Another Great Option from Google

One day, we’re all going to work for Google. They’ll own everything.

If GMDesk wasn’t enough for you, one of their other latest endeavors is Knol, which is sort of a hybrid between a blog, Wikipedia, Facebook and About. You can become an expert on a topic (About) by writing authoritatively on a topic (blog), while moderating and incorporating input from others (Wikipedia). So you can actually have a community of people providing input on a topic (Facebook, Wiki), so it ends up being a comprehensive, multi-perspective article, like a Wikipedia page.

Of course, if the content is at the discretion of a moderator, it can be slightly different in terms of objectivity. Yet that could be the potential benefit of Knol for marketers. It’s an opportunity for branded content and branded experts (subtly, of course…no overt advertising on Knol). A person can be an expert on anything from “How to Stock a Bar for Your Summer Party” to “How to Draft a Fantasy Football Team.” Any brand can find a topic, and weave their products and messages into the fabric of the content. It can turn into single expert pushing a brand-infused idea, or a community of brand evangelists taking the content to a higher level by adding their own ideas, recipes, pictures, maps, experiences and directions. Here’s a good example of one…I don’t know whether it’s a legit consumer or a guerrilla brand page, but it has the concept. Look at the comments.

It’s unclear how Knol will takeoff, but the blend of approaches is interesting. I can see many applications, and plan to use it in my own marketing efforts. What do you think?

More Insights on Fantasy Sports

In one of my earlier posts, I mentioned the marketing goldmine that is fantasy sports. As proof that I do not preach onto marketers that which is not true, I offer you this post from ESPN the Magazine about the goldmine that is fantasy sports.

From the article:

“Fantasy sports players consume the most media,” he says (“he” being Kim Beason, an associate professor at Ole Miss who is also the CEO of Fantasy Sport Research Specialists). “And the demographic—males, mid-30s, college-educated, income of $75,000, who have high-speed Internet—is a real sweet spot for advertisers.”

See, I kid you not. Fantasy sports is a ticket to nice-sized wallets. What’s interesting to me, however, is the segregated nature of fantasy sports as described by the ESPN article. I guess I didn’t know that because 75% of the players in my fantasy leagues are black. Yet in the statistics still lives opportunity for marketers who take a good, long look. The ESPN article contains this nugget of insight from comedian Guy Torry:

Torry makes one especially valid point: The hip-hop connection is a perfect way to market fantasy sports to a younger black demographic. “It’s that sports ego, man,” he says. “It’s you, chillin’ on the block with your boys, arguing over a player, a coach’s decision or some move a GM made, and saying, ‘This is what I would’ve done.’ And now you say, ‘All right, join the fantasy league. Let’s see what you’ve got!’ Since I joined fantasy, I’ve never loved the NFL as much as I love it now.”

So, even if the statistics say a particular demographic is not there in fantasy sports right now, trust me, they’re coming. Once they get fantasy figure skating, women are coming too (although, again, there are two women in my fantasy football league). Be ready to charge ahead with your marketing message.

As for Michael Phelps…

…see, it’s starting. We’ll be over-Phelpsed in no time.

The O(ver)lympics

Geez, finally, the Phelpslympics are over. I can only watch so many butterfly heats, 3.1-difficulty dives, volleyball spikes, ribbon dances and 30-point basketball blowouts before it gets just a tad uninteresting.

Yet from a marketing standpoint, there are three cool things to take a good, long look at. One is which of the big medal winners will cash in for endorsement dollars (Phelps of course, Lebron, Kobe…feel free to keep going). Ok, that’s an easy one.

Second is, what cool things did we see that were new, different, etc. (and useful to marketers). The opening and closing ceremonies of course. Huge marketing opportunities. How? Well, for example, with all the Internet buzz created by the hot girl from Paraguay spotted in the opening ceremony, there’s gotta be a way for, say, Hooters, to infuse hot, branded models into the crowd of marching athletes. Well, then there’s the whole damn list of venues, obviously (Bird’s Nest, etc.). I think those just became a huge sponsorship opportunity too. Can’t you see the Apple iStadium coming to a future Olympics? Then there’s that cool little World-Record-pace line that follows the participants across the pool during the swimming events. Could easily have Nemo or some other animated character pulling it across the pool to promote a movie or DVD release.

Third is, what will the future Olympics bring? Well, as Mark Cuban points out in his latest post, it could be an ESPN-hosted 2016 Olympics (thank God, hopefully). Yahoo’s Fourth-Place Medal blog also had a post (complete with ESPN-like humor) on the topic. Seriously, that would be the best thing. We’d get less Costas-drama-setting and more real-athlete analysis and experience-telling. Although, the funny ideas suggested by the Yahoo blog may not be too far off. I can already hear Chris Berman calling the discus throw with his “Back, back, back…” call. However, he’d be making the call on an Olympic broadcast set “Built by Home Depot” or “Driven by GMC” or “Powered by General Electric.” Because when ESPN broadcasts, passionate sports fans tune in and watch…and marketers’ dollars follow.

This is “Your Brand Here”, and I Approved This Convention

As a marketer, clearly there are risks associated with taking a stance on political issues or candidates.

Yet, could it be that the conventions of both parties are the greatest untapped sponsorship opportunity in the world?!?!?!?

Imagine, tens of thousands of live attendees, and millions on TV, taking a good, long look as your brand logo is subtly injected into the fabric of the event. A passionate and enagged audience, too. It’s product placement on steroids. What if Obama calmly sips from an Evian bottled water during long applause? Or McCain wipes his brow with a Target-logoed towel?

Sure, there are probably a few hurdles to clear in terms of campaign contributions and what not. Yet couldn’t that convention sponsorship money go to charity instead of political coffers? And sure, you’d alienate a large number of potential customers — but you’d also turn the rest into loyal brand zealots! People would be clamoring to drink the same Evian water (or Kool-Aid) that Obama is. Clearing the shelves in certain states, extra inventory in others.

Yeah, probably a little too much of a hot button for many marketers to press. Yet can’t you see a maverick brand or CEO deciding to charge ahead and jump all over this opportunity? “The 2008 Democratic National Convention, brought to you by GoDaddy” or some other brand that wouldn’t shy away from the publicity, both good and bad.

I know, I know…unrealistic. Is it though? With a little lobbying, I’m sure GoDaddy could make it happen (especially if the lobbyist is that Obama Girl).

The Death of Boxing

It’s a bummer too, because I used to be its big fan.

And marketers used to be its best friend. Remember when boxing was big and popular (ok, try really hard…and if you’re younger than 25, go look it up)? The days when there were great boxers up and down the divisions. The days when Mike Tyson was champion, and you didn’t even have to watch the fight because you know if you missed it he’d still be the champ in the morning. The days when boxing champions would command big spokesperson dollars – for everything from ad spots and shoe contracts to Wheaties boxes and video games.

Now, do you even know who boxes anymore, never mind who the champion is (c’mon, name 10 professional boxers, fast)? Even if you do put out an APB and find out who the champion is, is he relevant? Will he be champ in another month? Is he even known in North America, and does anyone even care about his likeness or his persona? If you had to give your opinion and name THE top boxer (let’s say Jerry Lewis pulls a gun out of his bag in the airport and points it at you, demanding a name), who would you say? An aging Roy Jones, who has declining skills and increasing other interests? Floyd Mayweather, who’d rather do about 6 other things than box at this point? Oscar De la Hoya (see Roy Jones above)? Kimbo Slice, who isn’t even a boxer?

Man, talk about a sport that has done NOTHING to promote its stars, or even promote its sport. It’s practically invisible now. Its like hockey, before hockey.

Marketers don’t like the obscure (unless it’s an obscure network of niche websites that delivers phenomenal targeting potential). They also don’t like things their customers perceive as unimportant, dishonest and uninteresting. Boxing can’t even get a scoring system that’s perceived as fair and reliable (it actually isn’t either, forget perception) for one of the biggest stages of all, the Olympics. Plus, all the various obscure championship belts and mega-fights that never happen due to one reason (money) or another (money) have watered down the sport and created zero in terms of anticipation and excitement.

RIP, boxing, I’ll miss you on my radar. Gotta go now, have to watch some obscure MMA fights on Spike TV.

CME Marketing

Ok, on the surface, this topic is slightly less interesting to the masses than, say, Michael Phelps, blogs, fantasy sports and other topics covered in my prior posts.

Yet it’s interesting in the sense that it’s an opportunity (and it’s one of my primary responsibilities in my current position). You see, it doesn’t take a good, long look to see that everyone currently does CME marketing pretty much one way. Whether on a direct mail piece or an email, they slap on (in 50 point type) the title of the event, the date, and the location (now called TDL in my lingo). Maybe a sentence or tagline about “What’s in it for me?” from the reader’s perspective. Usually some obscure, odd or conceptual art provides the visual. Then in 10 point type is all the other information — accreditation, agenda, faculty, etc., etc. Then it gets sent out to wherever the list may originate from.

The opportunity is this: wait a minute, hold on. Before I go there, just let me say I may be weakening my competitive position by sharing this information. However, if the quality of CME marketing improves, maybe the expectations and perceptions of CME change, attendence goes up for all of us, and the world is a better place (not to mention patient outcomes improve). Ok, so the opportunity is this: like all marketing, CME marketing needs to make a more emotional connection with the target audience. Throwing a big TDL on a brochure is no longer good enough. People are too busy, it costs too much to travel, and there are too many other options (not even local options, but Internet options that are free and just a few clicks away).

Dare I say, the TDL should be alot less prominent in our messaging. Our message should read and appear more like the marketing that gets our own attention:

  • a headline that addresses a need, question or fear
  • easy bullet points that clearly list benefits of the event/program
  • strong call-to-action and compelling offer (if there is one)
  • Of course, there are other things I think should be done too, but I’m not giving it all away right now. In the next few weeks, I’ll come back to the topic and deliver some more opinion.

    The Goldmine that is Fantasy Sports

    It’s amazing how the game of fantasy sports has changed.

    When I first started playing online years ago, the applications were slow and cumbersome, and it was more chance than strategy.  It was mainly limited to the major sports. Some sites were flat-out not fun.  Once or twice, I dropped teams in the middle of seasons because of it (bad teams, of course).

    Now, it’s literally an industry.  A big industry.  The applications are flashy, uber-interactive, and backed by mega-bandwidth.  You can literally play any sport, from baseball to fishing (who plays this?) to Nascar to soccer. There is enough fantasy information – cheat sheets, rankings and guides – published before each sports season to fill a room in the Library of Congress.  There are tons of blogs about it (I like ESPN’s Eric Karabell and Rotowire among others) and double that tonnage in terms of fantasy sports web sites. And the number of people playing is staggering. The Fantasy Sports Trade Association (there’s even an association now!?!) pegs it at 18 million adult Americans.

    Most importantly, the marketing messages targeting the fantasy sites and the people who are on them are now aplenty. And for good reason. Take a good, long look at the people who play fantasy sports. They’re Grade A marketing targets. I know VPs and senior executives of companies who play. Other people who travel internationally and make alot of money. People who have families and buy every kind of household and family item, from attic fans to minivans to sliced meats. They’re tech-savvy and have gadgets. Hell, some don’t even know much about sports and still play fantasy. As I write this, I have a live online draft going on right now on a niche site called RT Sports. There are people in multiple states, from various lines of work – marketing execs, football coaches, sales guys, retail managers (even barflys).

    I also have leagues on ESPN and CBS Sportsline, in both baseball and football. I’m an MBA, in a large corporation, who owns a home, purchases personal technology products, participates actively in sports, spends oodles of time online, consumes other media…see where I’m going? There are millions of us, across all demos, geos and zeros (income, that is).

    As a marketer, if you’re looking for a certain demo, do you know if you can find them or not in the world of fantasy sports? Charge ahead and find out (and hurry up, I need a 10th guy in one of my football leagues).

    The Science of Blogging

    Is it actually a science, or an art? Definitely a little of both.

    If you’re considering starting a blog, here’s a must-read to-do list from Seth Godin of things you need to do. Take a good, long look at it.

    You may want to start a blog as part of a campaign or part of a corporate communications initiative – hopefully this provides some frame of reference as to some of what it entails.

    Do Your Customers Ever Take Time Off?

    Well, yes, I’m sure they do. But do their opinions and experiences with your brand or products ever take extended time off? Would you know if they did?

    That’s the challenge of the online space. If you have a retail store, you have posted hours (and sturdy door locks, not to mention a motion-activated ADT alarm system) and consumers can’t come in at 12:23AM when they have a sudden need to visit your store. Yet online, your site is always there and accessible. Even at 12:23AM. So knowing this, can your messaging ever take a break from being fresh?

    Sure, it can for a short time. But a whole summer? I don’t think so. Because then, all of the sudden, someone decides to visit your EventSwag blog while searching for some premium ideas, and during their good, long look notices you haven’t posted new content in weeks. So they start to wonder, are you still in business? Or are you just lazy? Are there no new products in? Or do you just not want me to know about them? Do you not want me to visit this site ever again? What are you hiding? Are you a terrorist?

    Love to bust the chops of my friend (or is that on vacation too, now?) over at EventSwag. Yet there is a moral weaved in – your blog is also a touchpoint for customers. If you charge ahead and open its doors, make sure you keep them free of cobwebs.

    How Long Before Michael Phelps is Worth More Than the GDP of a Small Country?

    My guess is about a week from now.

    Get used to Micheal Phelps if you haven’t already had a good, long look, because we’ll be seeing him in alot of places, like…um, everywhere. This man, the face of 2008 Beijing Olympics, with the oodles of gold around his neck, is about be the spokesperson for alot of stuff. As I write this post, an AT&T commercial just came on ESPN with him in it. A rabid fan is going crazy about him in the ad.

    As a marketer, would you charge ahead and sign on to this bandwagon? The pros are certainly there in terms of the global awe surrounding his achievements and the clean-cut image. Yet, will we be over-Phelpsed in a few weeks? Will consumers be able to recall which product he’s signing off on, and asking you to sign onto, and when?

    It’ll be fun to watch the big brands go head-to-head in a duel to leverage this man’s likeness in the most creative – and recall- and sales-generating – ways.

    Publishing Companies, Time to Believe in Marketing

    Having spent slightly more than a decade in B2B publishing, I’ve taken a good, long look and can confirm (for whoever still needs it) that most publishing companies (i.e., 99.2%) are behind the curve in terms of marketing.  That is, in their recognition of, belief in, investment in, attention paid to, and general acknowledgement given to…marketing.  They may have a couple marketers, or even more than a couple, who create the media kits and sell sheets and stuff.  Yet in my experience, the marketers are almost 100% (literally) unhappy with everything from the career opportunities to the training (i.e., not much of either).

    Why one or several of the savvy B2B publishers doesn’t charge ahead and be a marketing leader continues to baffle me.  Their main customers in terms of revenue are marketers who make advertising decisions.  Wait, let me rephrase – marketers who make integrated marketing decisions.  So why the lack of investment in hiring creative marketers and implementing technology that helps them succeed?

    A likely answer is the failure of marketers to demonstrate ROI for what they do (i.e., spend).  Another likely answer is that most publishing companies are run by sales and/or finance executives who focus on traditional publishing business SOP (hey, how’s that going right now?).

    As Chair of the American Business Media’s Media Marketing Committee, I challenge savvy B2B publishers to make true investments in marketing — in hiring top-notch talent, in training and growing marketing staff, in using customer segmentation and data analysis to pinpoint opportunities, in using research to benchmark metrics.  There is real opportunity to be a leader and own the top talent in the market — and the business advantages that come with that.

    Over on the event side of the B2B house, it’s mostly the same sitch.  Except for Reed — they get it right as far as marketing goes, and their events kick butt because of it.  If you’re a publishing or event executive in senior management and you want to get it right too, you should ask how they do it.

    That’s not a plug for Reed either, it’s the truth. Look into it and you tell me if I’m wrong.