Unofficial Blogs–soapbox or serious source?

In blogs, newspapers, social issues and new media, Uncategorized on October 6, 2009 by gingercatmom

bloggers...serious stuff or somebodys soapbox?

blogs...serious stuff or somebody's soapbox?

Last week, my emerging media class spent some time discussing unofficial company blogs. It’s pretty easy to find a blog on any subject so I just googled “unofficial ________ blog” and had a variety of choices in front of me. is an example –it’s clearly all about WalMart (and all that is “wrong” with WalMart) yet there’s no link to the actual corporate site. There are no logos, no corporate perspective and no e-commerce conducted here. It’s very easy to understand the blogger’s agenda. They want to encourage readers, employees and community activists to demand change in WalMart’s business practices. It’s pretty obvious that this is not content generated by the company itself, but something that WalMart must take seriously.

As a skeptic, I have to ask “who reads blogs” and “why”? What prompts an individual to spend time writing, posting and following responses to their blogs? Why should I care what the blogger thinks about a specific company, product or cause?

The Pew Internet and American Life Project continues to provide helpful data on all aspects of Internet usage–including blog readership. A few facts from a 2008 study:
• 33% of internet users (the equivalent of 24% of all adults) say they read blogs, with 11% of internet users doing so on a typical day.
• Male and female internet users are equally likely to say that they do read other people’s blogs (35% for men, 32% for women).
• 12% of internet users (representing 9% of all adults) say they ever create or work on their own online journal or blog.
Given the fact that this data is more than a year old, I think we can assume that those figures are now even higher. A significant portion of the population reads blogs regularly. How the readers use that information is unclear. Marketers hope their blog content will spur the readers to believe, purchase or trust. But I think a lot of independent blog authors simply want to be heard–their small voices shouting from a virtual soapbox!

Judging whether a blog is serious, credible content–or not–is up to the reader. But credible or not, there seem to be blog readers willing to read.Therefore companies need to pay attention to those unofficial blogs.



Mobile marketing never smelled so sweet

In ad campaigns, advergaming, mobile devices, mobile marketing on October 4, 2009 by gingercatmom

Ask any adolescent what Axe smells like…and you’re likely to get a response. Love it or hate it, Axe has become the scent of many teen boys–and the boys’ locker room! Popularity is growing and mobile marketing campaigns have something to do with that.

Unilever (which markets Axe as well as a variety of other personal care products) has hit on a successful combination of product, message and media to promote this line of body sprays, body washes, deodorants and hair care items. Axe knows that teen boys want to smell good. Axe also knows that teen boys like to play games. And Axe knows that teen boys love their cell phones…hence the Axe Pogo Extreme game.

To teach teen boys how to properly use the body sprays, Axe launched a multi-platform game initiative that included mobile, web games and console media. The campaign introduces boys to the ‘Double Pits to Chesty’ move (a spray under the pits and across the chest). Game player execute pogo stick moves to earn cans of Axe spray in the game and are then prompted by a sexy girl voice and animated figure to do the body spray move described above. The free application is available through the web for phones and PlayStation 3.

Educational (well, most teens can use some hygiene education), fun and cool all at the same time, Axe Pogo Extreme is an example of both Advergaming and Mobile Marketing. The mobile marketing campaigns that Axe has executed have been creative and entertaining, and supporting media have promoted benefits of enjoyment, usefulness and expressiveness to users, thereby encouraging the target audience–young males– to accept and even embrace the Axe campaigns and ultimately the products themselves.

Further, the most successful mobile marketers worldwide are trusted, recognized brands. For the young male market, Axe does represent a product line that is familiar and associated with current trends and style—much like mobile communications itself. Positive attitudes generated through mobile campaigns like the Axe examples can benefit other brands that discover mobile marketing as an ideal way to reach particular demographic groups.


Playing with the King

In ad campaigns, advergaming, Uncategorized on September 28, 2009 by gingercatmom

There’s a box of video games upstairs in my house that contains the games that are rarely played. I cringe as I think of the allowances spent on high-priced racing and fantasy games…but in between these I found a long-forgotten purchase: Burger King “Big Bumpin”. What were we thinking when we bought that one?

Bumpin with the King

Bumpin with the King

“Big Bumpin” is just one of three advergames introduced at BK during the holiday season in 2006. With no major movie tie in to drive kids’ meal purchases (think Star Wars, Rugrats, Pokemon) Burger King built their own entertainment vehicle with the creation of three X-Box games. At just $3.99 a pop, the Burger King Xbox series was wildly popular–and affordable. But where are they now?

Advergaming can take a variety of forms. Games can be downloaded from websites to mobile devices. They can be played online via a company’s website. Consumers are willing participants in this marketing experience–they are willing to play a game and in the case of Burger King’s venture, they were even willing to pay for the game itself. Advergaming takes another form when the branded product figures prominently in the game (such as in the form of a shoe brand, automobile or even a food item that can’t be missed throughout the game experience). It’s an effective way to reach the coveted youth market-especially young males.

The key to a successful advergame lies in the game itself. It has to be fun–and make the player want to do it again. There might be revenue generated by sale of branded games, but how much marketing value is generated if the game is just purchased, played a time or two and then relegated to the “Island of Misfit Toys!”


Hospitals and social networking

In blogs, Facebook, Twitter, Uncategorized on September 27, 2009 by gingercatmom

In a previous post, I noted that 54% of Fortune 100 companies are using some form of social networking as part of their marketing communication efforts. What is the role of social networking for hospitals today–and how is the best way to launch an effort for a healthcare organization? Is it Twitter, Facebook, blogging…or all three?

Healthcare marketing experts are writing about this subject extensively. Their advice is similar. First, do your homework. Understand what takes place online. This involves listening respectfully to others and contributing to online conversations when appropriate. Second, focus on content that will be meaningful to customers. Unless people are truly interested in the conversation they will just tune out and “walk” away…which is tremendously easy to do when that conversation is online. Third, recognize that there will be some loss of control. To have a truly transparent, authentic presence in the virtual world, we need to let people speak their minds. Finally, we need to measure and in this respect, online media may offer some of the tracking advantages over traditional media.

Ed Bennett, director of web strategy a the University of Maryland Medical System offers a helpful list of U.S. Hospitals who are incorporating social networking. His most recent data on 367 hospitals of varying sizes shows dramatic growth in the use of Twitter over the past year. Bennett’s data shows less than 50 Hospitals on Twitter in September 2008, with 267 now using Twitter. You Tube usage has also grown, but not quite as dramatically.

There seems no need to reinvent the wheel when successful online communities exist. If we know our customers are interested in what we have to say, and will follow our cues to find the information we need, we have a golden opportunity to meet them where they are right now–online. We can use our creative abilities to educate, build relationships and ultimately create healthier communities. And that’s why many of us got into healthcare marketing in the first place!


Look who’s tweeting!

In Facebook, Twitter, Uncategorized on September 20, 2009 by gingercatmom


Twitter has earned the attention of 54% of America’s Fortune 100 companies. In fact, it’s the social media of choice for companies, outranking Facebook and blogging according to a recent Burson-Marsteller study. And when these companies use only one form of social media, it is most likely to be Twitter.

Looking at this from the corporate perspective, the reasoning appears to lie in Twitter’s simplicity. Say what you need to say quickly in 140 characters or less. Crank out the messages regularly. Read responses and repeat… A dip into the social networking pool can be fraught with all sorts of concerns from the corner office, but Twitter just seems to be a way to dive in.

The real question is how sustainable these efforts will be. This reminds of me of the “old” days when every department in my organization was eager to start a newsletter. The energy on the front end was high and the creative juices were flowing. There were pictures, shiny paper, special features and maybe even an eagerness on the reader’s part to receive each issue. Today–about three newsletters remain and we argue over whose turn it is to write them and wonder if anyone is really reading them.

Twitter is new. It’s a quick bite of information and it’s kind of fun. It’s gratifying to see that thousands of followers are waiting to see what we’ll say next. But how long will it be until those corporate tweets get a little stale–and we even start seeing recycled tweets from last year? How many tweets can one follower really digest before it just becomes ‘blah blah blah’. It will take a true corporate commitment to make this new media part of a long term strategy to build relationships with customers.

That said…I’m thinking of how I can start Tweeting at work and how I’ll build buzz for that. Stay tuned!


Hide and Seek on Search Engines

In search engines, Uncategorized on September 19, 2009 by gingercatmom

It’s not enough for a business to just have a website today. In fact most customers expect that businesses will have websites and after taking a few guesses at a company’s URL (“hmm, was it or was it”) most of us will turn to a search engine to find the site we have in mind. It’s just so easy to type in the request and our destination is just clicks away…and it’s a function that we have come to expect and trust online

However, major search engines have been charged with deceptive advertising practices. Advertisers pay to have their sites listed prominently in the ranking of search results-a practice known as paid placement. They may also pay a fee for paid inclusion, to increase the chance that the site will appear somewhere within the search results. This is all part of a practice known as Search Engine Optimization. It’s logical that any business that spends the resources to develop a site wants it to be seen, to be used and ultimately to provide a return on investment.

Consumer Reports WebWatch research shows that many search sites don’t do a very good job of informing consumers about the advertising forces at play on the site. Critics argue that a search engine that just identifies “sponsored links” in another color or in a slightly shaded box is not doing enough and that more needs to be done to help search users understand the reasoning behind the ranking of search results.

A Princeton Survey Research Associates Study found that more than 60% of respondents didn’t know that paid placement was common at many search engines. I wonder why search engines are not willing to be transparent with their advertising policies? For the search engine, is the primary customer the advertiser or the end user? Transparency with customers ultimately generates trust–and today’s search engine user might be tomorrow’s search engine advertising customer!


Family routines get rewired

In Facebook, mobile devices, mobile marketing, social issues and new media, Uncategorized on September 15, 2009 by gingercatmom

There’s no doubt that technology has changed the ways families interact today. As I write this, three of my family members are working on laptops in three different rooms–one in front of a TV as well. My Blackberry sits next to my laptop and I’m eagerly awaiting a return text message from my college student son. This is just a typical night for us–and millions of other Americans.

The New York Times described how household routines have been shaken up by the rapid integration of new technology. We used to awake to alarm clocks–now we wake to the alarm on our I-Pod or cellphone. We greet the day with technology and it’s often the last thing we encounter at night. Kids aren’t just distracted by morning TV shows. They’re checking their Facebook page, playing a video game or texting their friends. There are a million new reasons to be late for school.

Dont miss the bus! Have mom send you a text.

Don't miss the bus! Have mom send you a text.

Adults are just as eager to get up and get online. The workday never ends when we’re connected 24/7 via mobile devices and our wireless laptops. We try to get an hour of work in before we’ve even stepped in the shower. We steal a look at our email on the way to the coffee pot. For many of us, the days of reading the newspaper over a cup of coffee seem a nostalgic thing of the past.

The New York Times article references an Arbor Networks study that finds that American Web traffic peaks at 11 p.m., gradually declines from midnight to 6 a.m. and then spikes up again at 7 a.m. At least we can rejoice in the fact that most of us get a little rest before we log on to another wired day.

So what does this mean to the American family?  Making a conscious effort to find balance and to stay connected through real, live face-to-face family contact is more difficult than ever before. Our daily rituals may be changing, but we just might find that these changes enrich our lives in ways we just can’t fully understand yet. And what’s “new” today is the next generation’s “old-fashioned”.