Monday, September 22, 2008

The Client Commands About Face...About Facebook That Is!

Over the weekend, I received a very cool Email from one of our clients. It was an invitation to be part of our client’s Facebook community.

On one level, it’s cool to get an invitation…on another level, it’s even cooler that a client invites their consultant to be part of their intimate circle of web-friends.

I cannot give away too much information about this client…but I will at least say, she happens to be leading the lifestage journey of the Baby Boom generation.

She is also the CMO of a very significant academic healthcare brand that does very innovative things.

Our client’s daughter recently got married and she is using Facebook as a distribution and sharing forum for photographs of the wedding.

How many of the folks reading this blog have even been to Facebook?

Chances are that at least a few will answer yes to that question.

Facebook has over 100 million members and is growing at 3% PER WEEK.

I spent this past week working on a report for one of our clients on new media…like anything trend-wise that we do, the work makes your head spin.

It’s a study of the impact of the changing dynamics of media. We immersed ourselves in a lot of articles about it and also immersed ourselves in the new channels themselves.

Here are some numbers from Yankelovich that are startling!
• 26% of Adults 16+ participate at least 3-5 times per week in social networking…that is up from 18% just 12 months ago
• 58% of Millenniums participate in social networking
• 53% of Adults 16+ claim that online social networking makes them feel more connected with other people
• 64% of Millenniums believe that they are more connected with people online that physically in-person

Some of the development research studies coming out of the academic healthcare community are suggesting that Generation ZOOM…the next generation coming up behind the Millenniums now age 0-8…will have longer, more flexible thumbs because of how they have been weaned on digital text communications.

This week, the BrandVenture team is going to be hitting the road with our digital video cameras and interviewing high school juniors and seniors.

We are going to be exploring the whole thinking set about colleges, careers and aspirations.

We are also going into Facebook, MySpace and Bebo and checking out what kids are talking about and posting relative to college aspirations and experiences.

Next week, I head over to Alabama to meet up with some of the faculty at Auburn University at Montgomery. We are going to be talking about new media and how it is changing business dynamics.

And change is not theory; it’s plain simple fact.

I remember a couple of years back, when this client who now has her Facebook page told me that she was going to be facing budget constraints and was going to concentrate on the web instead.

Shortly thereafter, she got promoted to CMO for the university as well as the academic healthcare arm!

Here is perhaps the most telling of the Yankelovich new media stats…

Five years ago more than half of those surveyed voiced that they were “overwhelmed by all the sources of information available.” Today, that percentage has dropped 10 points to less than half.

Five years ago only two-thirds of the population could agree with the statement; “I always know how to get the information I need to make decisions.” Today, more than three-quarters of the population agree.

Hey…It’s a new world out there…come, let’s journey!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Purple...The Hot New Color Of Political Decor!

Purple has always been an interesting color.

I remember from my elementary school years how we learned that purple was a secondary color made up of the primary colors of red and blue.

There’s an article in today’s online version of Advertising Age titled, “Painting a picture of Purple Voters.” It is all about the independent voters in the swing states of the presidential election now seven weeks away.

If you get a chance to read the article, I think you will agree with me that purple deserves equal classification as a primary color with both red and blue!

Acxiom, a research and market segmentation company, is noted in the article with a report they released called, “The Purple States: Why They Affect Elections.”

Purple states are defined based on the last couple of elections and how close the two primary parties posted and how the independent vote affected the outcomes. In political circles, they call these states “Swing States.”

Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, New Mexico, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, New Hampshire and Nevada represent the Swing States.

Turns out that the purple voters are more likely to be Baby Boomers and Matures, identify themselves as conservatives and most likely to watch FOX News.


Those states in the Midwest and Great Lakes in many ways represent the “Heartland” of America. Outside of several larger cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, Cleveland, Denver, Seattle, Portland and Las Vegas, a significant share of each of the states lives in the small towns and farmland hamlets.

The Big Red GOP and the Big Blue DNC each have their loyal base. According to the press, its all BIG Business Executives that drive the GOP and all the Eastern and California Intellects that drive the DNC.

BrandVenture pays a significant amount of dollars each year to get access to the premiere and most comprehensive lifestyle snapshot of the US called PRIZM that has the US population segmented into 66 lifestyle groups.

PRIZM, by the way, is owned by Claritas that is owned by Nielsen…you know, those guys and gals that publish the TV ratings.

We did a computer run this morning using the most recently released information from Claritas and Simmons about who’s out there watching The O’Reilly Factor on FOX News.

Yeah…there are lifestyle groups like “Upper Crust,” “Blue Blood Estates” and “Country Squires” watching it that are Red Voters to be sure.

And Yes…there are liberal Eastern groups like “Bohemian Mix” and “Up-and-Comers” that are not.

But, the Ad Age article is smack on target.

There are lifestyle groups bearing nicknames like “Gray Power,” “Country Casuals,” “Traditional Times,” “Simple Pleasures,” “Heartlanders” and “Old Milltowns” that are tuning into O’Reilly after putting the cows and chickens to sleep and popping the meat loaf in the oven.

“Red, White and Blues” is a fascinating group that is also tuning in. This group found in many of the purple states is tuning into The O’Reilly Factor 56% more than the average American!

Here is how Claritas describes them…

“Red, White & Blues typically live in exurban towns rapidly morphing into bedroom suburbs. Their streets feature new fast-food restaurants and locals have recently celebrated the arrival of chains like Wal-Mart, Radio Shack, and Payless Shoes.”

The median household income of this group is $43,254 as of September 2008 and the Blue party’s tax cut for the American Middle Class might sound good on paper.

Obama’s tax cut is only good for the taking if you post a household income of $50,000.

To be specific, 58% of this lifestyle group would qualify and 42% would not.

According to the Advertising Age article, “the study suggests that targeting older populations will be key for both parties. Republicans should appeal to conservative tendencies, while Democrats should address economic and healthcare issues, both of primary concern to purple voters.”

Isn’t it interesting how the press fashions sentences and uses words… ”conservative tendencies”?

Say what you want to say, but having a woman on the GOP ticket that was birthed in Idaho, hunts moose, known for her PTA leadership, was mayor of a small town and goes by the nickname Sara-cuda might just mirror the population of the purple party and the emotional chords that drive them to the polls.

Something tells me that the GOP might have actually applied some of the fundamentals of marketing we preach here at BrandVenture.

As we ask our clients… who are your current, growth and desired customers and what is the brand experience that the desired customers desire and seek to bond with?

Who represents your brand’s “purple party” and what can you do to swing their vote?

Come…let’s journey and find out!

Friday, September 5, 2008

Changing A Sluggish Perspective!

When was the last time you saw a syndicated journalist walking the aisles of Wal-Mart?

Reporters used to be easy to spot.

Remember the outfits they used to wear? They wore those old frat-boy cotton button downs complete with a pen guard in the top pocket. And they carried the note pad on a well-worn clip-board.

There’s a Wal-Mart I often go to near my log cabin in North Georgia.

Can’t say that I have seen any reporters there lately.

Reason I asked is that there is an Associated Press story running in today’s newspapers titled “Aside From Wal-Mart, Retail Sales Sluggish.”

The sub-head reads “Mall-based apparel stores, high-end luxury merchants alike feel pinch as shoppers focus on essentials such as food and gasoline.”

There’s a picture with the article too. It’s a shot of the exterior entrance into an Abercrombie & Fitch store. The caption below it reads “Teen-oriented Abercrombie & Fitch is among retailers feeling the pinch as shoppers react to a slowing economy.”

Have any of you reading this been in an Abercrombie & Fitch store?

Aside from the nearly nude, perfectly built point-of-sale artwork, all the products are designed around that worn and torn, pacific-beach “grunge” look. They also command prices like $79.50 for a pair of worn-out blue jeans and $70 for the worn, button-down shirt.

Most of those teens that shop at Abercrombie & Fitch are driven by a cocktail combination of ADHD and a puberty hormone rush. I doubt that they read the Wall Street Journal or watch CNBC.

Anne D’Innocenzio, the author of the AP article, probably worked her way through journalism school in an Abercrombie & Fitch.

Well…the article goes on to cite continued sales declines at other mall-based specialty stores and teen merchants along with high-end retailers like Saks and Nordstrom…with the blame being placed on high gas and food prices.

Isn’t it wild how the press sees the world out there?

Maybe the press needs to a refresher course in Reality 101.

The fact that Millenniums and GenXers look at Saks and Nordstrom as their parents’ brands might shed some light on why sales are down.

The fact that malls today are “old-fashioned” versus outdoor live/work/play centers and new, environmentally green “town squares” might shed some insight on why mall-based retail stores are becoming history.

And the fact that the folks you find dwelling in many of the suburban malls today speak a language other than English could add some further insight why high-end brand sales at mall stores are down.

The fact that Target’s brandline “Expect More. Pay Less.” and Wal-Mart’s brandline “Save Money. Live Better.” just might be a mirror image of the new consumer lifestyle of choice.

Our BrandVenture intern is a first year student at one of the hot-bed design schools here in Atlanta called Creative Circus. Kevin is also dating a young lady whose father founded one of the top creative shops in the Southeast called BooneOakley.

Kevin is now age 20 and represents the very crest of the Millennium Generation Bell Curve.

I asked Kevin about Abercrombie and Fitch and here is what he said…

“I used to go there back in the day” – remember that Kevin is 20 years old.

Over the course of the last two weeks, the word “Change” has come up a lot. Change is part of Obama’s campaign with a focus on a change in leadership. Change was the central theme of McCain’s speech last night with a focus on market change demanding change in how we view and approach the economy.

When I was an early teen, Sears stopped publishing its annual Holiday catalog (spelled back then “c-a-t-a-l-o-g-u-e") and Woolworth 5 & 10s were shutting down.

I don’t remember much press coverage that it was because of high gas prices and food prices. I think the press talked about cool new stores that were overtaking the market with the rise of the Boomer generation.

Course we didn’t have the perspective of CNN and MSNBC back then.

BrandVenture has had the pleasure of finding this cool gal named Judith Damin who teams up with us and visa versa on branding projects. Judith came out of the ranks of a great agency group called Saatchi & Saatchi.

The two of us have been in dialogue with a real estate developer that is looking to launch a new live/work/play development in a hip, intown area of a southeastern city.

Clients come to us with challenges…so it’s not odd that we may not see things through the same perspective that we first hear from new client prospects.

Judith summed it up best when she said; “real estate developers had it great back in the party time years of the 1990s, they just now need to wake-up and accept the fact that the past is gone and we are here today in 2008.”

I think Judith and Kevin should team up together and speak at the next press association luncheon…don’t you think?

Hey… go put on a pair of those $14 Levi’s from Wal-Mart and a $10 Mossimo T-shirt from Target… and let’s journey!