What We Can Learn from The New York Times Being Behind the Times

May 26, 2014 § 1 Comment

320-Innovation_fullThe Gray Lady has problems – more than just the firing of Jill Abramson or lack of reporting on Jill Abramson’s demise. It seems the Times is behind the times in all things digital.  On May 15, Buzz Feed leaked the 96-page New York Times Innovation Report that candidly describes the digital struggles and weaknesses of the legendary print icon.    The report focuses on digital providers like Vox, Huffington Post, Business Insider, and BuzzFeed.  The report describes the institutional inertia that is keeping many businesses from embracing the new face of marketing.  And in some terrible irony of ironies, it was that upstart BuzzFeed that leaked the story.

Key learnings for all marketers today.

1.  Beware of Disrupters.  The news biz is changing like all business today.  Once small outsiders like BuzzFeed and  Huffington Post are now garnering more traffic than the Times.  Sound familiar?  Like Amazon, AirBnB, Uber and other disrupters?  The report gives some of the hallmarks of disruptive innovators – introduced by an outsider, less expensive than existing products, targeting new or underserved markets, initially inferior to existing products and advanced by an enabling technology.  Sound familiar in your business category?  Your competition may not be who it was yesterday. Today the New York Times is facing disparate competition such as LinkedIn’s Pulse Publishing platform,  Flipboard’s visual presentation of news, Vox as a collector of live blogging in passionate verticals, or Yahoo News that has hired Katie Couric and repurposes the best of news.


2.  Stories Find Readers Today.  The Times identified a trend showing that users are moving away from browsing and actually expect the news to come to them through social media, mobile notifications, aggregators and more.

Janine Gibson, editor-in-chief of The Guardian’s website says, “The realization that you have to go find your audience — they’re not going to just come and read it — has been transformative.”


Death of the Home Page.   Only a third of readers visit the home page of The New York Times. And those who do visit are spending less time on it. Page views and minutes spent per reader dropped by double-digit percentages in the year 2013.  Where do people see your content?  We cannot expect our website to be the first view of information.

home-page-v-socialNews from Social Media.  Less than 10% of the New York Times traffic comes from social media compared to Buzzfeed who gets 60% of their traffic from social media.  In fact, I read the story about the New York Times report on LinkedIn and Mashable first.

Marketers cannot expect just one media to work for them.  It takes  multiple ways to get your important news out.  Social media, email marketing, guest posts, podcasts, interviews, speaking engagements, search marketing and even advertising, if well timed and placed.

3.  Content Packaging is as Important as the Story.  Journalists have thought that the story is the thing.  Build it and they will come.  But today, a journalist must craft the right story for the audience, understanding the reader relevance.  I was stunned by a story from Forbes writer Kashmir Hill who took an anecdote buried in a 5,000 word article in the times and repackaged it as “How Target Figured Out A Teen Girl Was Pregnant Before Her Father Did.”  Her Forbes article has been viewed 2,455,821 times, and was the chief traffic driver for the Times story.  Crafting the right point of view takes a real understanding of your target audience.  And then, you have to position your story appropriately, with engaging content.

4.  Timing is Everything.  The Times is publishing their best content on a schedule meant for print.  They publish the majority of their content in the late evening, in order for it to make the morning paper, while  the majority of their traffic is in the morning hours. The biggest stories are published on Sundays for the venerable Sunday Paper, even though Sunday is the slowest day for traffic online.  A lesson to marketers here is are you publishing at times when you audience will see them?  In today’s world, the news is a 24-hour operation and news consumers expect to have it on a 24-hour schedule.

5.  Every Story Needs A Promotional Strategy.  All content needs a promotion strategy.  The publishing of the story is just the beginning.  What is the social strategy?  Is there a checklist for publishing that includes search headline, tags, images, pre-written Facebook and Twitter posts?

“Even ProPublica, that bastion of old-school journalism values, goes to extraordinary lengths to give stories a boost. An editor meets with search, social and public relations specialists to develop a promotion strategy for every story. And reporters must submit five tweets along with each story they file.”

How can you repurpose the content?  The Times report tells, “On a whim, Andrew Phelps created a Flipboard magazine of our most important obits of the year and it became the best-read collection in the history of the platform.”  The Gawker took a 161 year old story from The Times to help introduce “12 Years as a Slave”.

Consumers Expect Personalization.   The Times is looking at new engines to foster personalization online.  Increasingly, consumers are expecting to have options served up to them based on preferences.  Can readers follow their favorite columnists?

Engagement is everyone’s job.  A key learning is that you need to engage with your audience – respond to comments, answer emails and converse on social media.  Equally important is looking at the list of influencers that can help spread your message and interact with them.  Or events that help create community.

6.  Silos are out, teams are in.  Here is the telling statement:  “Our Twitter account is run by the newsroom. Our Facebook account is run by the business side.”  Departments need to break down walls and work together.  The refiguring of team is important to create more harmonious efforts.  The Times has recognized the power of collaboration focused on reader experience.  What a wonderful concept!

The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.  So, as The Times goes, it seems they are embarking upon an important journey.

Marketing to Women: Is the Lunch Hour Dead?

May 13, 2014 § 1 Comment

lunch timeAs I was munching on my McDonald’s salad at my desk today, I started wondering about the fate of lunch in America.  I certainly don’t seem to break for lunch as often as I used to.  In fact, the phrase lunch hour is even misleading.  In a recent study , 48% of employees say that the typical lunch break is 30 minutes or less.  And in another study by Staples, 19% of employees say they don’t stop for lunch at all.  In 2010, Monster found that more than 20 percent of workers say they always eat lunch at their desks.

The lunch “break” has turned into a time for errands, online shopping, more work and maybe a quick bite.  Here are some of the reasons behind these trends.

•  The recession spawned a cutback in personal and business spending.  And currently the IRS only allows 50% of entertainment expenses.  With a focus on productivity, some employees feel pressure to work more and don’t feel they have time for lunch.

•  Working women have a lot of tasks to accomplish.  Any given day may include errands, online shopping, haircuts and a quick bite.  Working moms are 13% more likely to have spent $2500+ on internet purchases, 10% more likely to do their banking online and they own almost every mobile device technology that allows them to shop.

•  Lunch hour shopping trends show 84% of moms shop 15 minutes or more a day at work.  And most of that shopping happens between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.  Some 43% of female workers say they did their holiday shopping online while at work, compared to only 35% of male workers.  Not surprisingly,  21% of back to school shopping happens online.  Woman shoppers use the time as a welcome break from their office routine and would rather shop online than go to a mall.

Some categories have benefitted from this trend.  Certainly online shopping of all kinds has prospered.  Retailers see rising traffic during the 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. period and some are creating two-hour “stop, drop and shop” promotions during that lunch window.  Grocery stores have embraced the trend with more “grab and go” lunch foods.  According to market researcher NPD Group, grocers have seen their lunchtime purchases of prepared food like sandwiches and salads jump by 28% since 2008.  And fast casual restaurants like Panera and Chipotle provide high quality food options with a lower time commitment.  There is also a trend to wanting snacks at all times to tide workers over to dinner time.

In the world of advertising and marketing, the three martini lunches were legend.  Gerald Ford said, “The three-martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a bellyful and a snootful at the same time?”  While some still remember those long lost “Mad Men” three martini lunches fondly, in retrospect, they seem indulgent and luxurious.  Time might have been the true luxury. Maybe those lunches were not very productive, but they did provide opportunity for marketers and clients to know each other better.  Maybe we have traded the martini for the macchiato, but that coffee with a client might be a great time to really talk, listen to each other and share ideas freely.  Cheers!





Marketing to Women: The Power of Storytelling from Kurt Vonnegut

April 21, 2014 § Leave a comment

Stories are the playbook for life.  Stories are the way we teach, the way we communicate, the way we entertain, and the way we impart value. Some marketers have known the value of story for many years.  Researchers tell us that a story is the only way to activate parts of the brain so that a listener turns the story into their own idea and experience.  Those of us who know the iconic J. Peterman catalogues read them for the mesmerizing value of their stories about where their exotic products were discovered and the effect of wearing their products.


Kurt Vonnegut, American Writer

Recently, as a literary & anthropological experiment, Rob Walker and Joshua Glenn decided to see if they could resell cheap knickknacks (avg. cost $1.25) on eBay and turn a significant profit by adding personal stories to the item descriptions.  Their hypothesis was that creative stories would increase the perceived value of each object and create an incremental profit on each item sold.  With the addition of colorful anecdotes, their $129 purchase of thrift store items was sold for nearly $8,000.

The Harvard Business Review reminded us of the power of the story as told by Kurt Vonnegut.  It seems that Vonnegut devoted his master’s thesis at the University of Chicago to studying the shapes of stories.  Vonnegut not only exhibits a great understanding of story, but is an entertaining storyteller.  He tells us there are basically three types of stories that we humans find irresistible.  The three stories are Boy Gets Girl, Man in Hole and Cinderella.  He tells his audience that the Cinderella story is “the most popular story in our Western civilization. Every time it’s retold somebody makes another million dollars. You’re welcome to do it.”

What you see in this short film is the endless fascination that the human mind has for story.  As marketers, we need to be students of Vonnegut and the story, and make all our marketing a powerful story for consumers.

Kevin Spacey and House of Cards Turning the Table on Television

March 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

1798649_677418562280913_577823994_nI am a fanatic about Kevin Spacey.  And House of Cards.  Just like Frank Underwood at the White House, Netflix is turning the table on television and teaching us all a little something about marketing.  And it is a pretty easy lesson really.  It’s looking at television as content and giving the audience what they want – control.

Watch this short video of Kevin Spacey talking in Edinburgh about the new way Netflix is viewing content.

Kevin Spacey reminds us of three important tenets of marketing today.

1.  The Customer Wants to Be In Control.  In February 14, the second season of House of Cards premiered on Netflix.  While Netflix doesn’t publish numbers, some estimate that as many as 16% of Netflix 30 million domestic viewers watched at least one episode on the premiere night, and some 25% of all Netflix viewers will watch season two when they choose to.  One-third viewers are engaging in what we call “binge watching”, watching more than one episode at a single sitting.  For marketers, we need to offer our products to our customers the way they want them, not how we want to deliver them.

2.  Content is Storytelling.  Spacey tells us that the audience is craving good stories.  Really good stories endure and your audience will always seek them out.  Make sure you are telling compelling stories about your brand.  Some of the brands that tell compelling stories are Toms, Starbucks, Nike, Allstate’s Mayhem, Chipotle, Nordstrom, and P&G Olympic Moms.  These stories capture our hearts and then our minds.

3.  Data is Our Guide.  Netflix users watch 2 billion hours of programming each month, and that immense data allows Netflix to determine the subscriber populations around genres, so they can predict a baseline audience.  They knew how many folks loved Kevin Spacey and how many loved the type of serial drama they were creating. That’s hugely different that the crap shoot that the networks use each year to determine whether a pilot will succeed.  Marketers now have access to data that can help them make important decisions about the type of content their audience desires.  That data, if analyzed, can help guide the storyline for your marketing.

And if you are wondering, yes, I have watched all 13 episodes of House of Cards.  And I know how it ends.  Let’s put it this way.  Frank and Netflix do alright.

Marketing Travel to Women: Traveling Solo and Loving It!

February 13, 2014 § 2 Comments

IMG_3281Paula Froelich, author of A Broad Abroad, knows quite a lot about traveling solo.  There are 32 million single women who traveled solo in the past year.  And when I say travel, I don’t mean going home to Mama’s or the beach.  Women are taking adventure vacations and going to exotic locales all over the world.  (Read Paula’s tips on why you should go to Egypt now.)

In fact, the average adventure traveler is not a male, but a 47-year-old female.  Fueling this travel trend is the growth in single women.  One third of all women are single “indies” - a new term for those over 27, not married, not living with a partner and without children.

So it is time for travel marketers to acknowledge this growing group of travelers.  These women are more educated, affluent, adventurous and curious about life.  They want real experiences that are intellectually stimulating.  And they would like the marketing to speak to them and their needs – not the happy empty nester couple or the nuclear family.

Read more in Paula’s great infographic.SOLO-TRAVEL-INFOGRAPHIC

Marketing to Women in 2014: Shopportunity!

January 5, 2014 § Leave a comment

The landscape is changing.  We tend to shop everywhere we go and the shopper’s path to purchase is changing radically.  There are many signs of the change.  Amazon is now providing grocery delivery in select metro areas.  Netflix is the darling of broadcast entertainment at the moment.  Online sales and show rooming are the norm for any selling season.  Just in time shopping is where it’s at.  And men are growing in importance in weekly shopping.

So here’s some Shopportunities for Marketers in 2014 based on the new Nielsen Category Shopping Fundamentals study exploring the varied mindsets of today’s U.S. shoppers when it comes to making purchases for their everyday needs.

Planned vs. Impulse Shopping.  Consumers plan to buy 72 percent of the category purchases that end up in their cart before they even head to the store.  When you need toilet paper, a prescription refill and dog food, it’s not an impulse buy.   However, that leaves 28% of purchases in the “shopportunity” category.  They are the impulse category.  Here’s a handy chart prepared by Nielsen.1385396054052

Men Shopping More Often.  Men just shop differently than women – they are less about the shopping experience.  Men tend to shop functionally, planning purchases based on replenishment. They are less likely to focus on traditional promotions and coupons, which are effective with female shoppers.  So the marketer’s job is to remind the male shopper he needs to replenish supplies. It seems that men also tend to pay more attention to in-store marketing intended to inform or attract purchases.  It’s true in our household.  I bet it is in yours as well.

Millennials Love Coupons.  Millennials have been caught in a decade long budget squeeze.  They are 1.6x more likely to be influenced by a coupon.  The way offers are delivered are different.  Millennials are looking online, taking advantage of loyalty groups and checking in with social sites like Foursquare to see if they are eligible for a coupon.  And because the millennial is more open to new products, a coupon or promotional offer is a great way to invite trial.

Buying Loyalty.  Some 82 percent of North Americans find money-saving deals worthy of their participation in loyalty groups.   Beyond lower prices, respondents favored enhanced customer service (44%) and free shipping incentives (42%).  Free shipping incentives are important to 46 percent.

Hispanic Shopping Influence Growing.  Hispanics compose nearly 17 percent of the United States population and are among the nation’s fastest-growing demographic groups, according to the Census Bureau.  And Hispanic buying power is creeping skyward as well.  For instance, they do more grocery shopping than the average US consumer and they spend 20% more on routine trips. All this has made the Latino consumer extremely attractive.  But one size marketing does not fit all.  There are nuances that make it important to know your Hispanic market which will change by store and by region.  Kmart and RoomsToGo are both using Sofia Vergara, star of the popular television show “Modern Family”, because she is one of the few that is authentically Latin American and part of mainstream culture.  In addition, while Hispanics have traditionally been more price conscious, they can also be very brand loyal, and marketers need to know the facts.

Price Checking and Private Label.  Shoppers are 40% more likely to price check when buying private label.  U.S. shoppers do less price checking in-store and more coupon consideration pre-store when purchasing branded products, probably because of the preference and higher value of brands.  However, private label is open to more price shopping.

Marketing to Women: 3 Hours at Doctor vs. 52 Hours Online

October 14, 2013 § Leave a comment

New research says that the average consumer visits the doctor three times a year but spends some 52 hours a year researching health information online annually.

Insurance-Pills-Computer-300-00256C58The average number of physician office visits per person is 3.19x.  Since most physicians actually spend only 15 minutes per patient, there is a role for other healthcare efforts to expand the physician experience through other efforts such as email, telephone care and even group visits.  According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, 63% of women want a relationship with a doctor that knows their medical history.

Marketing healthcare is really marketing to women.

Learning the behavior of women in these situations is important because women make the primary healthcare decisions in 2/3 of households.

  • Some 59% of prescriptions are ordered by women.
  • Women spend 80% of all dollars in a drugstore.
  • 60% of all doctors appointments are made by women for the household.
  • More than one in ten care for a sick relative or parent.

While many online search occasions are prompted by physician diagnosis, it certainly means that consumers are not getting adequate information from their healthcare provider.

The research, conducted by Makovsky Health and Kelton among Americans aged 18 and older, was focused on behavior related to healthcare and prescriptions.   We tend to go to pharma-related websites when we are experiencing symptoms (16%), after receiving a diagnosis (51%) and before filling a new prescription (23%).

Some 24% of consumers use at least one or a combination of social media channels (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and blogs) to access healthcare information.

The most accessed online resources are:

  • WebMD – 53%
  • Wikipedia – 22%
  • Health Magazine Websites – 19%
  • Advocacy Group Websites – 16%
  • YouTube – 10%
  • Facebook – 10%
  • Blogs – 10%
  • Pharmaceutical Websites – 9%

Contrary to their search for health information, 33 percent of consumers have spent less than an hour researching information on the Affordable Care Act.

Marketing to Women: The Female Shopping Brain

October 8, 2013 § Leave a comment

male-female-brain-300x183The difference between male and female brains has long been acknowledged by most of us.  But now there seems to be scientific truth to the idea.

Women are hardwired to shop – a desire to provide for our families that might be traced to the earliest hunter-gatherer times.  So maybe we aren’t looking for soft buffalo pelts, mastodon meat and twigs for fires.  But for retailers to appeal to women, advertising and marketing need to resonate with the female shopper.

Nielsen NeuroFocus research has found that the female brain is hard-wired with evolutionary patterns that create a very unique shopper whose purchasing prowess has never been stronger.

Research from Nielsen NeuroFocus tells us that women’s brains are designed for:

  • Big-picture thinking
  • Multitasking
  • “Gut” reasoning
  • Social and verbal skills
  • Worry/empathy

 But men’s brains are hardwired differently for:

  • Concrete thinking
  • Goal-oriented tasks
  • Logical solutions
  • Competition/defense

Getting a woman’s attention is the first step toward intent and brand loyalty.

Second women must retain the information we are providing.  Women remember more and differently than men do, so marketers must talk to both her emotional and rational sides and acknowledge her attention to detail.   The combination of emotional decision-making opportunities and rational information increase purchase intent and have strong “sticking” power.

We women have better memory for detailed information than do men, while men tend to have better spatial ability and the ability to build systems. This means that marketers need to get product design, packaging, pricing, branding, messaging and more in sync with how the female subconscious mind receives and processes information, and directs behavior.

According to Nielsen NeuroFocus, the female brain is programmed to maintain social harmony, so messaging should be positive and not focus on negative comparisons or associations.


Marketing to Millennials: Only 6% Trust Online Advertising

October 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

Do you know how to connect with the Millennial Generation?  Does your Marketing to Women include Marketing to Millennial Women?

Marketing to millennials is not about the cleverness of an ad or even it’s placement. Millennials are a different generation of consumer.  They are projected to spend $10 trillion in their lifetimes and are the first to grow up in a truly digital age. There are an estimated 79 million millennials in the US versus a mere 48 million Gen Xers. Their purchasing power is second only to boomers.  Millennials are most often defined as those born between 1980 and 2000.

Millennials Not in Love with Advertising

539672_10101729119327835_966531619_nThis is not the Pepsi Generation.  This young generation doesn’t define itself through advertising.  They like to discover things for themselves.  Most importantly, they are a generation truly wary of advertising.  A recent study from SocialChorus shows that only 6% of millennials find online advertising to be credible.  They are also not excited about Facebook’s attempt to incorporate advertising into timelines;  67 percent of them never click on sponsored stories.

In order to connect with a millennial, you need to best understand how they make decisions.  Studies showed that 95% of millennials find their friends to be the most credible source on a product, followed by their parents and online experts.  Furthermore, 98% of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post than a brand’s post on a social media site.

Engaging millennials in the arenas of their life is crucial in order to have them listen to and actually hear your message.  Using mobile content, but not mobile advertising is an effective way of connecting with this generation.  Whether it is having them create their own content, follow a hashtag, or play a game, interactive marketing is an effective way to connect them with your product or message.

Marketing has to work in concert with their consumer experience.

Don’t say you have the world’s best pool at your resort if it is 25 years old but has a rocking bar scene.  Tell the truth that can be substantiated by peer groups.  The time of over promise is over because peer reviews like TripAdvisor will tell the whole truth of an experience.  And that is true with almost every brand in existence.  I love an article from Forbes  that states:  To Be Great, Understate.

What are some brands that are successful with marketing to this group?  Kia, Toms and Target are all good examples.  Kia has their music and their sense of fun.  Toms relates to their need for social responsibility.  And Target has a little fun play on fashion – using name designers like Phillip Lim to make affordable fashion which matches their pocketbook.

However, in order for your strategy to be truly successful, your brand and product must be one worth talking about.  While a great quality product or service is important, having a socially responsible company is equally as important to this generation.  To truly connect, meet them where they are, have them interact and listen, and be a company worth listening to.


Marketing to Women: Pickups Drive Girls Crazy!

July 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Pickups drive girls crazy!  Okay, we like guys with pickups too.  But really, how are we going to haul around all those important things in our life if we don’t have a pickup?  It appears that some women are beginning to buy their own.

Recently, while doing research for a new campaign, Chevrolet discovered that 15% of truck buyers are female and an even larger number borrow their husband’s trucks.  They should not have been surprised.  Women buy more than half of the new vehicles in the U.S. and influence up to 80% of all purchases.

Typically truck commercials feature some dust coated man hoisting large items into the back of his pickup.  This same concept can be found in commercials for all makes and models, including Chevy.  To get away from this cliché, the new Silverado advertisement features a rodeo scene in which a woman loads her truck for the competition.  The voiceover says, “A woman, her truck, and a 1200-pound passenger…and a ribbon that goes on her wall, not in her hair.”  Strong imagery to make a point!  Men are not the only truck drivers out there.

I love this spot because it speaks to my Texas soul, where women are industrious, ingenious and independent, and where the love affair with the horse is still strong.

According to Tim Mahoney, CMO for Chevrolet, that is exactly what point they are trying to get across:  “A vital part of telling a more multi-dimensional story about pickup owners was to shine the light on pickup women, people who inspire our owners for the same reasons and in very similar ways as men do.”

During the research they asked the pickup guys who their heroes were and most were family members, many women.  What better way to reach the men’s hearts than feature one.  So not only do these commercials speak to and for the women, but they also identify with the men—which is of course the largest truck buying group.  A double whammy for Chevrolet!

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