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May 2007

Frequency of Retail Email

How often to email is a common question in direct marketing.  Chad White from the Email Experience Council did a study of email frequency from retailers.  Of the 92 retailers tracked the  study showed that the average retailer sent 1.7 emails per week.  Chad noted that Spiegel, Bluefly and Neiman Marcus sent 5 emails per week on average.  Neiman, the quality leader in retail sent 7.2 emails.

Not what I would have expected.   What it means is that high frequency emailing does work in retail.  Customers are not complaining, or those that do opt out while those that stay buy.  I suspect that the daily email is part of the shopping experience for that store.

Take my friend Sally (name changed to protect the innocent).  She loves going to Saks Fifth Avenue .  Sally knows the names of every retail associate in the store.  She buys them gifts for special occasions.  In return, Sally is first to learn about sales, gets preferred treatment for buying/returning and is invited to every private showing.  Being recognized by Saks and acting as part of the Sacks experience is part of how Sally defines herself.  Receiving a daily email that is brand right for the way Sally views Sacks only reinforces the behaviors that Sally enjoys.  An email everyday?  It's must make cents.

PS: Kudos to Saks for turning an entire floor of their flagship Fifth Avenue New York store into a women's shoe salon.  It is all the buzz in New York retail and promises to become a tourist attraction for women.  Smart thinking not to mention the chocolate bar concession that will be on the same floor.  After all, feet do not get fat.

Wendy's Hot Juicy Burger Campaign

Sometimes advertisers in their attempt to be different are just plain odd.  Case in point is the new Wendy's campaign where a man with a red Wendy's pony tail wig is yelling about "hot juicy burgers."  He is standing in a forest surrounded by people who are kicking trees with their feet.  I appreciate the metaphor that frozen burgers and conformity is like large numbers of people kicking hard trees.   While the commercial is different it does nothing to get me into a Wendy's to try one of their burgers.  The spokes character is odd and the tree thing is just strange.    It would be a sure bet that Wendy's will be quickly changing their campaign.  If I'm wrong, I'll eat some tree.

Ask The Algorithm

An advertising riddle:

Question: What is the first thing a reader things when they see an ad in the newspaper?

Answer: Give me an excuse, any excuse not to read this.

The riddle holds true.  I've been reading the Wall Street Journal for years and would be hard pressed to name any of the advertisers.  Yet the full page advertisement from the Ask search engine, "Ask The Algorithm" made me stop.  It goes against convention.  No interesting pictures of dogs and babies (the number one way to boost recall scores in print).  Lines and lines of copy.  (Most advertisers believe that copy is scary).


The Ask people get it.  They are advertising to an educated Wall Street Journal reader.  The audience is curious and does not mind reading when the reward is education.  Value given for value gained.  The advertisement explains the problem that search engines have in finding the right result and then explain in detail why the Ask algorithm provides superior results,  It's smart.  It's intelligent.  And most importantly it is compelling. 

Congrats for creating the best print advertising I've seen in a long time.

Powerful Viral Marketing

Great example of viral marketing for  The piece is on WallStrip and pokes fun at CRM and Salesforce.  It's a great application of viral media and does a great job of highlighting the benefits of using the application.   I was engaged through the entire thing (not to mention the take on the famous Alec Balwin scene in Glengarry Glen Ross.

Sometimes I get the feeling from our own marketing programs and agency contributions that we are all living in the past.  Wallstrip and the Salesforce piece lives in the future.  Now if we could only measure the ROI.

Wesabe will Quicken Change in Banking and Financial Services

Thank you Fred Wilson for pointing out Wesabe, a new online financial management tool.  Wesabe does what Quicken does, but online.  It consolidates all of your spending in one place and then goes one step further by allowing you to tag (think Delicious) all of your spending.  For example, if you go to a restaurant on vacation and have dinner at a particular restaurant you can tag the name of the restaurant with the restaurant location, restaurant name and vacation.   If interested, you can connect with others in the Wesabe social net that have had similar or identical experiences to compare notes or suggestions.

Bringing the world of social nets to online banking is a huge step forward.  Nothing tracks behavior better than the way you vote with your dollars.  Wesabe gives users a Amazon like recommendation engine that takes into account everything you spend money on.  Powerful.

That's the Wesabe of today.  Now take it a step forward to tomorrow.  What if Wesabe was more than a social network?  What if it transformed into a financial control tool?  What if you were paying interest on a credit card and Wesabe made a real time suggestion on how to transfer the balance to a lower cost alternative.  What if you had Verizon phone service and Wesabe recommended a AT&T service that could save you $500 a year.  To change services all you need to do is click accept.  Your insurance is up, what if Allstate is cheaper than Geico with the insurance application already filled out since they know you own a Volvo XC90, which has a lease that is up in 4 months and sitting next to it is an offer from Lexus.  You get the idea. 

Wesabe.  A social network.  A financial planning tool.  A way to control expenses and make competitive choices.  A major disruption to banking, insurance, telephone, pay television, auto,  Wow.

The Dangerous Book For Boys

Today's Wall Street Journal has an article by Jeffrey Trachtenberg on the  'Dangerous Book for Boys"", a best selling book from HarperCollins and its Chief Executive Jane Friedman.  As you can expect, even with the evidence that the book was a hit in Europe, the U.S. publisher delayed thinking that the name would be rejected (not to mention a book targeted to10 year old boys that are born with an allergy that prevents them from picking up a book voluntarily).

The point of the article is that the book is a hit.  It's a great reminder that names are powerful.  The only book I could imagine a 10 year old boy picking up is something dangerous.  It is a brilliant marketing solution to what seems to be an unsolvable marketing problem.

As a marketer I'm often looking for the courage to market a bold idea that on its surface is a bit outside the lines.   This article inspired me to pull one of those ideas out of the closet.

Other notes from the Journal:

Michael Moore creating "buzz" before the launch of his new movie "Sicko".  Merissa Marr writes about Moore's penchant for controversy as a way of creating prelaunch interest in the movie.  Moore understands that he is in the experience marketing business.  Create expectations for the experience you are about to provide, then deliver the experience.  Movies, cruise lines, vacation works for all.

Aaron O. Patrick's advertising column mentions new technology from the VML unit of Young & Rubicam that tracks how companies are mentioned in blogs.  It tracks how viral messages spread on the web.  Great for marketers that need to understand how fast and how a negative or positive message is spreading in the blogosphere.

IDK My Bff Jill

Did all of the wireless companies discover text messaging at the same time.  Cingular, T-Mobile and Verizon are all featuring humorous advertising that makes the claim that their text messaging service will not bankrupt parents.

The best of the bunch is the entry from Cingular that takes the abbreviations used by kids and uses them to stage a conversation between parent and child.  The mom can barely keep up with the conversation.  The spot has great casting, a clever idea and I know my family can't see it enough times.  Which is a good thing since you see it every American Idol broadcast.  If I were Cingular I'd be shooting part 2 right now. 

The worst commercial is from Verizon where the mom can now quit her second job to pay for the text messaging habits on her children.   Now let me get this straight.  Mom pays the bills and lets her spoiled children text away while she has to get a job.  Not quite sure where the parent appeal is here.  The commercial is funny because its the mom.  If it was the dad I'd be completely repulsed and maybe have to cancel my Verizon service.

TMobile is somewhere in between with their texting each other at the dinner table.  Great.  Moms hate technology because it divides the family.  Bringing it into the dinner table (although fun) is probably repulsive to most moms.

The winner in all this.  No one.  The commercials are completely undifferentiated.  The net impression.  Wireless companies have text messaging.   IDK. TBC is my BCC Cingular (for those older than 30....I don't know, the best commercial is my best commercial choice Cingular).  Right Jill.

Google Nation

As an advertiser I kneel at the alter of Google and say thank you every day.  Thank you for buying DoubleClick and potentially brining the same level of measurability and effectiveness to on-line display advertising as you do to search.  Thank you for attempting to tie all of this together with mass media through your misunderstood, yet powerful deal to auction television time on Dish Network.

Holly M. Sanders does a good job in the New York Post chronicling the hysteria in her story called "Rivals Get Business Over "Google Click" threat".  Holly mentions how agencies are bailing on DoubleClick for fear that their ads might over perform, I mean negatively impact their results, I mean cause some weird conflict of interest. 

In today's advertising world ROI rules and Google Analytics is the tool that helps us make those numbers get better every month.  Integrating mass media and DoubleClick into the equation will make sure that hockey stick shaped lead generation graph will stay that way.  Can't wait to see what the Googlites integrate next.

Being Trapped By Your Own History

The challenge of maintaining an unbiased perspective on the world is to prevent your history from dating your perspective on the world.  People use the past to critique the future.  For example, we lock in on musical tastes in high school, and keep those preferences through adult life.  The technology we adopt early in our career makes newer more disruptive and possibly superior technologies look inconsistent with the way we trained ourselves to work.

The challenge of marketing is that we are in the business of creating that which stands out and is new.  Things that look comfortable or familiar need to be rejected as they would only blend in to the marketing landscape instead of standing out.  Marketers want to stand out and the only way to do it is to create new meaning that is slightly ahead of the customer.  Unfamiliar, uncomfortable, yet predictive of where they will naturally end up.

Melinda Krueger has a great post in the Media Post Email Insider where she describes Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.  A perfect example of those with a history to overcome vs. those are experiencing today with with little bias from the past.  Natives are like my children.  They are growing up in an instantaneous and digital world where they are text messaging, watching TV and Im'ing at the same time.  I'm a digital immigrant, trying to adopt the technology, yet like an immigrant, trying to fit in, but finding the challenge difficult.   Melinda suggests that to market to Digital Natives you need to live within their culture.  She recommends the Word of Mouth Marketing Association guide WOMMA as a great place to start understanding the digitally connected.  As a member of WOMMA, I couldn't agree more.


The concept of Discovery is described by Steve Smith in the Behavioral Insider.  Steve describes how the latest trend in search is to surprise searchers with relevant, yet unexpected links.  While the surprise and delight part of marketing has been here forever, I think there is work to be done on predicting behavior.  Paul Martino, CEO of Aggregate Knowledge discusses technology that is predictive of behavior and can be applied to search results.  I've always believed that behavior is predictable.  People have life themes, and those themes tend to inform all aspects of life.  If you are a heavy gambler, odds are you have addictive behaviors in other aspects of life.  Someone who chooses a high stress career probably behaves in similar ways outside of work.  If behavior wasn't predictable among large groups, advertising wouldn't work.