Monday, May 28, 2012

Moving A Brand Across Genre

I’ve written about it before.

Early that one morning when I received a phone call from a co-worker that said, “go turn on the TV and get a look at the new format the AOL folks created for Headline News.”

I ended up as shocked as my co-worker when we saw what the AOL folks had done to Headline News.  Clearly, they decided Headline News would be the Guinea Pig of their vision to merge the web with the broadcast nets.

I am sorry. 

It is a simple fact. 

It is really, really difficult for left-brain techies to understand the genre dynamics authored by right-brain set designers. 

The reason I bring that morning back to life is that I just received the actual rollout issue of HGTV Magazine.  The issue I received back in March was their “beta test” edition. 

In my work with home décor and design clients, I am fueling their marketing precision right now with some very cool target groups that go by nicknames like “High Society Designers,” “Blue Sky Homesteaders,” “Traditional Classics” and “Design Mavens.”

HGTV posts the highest readership with the “Design Mavens.”  This is that mix of DINKS, high-income families and trendy empty-nesters. 

When it comes to magazine readership, “Design Mavens” love to kick back with pubs like Food & Wine, Traditional Home, InStyle, Bon Appétit and Architectural Digest. 

Those pubs have their editorial text, but when you turn to the showcase section of each pub, there are lots of pictures spanning from side-to-side of the pub with some spanning across two full pages.

If you cannot picture this yet, all you need to do is hit the web and go over to Pinterest and take a look at the postings of “Design Mavens.”  Its like walking into the museum of interior design.

HGTV does a very good job with its programming… perhaps, in large part, because of the Canadian ties where it is way too cold most of the year to really care about much outside the front door of the home.

HGTV shows score well with their before-and-afters coupled with great hosts who add personality to the real estate.

 And while set-designers are right-brain driven, most marketing leadership is left-brain driven thanks to the MBA academics who craft the headsets to understand bottomline economics.

So here is where we come to the crux of the issue – literally!

Repeat after me what the consumers voice to marketers 24/7… “Don’t tell me about you… Tell me about me.”

Give me great stories in the magazine about wonderful homes, rooms and spaces that I can fantasize about and transport myself into to share the experience.

While there are some good ideas in the magazine, they are lost in what appears like the television network with uncontrollable ADHD. 

From cover-to-cover it features the personality stars, quips from the shows, featured products and ads promoting the shows. 

Literally the first story is titled “Who will be the next design star” and it features quips and quotes of each of the contestants. 

More than 75% of the articles feature a picture of one of the HGTV hosts and the stories are extensions of the television shows.

What I remember most about the Headline News fiasco is that it just might have been the springboard that got the AOL Team off the Time-Warner production sets.

In many ways, I really hope that I am wrong on this one. 

HGTV, the cable network and HGTV branded retail products are not only clients of mine, but I personally love watching HGTV.  I am addicted to watching many of the shows and craft my evenings around the schedule.

I subscribed to HGTV to add more to my times with Elle Decor, House & Home and Architectural Digest.

My subscription to this magazine is good for eleven more issues. 

To those who read this blog, I promise to provide an update of just what HGTV Magazine evolves into this fall. 

Just remember… for all the mistakes that AOL made with Headline News, that network is still airing!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The News Perspective of Good Ole Boys

How many reading this would put much trust in an article about McDonald’s coffee compared to Starbucks coffee… if Burger King wrote it?

Most every morning I grab a Wall Street Journal, a cup of coffee and a bagel to catch up on what’s all happening out there among peers and colleagues.

In this morning’s WSJ Marketplace, there is a front page article titled, “The Big Doubt Over Facebook.” 

There is also a set of illustrations of the Facebook thumbs-up icon, the American Idol logo, a drawing of People magazine and the New York Times and Yahoo! logos.

Even before reading the article, I made a bet with the guy sitting at the table next to me what the article would say…

(1) It would compare advertising on Facebook with alternative advertising options in conventional media… even with a comparative skew to print publications

(2) It would put an onus on Facebook to prove that advertising on it leads to sales… but place no comparative onus on conventional media

(3) It would feature ad agency commentary on the questionable character of Facebook advertising

Sure enough, I won the bet.

Early in the article, Michael Sprague, CMO of Kia Motors North America is quoted as saying, “if a consumer sees my ad (on Facebook) does that ultimately lead to a new vehicle sale?” 

WSJ then immediately follows the quote with…

“The concerns from Kia and other advertisers underscore the difficulties of measuring results of nascent-forms of social-media advertising.”

Ahhhh… Has the WSJ, other print publications and broadcast media players been able to produce result-producing measurement standards in what is now their post-nascent 40 years plus of being around?

The pictures adjacent to the article compare spending $1 million in generating 125 million impressions on Facebook with two, 30-second ads on American Idol, 6.5 full-page color ads in People magazine and 10 full-page color ads in the New York Times.

Course the article says nothing about the ability to post those 125 million impressions with screeners relative to very direct related behavior sets of the Facebook members. 

Perhaps the part of the article that I chuckled over the most was the set of commentary by “chief executives” from the hallowed halls of P&G, Unilever and WPP (“the world’s largest ad company”)… all of which “question the value of their investments” on Facebook.

Wow… I am sure that those are three true experts of the entrepreneurial wave of market inspiration (give me a break!)

Thanks to overseas markets, Unilever has been able to offset stale sales in the U.S. and the WSJ reported earlier this week that P&G is facing sales below projections for the first time this year. 

And perhaps, WPP can join up with the comparative analogy of the WSJ and Burger King… an ad agency group offering critique of a key player that has had pronounced impact on their declining client-sales.

My response can also be boiled down in simple statements…

(1) Show me another media vehicle that reaches 900 million readers-viewers

(2) Show me another media vehicle that provides advertisers with the ability to target their message against real-time behaviors relative to the advertisers product or service

(3) Show me another media vehicle that qualifies “reach” and “impressions” delivery against very specific audience dynamics… far more specific than gender and age

The title of the article perhaps says it all: “The Big Doubt Over Facebook” – maybe that doubt is truly focused more around whether Facebook will join up with the established “good ole boys” clan or start-up a rival gang!

The last perspective I will leave with is that in the same issue of the WSJ there is a full-page color ad for Blackberry that talks in tech talk about something the Blackberry does that “no one else can claim.”

Blackberry has a brand tagline:  “BE BOLD.”

Adjacent to the article about Facebook is a second article titled, “RIM Offers Peek At Its Next Phone” in which the first sentence states “the company is counting on the phone to stop the company’s slide” and that the event “drew a mostly tepid response that heightened concerns about whether the company’s products can compete with the iPhone.”

Ahhhh… you see any comparison in these two stories?