Tag: marketing

Blast from the past: Diamonds are nobody’s best friend but the De Beers cartel

I vaguely recollect a documentary I watched as a kid – diamonds the size of golf balls were rolling up on African beaches while armed patrols made sure nobody picked them up. I couldn’t find it on the interwebspheres, so I was probably dreaming …

The diamond invention—the creation of the idea that diamonds are rare and valuable, and are essential signs of esteem—is a relatively recent development in the history of the diamond trade. Until the late nineteenth century, diamonds were found only in a few riverbeds in India and in the jungles of Brazil, and the entire world production of gem diamonds amounted to a few pounds a year. In 1870, however, huge diamond mines were discovered near the Orange River, in South Africa, where diamonds were soon being scooped out by the ton. Suddenly, the market was deluged with diamonds. The British financiers who had organized the South African mines quickly realized that their investment was endangered; diamonds had little intrinsic value—and their price depended almost entirely on their scarcity. The financiers feared that when new mines were developed in South Africa, diamonds would become at best only semiprecious gems.

Dug up from The Atlantic, circa 1982, is the fascinating story about how one of the most abundant gems in existence was turned into rare treasure.

It took no alchemy … just marketing. Maybe the most brilliant (and long-lived) campaign ever executed. It’ll take more time that the average blog post, but read the whole thing anyway.

MG signing off (to cast illusion aside in favor of reality)

Thanks for all the socks

I held someone’s hand while they cleaned up their Mac. It worked so well, they suggested I assemble the instructions into a blog post. So I did.

Kara Armano and Mavis Fitzgerald of Backbone Media found and then followed those instructions, and now their Macs are running much better too. But even though the clean-up tutorial was provided for free to the world i.e. open source, they decided to thank me anyway.

Smartwool Socks

Will work for socks

Smartwool is of course one of the public relations firm’s clients. While some socks appearing on a doorstep may at first blush seem like much ado about nothing, I was a fan of the brand beforehand but now even more so. So everybody won.

Nice job folks.

MG signing off (with warm cozy feet)

You say sponsors, I say suckers

Monday’s announcement that sponsors are hopping off the Lance Armstrong SAG wagon should come as no surprise to anyone. Big names including Anheuser-Busch, Nike, Oakley, and Radio Shack are now getting a front-row lesson in brand crisis management.

Unwilling to transparently differentiate, to provide conspicuously ascertainable value in excess of their competitors, these companies latched on to the pre-established success of others in the hopes of generating interest in their offerings. Instead they received a fleeting display of vainglorious associative disorder and a fat bill from the agency that placed them there.

How a brewer of alcoholic beverages hoped to raise brand awareness through bicycle racing seems particularly laughable, but you can be fairly certain some heavily massaged focus group results were the culprit. The US Postal Service receives nary a mention in this debacle, but rumor has it they have bigger issues to worry about.

MG signing off (because lipstick on a pig is still downright ugly)

Fly Reel Anodization Explained: The better to hide from you I say

Ever wonder about all those fancy terms fly reel manufacturers use to describe the finishes on their products? Should you even care if your fly reel is anodized? I did, and do. Thankfully, Phil Monahan of MidCurrent cuts to the chase on the matter:

Fly reels generally come in Type II, although a few may feature Type III anodizing. (Type III is also known as “hard anodizing.”) The “Type” describes the thickness and consequent hardness of the coating. Type II anodizing creates a coating of less than .001 inches, while Type III describes anything between .001 inches and .004 inches. Manufacturers claim that Type III anodizing “penetrates” the metal, as well as coating it, but all anodizing methods penetrate to a certain degree.

What really caught my eye, however, was this:

From a marketing standpoint, hard-anodized reels are a tough sell because they aren’t shiny; the finish is more matte than Type II.

I find it hard to believe that people would choose their reel based on how shiny it is, but I suppose that is the case. I take the opposite tact – I don’t want my gear to look shiny, flashy, etc. as I don’t want the fish to see me coming. In fact, I’ve chosen to stick with Waterworks-Lamson reels specifically for their Hard Alox coating (notwithstanding their otherworldly customer service), because it is both tough AND dull.

Then again, when you suck you need every advantage you can muster.

MG signing off (to find some camo face paint)

Guinness going the way of the Schlitz Tall Boy?

It was the beer that made Milwaukee famous, and that which was smuggled from the fridge for inclusion in fishing outings circa junior high. Then it disappeared from the shelves. Now Guinness, the beer that made Ireland famous – at least in the minds of Florida rednecks, of which I am a proud alumnus – seems headed down the same path.

Zak Avery speaketh…

So why would such an icon appear to be losing its foothold in the market? There’s no doubt that, as a nation, our drinking habits have changed radically over the last decade …while it’s easy to recruit new drinker to sweeter drinks, it’s another thing to recruit them to something that looks like it will taste like the darkest corner of an old man’s beer cellar.

When Mr. Avery says “nation” he means Great Britain. Still, say it isn’t so! I wouldn’t be able to work, or play, if Guinness was no more.

Of course, Schlitz is coming back, thanks in no small part to microbrew grunge match champion…Pabst Blue Ribbon. Maybe the world’s tastiest cholesterol medication just needs some new marketing zing.

MG signing off (to find the kind of hope a politician could never convince me existed)

Should the fly fishing industry can its marketing departments and double its prices?

Withering interest and recession staring it in the face, the fly fishing industry faces extraordinary challenges. If it’s not dealing with the fact that it has drastically overloaded its own product lines and twisted the outgoing message for optimum confusion, there’s always the Madoff family connections. Meanwhile, the crew is rushing to the web, trying to maintain contact with a customer that already has too much gear and too little time to listen. My singular observations have found that communication is sometimes muddled, and often contradictory to what’s being shared behind the scenes. I suspect it’ll get a whole lot worse before it gets better.

None of that seems to matter to Stanley and Stephen Bogdan:

The Bogdans are navigating this recession just as they have every other one over the last seven decades: by staying small and doing things their own way. Every part of a Bogdan reel, save for the springs, is tooled by Stanley or Stephen, S.E. Bogdan Custom Built’s sole employees. In their garage-size shop in New Ipswich, N.H. stands a table littered with dozens of boxes, each containing different parts of a fly-fishing reel: discs of stainless steel, screws, brake shoes, anodized aluminum frames and spools. Armed with a 130-year-old Flather lathe and a 50-year-old Van Norman milling machine, the pair churn out only 100 reels a year and have a three-year backlog. They hold no patents, take no deposits from customers (“That way they can’t bug me, and I have control,” says Stanley), store no files, designs or accounts on a computer (they don’t own one) and do no advertising.

No Madison Avenue, and certainly no social network. They did all this by building a reputation early on, and sticking to ideals of slow growth and maintaining an air of exclusivity.

While Forbes fails to mention much about the reliability and/or warranty on Bogdans (something diehard anglers think a whole lot about), the maker still has its fans in that regard:

Your comments about Bogdans slipping when wet are completely off base. At least in my experience. All they require is to be oiled with light machine oil. Pull the spool and oil the drum once every 2 or 3 years with but a couple drops of plain old oil. I have been fishing mine for almost 10 years now and have ZERO problems with them hydroplaning after being dunked. In fact this trait is one more reason why Bogdan has produced the best hand made reel in the history of fishing. Ages old technology that functions superbly with looks and sounds that kill. For nearly 60 years, Salmo.

As a company in this day and age, you have to love the fact that someone can criticize your product, and a defense will be mounted without you having to personally send hoards of your own folks over to ‘lawyer up.’

There’s a chance somewhere between slim and none that I’ll ever own a Bogdan. I go for utility, and that means being able to tumble down a trail without crying later that my gear was torn up. For much the same reason I don’t cast bamboo – it just isn’t easily repairable – I doubt people who spend thousands on a reel would view them as discard-able either.

And then there’s the auction prices…

bogdan-ebay

I certainly don’t want to see prices of all fly gear reach these levels, and although I wouldn’t be particularly concerned from a personal standpoint if it did (I have way too much gear as it is already) I’d still like to see new entrants to the sport that aren’t stressing about whether they can make their next car payment in the meantime. Further, I’m not particularly opposed to marketers per se – I know and adore my fair share of them. Seth Godin once said, “all marketers are liars” – I think that’s a little harsh, but I do take the practice with a grain of salt and keep moving.

Still, it gets (at least) me thinking…should the industry scale back and return to its roots, instead of trudging ahead with growth plans that could easily be construed as fast closing in on a brick wall? Many a successful turnaround has done just that.

Bye bye social network. Hello social networks?

Facebook and MySpace are yesterday – Movable Type and WordPress are today? The next question is: how many bloggers are going to take on the task of trying to build and manage a base of social network constituents? Maintaining an audience is hard enough – getting them to consistently engage at disparate locations (based on their disparate interests) and manage that engagement is going to require a staff (or a more lucrative business model for bloggers than mere advertising). Nevertheless, it seems the technology is on it’s way.

I have little experience with Movable Type (at least in the last couple of years – was once a licensee), but I played with WordPress MU on several different occasions, and not too long ago. The development community was a bit lighter than the single user install base, but there were plenty of interesting things going on there, including OpenID, user profile management, etc. And I found the ease of use paralleled regular WordPress (with just a few more kinks).

Further refinement and branding of the technologies should attract some favor, and I suspect there will be a ton of folks tinkering around with the first clean release. However, Drupal has had social capabilities for some time, although I think part of the problem with adoption there was the complexity of the platform (i.e. working around that byzantine API). Nevertheless, whether anyone can build a competitive brand with companies like Ning around is just going to require less hacking and more marketing.

End note: social networking and blogging process seems to be converging and diverging simultaneously. On one hand you have the developments above, yet at the same time you have ABC-list bloggers happily moving their conversations to places like Friendfeed and Twitter (and tiring of that too – funny how actual work can get in the way). And they’ve been allowing “second party” platforms such as Disqus and Intense Debate to collaborate from within on discussion.

At once too many players vying to control over a very limited core audience? Not sure. But I am fairly certain that the incremental benefit of using the myriad of tools (or is that toys?) is far smaller than the amount of time everyone spends on them. Unless you own the platform…or get very very lucky.

My Facebook friend, the marketer

Facebook announced yesterday that all your friends are now your product recommendation specialists. Companies are going to set up shop inside the wonderous social network, and you (the users) are going to pitch their products for them. As the WSJ put it:

“As part of Facebook Ads, advertisers will be able to create profile pages for their brands, just as individuals create personal pages filled with their favorite photos, music, videos and hobbies. Consumers can then communicate and interact with companies and brands the ways they do with friends on Facebook.”

Life imitates art. Brands are now your friends. If you say so, dear.

The very nature of Facebook’s success until now has revolved around the ability to control your “inner circle” online. Sure, some folks are just attention whores who will let anyone befriend them in hopes of proving how popular they are (think public relations troops and jokers running for public office, while reminding yourself their popularity is what breeds their paychecks). But the majority hang around Facebook to gossip, get laid, and write on each others’ “Walls.”

Is Coca-Cola going to let Facebook users smear their brand page with poop? Find users a date, or just someone to go drinking with? I don’t think so – therefore users are NOT going to be interacting/communicating with the brands the way they do with their friends. Maybe the company will find you a job…but only if you’re already a word-of-mouth marketing expert.

Money, just not for you

Then there are the micro-economics of the matter, to which Henry Blodget cut to the chase with logical questions:

Will there be no money involved? In which case, people are just going to recommend businesses and brands because they feel like it? Will it be crystal clear what will happen when you sign up as a “fan” of a business? If not, why would you voluntarily risk bombarding your connections with “trusted referral” product pitches if your friends weren’t asking for the information and there was nothing in it for you?

Precisely. Users aren’t going to get paid for endorsing the products. And if they were, their friends would either get sick and tired of it and subsequently “de-friend,” or they would stick their hand out for a cut of the action. The process would become either instant alienation, or a multi-level marketing scheme. Instead, it’ll be boredom, followed by aggravation.

This could turn out bad for brands – maybe worse for their “friends”

The internet is already tough on the unprepared. Serve up a bad product or bad experience and there is a forum or blog someplace ready to pounce. It happens to a lot of companies, sooner or later, but up until now they’ve been relatively safe. Why? Obscurity. Unless the negative critique sits someplace with big search engine juice or gets picked up by a major blog, few hear about it. Not anymore. If you befriend Verizon, decide to buy their products/services, then subsequently rip them to shreds after getting the run around at one of their stores, your Facebook friends hear about it immediately and directly.

This instanteousness will be great for companies and brands that receive uniform thumbs ups from very popular people. Unfortunately, those companies and brands don’t exist, and not everyone on Facebook is Robert Scoble either.

Josh Catone doesn’t think the privacy concerns are a big deal, but his argument is centered on platform usability and stems from previous experience with the introduction of the mini-feeds. Personally, I think all this opt-in, open book interaction with companies could get downright ugly. If you are an everyday Jane or Joe and befriend a brand, get scorched via your wallet and react with the raw deal, you will likely be asked to remove that negative commentary or wait for the lawsuit. And guess what – the company you thought was your friend will know just where to find you. If you say a company wouldn’t do that, you were either born yesterday or you are clinically insane. I’ll even venture to guess that at the first court case, some attorney will try to use the very act of “accepting friendship” as implied approval of the brand – their argument will be you broke that contract.

What is the user community really getting?

Nicholas Carr is “the optimist” – users get “an animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.” That’s fantastic – where do I sign up? Mark Kingdon, CEO of Organic, does one better (without even realizing it):

“It’s a brilliant Trojan Horse.”

I received B’s in history, but I was able to recall this…

When a Trojan Horse arrives, it always has bad intentions.

UPDATE: Already there are legal questions regarding advertising and the use of third parties.

Best & Worst Marketing Channels to Influence Business Purchasing Decisions

According to business executives, what marketing had directly influenced a technology or services purchase decision for them in the past 12 months?

The top three answers were…offline.

Does that mean they “got sold?”

Marketers Start to Use Social Networks for CRM Instead of Ads

From Advertising Age:

“What’s been a challenge is figuring out a model that expands the beauty of social networking.”

Yes, ads are still flat. And my guess is while marketers move into the popular social networks, the users will be looking for another grass-rootsy platform to hang out in.