January 29, 2010
In mid-2009, U.S. advertisers came together in an attempt to ward off threats by the Federal Trade Commission and consumer advocacy groups against online behavioral advertising targeting claiming the process was a violation of individuals’ rights to privacy. A group of 12 companies that represent some of the biggest advertising spenders in the world, including Google, Microsoft, General Electric, and more, developed a document listing seven self-regulatory principles in an attempt to appease the opposition (you can view the 48-page PDF here).
Part of the plan those companies came up with was to create an icon that would be used in online ads that are served based on behavioral data to fully disclose to consumers why they were seeing these ads. This month, the icon was unveiled and reported by The New York Times. You can see the privacy “i” icon pictured above.
Individuals who see this icon in an online ad can click on it to learn more about the process used to serve it to them, including the use of behavioral data.
There are two sides to this story. First, consumers have a right to dislike behavioral segmentation. As a consumer, I can see how it can be construed as an invasion of privacy. On the other hand, marketers and brand managers are likely to become more dependent on behavioral targeting once they see the boost in conversions it’s likely to deliver.
The simple truth is that demographic segmentation lost much of its allure years ago. In fact, I wrote an article about that exact topic in November 2007 for branding and marketing expert Drew McLellan’s popular blog, Drew’s Marketing Minute. The post was called “Is Demographic Segmentation Dead?” and discussed how demographic segmentation was already being usurped by behavioral segmentation.
In other words, the shift from demographic to behavioral targeting in online advertising is not new. It’s been coming for years, and the question now becomes — will advertisers find themselves faced with regulations preventing them from doing the behavioral targeting they so desperately want to use or will self-regulation allow them to continue without interference from government regulation? Only time will tell.
What do you think? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.
January 29, 2010
I had so much fun doing the end-of-year posts that I want to repeat the experience regularly. So the Monthly Wrap will (a) cover short things that didn’t fit elsewhere, and (b) update things that did. Here’s the debut:
An update on “the Twitter experiment.” A couple of months ago, in the post HR Superstars: A Handy Guide, I promised to follow everyone on the iCMS list of “21 HR Leaders in Web 2.0 You Must Follow” and report on the experiment. I duly created a Twitter account and set up a TwitterDeck column to show every superstar tweet. However, after a couple of days I decided that only 16 of them offered enough substantive content (as opposed to personality chat) to be relevant, so I trimmed a bit. I did not tweet from this account at all for the first six weeks, but it was found by a few other tweeters, and I’ve followed back those that seem to offer interesting content.
The interim findings: Quality and quantity are not mutually exclusive, but they often do not go together. A couple of frequent tweeters are consistently interesting, a couple are not. On the other hand, tweeting infrequently does not necessarily lead to better tweets! And on the third hand—I realize even more than ever that everyone’s personal filter is set to a different version of what’s meaningful/interesting/useful. So I’m still working on how to draw general conclusions from the HR/Recruiting Twitter stream. Next step in the experiment is to go beyond the original list and see who else is rippling this particular pool.
Unintended Messaging strikes again. I’m expecting this to be a monthly feature! In January, the most striking example I encountered was on the website of a mid-sized professional services company. I think the page was labeled “Executive Leadership” but it could have been some close variant of same. Photographs of the leadership folks were arranged in three columns and (let’s say) eight rows. On the bottom row were three women. You guessed it—the only three women. Title-wise, they were indeed at the lowest level of the leadership hierarchy, which was arranged from President/CEO/Etc. down to Director of Marketing/HR/Whatever.
How to avoid this unfortunate image, in which women appear to be crushed under a heavy stack of men? My first thought is alphabetical arrangement. Second would be some type of grouping that would allow the women to be scattered in among the men. For example, put the top four guys in a C-level group, then break up the others into functional groups such as operational, people, or whatever would work. I’ll bet there’s a way . . .
What are they thinking at Kashi? It’s nothing to do with Careers directly—but a gaffe in corporate communications will eventually rub off on the employer brand. Short version: Those of us longing for Kashi waffles, and finding none at the store for several weeks, went to the Kashi website for insight. Buried on a deep page was a small note saying: “We are experiencing delays in production due to repairs and equipment upgrades at our waffle facility. We expect to be fully stocked in early 2011 . . .”
Yes, you read that right: 2011. And insult is added to injury by another post from the company describing this year+ gap as a “temporary shortage.”
A year’s lapse in the availability of a popular product line is really huge from a business perspective. But even more problematic is letting people wonder for weeks (and maybe forever) about the missing waffles, because the automatic assumption when a product line disappears is either “unpopular product” or “troubled company.” A little more research discovered no signs of clarification via press release or Facebook page. (In case you think I shouldn’t be scolding a small-but-earnest natural foods company—let us not forget that super-giant Kellogg bought Kashi in 2000. And Kellogg can’t help out with these waffle woes???)
That’s it for January. Another Monthly Wrap feature: The illustration is just for visual enjoyment. See more ice wonders at EnglishRussia.
January 28, 2010
Are all brands global? That’s a question we could have answered easily a decade or two ago, but today, it’s not as simple. With the growth of the social Web, tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and so on make the global conversation immediate. Could it be argued that because of the power of the social Web in terms of spreading information wider and faster than ever, all brands are global by default simply because they have the potential to get in front of a global audience?
It’s an interesting concept to consider. Brands that once had no intention of becoming global in the short term might find themselves on a global stage simply through a popular blog post or tweet. And that means brand managers have a global image and messaging responsibility, whether they want one or not.
Even small business brands can become global brands thanks to the conversation and sharing of information that happens on the social Web, so it stands to reason that corporate-backed brands shouldn’t just wonder if the same could happen to them. Instead, they should expect that it will happen to them and plan accordingly. That means your brand strategies should be positioned to speak with a global audience now. Consider how your brand promise, messages, and image will translate in front of a global audience now before you find yourself in an unfavorable position at the hands of a social Web conversation.
Many brand managers dream of the day that one of their messages goes viral and spreads around the world bringing more word-of-mouth marketing and online buzz than they could ever have hoped for. But what if that word-of-mouth marketing and online buzz happens and you’re not ready for it? What if your brand suddenly ends up in the spotlight of the global stage? It could happen. Are you ready?
Do your brand promise, image and message translate to a global audience? It’s time to ensure that they do.
January 28, 2010
A couple of months ago, I posted about my disappointment with a webinar I’d attended, and added a few thoughts about webinars in general. The gist was “execution is key,” and that proposition has been nicely confirmed by my most recent webinar experience.
The topic this time: Introductory Twitter for Recruiters: How to Minimize Your Time and Maximize ROI. Presented by “Arbita ACES’s master cybersleuth, Glenn Gutmacher,” the webinar was informative, interesting, and smoothly run. A conversational style and well-organized PowerPoint deck made for a good flow–and although the deck was mainly text, with just a few screenshots, that worked okay for the topic. Attendees received a PDF of the presentation deck, plus a party favor in the form of Arbita’s nifty Twitter GuruGuide (aka “cheat sheet”).
If you want to see/hear the webinar for yourself—Arbita provides free access to a recording of the webinar for a “limited time” via a link near the top of this page.
For those who don’t know much about Twitter, this presentation offers an outstanding introduction. And if you do know something, or even much, about Twitter, you’ll probably still find out something new, especially in terms of using Twitter for recruiting. The presentation is filled with information, and there’s no useful way to summarize the content. But here are a few highlights that have standalone usefulness:
- From the slide “How to Optimize Your Profile, a link to this overview at twitter how to.
- From the slide “Posting (Tweeting) and ReTweeting (RT),” this excellent reminder: “Follow the 90/10 rule: 90% of your tweets are giving (adding value for those that follow you) and 10% are taking (shameless self-promotion).”
- From the slide “Searching with Twellow,” a link to Ryan Leary’s helpful post on that topic.
- From the slide “Twitter Lists,” a good idea: “Create topical lists (e.g., competitors, all your teammates/colleagues, experts in your favorite hobbies, etc.), and create a feed of that list for your LinkedIn Group, Facebook Page, Blog, or RSS reader.”
- From the slide “Best Uses of Twitter for Recruiters,” this tip: “Write an ongoing series of tweets that showcase your expertise. Make sure to include a link to more details.”
- From the slide “Get a Third Party Dashboard,” a look at how programs like TweetDeck can help to manage Twitter more productively.
I’m signed up for another webinar soon—this one from Vocus, the PR people, on 2010 State of the Media. Don’t forget that understanding public relations is important for successful employer branding! No time for the webinar? Download the white paper. Highlight:
Good advice for capturing the attention of viewers and the media is to create your own blog. According to the Society for New Communications Research, less than 20 percent of Fortune 500 Companies publish corporate blogs. Meanwhile, PR organizations that are active in social media and create enough buzz about company news may attract the attention of the traditional media.
January 26, 2010
Okay—pun intended. But blame the New York Times for introducing basketball in its recent story titled Now at Starbucks: A Rebound. In its Q1 earnings report, SBUX showed a net income of $241.5 million (up from $64.3 million in the year-ago quarter), revenue up 4%, and same-store sales up 4%. After several quarters of steady declines, the new view must look just like heaven.
So what has Starbucks done right? First let’s consider how this connects with the subject of Careers.
Back in May of 2008, when Starbucks was still assumed to be bullet-proof, HR guru Kevin Wheeler wrote an article about employer branding titled Why Google or Starbucks? In it he wonders what makes people especially eager to work at certain companies, and decides: “More people are attracted to causes than things.”
We could argue whether this is still true in times (like now) of high unemployment. But let’s say for the moment that Wheeler’s proposition is at least basically true. He sees Google’s “cause” as free information, and asserts that:
Starbucks’ cause is community. It’s a place, like in the old television show Cheers, where everybody knows your name. It feels good to go into your local Starbucks every morning, be greeted by a smiling barista who knows your name and your favorite drink, and to meet some friends.
That is indeed the role Starbucks plays in my life, and in spite of corporate ups and downs, my local baristas are always warmly waiting when I walk in the door—and I regard every Starbucks location as a remote office plus home-away-from-home. But even when Wheeler was writing, SBUX was in trouble. That same year saw the beginning of extensive store closings and layoffs, along with a barrage of downside publicity.
To the extent that their reinvention campaign is succeeding, it’s not only because of streamlining or process improvements. There has also been a focus on reenergizing employees—and Starbucks has joined the new culture of customer engagement: lots of social networking, a listening campaign, special offers, and even an affiliation with MSNBC’s feisty AM talk show, Morning Joe.
The Starbucks Career Center website now reads like an excerpt from Wheeler’s article. The headline: “It’s a lot like working with friends.” And the pitch:
We call each other “partners”. We respect our customers and each other. We’re dedicated to serving ethically sourced coffee, caring for the environment and giving back to the communities where we do business. And we’re still small enough to remember your name when you walk in the door.
Reinforcing the message is a festoon of employer awards, from the trusty Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For to Forbes 100 Best Corporate Citizens and Best Places to Work for LGBT Equality. So the “cause factor” is definitely full court press.
Not that everything is perking perfectly in the inner world of Starbucks. There are employee complaints—and because Starbucks is big, and actively represents itself as a responsible employer, those complaints get coverage. But the percentage of unhappy workers seems proportional, and there is definitely no lack of barista wannabes.
Now for the punch line. If you compare Keven Wheeler’s prescription for establishing a strong employer brand with NYT’s account of what’s behind the Starbucks rebound . . . there is a very strong similarity. Wheeler’s five steps to “Make Your Company Memorable”:
- Gain perspective and know yourself.
- Define the promise.
- Develop a strategy.
- Create a “buzz” to communicate your brand.
- Measure your progress.
In short—what works for getting and keeping employees works for getting and keeping customers. And vice versa.