes.

Napster is a broken brand, period. Anyone who used to use Napster is put off by their conversion to a pay service, and anyone who didn't use them before wonders what a "Napster" is, and why it has a strange white cat logo. 20 well-made Super Bowl ads couldn't fix this brand, much less a weak ad attempting to make people compare costs with iTunes.

My "Apprentice" Audition

I tried out for Donald Trump's "The Apprentice" TV show this weekend. In preparing for this, I found a dearth of information on their tryout process on the net, so I'm fixing that. The preface is that leading up to my audition, I waited for several hours - arrived at 8 AM, received a wristband at 9 AM, interviews began at 10 AM, and I finally got to the front of the line around 12:30 PM. If you're curious, I didn't make the cut, but I have a nifty "Apprentice" wristband to show for it.

Now about the audition. I'm putting this out here because honestly, I don't think it will actually help anyone game the system, but it is interesting. We were ushered into a room 20 at a time and seated at a set of tables configured in a rectangle - candidates on 3 sides, and the casting director on the 4th. He was a reasonably young-looking, [proud] Irish Catholic from Philly named Paul, and was already nursing a glass of bourbon. He seemed to enjoy his job as he positioned himself as provocateur and incredible multi-tasker. He told us that we had 10 minutes, and if he had to talk much during that time, then we weren't doing well. He was going to give us topics, and we were supposed to pick a position and support it with a decent argument.

The first topic was "Did the right guy win the election?" and I can only describe what ensued as chaos. Yelling, lots of yelling. Everyone trying to make their position heard, trying to stand out. It wasn't a subdued roundtable discussion, it was 20 people all clawing to get noticed above the rest. Some people clammed up, initimidated by it all. Some yelled into space, not talking to anyone in particular. More topics flowed, with each one ramping from silence to uproar in about 5 seconds.

I can't tell you what they were looking for, especially since I didn't have the stuff. I can speculate a bit. I think they were looking for quick responders, people who would articulate a strong position with good supporting points right off the bat. If you haven't finished making a solid point on each topic in 5 seconds, I think you're losing. This is why so many lawyers make the show. I think there are some intangibles in the mix - he probably looks at body language, style of speaking, ability to grab the attention of others. Some of it probably depends on what they're trying to cast. The current season is "Book smarts" vs. "Street smarts" - I would expect they were looking for people to fill certain roles on each of those teams from the time they had their first audition.

I responded a bit slowly on some topics, did make some points loudly, did back up some of my points well, did hold some smaller, more direct conversations with people around me. I did yell to nobody in particular a couple of times (many people were doing this), but I don't think that's productive unless you;re the first one. So can I give you interview tips to get on the show? No way - I don't even know what they want, but this is what you could expect in the audition process.

So why'd I do it? I don't idolize Donald Trump, but I do respect some of his accomplishments. Between the knowledge and connections that a winner (or even runner-up) on that show develops, especially working with Trump, it IS a golden opportunity. If nothing else, I knew it would be an interesting experience, an amusing story to share, and a good time to reflect on things I can do better.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

WHY TiVo is disruptive

TiVo (or more generically, Digital Video Recorder) technology is disruptive because it fundamentally shifts the relationships in televised mass media.

Consider this analysis of the business model for broadcast television: The shows are bait, used to attract viewers, who are in turn sold, as a product, to advertisers, the actual customer.

DVRs turn all of that on its head, since they're regularly used to skip commercials. So now the product the networks sell is taking the bait while avoiding being sold. Worse yet, while product companies can at least charge more when supply dries up, the remaining viewers are actually worth LESS, especially considering that the average DVR user is likely to be both young and have more disposable income.

Count this one of many times you hope you're not in the TV/broadcasting business. How do you handle a product that refuses to be sold?