Archive for October, 2008
Please note that in 2009, Halloween will be a federally-mandated holiday.
Under a new law enacted by President Obama, US citizens taller than 6′ 2″ 6’0″ 5’10″ will be required to redistribute their candy to people shorter than 4 feet tall. This new legislation, known as CRAP (Candy Redistribution Allotment Program), will be in effect by October 2009.
(Also note that for intended candy recipients wearing braces in 2009, candy credits will be issued that will enable them to redeem credits for candy in 2010 through 2012.)
According to President Obama, “Tall people currently eat too much candy. My plan is fair and just — hey, even Michelle and I are going to have to give up some of our candy.”
In response to the new legislation, former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich replied, “There are hundreds of six-foot tall nine-year-olds who won’t benefit under this new plan, and will receive no candy at Halloween.”
In introducing an article on its site, Chief Marketer poses some interesting questions:
“What if the United States of America was a brand? As a marketer, what would you do to fix it?”
My take: Judging from the marketing press and blogs that I read, it seems to me that if today’s marketers were in charge of fixing America the brand, the top three initiatives would be:
1) Create a Facebook page.
2) Run a user-generated content contest.
3) Launch a blog.
These initiatives would, of course, be multi-channel efforts, seamlessly integrated with mainstream media efforts like, say, a 30-minute, overly-produced, puff-piece infomercial that would preempt regularly scheduled prime time network programming.
Yep, that should pretty much put America the brand back on course.
Hey credit union people, got a question for you: Have you ever googled someone?
Of course you have!
And 10 years ago, did you have any idea what it meant to google someone?
Of course not!
My point: It’s possible to introduce new terminology into the lexicon, and have it stick. And credit unions need to introduce some new language into their vocabulary.
While driving home last night, I heard an ad on the radio for a Boston-area credit union who — like so many other credit unions — was going on and on about the “CU difference” and how it wasn’t a bank, yada, yada. Then came this line:
“Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your banking needs.”
How confusing. “We’re not a bank, we’re not a bank” but, “come to us for your banking needs.”
So what do you replace the term “banking” with? Well, I’ll tell you what you don’t replace it with: credit unioning. Bad idea.
Here’s my suggestion: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for your personal financial management needs.” Or: “Come to [name-of-CU] credit union to help you manage your financial life.”
Why is this better? Because “banking” is a verb that has a strong transactional connotation. And managing — or better yet, processing — transactions is not the area in which I think most credit unions are trying to differentiate themselves and compete (nor should they be).
Instead, it’s the advice, guidance, and education implicit in the phrase “personal financial management” that I think will help CUs truly differentiate themselves — and prove that there really is a CU difference.
Please note, however, that I didn’t suggest: “”Come to [name-of-CU] credit union for all your financial services needs.” That ain’t gonna fly. There are very few (let me repeat: very few) consumers out there who want to turn to just one firm — let alone a CU — for all of their financial services needs.
If you can come up with a good verb that captures “personal financial management”, let me know. I’ll do my part to help make it a fixture of the financial services lexicon.
NetBanker notes that for personal financial management (PFM) sites:
Total September traffic was 1.2 million unique visitors compared to less than 400,000 a year ago. The big three newcomers last year: Mint, Wesabe, and Geezeo saw combined traffic increase by 450,000 users, up nearly three-fold increase from 2007. Geezeo was the star percentage-wise growing more than six-fold. But Mint accounted for three-fourths of the net gain across the existing players with 330,000 more visitors.”
My take: It used to be that come the end of December, we’d make New Year’s resolutions to lose weight, get in shape, stop smoking, etc. The increasing PFM traffic is a reflection of a new resolution to add to the list: Get one’s finances in order (or maybe start budgeting, or something like that).
OK, maybe this isn’t a truly new resolution for some people. But the number of sites that offer PFM functionality is growing, and there’s a confluence of forces coming together to make the firms offering these tools feel like this is their time: 1) the economy sucks; 2) entering account data into the PFM tools is less labor-intensive than in the past; and 3) Gen Yers are coming of age.
The combination of these forces is bringing us the new year a few months early — at least as far as making the PFM resolution is concerned.
Will the online traffic for the PFM continue to see strong growth? Sure. While the number are strong, there are still plenty of people who have yet to make their PFM resolution.
But as I’ve implied in a previous post, raw site traffic is a deceiving measure. The real key to this market is how many people keep to their resolution.
Over time, factor #1 will have a seesaw impact on this market. As the economy improves (which it will, it’s just a matter of when), people will feel less pressure to watch every penny — and be less inclined to use PFM tools.
The impact of factor #2 has a short-term effect. Ease of data entry (through account aggregation) makes it easy for people to start using the tool, but I believe that the gee-whiz impact of graphing and charting everything to death will wear off for many people, leading to diminished use.
Factor #3 is the key to success for the PFM market. Gen Yers display a much stronger desire to manage their finances than Boomers or Seniors did at that age. And research from one of the analyst firms found that a suprisingly high percentage of Gen Yers are already saving for retirement — something a lot few Boomers did at that age.
In the end, the winners in this space will be the ones that help the greatest number of people keep their PFM resolution. Not necessarily the ones with highest site traffic.
On the 1:1 magazine blog, Mila D’Antonio writes:
“After speaking to several technology vendors at DMA08 last week…it seems as though either marketers plan to focus more on customers, or the vendors are just remaining hopeful. The bottom line is everyone agrees that it’s more important than ever to allocate investments and capital spending on strategies that can be measured in the long term, such as customer relationships.”
My take: OMG!!! Stop the presses!
Please don’t get me wrong — I’m not laughing at Mila, nor am I trying to make fun of her. I don’t doubt for a minute that what she wrote is exactly what she and her colleagues heard at the DMA conference. It’s just that I could told have you the same thing — and I didn’t even attend the show.
How did I know? Can I read minds? Hardly. But I can look back to the past.
I wrote about the “year of the customer” back in January, when NYSE magazine released its CEO survey heralding 2008 as the year of the customer. This came on the heels of e-consultancy forecasting 2007 to be the year of the customer, and SearchCRM suggesting that 2006 could be the year of the customer (after asking in 2004 if that year would be the year of the customer).
Some things don’t ever change, eh?
So here’s my humble request to any journalist writing about the year of the customer or to any organization planning to publish a report proclaiming next year to be the year of the customer: Please ask (and press) marketers to tell you what they plan to do differently. What new investments will they make? What new marketing capabilities will they develop? How will they change their approach to fostering customer relationships? For crying out loud, what will be different?
I can’t wait to hear the answers. There’s nothing more I’d like to do in December 2009 (other than retire) than admit that 2009 really was the year of the customer.
Are you sitting down? Please do — because what I’m going to say might shock you.
My favorite marketing magazine is from the post office.
I don’t just mean that the post office delivers my favorite marketing magazine to me (which it does). I mean that the post office publishes my favorite marketing magazine.
OK, it’s not really the “post office,” but the USPS that publishes it. I’m referring to a magazine called Deliver. This magazine fills a huge hole in the publishing world: A magazine that recognizes that advertising and branding aren’t the only components of what constitutes “marketing,” and a magazine that isn’t narrowly focused on only “new” marketing approaches like social media and Web 2.0.
The old CMO magazine used to fill this void, but, alas, is no longer around, and Pepper & Rogers’ 1:1 magazine is certainly a great publication. But there are a few things about Deliver that makes me look forward to receiving it: 1) Interesting design; 2) Uniqueness of articles; and 3) It’s short and readable.
Check out Deliver.
Niemand te zien in de kamer? Veilig je wachtwoord intoetsen op je toetsenbord? Vergeet het maar! Twee onderzoekers uit Zwitserland hebben het voor elkaar gekregen om de aanslagen op een toetsenbord af te luisteren tot een afstand van twintig meter…
Twee screenshots van Trein (foto gejat van de website van Bright) Er is veel te doen rondom de iPhone-applicatie Trein van de Nederlandse student Dennis Stevense. De toepassing zet op overzichtelijke wijze de treintijden voor de consument op een rijtje…
Someone once said that there are lies, damn lies, and statistics.
Personally, I think that there’s a hierarchy there. Anybody can lie. If you’re good, you can tell a damn lie. But you have to be really good to use statistics. Alas, I don’t think Mint.com makes it to the top tier.
At the Finovate conference in NY, Mint.com presented and shared some numbers that piqued my interest. It claims that it “manages over $12 billion in transactions” and that 50% of its users have changed their spending behavior by using Mint.
Manages transactions? Perhaps “tracks” would be the more accurate word. And how does Mint know that the behavioral changes have come as a result of its tools — and not the general economic conditions?
Then there’s Mint’s boast that it has identified more than $100 million in potential savings for its users. This is ridiculous. Imagine if Capital One claimed that it has provided more that $100 gazillion in consumer financing by adding up the credit lines offered in the marketing offers it has sent to customers and prospects.
And finally, according to its CEO, Mint.com currently has 500,000 users, enjoying a sign up rate that has “more than doubled” in the past 3 weeks.
Sounds pretty impressive. When Aite Group spoke with Mint in April, it had 220,000 users, and (we were told) was signing up 10,000 people each week. In its August 18th press release, it said it had 400,000 users. So in the eight weeks leading up to the Finovate conference, it added 100,000 users. Which, my calculator tells me, is 12,500 users per week, and just 25% more than the weekly rate from April.
I’m not calling Mint.com a liar. I believe that it has doubled its sign up rate. After all, with the economy going the way it has, who isn’t more concerned about managing their finances? It doesn’t surprise me at all that the sign up rate is increasing. The enrollment rate might have dipped during the summer for all I know.
But let’s put Mint.com’s numbers in perspective. It may very well be the largest “online personal finance service.” Online. On Javelin Research’s blog, Mark Schwanhausser implies that there are 9 million Quicken users. If Mint.com grew by 40,000 users per week from here on out, its user base wouldn’t equal the Quicken population until we’re ready to throw the next president out of the White House at the end of October 2012. At 20,000 users per week, the 9 million figure will be attained while you eat your Thanksgiving turkey — in the year 2016.
But this is a silly discussion. Enrollment isn’t the critical statistic — the percent of enrollees that are active users is the critical factor (any online banking exec will tell you that). Intuit will tell you that, too — it has sold a lot of copies of Quicken to people who don’t use it. At least the firm got paid for each copy it sold.
Here’s my request of Mint.com: If you present at the next Finovate, please don’t share BS statistics (that’s not “Bachelor of Science” by the way). Instead, tell us, of the people who have enrolled, how many are active? How many use the site on a daily or weekly basis? How many site features do they use? How many accounts have they aggregated? How does usage change over time? How many of the saving offers that have been presented to users have been accepted? We’d be a lot more interested in finding out how much Mint users have realized in savings from Mint offers — not just those that the site has identified.
The reality of the PFM space is that while money is really really important to us — and getting even more important with the economic uncertainties of the day — the process of managing our money is something that few people want to do, or enjoy doing.
Quicken has succeeded by finding a segment of the population that likes to track, trend, graph, and forecast their financial lives. Mint.com has done a great job of replicating a lot of that functionality, and going beyond Quicken by making it easier to get data in (through aggregation), provide offers for savings, and engage users with its blog.
This segment is small. Mint.com is deluding itself (and trying to delude others) when it says its tools are for the masses, and sites like Wesabe are for the hardcore PFM users.
The key behavioral change that will determine the success of the PFM space is not how many dollars in transactions it “manages.” It’s getting more people to become more disciplined about managing their financial lives. There’s no doubt that tools like those offered by the PFM vendors can help people become more disciplined. But this is not an inconsequential change in behavior. Effecting this behavioral change is as tough as quitting smoking, losing weight, or something like that.
Which PFM site or business model will be the one that is most successful in helping to effect this behavioral change? I have my bet, which I won’t share here. But I will say this — for all of Mint.com’s chest thumping, the PFM game is far from over.
On his Logic + Emotion blog, David Armano writes:
“…after having some exposure to large organizations, it occurred to me that there is a desire to do more ‘unconventional marketing’ but the machine which is in place is actually ‘conventional’—all the things that have been done in the past. And so as I think about how times are becoming more unconventional—with unpredictable financial markets and political change in the air, I can’t help but think that it’s more important than ever to get serious about what it takes to do these types of initiatives right. It just doesn’t look like conventional marketing—it’s different. And unconventional times call for unconventional tactics.”
My take: David’s absolutely right — there is definitely a desire among large organizations to do more unconventional marketing. And yes, the machine that’s in place is the conventional machine. But I don’t think David is nailing the real issue on the head here: Unconventional marketing tactics don’t exist in a vacuum.
Marketers who have deployed unconventional marketing tactics — like word of mouth, viral videos, Facebook pages, etc. — talk about the success of those efforts in terms of reach, exposure or hits. And they often compare the cost of the unconventional tactic to what it would have cost to achieve the same reach with conventional tactics. (Example: “The local TV station ran a 2-minute segment on our $10 giveaway. So for the $2,000 we gave away, it would have cost us $20,000 to get that kind of exposure.”)
What’s wrong with this?
1. It doesn’t measure the incremental impact. In other words, we don’t know, of the people who saw the viral video or friended the Facebook page, how many of these people did not already know about the company or were not already inclined to purchase from the company.
2. There’s no context. Congratulations for signing up 1,000 friends on your Facebook page. The real question is: Were these the right 1,000 people? In other words, are they part of your target market? (You have defined the market you’re going after, right?)
The reality here is that it’s not an either/or situation. Large firms’ desire to do more unconventional marketing doesn’t mean they can (or even want to) completely stop doing conventional marketing things.
While David is right that marketers must “get serious about what it takes to do these (unconventional) types of initiatives right,” there’s an even bigger challenge to meet: How to integrate unconventional tactics with conventional tactics, and determine the right mix (or balance) between the two types.
In his book Word of Mouth Marketing, Andy Sernovitz challenges the effectiveness of traditional forms of advertising (like TV), and highlights Southwest Airlines as a firm that gets WOM right. But this is the same firm that has run a series of memorable TV commercials in which it ridicules other airlines for nickel-and-diming customers to death with fees. So while Southwest has embraced WOM marketing, and perhaps other unconventional tactics, it clearly isn’t throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Bottom line: The marketers — and marketing services agencies — that will be the most successful won’t be those that just get unconventional tactics right. It’ll be those that integrate the unconventional with the conventional (to the point where the unconventional is no longer unconventional) and measure the effectiveness of the entire set of marketing efforts — not just the one-off experiments.