Note: I wrote this as a contributed article in late 2012 for a consulting client, but they decided not to use it. Instead of letting it collect dust, I published it here. Enjoy!
The term “Big Data” has been gaining momentum in all aspects of business, especially with web analytics, mobile, social media, and customer data. And, it’s usually used in the context of impending doom and mixed with cryptic terms like Hadoop, MapReduce, and “in-memory database.” It’s becoming so pervasive that Gartner’s 2012 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies has it entering the “peak of inflated expectations,” a sure sign of hysteria.
When it comes to marketing, however, massive amounts of data—whatever you want to call it—are becoming a fact of life with which marketers need to be concerned. But what is it and how do you leverage it to enhance your marketing efforts?
Big, different, and fast
Big data is generally defined in terms of volume, variety, and velocity. From a marketing perspective, you’re already collecting reams of data on every prospect or customer during even just one visit to your website. Couple that with the variety of customer touch points—purchase, email, advertising, support, social—and you quickly realize that even a small business is collecting data on a massive scale. The velocity, or speed, of data collection is also accelerating, especially as smartphones, tablets, and other technologies continue to weave their way into every aspect of everyday life and ease a potential customer’s ability to interact with your brand.
As the challenge of big data grows, marketers are told that they’ll need huge IT investments to collect the data, expensive and complex analytics tools to dig into it, and legions of data scientists to understand it. Furthermore, most of the big data focus from those developing the technology is given to the back-end, with “speeds and feeds” being touted and novel software architectures promoted as the great new hope for attacking big data.
Getting a handle on your big data
So where should marketers focus?
CIO magazine recently covered how marketing departments should roll big data analytics into their marketing strategies. While they go a bit deeper than a marketer might need, they do suggest that you focus on the most basic of marketing concepts: What do my customers want?
It’s a common misconception that your big data is elusive and that you’ll need a huge project to even gain access to it. In reality, most marketers already have access to the data they need, usually within the tools that collect it. Finding the low hanging fruit in your data is as simple as segmenting your targets based on specific attributes, like preferred channels, content consumed, or recency of engagement (or purchase or click).
Since most marketers aren’t data scientists, it’s going to require a few trials to understand what your data can do for you. Don’t be afraid to dig in to it and ask questions of it. Think about the last time you said, “If only we could do X…” and use that as your first project.
Forbes magazine, in an overview of big data business challenges, stated that, “Successfully exploiting the value in big data requires experimentation and exploration.” Take that experimentation approach and start looking for ways to intelligently segment your customers into groups that you can then easily target. It’s not so much what you do, but that you do something, do it now, and learn from it.
Enhancing your capabilities
Why put in this early effort to see what’s possible? Because there’s a huge amount of value in your marketing data. So much so that it’s easy to justify an investment in analytics.
A mid-2012 report from Aberdeen Group, “Customer Analytics: Leveraging Big Data to Achieve Big Results,” shows that companies who optimize their customer analytics have revenues 90% higher and retention rates 3.5x higher than companies who don’t. Even more, they see customer lifetime value growth of 20% annually. That’s a great start to help you calculate an ROI to justify resources for your customer data.
As previously mentioned, each of your current marketing tools undoubtedly has some sort of reporting or filtering functionality, which is a great place to begin looking for ideas. However, few of those stand-alone tools go beyond simple reporting. And, fewer yet enable marketers to integrate data from multiple systems.
Instead, and as you grow your customer knowledge and see how it can impact your revenues and attrition, start to seek out tools that have the capabilities to dig into more data from multiple systems at a faster pace. Big data is volume, variety and velocity, so make sure that you’re thinking ahead and will be able to manage all three of those areas.
Also, beware of analytics that claim to integrate data but do so by aggregating (summarizing) it, thereby blocking you from the post-analysis targeting of individual customers. It’s great to discover that you have 50,000 customers ready to purchase, but unless you can target them individually, that information is virtually worthless.
Regardless of your capabilities, your marketing data mountain is becoming bigger by the second. The way to get a handle on it is to start digging into it now. Understand what you have, what you can discover with your current tools, and what other capabilities are needed to wring out the value.
As with most professions today, marketing is becoming increasingly digital. More data is collected, more interactions are measurable, and more options for engaging with targets are available. Each day that you delay, your big data mountain buries you a little bit more.
Need help? Here’s an assignment: How many customers made a purchase in the past month? Or, how many of your active prospects visited your website last week? If you can’t answer those questions in a few minutes, you should have an urgent talk with your manager tomorrow.
I signed up to attend CES this year, which unleashed a torrent of emails encouraging me to visit booths, attend events, and check out new products. While most of these emails were fine, a few stood out in their awfulness.
I could go off on a tangent on how, even with an amazing product, marketing is a critical function. Good marketing should be seen as a requirement, especially when you’re marketing to the press and media covering the largest consumer electronics show on the globe. Furthermore, sales reps (and even sales VPs) shouldn’t be blasting marketing or event emails, and definitely shouldn’t be sending emails to press and media.
So, just for reference, if you’re blasting out a pre-event email and trying to drum up traffic at your booth or interest in your product, here’s what NOT to do.
(Note: Below is the entire email, and I’ve obfuscated the name and booth number to prevent embarrassment.)
XXXX will be in booth #XXXX. We look forward to meeting you!
Admin & Sales
As a huge wine non-snob, my first stop in the grocery store is always the wine discount shelf. The way I look at it, it’s like the store paid me to age their wine. Win-win!
During a recent trip, however, my interests in wine and marketing collided as I spotted two wines from the same brand, Mia’s Playground, sporting wildly different labels. As you can see in the photo, their Cabernet, on the left, has a fun, playful, non-intimidating label, while the chardonnay on the right has a more serious, formal design.
I’d never heard of Mia’s Playground wine, but at $4.99, pretty much any wine is worth a shot. A quick web search shows that Mia’s chardonnay usually retails for $16, while their Cabernet goes for about $15. That’s a pretty steep discount, and makes the differences in the labels even more interesting. Why are two wines priced similarly yet sporting different label designs, and why are they both heavily discounted? Is this Mia’s A/B test gone horribly wrong? Are they trying to position the different varietals for different market segments?
As I thought about it more, I wondered if the label even makes a difference. I was confident that it did, but as a quant, I needed to see the numbers…
What Do the Academics Say?
Since wine is a $32.5 billion industry in the US alone, it’s no surprise that plenty of research has been put into wine marketing. Think about the logistics of the typical wine purchase: it’s highly-subjective, there are tons of choices, even at small stores, and each wine has a new vintage every year. As a wine consumer, you’d probably lean towards known wines that you’re familiar with (which just increases the marketing efforts required by competing wines) or, without additional information (like reviews or Wine Spectator scores), you’d just choose the one with the best marketing+price combo.
Here are a few tidbits from some semi-recent studies that show how much impact labels have on wine sales:
- From a 2007 UC Berkeley study: “…the illustration used on the label had the greatest impact on both purchase intent and perceptions of brand personality.”
- A 2007 study from University of Reims, France, found “that when the label is authentic, young consumers don’t see any risk buying the wine because the presence of the label is a definitive indication of the product’s authenticity.”
- A paper presented at the 2010 International Academy of Wine Business Research Conference stated that “packaging can be related to between 26% and 42% of predicted price differences.”
To add some confusion to the mix, or just to show that even the consumers themselves don’t know what they want, I found these two conclusions from separate Cal Poly studies:
- One study found that “Americans did not rank ‘has an animal on it’ as a desirable feature but two of the top three brands, Yellow Tail and Toasted Head, had an animal on them.”
- Another study found that “there is little to no correlation between wine label design aesthetics and price.” However, this study focused more on font, colors, and layout over label content, and was written by an undergrad (gasp!). One interesting finding of their research was that tasting scores by Robert Parker were higher for wines with labels that were designed in a top-to-bottom format over a left-to-right format. What’s up with that?
Where Was I?
OK, I’m off the rails here. Back to Mia.
As I started writing this post and googling “Mia’s Playground,” I learned a few things:
- There’s an iPhone app with the same name, but geared towards two- to five-year-olds. Let’s hope this isn’t Mia’s version of Joe the Camel marketing cigarettes to kids…
- The brand is produced by Don Sebastiani & Sons.
Having worked a stint in the wine industry consulting for Robert Mondavi Wines, I immediately recognized Sebastiani as one of the biggest wine producers in the US. With 1.3 million cases sold in 2011, that puts them at #14 on the Wine Business Monthly list of the largest North American wine producers. Sebastiani’s website has them at 2 million cases in 2007, so the Great Recession has, apparently, not been kind.
Their most-recognizable brand is probably Smoking Loon, but their website shows nine brands, of which Mia’s Playground is not seen. Digging deeper, I found that Mia is actually Don Sebastiani’s daughter, and that her name also adorns a wine-based cooking sauce.
$15 is “Luxury” Wine?
Marketing plays a huge role in the wine industry, obviously. This wine industry publicist says that 2% of a wine’s retail price is dedicated to marketing, which translates into $650 million spent on wine marketing in the US. With that amount of spend, there’s definitely room for consultants, focus groups, and, yes, even A/B testing.
More googling seems to indicate that Mia’s Playground switched label designs with the 2005 or 2006 vintage from the fun version to the serious version, maybe in an attempt to spur sales or justify the price.
Sadly for Mia, a wine priced at $15-16 is considered an “ultra-premium” wine by the Wine Communications Group. (Other sources peg $15 as either “luxury” or “super-premium,” so this segmentation system is clearly unclear.)
It’s very telling about the US wine consumers’ palate (or wallet) that 94% of wine sold is under $14 per bottle. Or, maybe it’s indicating that, for those who are willing to spend more than $15 for a bottle of wine, price ceases to be a key decision-making factor? Either that, or I’ve been over-paying for wine for the past 10 years.
Mia may have simply been another victim of the Great Recession, since the timing fits perfectly. As the economy started to slow, and instead of lowering the price, Mia tried to up-level her brand with a serious label befitting a $15 wine. With a 2008 vintage hitting the shelves in 2009, and with Sebastiani’s sales dropping 35% between 2007 and 2011, Mia’s bosses may have had to cut under-performing brands.
In any event, wasn’t this a fun exercise!? Let me know what you think with a comment below.
I’d really love to see the sales numbers before and after the label change. But, as a marketer myself, if the change of label had minimal or even negative impact, it was obviously a sales execution problem!
I’ve sent an email to Sebastiani to get the real story on Mia’s Playground and will update this post if/when they respond…
I guess that I’m not alone in being baffled by the horrible marketing being perpetrated on consumers by technology companies. (Side note: when is “tech” going to be considered simply “consumer electronics?” Are mobile phones and laptops still so cutting edge that they need to be referred to as “high technology?”)
Saturday Night Live took on the consumer puzzle known as Verizon (and the ‘guilty-by-association’ handset makers) in a very funny skit this past weekend. Just watch it and you’ll be laughing out loud.
Verizon’s marketing department, on the other hand, should be crying…and updating their resumes.
Note: Today was “SOPA Blackout” day, where Google, Wikipedia, and thousands of other websites blocked access to protest SOPA. I’m vehemently anti-censorship, have contacted my local Senators and Congresspeople (several times), and wrote the following post, which originally appeared on Aloha Startups.
SOPA: Wrong for Startups, Wrong for the Internet, Wrong for America
I really don’t want to get political, but the issue of censorship really tweaks my craw. When I was in high school, I learned about Freedom of Speech, due process, and how censorship was used to oppress people in other, “evil” countries. I had to read “Fahrenheit 451″ and was taught that the USSR was evil because, among other things, the government controlled the news. More recently, I’ve read stories about the “Arab Spring” being energized via social media, and that the US helped to keep those channels of communication open while their governments tried to censor them. Now, it appears that our own government is trying to make it easier to censor the internet in the US.
SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, is a bill introduced to the House of Representatives this fall to give law enforcement and copyright holders more power to fight internet piracy. According to Wikipedia…
Proponents of the bill say it protects the intellectual property market and corresponding industry, jobs and revenue, and is necessary to bolster enforcement of copyright laws especially against foreign websites. Opponents say it is Internet censorship, that it will cripple the Internet, and will threaten whistleblowing and other free speech.
While I’m obviously against online piracy, as everyone should be, SOPA gives rights holders the ability to shut down websites’ payment systems just by claiming copyright infringement. PCMag.com had this to say:
Among the more controversial provisions is a section that would allow rights holders to contact the financial institutions that do business with a particular Web site and ask them to shut down access because of infringing content. If you ran a Web site that used PayPal or accepted payment via MasterCard, for example, and someone thought your site contained pirated content, they could contact PayPal or MasterCard and have those companies cut off access to your site, effectively shutting down your business.
Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), who introduced the bill, said that the bill’s critics are “spreading lies” after some of the top internet companies printed an open letter saying that the bill (and the PROTECT IP Act) provides censorship “techniques similar to those used by China, Malaysia and Iran.”
SOPA is still in committee, but they are meeting today to vote on amendments to the bill. (I was going to link the word “committee” to the YouTube-posted version of “I’m Just a Bill,” but it was taken down due to copyright infringement. Irony?)
Democracy In Action
So what did I do? I contacted my representative, Congresswoman Colleen Hanabusa, to express a constituent’s opposition to SOPA. (It’s made very easy at http://americancensorship.org/, where you just type in your phone number and zip code, they give you a few talking points, and then your phone rings, already connect with your representative’s office!)
While Rep. Hanabusa’s email response to an earlier anti-SOPA note I submitted via her website, pasted in its entirety below, assures me that she will “keep (my) thoughts in mind should this bill or any similar piece of legislation come to the floor,” it’s obvious to me that she supports SOPA. She does go into detail to clear up some potential confusion about the controversial portions of the bill, and uses the typical politician fear-mongering lines around “unsuspecting consumers,” “expose children to serious health risks,” and “identity theft,” but avoids the bigger points around due process and censorship as they relate to the rights holder’s (not the Attorney General’s) ability to impact suspect sites.
Read the email for yourself, educate yourself on SOPA, make your views known to your representative, and let us know what you think in the comments. Whether you’re for or against this legislation, let your voice be heard. While our rights may be starting to erode with this bill, at least the macro democratic process is still going strong…in theory.
|December 14, 2011
Thank you for your correspondence regarding H.R. 3261, the Stop Online Piracy Act. I appreciate your input on this important issue.
H.R. 3261, introduced by Representative Lamar Smith (TX), allows the Attorney General to seek an injunction that would block access to foreign websites dedicated to intellectual property infringement. Intellectual property is any product conceptualized by an individual that has commercial value. This includes among other things patents, trademarks and trade secrets. Common intellectual property infringement includes pirated software, illegal distribution of music or movies, or counterfeit merchandise.
Many of these foreign sites appear legitimate to unsuspecting consumers, who are tricked into purchasing shoddy products or downloading pirated content like music, movies or games. Some of these counterfeiters sell imitation
Under this bill, once the Attorney General formally seeks an injunction against a foreign website, the Justice Department must go to a federal judge and lay out the case against the site. If a federal judge agrees that the website in question is dedicated to illegal and infringing activity, then a court order can be issued directing companies to sever ties with the illegal website. Third-party intermediaries, like credit card companies and online ad providers, are only required to stop working with the site. They cannot be held liable for the illegal or infringing actions taken by the foreign website.
Under existing law, it is already illegal to operate domestic websites that infringe on intellectual property rights, just as it is illegal to operate a brick-and-mortar store selling pirated goods. H.R. 3261 simply extends those prohibitions to foreign infringing websites.
This legislation elicits vigorous debate on both sides of the issue and I appreciate all the input from constituents I have received on this bill. Unfortunately I believe there are several misconceptions of the bill that I would like to clear up.
First, H.R. 3261 does not restrict lawful free speech and is not a form of censorship. The fact is the bill establishes judicial review and requires judicial approval for a site to be shut down. Ultimately restricting sites from offering fake designer purses or selling copies of the latest Hollywood movie is not an unlawful restriction of an individual’s Constitutional right to freedom of speech.
Next, the bill would not require an entire site to be shut down if a single page is found to be infringing. H.R. 3261 allows a court to target only the portion of the site that is engaging in criminal activity or infringing, leaving access to or funding of the rest of the site alone.
Finally, the legislation does not require internet service providers to engage in any monitoring, supervising, or policing of their networks. It only requires them to take action at the direction of the Attorney General if a federal court rules that a foreign site is engaged in criminal activity for which seizure would apply if it were in the U.S. Just like 1998′s Digital Millennium Copyright Act, internet service providers are only required to take minimum steps, with no duty to monitor.
H.R. 3261 has been referred to the House Committee on the Judiciary, where it awaits further consideration. Please be assured that I will keep your thoughts in mind should this bill or any similar piece of legislation come to the floor of the House of Representatives for a vote during the 112th Congress.
Again, thank you for expressing your views on this crucial issue. I hope you will continue to contact me on federal matters of concern to you. If you would like regular updates, please sign up for my e-newsletter athttp://hanabusa.house.gov.
After nearly two years with my beloved HTC Nexus One phone (great name, eh?), I just upgraded to the new Samsung Galaxy S II 4G. But, since three of the four US carriers have a Samsung Galaxy S II 4G phone, mine is the Samsung Galaxy S II 4G for AT&T. Please don’t confuse my phone with the Samsung Galaxy S II, Epic 4G Touch (yes, with the comma), which is Sprint’s version, or the plain vanilla-sounding Samsung Galaxy S II, available at T-Mobile.
My phone, as its name implies, is a 4G version, same as the Sprint model. T-Mobile’s model doesn’t have 4G in its name, despite it also being a fully 4G phone. T-Mobile has other phones with 4G in the name, but not sure why they chose to skip it for the Galaxy S II.
Oh, and even though only Sprint calls out the fact that their phone is a “Touch” (indicating a touch screen, I suppose), all of these Galaxy S II phones have a touch screen. Of course. Not sure why they didn’t all call that out, other than the fact that it’s pretty obvious to everyone these days that a “smartphone” is also a touch-screen phone.
Let me be clear that none of these phones are to be confused with AT&T’s Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket Android Smartphone. Yes, that’s its full name: Samsung Galaxy S II Skyrocket Android Smartphone.
Let’s review that last point: the phone utilizing slower, older 4G tech has “4G” in the name, but the phone utilizing the newer, faster LTE 4G tech does not have 4G in its name. Nor does it have LTE in its name. It does have “Skyrocket,” which, I guess, a focus group equated with super-fast mobile data speeds, so no need to be redundant. I’d love to know the reasoning behind that decision. Maybe all of AT&T’s LTE phones will be branded as Skyrockets?
Confused yet? You should be, although Samsung has made some confusing product naming decisions recently. In this case, however, I’m guessing that the carriers had more to do with it than Samsung.
(I had someone ask me the other day, “What’s the difference between an Android and a Droid?” I won’t even get in to the marketing behind that perplexing branding, or the fact that Verizon is marketing Droids as some sort of tech robot device…)
Apple is King, Right?
Not all tech companies have sucky product names. Apple, the master of marketing, has pretty straight-forward product names. The iPhone. The iPhone 3G. The iPhone 3GS. The iPhone 4. And the new iPhone 4S. Simple. Same with their MacBook and MacBook Pro, and iPad and iPad 2. Not entirely consistent, but easy to follow. Although, when you get into their iPods, their naming becomes so simple that it’s confusing: every iPod is named simply “iPod <model>”, like iPod Touch or iPod Nano. But Apple changes the format or design or features every year, which sometimes renders past iPods incompatible with software updates or accessories or, more often, cases. Apple then resorts to the product’s generation, like, “Fits first and second generation iPod Shuffles.” Or, Apple forces accessory makers to resort to this type of crystal clear description: Fits 13-inch MacBook (aluminum unibody/black keyboard) & MacBook Pro 13-inch (incorporated SD Card Slot Version).
How do you know which generation iPod you have? And how does the average person know if their MacBook has a unibody?
HP Puts in Minimal Effort
In the past, I’ve marveled at HP’s confusing, long, cryptic product names. They’ve started to get better, but they still have a ways to go. Simply navigating to HP’s laptop products page you’ll see their Pavilion line in this order, sorted by price: dm1z, g6z, g6s, g4t, dv4t, g6x, g7t, dm4t, dv6t, dv6z, dm4x, dv7t, and dv6t (“select edition” and “quad edition”).
What the hell do those names mean? What’s the difference between the initial letters of d or g? Why are g’s mixed with dm’s and dv’s? And how do they expect the typical consumer to ever know what those names mean or which product they should purchase?
Let’s not even get into their printers…HP Photosmart Plus e-All-in-One Printer – B210a…
Sure, they have a massive product portfolio, but there’s no way for consumers to make heads or tails of their naming conventions.
Ask a Mac owner what laptop they have and they’ll say, “MacBook Air” or maybe even “13-inch MacBook Air” to be specific. But ask an HP laptop owner and I’m sure you’ll get, “Um, an HP.” Heck, I personally own an HP laptop and know that it’s some dv something or other, but have no clue of the full, proper name, or why it’s even named that way—and I’m a geek!
Sure, there are a lot of available options, lightning-fast innovations, and frequent upgrades to tech products, but there needs to be more creativity and innovation on the naming side. Software companies have always made it easy with sequential version numbering or, more recently, annual releases tied to the year or season. Microsoft, who can’t seem to make up their minds, flip-flopped when they moved from Windows 3.1 to Windows 95 then Windows 98, but then switched again to Windows XP, then Vista, and now Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8, but I digress…
What’s the solution? Give some marketing people access to these product naming decision meetings to provide a consumer’s point of view, rather than just the engineers’ point of view. I’m sure that there’s some very specific translation for all of these product names, but the average consumer will never spend the time to understand. Instead, they’ll just remain confused.
* The best line from PC Mag’s article on AT&T’s perversion of the term “4G” – “The International Telecommunications Union started out by defining 4G as a set of technologies that no U.S. carrier will have for several years. But as carriers defined 4G down, the ITU basically gave up.”
If you’re feeling neglected lately, it’s because I’ve started to spread myself too thin. There’s HulaCopter, obviously, and our (shameless plug) just-released Android app. There’s some side work for four or five startup friends, all of whom obviously recognize my staggering marketing genius… And, now there’s Aloha Startups, focused on expanding and bringing more attention to Hawaii’s startup community.
With Aloha Startups, I’m part of a growing group of local entrepreneurs trying to both create a community for startups and give startups a more progressive, proactive, collaborative voice in Hawaii’s business world.
In addition to the frequent articles around interesting events, startup resources (or lack thereof), and ideas for increasing awareness of Hawaii startups, there are recurring columns on engineering for the non-engineer, legal aspects of startups, and how to build an online community. We’ve also created 808STARTUP, which gives new startups a way to let people know what they’re up to, and creates a database of startup listings. And, there’s Aloha Connections, a great forum for local entrepreneurs to ask questions, virtually network, and even post job openings or requests for assistance.
If you’re interested in tech startups, give it a read. I’m confident that you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the new ideas coming out of Hawaii’s startup community!
Wow, who knew? I stumbled across my 13plymouth app’s listing today – which gives you constant mobile access to all of my wonderful musings – to discover that I’m currently #7 in Amazon’s Android Appstore’s “Magazine” category! That’s awesome!
This has been a great day with respect to apps: First this, then my HulaCopter iPhone app has it’s biggest one-day volume of downloads ever! And the day’s not over yet. So – shameless plug – if you’re planning a vacation to Hawaii, use HulaCopter to find amazing last-minute deals on fun things to do. We’ve been mentioned on a few blogs so far, but are just getting underway. Currently, HulaCopter covers Oahu, but we’ll be expanding to other islands and the mainland soon.
By the way, here’s the rest of 13plymouth’s “ranking” on Amazon’s Appstore. I’m not sure if this means my app is great, or if no one is using the store…
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #4,621 Free in Appstore for Android
- #7 in Appstore for Android > Magazines
Just FYI, this is all public information that anyone can see on Amazon.com. My developer account on Amazon provides a bit more info, but not much. However, it’s still much more than Apple provides their app developers.
I’ll save this rant for another post, but it’s disgusting how little data Apple provides their developers. I get nothing other than number of downloads per day by country. Nothing! Sure, they want you to build that data collection into your app, but c’mon. No device stats? No iOS version stats? No referral data? No iTunes ‘times viewed’ data?
Grrr! But I’ll save that for another day. Today, I love Android even more! (The fact that I finally rooted my Nexus One and flashed Miui probably has something to do with it…)
Aloha and mahalo!
A few months ago I wrote a post about Google’s lack of mass-marketing prowess. Just the look and feel of most of their products has that “built by engineers, for engineers” vibe. Android is a great example, even with the advances in Honeycomb. Same with Gmail, Google Analytics, Google Docs, and on and on. Now don’t get me wrong: I love Google products. I’m an Android nut and I’ve totally given my digital life over to Google’s cloud services. I live in Chrome across multiple devices and I love it (for the most part). But even the new Chromebooks, which I think are killer products (I love my Cr-48), are getting trashed by both mainstream and techie reviewers (I’ll skip the rant on their obvious Apple bias…). I do have an engineering background, which maybe aligns my thought process and helps me “get it” with respect to their usability. Sadly, however, nearly all of their products don’t pass the parent test: Would my mother be able to use this?
And that’s all just related to using their products. The marketing for their products and brand has been virtually non-existent. While commercials and advertisements may be what you think of when I say “marketing,” I’m also talking about their product marketing: colors, logos, designs, instructions, user guides, help pages, usability, screen flow and layout, etc.
But things seem to be taking a turn for the better. The Cr-48 came in a neat package, with a clever design, but it still wasn’t mainstream. Now, a few months later, Google seems to be jumping on the consumer marketing bandwagon. Maybe it’s the frequent slamming of the usability of their products, or maybe it’s their attempt at competing directly against Apple. Whatever the reasons, I’m glad that they’ve finally hired some humans, at least in their marketing department.
Google’s new Music Beta product is a great example. (Although they need to stop beating the “beta” label, which I’d bet that 80% or more of consumers outside of the Bay Area have no clue as to what that means.) Here’s the icon for Google’s old Android music app: a simple, bland speaker. I know that it’s a speaker. Most people would get that it’s a speaker. Some may think that it’s a wheel, but it’s probably obvious that it’s a speaker, right?
Below is Google’s new music app icon and the imagery from the product’s landing page.
Look at the colors! Look at the clear meaning of the icon – headphones! Look at the background! Wow, now there’s some consumer marketing by someone who knows consumer marketing. Finally!
Another great example is Google’s ad for the “It Gets Better” Project. Just their simple participation in such a wonderful and progressive movement is fantastic. Honestly, I challenge anyone to watch the Google Chrome ad for this project and not come away moved by it’s message and the deeply personal stories and emotions conveyed by the people in the video.
As a geek and gadget nut, I’m looking forward to my next Android phone and maybe even a Honeycomb tablet. But, as a marketer, I’m glad that Google is finally getting their act together and focusing on the average consumer, not just the tech, geek, engineer. To compete against Apple’s amazing products and incredible marketing machine will take more than Google Labs and highly-innovative but complex features. I just hope that these few examples are the beginning of a new page for Google, not just random one-offs.
In the meantime, Google, how about creating a “movie beta” and allowing me to purchase and download movies to my phone? Apple’s been doing that for years…