The Internet Marketing Driver: Glenn Gabe's goal is to help marketers build powerful and measurable web marketing strategies.

Tuesday, April 6th, 2010

Rethinking Your Viral Marketing Strategy: Why Building a Solid Online Marketing Foundation Should be Your First Priority, Not A Funny Video


There are times companies hire me to evaluate their online marketing strategies. Essentially, they want to better understand the potential impact of their efforts and if there are any holes in the strategy at hand. When an idea for a viral marketing campaign crosses my desk, the first thing I like to do is gain access to the company’s web analytics package and start analyzing site performance. Based on the hit or miss nature of viral marketing, my hope is that I immediately see a consistent level of quality traffic (based on conversion) from a number of traffic sources. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case and it’s the first red flag. Then, since viral marketing campaigns usually need a kick-start, I review how strong of a presence the company has on various social networks. Again, my hope is to see a solid presence and strong engagement via blogging, Facebook, Twitter, etc. Once again, that’s not always the case and could be extremely problematic for the company I’m helping. Based on what I explained above, here’s a question to think about (and one I’ll address in the rest of the post):

Continue reading this post>

Say Cheese Please - How The Right Marketing Campaign About Lactose Intolerance Could Add $1.8 Billion To The Cheese Industry Annually


Marketing lactose free cheese in the United States.Hi. My name is Glenn Gabe and I’m lactose intolerant. That’s right, me and about 40 million other Americans. Although it’s not the worst thing that can happen to you, it’s definitely a bit of a downer. I was 32 when I figured out that I was lactose intolerant, and that’s also when I learned how much of a nuisance it was to exclude certain foods from my diet. And those foods were some of my favorite things to eat, including milk, cheese, pizza, ice cream, to just name a few. Cheese, in particular, is in so many foods and meals that you eat on a regular basis, that it’s almost impossible to avoid. Now, that’s assuming that I really do have to avoid cheese. More on that shortly.

What is Lactose Intolerance?
For those of you not that familiar with lactose intolerance, here’s a quick rundown. Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Lactase is the enzyme that your body produces to break down lactose. Lactose intolerant people don’t produce enough lactase to break down the lactose they ingest. And if it’s not broken down, it causes problems (to varying degrees). For most people the symptoms aren’t horrible, but can be more of an annoyance. Since milk is a core ingredient of cheese, you would think that cheese would cause serious problems for lactose intolerant people. Not so fast...

Cabot is Sharp (And I Mean Smart)
I was making lunch about a month ago when it happened. I’m typically stuck using some flimsy science cheese for my sandwiches or choosing from the anemic selection of lactose free cheeses available. That day my wife ended up taking out her favorite cheese, which is Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar. By the way, that’s like dangling a gourmet sandwich in front of a person that’s been stranded on an island for 5 years. :) After a quick glance at the cheese, I wiped the drool from my face and went back to my science project, I mean lunch. That was until my wife glanced at the side of the Cabot packaging. She noticed a small message on the side of the package that read “Lactose FREE”. Huh? I dropped my sandwich on the floor and ran over. Was this a mistake? Are they messing with me? I checked to make sure I wasn’t being punk’d and then I started doing some research.

Cabot's Packaging Promotes Lactose Free Cheese:
Cabot Labeling Showing Lactose Free Cheese.

After doing some searches, I couldn’t believe what I was reading… It ends up that MOST aged cheeses are lactose free. From what I gather, the aging process yields cheese with either very low amounts of lactose or 0 grams of lactose. That includes cheddar, swiss, romano, provolone, etc. Needless to say, I was ridiculously excited. I’m not sure if all the cheeses listed have 0 grams of lactose, but most have such a low amount that they cause no problems for lactose intolerant people.

Where Were The Cheese Companies?
Then it hit me…why in the world aren’t cheese companies promoting this? Is there some reason they don’t want people to buy more of their cheese? Why didn’t I know about this? And why doesn’t the greater lactose intolerant community know more about this? I know quite a few people that are lactose intolerant, and I’m convinced that few of them actually know what they can and cannot eat! While doing my research, most of the search results were to forums and question and answer sites where people like me were asking questions about lactose free foods. Almost none of the major players in cheese ranked for the topic. Finlandia did have a page about how its cheeses were naturally lactose free, which is great, but I think more needs to be done…

The Revenue Implications of Smart Marketing
I couldn’t help but think of the massive revenue impact of effectively promoting this message to targeted people. How could cheese marketers get the word out via a number of channels?

A Target Market of 40 million lactose intolerant people…
I don’t know about you, but a target market of between 30 and 50 million lactose intolerant people provides a pretty darn good opportunity. And the fact that many of those people are dying to eat the foods they once loved (like cheese) makes it even a stronger opportunity. If cheese manufacturers or the cheese industry, decided to launch a thorough marketing and education campaign, I can only think they would strike gold. Simply getting the word out that most cheeses are low in lactose, and many are lactose free, could be a windfall for the cheese industry. There’s actually nothing to sell… your target market wants to eat cheese. They just can’t eat it (or so they think). A well-crafted campaign combining TV, Viral Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Search Marketing, Blogger Outreach, etc. could be huge for the cheese industry. It could be a cheese extravaganza!

Here’s an example of how simple it could be given the desperate eating state of most lactose intolerant people are. Jim and Laura work together:

Jim: Hey Laura, you can’t eat cheese, right?
Laura: Yes, unfortunately I’m lactose intolerant… Are you rubbing it in?
Jim: No, I just saw a video on YouTube explaining that most cheeses are low in lactose and many have no lactose at all… You should check it out.
Laura: WHAT?? Get out of my way! {She tackles Jim to get at his computer, clicks play on YouTube and shoots out the door to the store to buy 16 blocks of aged cheese.}

Revenue Lift: Now That’s A Lot of Cheddar
Let’s do the math. If you reached even 25% of lactose intolerant people in the United States, and they ended up spending an additional $15 per month on cheese, then you are looking at a lift of $1.8 billion per year. That’s a lot of cheddar, pun intended. :)

40 million lactose intolerant people in the US
25% = 10 million people
10 million x $15 per month = $150 million per month
$150 million per month x 12 months = $1.8 billion per year in additional revenue

Moving Forward
If I ran marketing for a cheese company and I was looking for ways to increase revenue, I would launch a killer campaign that engages the lactose intolerant market. Why try and get a .5% lift from the people who already buy and eat cheese when you can get a much greater lift from people that are dying to eat cheese, but just THINK that they can’t.

Now that would be sharp. :)

GG

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Killer Content, A Loyal Community, The Twitter Effect, and Its Impact on SEO


How the social web, great content, and seo all work together.
How's that for a title? I witnessed a pretty amazing thing last week from an online marketing perspective. I love finding dynamic examples of how the social web works, especially when it unfolds right in front of your eyes over just a few hours. What I experienced last week was an outstanding example of how great content, a loyal following, respect in the industry, and SEO all tie together. It's kind of like the perfect storm, but in a good way.

Organic Linkbuilding
First, I'm a believer that your best linkbuilding comes naturally. If you create killer content that provides value to your readers and visitors, you often will end up generating high quality links. In my experience, I've seen a direct relationship between the time and care you take to create content and the impact that content has from a linkbuilding standpoint. For example, I've developed content that took a relatively long time to create (days to write and sometimes weeks to research), but based on the popularity of that content, the buzz it generated, the targeted traffic, and subsequent inbound links, it was well worth the time. Compare that to content developed or written quickly, with little or no thought put in, provides little value, and subsequently has no impact. It makes a lot of sense if you think about it. Are you going to link to a quick post that provides no value and no original content? Probably not, right? But you might link to a post that greatly helps your efforts (for whatever you are trying to achieve).

How it Unfolded
So let's get back to what happened last week? Here's the deal. I watched an editor break a story on a website (providing killer content), I saw that content go viral on Twitter (due to a loyal following), then it got picked up by a popular industry website (due to respect in the industry), and then I saw that content go on to generate over 22,000 inbound links in a matter of days. I saw how the content ranked in just hours in Google (due to Query Deserves Freshness QDF), and then how it ended up ranking for dozens of competitive keywords in a short period of time. That's darn powerful.

Let's break down what happened and its impact:

1. Content
The content was great (a scoop), and probably wasn't easy to come by. But providing valuable content (in this case breaking news), is only part of the equation. That news could have easily led to little traffic, no links, and no rankings, right? Everyone has heard about sites getting their scoops ripped off. That's a good segue...

2. Loyal Community
Enter the next important part of the equation. If you're publishing to a black hole, who cares about what you write. But, if you've built up a serious following, earned respect, and engage your community, then amazing things can happen. In this case, community members starting tweeting, then retweeting, and more retweeting. You get the picture. I scrolled through pages and pages of tweets linking to the story. For people that think Twitter provides no value, please read this section again. :)

3. Respect in the Industry
Ah, the point at which things can take a different path. What happens if people try to steal your scoop? For example, they find out the breaking news from you and then post their own version of it, essentially watering down your impact. I don't care who you are, that's a horrible feeling and happens more than you think. But, if you've gained the respect of your peers (even beyond your community), you might see an interesting effect, like what I saw last week. A major industry website wrote an article about the breaking news and linked to the scoop I mentioned earlier. A “hat tip”, so to speak. That hat tip ended up being the top referring source for a few days. Again, powerful (and a great link for SEO too.)

4. SEO Power
The culmination of what I listed above was 22,588 inbound links, including links from some powerful websites in the industry. Inbound links are the lifeblood of SEO, so gaining thousands of them from relevant and powerful sites is a good thing. :) This article generated quality links, and a lot of them. This resulted in top rankings for competitive keywords around the subject matter. Right now, the site ranks for dozens of keywords related to the subject of the article. And, that was after just a few days.

Also, I mentioned Query Deserves Freshness (QDF) earlier. That's a part of Google's algorithm that determines when a query requests information about breaking news and which listings to provide that reference the breaking news. Google determines this by monitoring the activity around a given subject. The content Google provides in the SERPs may be new blog posts or stories from trusted sites that don't have any inbound links yet (or are in the process of increasing inbound links). The site I was monitoring is definitely a trusted site in the industry, and benefited from QDF. In case you want to learn more, Rand Fishkin from SEOmoz provides a video explaining the ins and outs of QDF. As usual, Rand does a great job explaining how it works.

Let's summarize what happened:
So, after just a few days the article ended up being one of the most popular pages traffic-wise, it generated quality visitors, and incredible rankings in organic search. It's a great example of how the social web works and its connection to SEO. A quick side note, the page wasn't perfectly optimized for SEO, but it still ranks like mad. I think it shows which SEO factors are most important, right? (cough, quality inbound links) I can only imagine what the page would rank for if it was well optimized! :)

So, have you witnessed something like this? I'd love to hear your thoughts!

GG

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Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Domino’s YouTube Video and the Ripple Effect on Fast Food Restaurants


The infamous Domino's YouTube video and its impact on fast food.My guess is that you’ve heard about the appalling Domino's YouTube video by now. It’s the one featuring two employees performing some disgusting acts to ingredients as they prepare orders for customers. For example, one employee sticks pieces of cheese up his nose while making a sandwich with that very cheese. And if you watch the video, it only goes downhill from there. The employees then decided to upload the video to YouTube for the entire world to see. You know, because nobody visits YouTube, so they probably wouldn't get in trouble, right? :) The videos (which I won’t link to from this post) went viral, which ignited a PR firestorm for Domino’s on a massive scale. Patrick Doyle, the President of Domino’s, released his own YouTube video explaining more about the situation, but the damage had been done. The two employees have been charged with felonies for food tampering, and I believe Domino’s is considering filing a civil suit against them (although what could you really get other than a moral victory.)

I've been asked at least one hundred times over the past few weeks what I think the impact will be on the Domino's brand? Will the incident impact sales? How long before people forget about it? Is it already over? These are all great questions, but I unfortunately don't have a crystal ball. That said, you don't have a to be a Harvard MBA to know this will impact sales, it has tarnished the brand, and it will ultimately lead to poor business results (at least in the short term). And yes, this was all done by two people (jerks) who are now learning a hard lesson...but unfortunately at the expense of Domino's.

Becoming Part of the Domino’s Case Study
Let’s see how an incident like this really impacts a brand and a business. It's one thing to project how this will impact sales, the brand, etc. and it's another thing to become part of the case study. Last Thursday I ended up taking a later train home from New York and knew I wouldn’t have much time to make dinner. As I was ready to get off my train, I decided that I would quickly pick something up on my way home. I got off the train and knew there were a few fast food restaurants right by the train station. This is where it got interesting.

As recently as a few weeks ago, I would have no problem making a quick stop at one of the fast food restaurants to pick up some dinner. But this time was different. The first thought that hit me was of the two Domino’s employees messing with the food they were preparing. I feel horrible saying that, but that image was simply the first thing that came to mind. I could not for the life of me get that image out of my head. As I walked to my car, I couldn’t get over it. That's when I pulled out my Blackberry and ended up ordering a much more expensive dinner from a restaurant in my area (even though I knew that I would have to wait 20-30 minutes to pick it up.) Yes, I decided to spend four times the amount of money and wait an extra 20-30 minutes in order to avoid fast food restaurants. As I waited for my food at the restaurant, I started to think about how many other people this might have happened to. How many people were about to order from Domino’s, stop off at Taco Bell, visit a Burger King, and then thought of the infamous Domino’s YouTube video? How much revenue has Domino’s lost? And beyond Domino’s, how much revenue is being lost by the fast food category based on what happened? I believe there is a ripple effect from the Domino’s incident.

Could It Happen Anywhere?
Listen, I'm not naive enough to think that more expensive restaurants are free from food tampering. But, I did work in restaurants growing up and I know what an Executive Chef is like... Most are fanatical about their kitchen and their reputation. They run a tight ship and would probably physically harm anyone on their staff that pulled the sort of stunt that the two Domino’s employees pulled. So, when I thought about where to buy my dinner, I went with the higher end restaurant with the Executive Chef who would saute any person who thinks it’s funny to stick cheese up his nose and use it while preparing a dinner (or worse). I’m sorry Domino’s, I really am, but I'm not sure I can get over this so quickly...

How Many Glenn's Are Out There And How Much Money Is Being Lost?
Let’s say there were 50,000 people in the United States like me who decided to bypass fast food restaurants for lunch or dinner. Next, let’s estimate that they would have spent ~$25 per month. That’s probably a few meals at a fast food restaurant.

50,000 people x $25 per month x 12 months would be $15 million in lost revenue per year.

That’s a lot of dough, no pun intended. So the two ex-Domino’s employees could be responsible for approximately $15 million dollars in lost revenue annually. And that doesn’t take into account the damage to the brand… Amazing, isn’t it?

In closing, I feel horrible for Domino’s. They don’t deserve this. In addition, I’m not sure their competitors are benefiting either… If there are others like me, and I’m sure there are, they are running for the hills when thinking about fast food. Personally, I’d rather dish out more money and wait on longer lines to ensure I have an Executive Chef overseeing the preparation of my dinner. How about you?

Post a quick comment below and let me know.

GG

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Sunday, January 25, 2009

From Positive to Negative Word of Mouth (WOM) in 10 Minutes on a Saturday Morning, Windsor Cleaners vs. Jiffy Lube


Positive and Negative Word of Mouth (WOM)Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) is undeniably powerful. I’ve written about the power of WOM in the past (Boar's Head, Pabst Blue Ribbon, etc.) and I still believe that organic word of mouth is one of the most powerful ways to grow your business. And that's especially true for small businesses. Well, a few weeks ago I was able to see an example of how one business could foster positive WOM and then how another company could generate negative WOM, and all in 10 minutes on a Saturday morning. Yes, I keep a keen eye out for things like this, but it was amazing to see how I could feel so good about one company and then so bad about another in such as short period of time! After I got home that Saturday morning, I started to think about my two experiences and wanted to share them here. I’ll break down both experiences and then give you some questions to think about regarding your own company or business.

Experience 1: Fostering Positive WOM
I’ve been going to Windsor Cleaners in Princeton, NJ for a number of years now. I'll start with some some basic reasons why I go there. First, they provide an outstanding service. I know, a novel idea, right? Providing a great product or service is obviously the foundation for generating positive WOM. Next, they provide excellent customer service. Third, they go the proverbial extra mile for their customers (which is more than just providing excellent customer service and you'll read more about this below). So for me, Windsor Cleaners is starting with a solid foundation. In all the years I’ve been taking my clothes there, I have never left unhappy. In addition, they know me as soon as I walk in the door, entering my account number in their system without me having to say a single digit. I like that. I also typically bring my kids with me when dropping off my clothes, and the employees at Windsor Cleaners are always great with them. And you can tell it’s genuine, and not the BS, “oh how cute” that you hear from some people. So in a nutshell, they provide a great dry cleaning service and provide excellent customer service. Now for my Saturday morning story.

A few weeks ago, I walked in holding my 2 year old son in one arm, a pile of clothes in another arm, and I was in a hurry. I also brought in one of my winter jackets during this drop off, and I quickly checked my pockets to make sure I wasn’t forgetting anything. I received my ticket, said goodbye and was on my way. I ended up taking my son to another store in the same shopping center as Windsor Cleaners. So I’m on line in the store and someone taps my shoulder. It’s one of the women from Windsor Cleaners holding my $225 pair of sunglasses. I must have left them in my coat. The woman from Windsor Cleaners tracked me down (without knowing where I was going) to make sure I had my sunglasses. That’s awesome. How easy would it be for her to just put them aside and wait for me to come in next week? Or worse, how easy would it be for someone to just take them, right? The people at Windsor Cleaners never would, but I can’t say that for everyone in this world… This was a great example of a small business going the extra mile and fostering positive word of mouth.

The Positive Impact on Windsor Cleaners
In my opinion, Windsor Cleaners is doing everything right as a small business. They provide an excellent dry cleaning service, they are nice to their customers, their employees seem happy, and they go the extra mile for their customers. Why wouldn’t you like them?? By the way, they aren’t the least expensive dry cleaning business in my area. But I don’t care. It would take a lot to get me to stop going to Windsor Cleaners… And as I’ve said in previous posts, I’m a WOM machine. If I like something, you can’t shut me up about it. I blog about it, tell people at work, tell my friends and family, etc. So, you bet I tell people about Windsor Cleaners. It’s easy… I want them to succeed.

--Next Stop, Jiffy Lube For An Oil Change (Just 5 minutes down the road.)--

Experience 2: Creating Negative Word of Mouth
I pulled into Jiffy Lube to simply get a fast oil change and be on my way. I got out of my car and entered the building, and then waited for someone to check my car. It wasn’t long before I heard, “Mr. Gabe, please follow me.” and that’s when my stomach turned… I’ll stop for a second and ask you if you already know what I’m referring to? I bet some of you do… Actually, I know some of you do (more on that soon).

Are you ready for a Jiffy sales pitch?
And the game begins… I’m holding my 2 year old son and I follow the person from Jiffy Lube out to my car. Now I’m in front of a monitor in the middle of Jiffy Lube’s garage. How nice. :) In a matter of seconds, you are being pitched all sorts of products and services for your car, from the infamous air filter, maybe a cabin filter, something about your fuel injectors, and then some type of engine flush. Really?? First of all, if I was to have something like that done, it probably wouldn’t be at Jiffy Lube. They rush you through the process, hoping for the uncomfortable, “ok, I guess so”. They pull out your air filter to show you how “dirty” it is, and push you just hard enough that you feel like you’re being swindled. I hate that feeling, and I hate their process. They point to the monitor and show you some data about how your car hasn’t gotten this in six months or how you haven’t done that in one year. And of course they don’t tell you pricing while taking you through all that’s wrong with your vehicle. You actually have to ask for pricing (if you’re even lucky enough to retain half of what they threw your way.) I hear this pitch every time I get my oil changed, and to be honest, I'm tired of it.

Forcing Customers Through This Process Is Not Good For Jiffy Lube…
The process I just explained above is where Jiffy Lube goes wrong. I don’t feel confident that I need most of what they are pitching. Do I need some of it? Probably so, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t trust them. I don’t know if I’ve ever witnessed a process that makes me feel so negative, so quickly. Then you’re forced into the awkward situation of declining what they just rattled off, and it’s even a little embarrassing. I can’t imagine that anyone at Jiffy Lube would want it to go down this way. Do you?

Breaking This Down Marketing-Wise
Does Jiffy Lube provide a good oil change service? I think so. I’ve never really had a problem. Their pricing is ok and their employees are generally nice. But, I don’t get a good feeling about going to Jiffy Lube. I think it all comes down to the cheesy sales pitch you get every time you bring your car in… Does anyone in marketing at Jiffy Lube understand how this impacts their brand? I don’t feel loyal to Jiffy Lube. Actually, I could go somewhere else for an oil change 3000 miles from now and not even give it a second thought. By the way, if you’re thinking that an additional air filter can’t generate a lot of revenue, you’re wrong. Start doing the math based on how many locations they have any how many estimated customers get oil changes each day. It sure adds up, but at what long term cost to the company? Jiffy Lube might have generated an extra $20 this time, but what if they lose my business forever? That would be thousands of dollars that Jiffy Lube would stand to lose (and just from one customer).

So Jiffy Lube, please stop the madness. Go visit your locations and see what goes on. I’ll guarantee that you’ll want to change how the process works. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t make sure people have the right information and get the right products or services, but there has to be a better way to do it without making people feel like they are being ripped off. Actually, go to Windsor Cleaners and see how they treat their customers. :)

The Power of the Web Tells Me That…
I’m not the only one that feels this way. I found out that many others feel the same exact way. I tweeted about my last experience on Twitter and received some quick replies and direct messages from others that don’t like the process either. It’s funny, I didn’t mention what was pitched and their messages all revolved around the air filter sales pitch! I found that interesting…so I started doing some Google searches. That’s when I found this, this, and this. Oh yeah, and this, this, and this. Uh, an entire site dedicated to Jiffy Lube problems and it ranks #1 for jiffy lube air filter? (see screenshot below) And there were dozens of more listings too. By the way, enter Jiffy Lube Air Filter in Google Blog Search. You’ll find some interesting stories.

Search for Jiffy Lube Air Filter on Google

Let me tell you, if I worked at Jiffy Lube, this would be one of the first things I fixed. They seriously need a Customer Service Czar, and now. Someone who comes in with guns blazing and fixes this problem. The power of WOM is undeniable, but the fact that Jiffy Lube has a reputation management problem is also undeniable. It actually makes me wonder what’s getting in the way of fixing the problem… So, the next time you hear a pitch for an air filter at Jiffy Lube, think twice. Maybe you need it, but maybe you don’t.

Think About Your Business…
Is there any part of your business that actually annoys your customers? Do you help generate negative word of mouth? Take a hard look at all your customer touch points, ask your customers for real feedback, and change anything that can be generating negative word of mouth NOW.
So I think it's clear that Jiffy Lube can learn a lot from Windsor Cleaners about customer service. But more importantly, how much can you learn from them?

GG

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Pabst Blue Ribbon and Negative Brand Perception, How Word of Mouth (WOM) and Brand Evangelists Can Impact Your Business


Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer (PBR) and Brand Evangelists.As we lead up to Labor Day, and all the barbecues that go along with it, I thought it would be fitting to write a post about beer. That’s right, beer and barbecues. I don’t really drink much, but I feel like having a burger at a barbecue sometimes requires a beer. ;-) A few weeks ago, we had some of our friends over for a barbecue. One of my friends, Chris Sullivan, walked in and I noticed he had brought a mini cooler with some beer. As we started the festivities, Chris asked if I wanted a beer. “Sure, I said, what do you have?” He took out a Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR) and handed it to me. --I’ll pause my story here for a second.-- Pabst Blue Ribbon? Are you serious? Did I time warp back to college? Are we stocking a fraternity party? Seriously, I was not ready to hear that brand! Then it hit me…Chris knows his alcohol. He’s a connoisseur of beer and wine. Could Chris be on to something?? Back to the story. I looked at Chris grabbing the red, white and blue can of PBR, and I asked, “Is this good?” Chris didn’t even pause. “It’s the best value on the beer market”. It’s an outstanding beer and it’s only $6 for a 12 pack. “OK, Chris, I’ll give it a shot. “ I took a drink of PBR and let me tell you, it was good. No, it was darn good! As I thought, Chris knew his stuff. Then we spent the next 10 or 15 minutes talking about Pabst Blue Ribbon, the awards it has one, how long it’s been around, etc. I also brought one over to my wife. She loved it too. And, as I looked at the 12 packs that had cost me $15 each sitting on the sidelines of our party, I couldn’t help but think that PBR may be the greatest barbecue find on the face of the earth. Yes, a bit dramatic, but I was blown away.

WOM and Brand Evangelists
Let me dissect this Word of Mouth Marketing experience for you and for Pabst Brewing Company. First, they obviously have a brand perception problem. Both my wife and I laughed when PBR was mentioned, but we ended up loving the product. So how can PBR (or any company for that matter) overcome a negative brand perception? I believe that loyal customers are part of the answer. Chris is a brand evangelist and clearly communicated the benefits of the product. In addition, Chris is a trusted source of information. It’s not like he rolled up to my house by chance, right? So, how can PBR foster Word of Mouth Marketing with the Chris’s of the world? That’s the key. I don’t think advertising would cut it for me. I would have laughed while watching a commercial, hearing a radio jingle, or being bombarded with display advertising. But Chris got through. If I were PBR, I would reach out to brand evangelists and empower them. Maybe they can set up a dedicated WOM program, empower their brand evangelists, recognize them publicly, and harness what every company is trying to harness, Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM). Seriously, it could be the most cost effective campaign they ever launched and could generate high value customers. That’s a nice segue to my next point. ;-)

PBR and Me, Second Generation WOM
How did Chris’s first generation WOM impact PBR? Well, now I won't shut up about Pabst Blue Ribbon. I’ve told dozens of people about it already, including my father in law, my brother in law, my friends and coworkers, and even random people buying beer. I’m serious, I think it’s a shame that most people don’t know how good PBR is! So, between me and Chris, PBR has 2 brand evangelists that are spreading the word like wildfire. Imagine if PBR had 100, 500, or 1000 evangelists like Chris spreading the word. Link in a PBR ambassadorship program and they’ve got themselves a serious WOM campaign. PBR, if you are listening, act on this…and fast. As a marketer, I’d be shocked if you couldn’t increase revenue significantly if you launched a program like this. Why? Because you have an outstanding product and most people don’t know it’s that good. Your brand needs help.

Help Educate Others About Your Brand
To summarize, if your product has a brand perception problem, and you truly believe that you have a great product, tap into your loyal customer base for help. My guess is that they will be happy to help you. Sure, you should structure a WOM program, but the benefits should greatly outweigh any cost involved. And, the beauty of brand evangelists is that they don’t go away when your advertising spend goes away (like paid search, tv advertising, display advertising, etc.) Chris is a powerful force of WOM for PBR, but I ask you…how many Chris’s are out there waiting to be unleashed on their respective communities? In marketing terms, it’s low cost, high value communications, with high impact results. Why wouldn’t you try this?

Now go out there and try some PBR during your Labor Day picnics! You won’t be disappointed. Feel free to come back to this post and let me know what you think of the beer. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Glenn Gabe
PBR Brand Evangelist
pbr-power@gsqi.com
1-888-PBR-POWER (ok, I’m kidding with the phone number, but the email address works!) :-)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What the Fudge?? Survival Tips for Entering The Original Fudge Kitchen at the Jersey Shore


Surviving the Original Fudge Kitchen in Cape May, NJEvery year, my family goes to the Jersey Shore for a week. We typically go to Cape May, Avalon or Stone Harbor and we always have a blast. My kids love the beach and it’s something of a tradition for us, since we’ve been going for over 10 years now. One of the things we always look forward to is hitting the Original Fudge Kitchen in the heart of Cape May for some of the best homemade fudge you can find in the Northeast. If you know the Jersey Shore, then you’ve probably heard of the Fudge Kitchen. They’ve been featured on the Food Network, have stores in several locations at the beach, and produce an outstanding product that’s hard to rival. That said, there is a slight problem… Although they produce some of the best fudge, I dread having to walk into their shops. Why you ask? Well, they tend to frustrate their customers beyond belief. If you’re a frequent visitor to my blog, then you know I believe in trending. Well, there are several tactics that the Fudge Kitchen has employed over a long period of time that can only be categorized as fostering negative word of mouth. It’s quite ironic, since their product is so darn good!

Survival Tips for Entering The Fudge Kitchen
Consider me your Jersey Shore Survival Guide. I’m here to help you, or any other person for that matter, that decides to visit the Jersey Shore and buy fudge at the Fudge Kitchen. I’m going to give you some tips that can help make your visit to the Fudge Kitchen a more pleasant experience, while helping you keep you sanity on your vacation! :)

Let’s start with the 5 things you need to say as soon as you walk through the door of a Fudge Kitchen. You’ll learn more about why after reading the rest of my post.

1. No, I don’t want a sample.
2. Yes, it’s ok if it’s a little over.
3. No, I don’t want 2 pounds of fudge to get a free box of salt water taffy.
4. No, I don’t need it gift wrapped.
5. Yes, it’s ok if you force me to take coupons that I will never, ever use.

Practice this on the ride down to the shore. The reason I want you to practice this is because you’ll need to work fast, as a team of employees will swarm you as soon as you approach and enter the shop. :)

Without further ado, here’s what annoys customers and why:

Over Sampling:
Yes, there is such as thing as over sampling. From a marketing standpoint, I always believe that giving free samples is a good idea. Let’s face it, offering samples breaks down a major barrier in the sales process and can help convert people sitting on the fence. That said, force feeding samples is never a good idea. The Fudge Kitchen is definitely guilty of force feeding fudge samples and I think everyone can use a break from it! They have 1 person standing outside with samples and engaging people that are walking by. I think this is a good idea, but most people at the shore (especially Cape May and Stone Harbor), walk the main strip of shops over and over again. I don’t need to be asked 73 times in a week if I want fudge samples. And, it’s not just me. I hear it from many other people at the shore. It has almost turned into a joke. Then once you enter the shop, do you really need more samples? I guess so. The staff behind the counter begins asking if you want more free samples… This is where the experience starts to get annoying and you begin to think, “How fast can I get some fudge and bolt out the door?”

It’s a little over…
This one irks me on several levels. In case you’ve never been to the Fudge Kitchen, you order fudge by the pound, which is broken down by pieces of fudge. A quarter pound consists of 2 pieces, a half pound of 4 pieces, and a pound is 8 pieces of fudge. I like that…since it’s easy to pick out what you want. However, and this has been tested by everyone I know that goes to the shore and buys fudge at the Fudge Kitchen, THEY ALWAYS COME BACK OVER. In the 10 years I have been going to the shore, I cannot remember one time (that’s right, not one time) that it was either a little under or right at the amount I wanted. This too has become a joke at the shore. Everyone, including strangers outside the store, joke about it being a little over. “So, was it a little over tonight?” says the old couple sitting outside the shop on the Cape May mall. “Let me guess, it was a little over and you were ok with it?” says the young couple strolling their kids by the shop. Word of mouth marketing (WOM) is a powerful thing, but negative word of mouth can be even more powerful. I even know one woman who owns a beach house in Cape May that now demands that it not be a little over! She does this just to make a point.

Why does this annoy me so much? First, it’s a little patronizing to hear this every time you order. Second, they are obviously making more money with each transaction, so what seems like a harmless extra few ounces actually costs customers more money and makes the business additional revenue. This wouldn’t bother me if it occurred occasionally…but it’s every time you order!

2 Pounds of Fudge for 1 Free Box of Salt Water Taffy
No matter how many times I go to the Fudge Kitchen, I have to hear the sales pitch for salt water taffy. “If you buy 2 pounds of fudge, you’ll get a free box of salt water taffy!” The first 100 times was fine, but the next 473 started to annoy me. I’ve heard it so much, that it’s burned into my memory! OK, I get it…2 lbs of fudge = 1 free box of taffy…now create a sign, post it up on the counter, and let me get out of here! Upselling is one thing, but you can do it without annoying your customers.

Gift Wrapping
At this point, you’ve dealt with the over sampling, the “it’s a little over syndrome”, and the salt water taffy “deal”. Believe me, you have two things on your mind at this point, to get your fudge and get the heck out of Dodge. But, you aren’t done yet my friend. Now you’re asked if you want the fudge gift wrapped for free. Again, a nice gesture, but every single time you buy something, you have to hear this… “No, I just want to eat my fudge! You know, what I came for in the first place!” My kids are salivating, I’ve now wasted precious minutes of my life in your establishment, and I just want some freaking fudge. Ahhhhhh! Here’s a tip for the Fudge Kitchen. It’s a great idea to offer free gift wrapping, but again, invest in some signage and let people ask for it. Then you won’t frustrate your customers.

Coupon Stuffing
Now you probably think you’re in the clear, but unfortunately you’re not. Yes, you will have already started that slight walk towards the door as your order is being rung up, but the person helping you will turn around with a new time waster! Yes, now you have to hear about the coupons that you will be leaving with. Are you kidding me, Fudge Kitchen? I can’t even tell you what the coupons are for, since I typically zone out at this point, feeling woozy from the over selling, the over stuffing, the over sampling, and the over everything at The Fudge Kitchen. The last thing I remember was my wife grabbing the coupons, throwing my son over my shoulder, dragging my daughter out of the shop by her arm, and then all of us almost running over a few elderly people as we made a run for it. The Fudge Kitchen had literally driven us over the edge!

Lessons Learned:
So, if you are headed to the Jersey Shore and want some unbelievable fudge and think you’re brave enough to withstand the frustrating forces of the Original Fudge Kitchen, then follow my life saving tips below. You won’t regret it.

1. Don’t make eye contact with the sampler outside the shop. Look at your watch for an extended period of time, have your wife point to something in the sky, and then walk briskly into the shop.

2. Be prepared to accept the overage of fudge. Yes, over time this will add up and drive you crazy, but it’s probably best to enjoy the additional fudge and keep the process moving at the Fudge Kitchen so you can get the beach before the year 2046.

3. 1 free box of salt water taffy is not worth ordering 2 pounds of fudge! That’s 16 pieces of fudge! You don’t want to eat that much fudge and then have to do anything for the next week. :)

4. Bring a bunch of singles and lots of change with you. This way, you can give them the exact amount for your order and avoid two of the annoying pitfalls of the Fudge Kitchen (the gift wrapping questions and the coupon stuffing). You can grab your fudge and bolt from the store like a bat out of hell.

Quick Summary:
Again, the Original Fudge Kitchen has some of the best fudge you will find in the Northeast. Nobody questions that and it’s why I keep going back. However, as a marketer, I do question their sales and customer service tactics. Their product is so good that they really don’t need all the bells and whistles, especially when those bells and whistles actually do the opposite of what they are intended to do. They simply annoy and frustrate their customers and make them question whether or not they should return to the Fudge Kitchen. The good news is that this can change. The owners of the Fudge Kitchen can stop making their customers jump through hoops and start listening to them instead. If they do, then the sky is the limit. And more importantly, countless innocent vacationers won’t have to leave Cape May saying “What the Fudge?” ever again. :)

GG

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Monday, June 09, 2008

Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical, How Leading by Example Can Win You a President’s Award


Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceuticals wins CEO Award.This past weekend I learned that Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical won the company’s prestigious CEO Award. I’m excited for Joe, but I’ll be honest, this didn’t shock me at all. I’ve known Joe for 14 years and I can tell you that he’s definitely someone that strikes you as "CEO Award Caliber". As I listened to Joe’s top projects from last year, I started to think about the leadership qualities that enabled him to succeed. That list of qualities led to the creation of this blog post! So, I’ve included a list of things you can do in order to be a better leader in your organization (inspired by Joe Homan). So, if you’re in Corporate America and you want to win your company’s President's Award or CEO Award, then read on!

Joe Homan's Award at Shire and a Recurring Theme
I asked Joe about the projects he worked on that lead to his nomination. The three projects he explained to me were extremely impressive. For example, Joe designed, developed, and implemented Shire Training Camp, an award winning program that brought over 300 employees together for industry-related training. The Baltimore Business Development Authority presented the project its coveted Innovator Award. As I learned about each project, I saw a recurring theme. Joe’s expertise, work ethic, and leadership style enabled his team to generate excellent results. Let’s take a look at Joe’s combination of characteristics that helped him win a CEO Award. They might just help you win one too…

If you want to be nominated for your President’s Award, you should:

1. Know Your Area of Expertise and Work Hard
Joe is a passionate guy. He digs what he does for a living and it shows. No matter which part of the organization you focus on, you should know it inside and out. Educate yourself constantly, read the top books and blogs in the industry, test your knowledge frequently, and take classes when applicable. But education is not enough. You need to work hard, and I mean really hard. You need a strong work ethic in order to inspire people. When you inspire people, they talk about you. When they talk about you, your story goes viral. When your story goes viral, it ends up being heard by important people. Don’t underestimate the power of working hard…

2. Go Above and Beyond
In a nutshell, this relates to going above and beyond for your team and other teams in your organization (sometimes not related to what you do). Yes, you heard me correctly. If you can help other parts of the organization, do it. I’m a big believer in karma and helping others typically pays off in the end big time! Over the past 14 years, I’ve seen Joe bend over backwards to help people (both professionally and personally.) Think about the viral example I used earlier in this post. It absolutely applies here as well. Help others reach their goals and they won’t forget it. And, they will probably communicate your assistance to others in the organization.

3. Be a Great Listener
I know, some of you cringed when you heard this one. It’s not easy to do, right? Great leaders understand people, they know everyone is different, and each team member needs to be managed differently. Sometimes you need to sit back and just listen to what others have to say. It’s amazing what you’ll learn… Again, not easy to do, but is a consistent trait I’ve seen in great leaders. Joe is a great listener and I’m confident others in his organization feel the same way.

4. Empower Your People
One thing I learned quickly in my career is that you cannot do everything yourself. Great leaders delegate and empower their people. If you cannot do this effectively, then you’re probably going to have a hard time leading a high performing team. (More on generating results next.) Joe has a military background, which might explain his thorough understanding of how an effective team works. In the military, if your team doesn’t perform well, you can die. Sure, it’s not the same in Corporate America, but there are other consequences to not performing at a high level. There’s definitely a fine balance between micro managing and not being involved enough. Those leaders that strike the right balance reap great rewards. (And no, I didn’t mean for that to sound like a fortune cookie!) :-)

5. Generate Outstanding Results
This is a given. You need to execute at a high level and generate outstanding results. Anyone can take a budget and do something…but it really only matters if you meet and exceed your goals. You can have 4 of the 5 characteristics I listed down, but if you can’t generate results, you won’t impress anyone. It’s basically the viral killer, or worse...it can be negative viral. You don’t want that to happen. So, if you can exceed your goals with regard to revenue, profit, decreasing costs, by innovating, etc, then there’s a good chance you’ll get noticed. After which, let the viral effect I explained earlier take over. :)

So, you want to be a President’s Award winner?
So there you have it, a post inspired by the news I heard this weekend about Joe Homan from Shire Pharmaceutical. If you start working on the 5 items listed above, maybe you can get noticed and nominated for your company’s President’s Award or CEO Award. Actually, it just hit me that I can wrap this post into one line. Work hard, help others, listen, empower your people, and generate outstanding results. Now put that in your email signature! Just kidding. So even though I’m congratulating Joe in this post, maybe next year it will be you…

GG

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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

5 Ways to Jumpstart Your Viral Marketing Campaigns


Ideas for Jumpstarting Your Viral Marketing CampaignsI’ve been having a lot of conversations about viral marketing recently and one question keeps popping up... “How do you give a viral campaign a jumpstart?” It’s a great question and one I wanted to address in this post. Although there’s not an exact formula for what type of content will go viral, you can definitely give your campaign a jumpstart by utilizing the following 5 techniques. And by the way, almost all of the techniques listed below cost nothing. That’s right…nada.

As a viral marketer, you definitely want to get your message in front of as many people as possible during your launch in order to see what sticks. Then, if you’ve crafted your campaign properly, your content has a chance to go viral. There are no guarantees with viral marketing, but your campaign just might have that hook… and if it does, then it could take on a life of its own! Let’s take a look at how to jumpstart your campaign…

5 Techniques for Giving Your Viral Campaign a Jolt:

1. Utilize Your In-House Email List
Worth its weight in gold, your in house email list can help you drive trusted visitors to your viral site extremely quickly. This is one of the easiest ways to get your content into the hands of people who already know you, have purchased from you, and hopefully receive ongoing email communications from you. The more people you can get to your campaign website during the launch, the greater chance you have of it going viral. Email marketing gives you the opportunity to clearly explain the campaign, provide details, visuals, and calls to action. And unlike some of the other methods listed below, email lets you craft your initial message. Now, what happens to that message after it starts getting passed around is a different story. :-) Last, email is inherently viral…you gave your list something to pass along (the actual email you sent!) Back to the launch…think about it, if you have an in-house list of 800,000 people and you have a click through rate of 4%, then you can start your campaign with 32,000 people hitting the site. That’s not a bad start.

2. Work with Your PR Agency or PR Department
You should definitely coordinate your viral campaign with your PR department or PR agency. You should have them craft several press releases to blast out during the first few weeks of the campaign. Chances are your PR department or agency has incredible contacts in your industry and can hopefully land you excellent coverage. In addition, using services like PRWeb can syndicate your releases across the web, helping you gain maximum exposure on blogs, forums, websites, etc. And, if you do start getting links on major blogs in the industry, they will pay off big time down the line for organic search. For example, maybe you end up landing several high Pagerank blogs linking to your campaign website. So don’t exclude PR!

3. Empower Your Employees
That’s right, your own employees can help you get the word out! This obviously has a greater effect if you are a larger organization with thousands of employees, but regardless, don’t overlook the power of your own people! You should craft an internal communication that gets people pumped up about the campaign. Make sure that the email you blast out to your employees contains all of the necessary information, including URL’s, visuals, a good breakdown of the campaign, etc. Let’s say you have 5,000 employees and they average 2.5 forwards per employee. Now you’ve got an additional 12,500 people to the site in a hurry. And since it was probably forwarded to friends at other companies, you have a chance that your link will get passed to many others. The link may go through several generations of forwarding. So don’t forget about your own employees. It’s fast, free, and can make an impact.

4. Social Media Marketing
Social Media sites are a great way to get the word out tens of thousands of people (or more). Websites like StumbleUpon, Mixx, Digg, Propeller, YouTube, and Twitter can provide a great way to gain serious exposure. There are many social media and social networking sites to choose from, and you need to find the ones that fit your specific style. Don’t be afraid, social media communities don’t bite…often. :-)

Warning:
There is a catch…
you can’t just jump on these sites and expect to generate a lot of traffic. There’s a serious time commitment involved and you really need to provide value to the community in order to gain a following. I’ve seen quite a number of people hop on a social media site and post a link to their own website and then never come back. So, they didn’t really have any friends or contacts on the site, they didn’t provide any value to the community, and simply performed a “drive by submission”. I can guarantee you that their story received no votes and didn’t generate more than 10 visitors. On the flip side, if you do spend the time building a following, if you do participate and add value to the community, then you will reap great rewards (along with meeting lots of interesting people). So, don’t be a drive by submitter on any social media website. I’m telling you, it won’t work. :-) Now, let’s say you love YouTube, Twitter and StumbleUpon and have built up a nice following in each of these communities. You now can utilize these sites and leverage your following to get the word out about your campaign very quickly. And, many of the people using these social media sites have accounts at several other sites. Therefore, you might have one person repost your link on 3 or 4 other social media sites. Believe me when I tell you that you cannot overlook social media. If you do, then you are missing a HUGE opportunity.

5. Leverage Contacts in Your Industry
I’ll keep my last point brief, since it’s pretty simple! Don’t forget to reach out to everyone you know about your new viral campaign. This includes friends, family, people you’ve worked with in the past, bloggers you know, forum owners, the guy you met at SES last year, etc. You get the point. Just craft a professional email that briefly explains your campaign, provides the necessary links, visuals, and messaging. In my experience, this is a great way to get your site in front of people who are rooting for you. They may pass it along to 10 other people, or even better, they may forward it to their entire network of friends. And, if they blog, they may write an entire post about your campaign. This can open your site up to their entire readership. Then, maybe a few people that read their post end up writing about it on their own blogs. So on and so forth. Sounds fun, right?

Are You Ready to Go Viral?
So there you have it. 5 ways to give your viral marketing campaign a jolt. These 5 techniques are free, fast, and relatively easy to set up (other than the social media marketing piece). That can’t be started at the last minute... Re-read the section about social media marketing if you don’t understand what I mean. So, spend the time crafting some killer communications for your launch, leverage some of your strongest assets (that are right under your nose), and then use these 5 techniques to help launch your campaign.

So, have you used any other techniques to give your viral campaigns a jumpstart? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

GG

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The DVR and Its Effect on TV Advertising Recall, Do Your Commercials Stand Out?


DVRs and TV Advertising RecallOr does that really matter? More on that later. First, I’m a big DVR user and have been one for a number of years. I bought my first TIVO about 5 years ago, quickly added a second, and then moved to the Comcast HD DVR last year. So, I read an article in late February about a study conducted by General Electric’s NBC Universal to document the recall power of TV commercials when DVR users were whipping through them at 6x speed. In other words, do you recall an advertisement as you are fast forwarding through commercials on your DVR? By the way, that’s exactly how I watch the shows I record. In addition, if I choose to watch a live show, I just start watching the show 15 minutes in (for a 1 hour show) and then I can still fly through the commercials. Now back to the testing. The following quote is directly from the Wall Street Journal article:

Tracking biometric measurements such as eye movements, heart rate and sweat, the study found that the ads people concentrated on the most and recalled the most shared several traits. The most successful ads concentrated the action and the brand's logo in the middle of the screen, didn't rely on multiple scene changes, audio or text to tell the story, and often used familiar characters. People were also more likely to remember an ad in fast-forward mode if they had seen it once before live.

Glenn’s translation: A big static logo in the center of the screen. ;-)

Uh, tracking biometric measurement?? OK... The most successful ads didn’t rely on audio to tell the story?? The more I think about this topic, the more I think that this entire study wasn’t necessary. I guess it was for networks trying to hold on to TV advertisers at all costs, right?

Paging Dr. Gabe… Dr. Gabe Please Come to the Living Room:
So, I decided to conduct my own study. That’s right…and without biometric measurements, my heart rate wasn’t monitored, my eye movements weren’t scanned, and my sweat glands weren’t checked! I flipped on my TV, drilled into my recordings, armed with a high tech toolkit for a high tech doctor of technology (a pad and pen) and started my first show. My goal was to fast forward through each set of commercials at the highest speed and see which ads I could recall. That is, if I didn’t go into convulsions first! :) Since every study needs a name, I am calling it “The Strobe Logo Study” conducted by Glenn Gabe, Technology Scientist at Large. ;-)

Without further ado, here are the results! I will also give my quick analysis of the results following the data.

LOST on ABC (Probably my favorite show right now...)
1 Hour in Length
I started zipping through the commercials at the highest fast forward speed. Believe me, the highest speed is darn fast…each segment of commercials was over in a few seconds. I remember seeing a flash of the Wendy’s logo (centered on screen), an Applebee’s logo and a Dunkin Donuts logo (both also centered on screen). More on ad positioning later. Each was up for a flash…probably a quarter (1/4) of a second. Also keep in mind that the three logos I remembered are big brands that have been advertising for years. This obviously helped with my recall of their ads.

The Sports Reporters on ESPN
30 minutes in length
The only advertisement I remember seeing was CDW. I saw this logo twice during the show and for a little longer than the logos in LOST. This intrigued me, so I rewound the show a little to watch the CDW ad. It ends up they sponsor the show (see, I didn’t know this because I never watched it in real time!) So, as a lead into the show, they have a voiceover say, “The Sports Reporters is sponsored by…CDW”. This takes a few seconds, which leaves their logo on-screen longer. I saw this twice during the show when whipping through it on my DVR. This is an interesting note for TV advertisers. Also, the logo was centered on the screen, an important factor during my scientific study. :)

American Idol on FOX (like I had to tell you…)
60 Minutes in length
I remember seeing a Citizens Bank logo (I think) and an Infiniti logo. And, maybe…just possibly… a Lowes guy. Then again, it could have been a 7 Eleven guy or Wawa guy. I told you…it’s darn fast! Any quick movement or elaborate camera angles looks like a blur in fast forward. It makes sense, though. The common thread for TV commercial recall was becoming apparent. Any commercial that ended with a large logo centered on screen had a chance of recall (unless I blinked during the 1/4 of a second!)

Dancing With The Stars on ABC
60 Minutes in Length
I’ll cut to the chase…I recalled 3 ads, Advil, Petsmart, and a Nivea product shot. Again, each logo was centered on screen and fairly large (and the Nivea product was also large and centered). Are you seeing a trend here?

Here’s an interesting side note:
When you watch a recorded show, it will abruptly stop at a random frame at the end of the show…which is rarely when it fades to black. Dancing with the Stars ended on a BBC Worldwide America logo. So, since my DVR stopped on that frame, I saw this logo for about 10 full seconds before it returned to my DVR menu. If you are still looking for ways to appear in a DVR world, this could be one of them. BBC Worldwide America was not an advertiser, but that spot could be opened up for advertising...

Conan O’Brien on NBC (Just a brilliant comedian!)
30 Minutes
I literally didn’t recall any specific advertisement… Not one. So, I went through it a second time to make sure my eyes weren’t just fried out of my head from the previous shows… Nope, not one ad, logo, brand, etc. I guess none of the commercials used a logo centered on-screen. Read on for my scientific analysis of my DVR study.

Is this what it’s come down to for TV advertisers?
Triggering convulsions in people to see if they remember a flash of a logo? Really? I know not everyone has a DVR (yet), but if this is the type of study we are conducting, then there’s something very, very wrong. I can hear the scientists who conducted the NBC Universal study now. {In my best European scientist voice} “Yes, it seems that even 1/8 of a second can impact your brand’s recognition in the mind of lowly consumers. TV advertising is still hugely powerful and we may turn to 60 strobe flashes of logos in the future versus 30 second spots. Sure, some people may be hospitalized from the flashes of light, but it’s all worth it if the Advil logo shows up, is recalled, and then helps the hospitalized person's family overcome its collective headaches by using Advil.” OK, I’m a bit sarcastic, but it’s hard not to be!

How To Really Enhance Your TV Advertising, ONLINE
When I think of the cost to produce high end TV commercials, then the cost for airing those commercials, and then combine that with the growing number of DVR users, it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to understand why traditional TV advertising is not in good shape. I’m not saying that TV commercials should go away…but I believe that you need to supplement your TV campaigns with other campaign elements to maximize exposure and engagement. For example, I always recommend adding an online viral component to your TV commercials. Have a micro-site or landing page to engage your brand and advertisement, to help with lead generation, to work in a contest, to spark user generated content, to add a blog, etc. and then utilize online marketing channels to drive visitors there. So, combining your high end TV commercials with a robust micro-site, and then utilize paid search, organic search, email marketing, social media, blogging, display advertising, etc. to drive people there is a smart way to go. Then you’ve got yourself a serious campaign, covering all avenues, and using innovative methods. Versus…trying to justify your TV commercials with “flashes of a logo” or what I’m calling “The Strobe Logo”. There is so much you can do online to enhance your TV advertisements, and at a reasonable cost. To me, it’s a necessary addition that can unleash the true power of viral marketing.

Now let me go put an ice bag on my eyes and give my poor DVR and TV a break! Until my next scientific experiment, this is Dr. Gabe signing off. Does anyone know a good eye doctor? Maybe I should get in touch with the people who went through the original study to see who they recommend!

GG

Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor, scientist, or PHD. Please don’t ask me for medical assistance or to conduct clinical studies. If you need assistance from a medical doctor, please consult your healthcare company for a referral. I am not authorized to prescribe medication, recommend time off from work, or advocate medical procedures. :)

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Monday, March 10, 2008

Google SMS and More Mobile Marketing Ideas


Google SMS, Texting Google for Quick AnswersLast week I wrote about short code marketing and using text messaging for mobile marketing campaigns. Last year (around this time), I wrote about Goog 411, Google’s free 411 service that returns results based on its local listings. So today I figured I would combine the two concepts and write about Google SMS, Google’s way of answering your search queries on your mobile device. The short code is 466543, or “Google” on most devices. If you are unfamiliar with short codes, please check out my last post (see link above).

What it is Google SMS and What are the Benefits?
Some of you might be saying, “Why wouldn’t I just browse to Google on my mobile web device and enter my search??” Well, SMS is much faster (at least for now). Texting a quick search query using SMS, with the ability to save that query for future text messages, is a great way to get fast answers to your questions.

What types of searches can you text to Google?
You can see a quick list on the Google SMS site, but here are a few possibilities to get you thinking… How about checking the weather, the score of the Yankees game, defining a word, a stock quote, product prices, directions, flight information, currency conversions, etc. These are just a few of the searches that you can text to Google and I’m confident you are starting to see the value of Google SMS… The problem is that many people don’t even know about it. Don’t believe me? Lean over and ask your coworker now if he or she knows about Google SMS. {Glenn waiting.......OK, you're back} I bet you got a confused reaction from them, right?

To text your search to Google SMS, simple enter the search feature and then what you are searching for, like:

weather pennington, nj
score Yankees
movies 08540
price blackberry curve 8310

Cool, right? And for those of you wondering how much faster it is to text a search versus browsing the mobile web, here’s a quick test on my Blackberry Curve 8310. I’ll look up the price of a Canon Powershot G9:

Browsing the Mobile Web:
Loading browser…
Finding Google….
Waiting for data…
Yawn…
SERP returned…
Checking listings….
Finding solid listing and price for G9
Total Time: 1:25

Using Google SMS:
Texting “price canon powershot g9” to 46653
Price returned via SMS in 8 seconds
Total Time: 16 seconds

Convinced this is a smart way to go? :)

Why this is important to you as a marketer…
Because you don’t have to be Google to achieve the same results for your customers and potential customers. You can do this for your business. Think about it…you can use text messaging to quickly answer questions, no matter what line business you are in. And, the more answers you provide, the more customers and prospective customers you can make happy. The more people you make happy, the more they will talk about your business (can you say WOM)? The more they talk about you, the more business you can acquire. The more business you can gain, the more money you can generate. Do I need to keep going here?

Some SMS marketing examples:
Let’s say you run an accounting firm targeting small businesses and you want utilize SMS marketing. Maybe you can answer basic accounting questions that you know small businesses always have via your short code. i.e. text “FICA” or “1099” to {your short code here}. Help enough small businesses and maybe you build new relationships along with new clients. Do you own a car dealership? Maybe you can answer questions about pricing or features for the latest models. Are you an electronics retailer? Maybe you’ll answer top product questions. i.e. text “SPECS for IPOD Nano” to {enter your short code here}. Again, the possibilities are endless. I explained some other uses for short codes in my last post, but I’m just focusing on the search and answer model here… Do you own a chain of weight loss centers? Provide the number of calories for various products or meals. i.e. text “calories slice of pizza” to {enter your short code here}. You get the idea!

Go ahead, stir up mobile marketing at your company!
I wanted to write this post to keep mobile on your mind after my last post… (Hey “Mobile on My Mind”… sounds like a new Carrie Underwood song…) I truly believe mobile marketing will be huge and it’s basically an untapped channel right now. Heck, there are short codes just waiting to be purchased…and you would be shocked to see how many big brands are not involved yet. It would be the equivalent of Coke not being interested in coke.com 10-15 years ago. BTW, I’ll beat you to the punch…Coke already owns the short code for COKE. They are on top of it! Are you? :)

GG

PS Don’t forget to test out my short code…just text IMD to 23907 to sign up for mobile alerts when I update my blog. You can always opt out, but it’s a cool way to see how this works!

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Monday, March 03, 2008

SMS and Common Short Codes, Using Text Messaging for Mobile Marketing Campaigns


Using Short Codes for Mobile Marketing (SMS and Text Messaging)I’m sure some of you reading this blog post are asking, “What’s a short code?” I’m also sure many of you reading this blog post watch American Idol. What’s the connection? Well, at the end of the each performance and each show, Ryan Seacrest gives you a 4 digit code that you can use to text message your vote for your favorite contestant. For example, text “Vote” to 5706 to vote for Jane Smith. Well, 5706 is a short code. Although TV has made short codes famous in the US, it’s still not as popular as in other parts of the world. In my opinion, its popularity will begin to grow in the US, and sooner than later... Common Short Codes (CSC) are basically the domain names of the mobile age, yet many marketers still don’t know much about them, which is crazy, since Mobile Marketing will be an important element in your marketing mix in the near future. My hope is that after you read this post, you’ll agree that SMS can be used creatively to enhance your marketing campaigns. I’ll explain more about this later in the post.

Basic Information and Definitions About Mobile Messaging and Short Codes:

Let’s define SMS – It stands for Short Message Service and it enables you to send text messages on your mobile device. When you hear people talk about “text messaging” or “texting”, they are referring to SMS.

Let’s also define Common Short Code – A short numeric code of 5 or 6 numbers that can be used in place of a longer phone number for messaging. Since the codes are shorter, they are easier to remember and utilize, especially for marketing purposes. i.e. Text “Vote” to 5706 to cast your vote…

How to Obtain a Short Code and How Much Do They Cost?
You can visit the Common Short Code Administration’s website and review the process for obtaining a short code. In a nutshell, a "select" short code, or vanity code, is $1000 per month and a random short code (random numbers) is $500 per month. Both must be paid up front and you can lease a short code for 3, 6, and 12 months. A select short code (or vanity code) would be something like COKE, IDOL, JEEP, etc. Once you obtain your short code, then you’ll need to gain approval from the wireless providers for routing your common short code (CSC) throughout their network. Then, in order to implement your CSC, you’ll probably want to get in touch with an application provider and connection aggregator that already have relationships with the specific providers. Think about it in normal web terms, you can register a domain name, but what does that really get you?? You still need a website built and way for visitors to do something on your site, right? You can talk more with a connection aggregator about what you’ll need in place for your campaigns.

OK, Use Short Codes for Mobile Marketing…But How?
There are literally dozens of ways to creatively use short codes for marketing purposes from voting to contests to rewards programs to wom to viral marketing. American Idol made using short codes for voting famous and you can use SMS marketing for the same purpose. That’s definitely a natural fit (especially for your customers who have used SMS for voting in the past…) You can also use short codes for lead generation. For example, include your short code in an advertisement and have people text the code to learn more about your service or product. You can use short codes for subscriptions purposes. For example, have people text your short code to sign up to receive notifications when your product or service is updated. Are you ready to launch a viral marketing campaign? Use short codes within your viral campaign to give customers access to additional information, media, ringtones, etc. How about organic word of mouth marketing (WOM)? Maybe you set up a short code that your company evangelists can use to post updates about their latest word of mouth experience. i.e. They just spoke with someone on the train into Manhattan about your product, so they quickly message your short code with the details. Running a rewards program? Enable your members to text their latest promotional codes to your common short code to increase their rewards points. I can keep going here, but it obviously can be an extremely useful tool for a smart mobile marketer. You just need to think creatively and keep mobile in mind…

Glenn Gabe and the Internet Marketing Driver, Mobile-Style
OK, so I couldn’t resist… I asked a mobile marketing friend of mine to set me up with a short code for my blog. Here’s the deal…if you want to receive notifications from me on your mobile device when I update my blog, then follow the directions below:

Simply Text IMD to 23907 now. You’ll receive a text message from me immediately.
Reply YES to the message if you want to receive alerts on your mobile phone when I add new blog posts or update my blog. I may also message you now and then with internet marketing tips and tricks. You can always opt out at any time, so it’s worth a try to see how it works. Go ahead, try it now!

In closing, I hope this post helped you gain a better understanding of common short codes and how mobile marketing can be a part of your marketing mix. If you haven’t thought of using short codes for marketing purposes, my recommendation is to start thinking about it now. Actually, your desired vanity short code may be registered already! Don’t get caught like many did with domain names…get your short codes sooner than later.

Now, have any of you already worked with short codes as part of your marketing campaigns? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas. Post a comment now!

GG

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Viral Marketing Campaigns, Important Elements to Consider to Enhance Campaign Effectiveness


Viral Marketing Effectiveness, Important Elements to ConsiderViral Marketing is a hot topic, especially since the web is an incredible catalyst for getting the word out about something. Depending on your business, viral marketing can be a powerful way to drive exposure, traffic, and sales. You can get your brand in front of thousands of people in a relatively short amount of time. By the way, I’m not referring to organic Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM) or Buzz Marketing. If you want to get technical, I’m referring to Amplified WOM, or an online marketing campaign with a goal of taking your message viral, spreading it across the web like wildfire, exposing your brand on a grand level, and hopefully turning it into revenue down the line. Don't worry, I explain a few examples below. You don’t have to be a large company to utilize viral marketing. You just need to be creative and develop ideas that leverage the viral nature of the web to achieve your goals… Let’s take a look at what I believe to be some important elements to consider while developing your viral marketing campaign.

Concept Development, Make Sure It’s Fun, Memorable, and That It Has a Hook
During your brainstorming, if you read a concept and remotely think it won’t be fun, inspiring, or intriguing enough, then throw the idea away. The bar is constantly being raised, so you need to ensure people will want to take part. If it just sounds ok, then it’s probably worse. If you get goosebumps while reading it, then you’re on to something. I use this test often while mapping out creative strategies….if it doesn’t give me chills while reading it, then it’s not good enough, period.

Here’s an interesting example of a viral campaign: Weight Watchers recently hired FaintStarlite, a popular video blogger to help promote their "Stop Dieting, Start Living" campaign. There’s a myspace page for the campaign and FaintStarlite vlogs away… She is asking others to post about their diet experiences, their Weight Watchers journey, and talks about her own experiences. Right now, her WW myspace page has over 6300 friends and 430 comments. Reading through the comments, you can see the campaign seems to be resonating. Women (and some men) are talking about dieting, when they joined Weight Watchers, laughing about the craziest diets they have tried, etc. This is a good example of tailoring the campaign to your target audience. Actually, I'd love to hear from FaintStarlite about how the campaign is going from her perspective.

Another good example was the Hammer and Coop viral campaign by Mini Cooper. I won’t go into all the details, but it has ultra-high production value, it's extremely funny, and I spent 15-20 minutes there before I even realized it! Good concept, excellent creative, and got me talking about the campaign…

A Common Question I Hear:
“How controversial or extreme should we make our viral marketing campaign?” I’m a big fan of humor. It’s a great way to generate a viral effect. Think of the CareerBuilder monkey tv commercials, which spurred the CareerBuilder viral campaign "Monkey Mail". It’s a serious subject (your career), but they really took a light angle by using the monkeys… If you can weave humor into a sound marketing concept for your viral campaign, then you are off to a great start. I’m not saying that controversial campaigns don’t generate buzz…but at what price? And by the way, you can shock people with humor and not leave them writhing in their seats… Another option is taking real world experiences and using them as the basis for your campaign. Let your actual customers talk… Let the true stories of helping customers resonate with your target audience. It’s not funny or shocking, but depending on your customer stories, it could generate a lot of viral activity.

Interactivity, Participation and User Generated Content (UGC)
Don’t create a 30 second spot…please. Sure, you might get some views on YouTube, but I firmly believe you need to have people interact with your campaign (and that’s not sitting and watching a 2 minute video). I think it’s a great idea to have video as part of the campaign, but not part of a one way viewing experience. There are so many ways to have people take part in your campaign, especially with web-based campaigns. For example, let’s say you are a clothing retailer and you’re launching a new line of jeans. As part of your campaign, run a contest letting customers create their own commercial for your jeans and give them some creative assets to start with. Maybe your logo, a few snapshots of models wearing the jeans, some music you have licensed for the campaign, and a few video clips from your stores. As participants create their commercials, have them upload the final video to your site, along with supporting commentary (what inspired their idea, their bios, who helped with the production, what their acceptance speech would be if their commercial won an award, etc.) Then have visitors vote on the winners… The winner gets a $2000 shopping spree on the website. It’s a great way to have people interacting with your brand, product, etc. And since they have created intriguing content for your site that others are voting for, your brand and product are now being viewed by more and more people…and maybe on other sites like YouTube, Google Video, etc. Think interactively….and not old-school television.

Giveaways, Grand Prizes, and Runners Up
If you choose to launch a contest as part of the campaign, then I cannot emphasize my next point enough. The winners should get something really, really cool that obviously fits your target market. So don’t give away a Blackberry to a retired guy living in a 55 and older community down in Florida. I'm not saying he wouldn’t like it, but he would probably enjoy a $500 restaurant gift card from Visa. Hey, I understand this crowd well since I know several snowbirds from New York. ;-) Do you target high tech customers, give away a jacked Macbook. Target moms? Give away a shopping spree at Babies R Us. You get the point. And, if you can give away your own products, even better. Then you’ll just pay the Cost of Goods Sold (COGS) and shipping. For example, if you sell footwear, then giving away 25 pairs of shoes doesn’t cost you the retail price, right? If you’re COGS are 30%, then you are giving away $1500 on $5000 worth of footwear. If you have products that people dig, then this is a great way to go. Keep in mind the viral nature of your campaign, though…will winning a year’s supply of paper clips excite anyone??

Brand Your Campaign and Develop a Dedicated Section of Your Website
Brand your campaign! This has several benefits, including giving people an easy way to communicate the campaign to their friends, helping with natural search, tying easily with your concept and creative, and obviously making it memorable! i.e. My friend Matt tells me about the Actober campaign by Major League Baseball, so I go to Google and enter Actober. If you’ve done your job correctly (and many don’t), your site and others referencing it should come up. If you didn’t give the campaign a name, then what would people search for?? Major League Baseball? On your website, add a directory matching the title of the campaign. i.e. www.yourwebsitename.com/yourcampaignname/

Sidebar, Do not waste those precious links!
I’ve seen campaigns generate thousands of links, which will greatly help a site’s natural search power, but then the companies shut down the campaign section or microsite after the campaign ends. NOOOO!!! “Sir, please step away from your web server…” Leverage that search power by either archiving those pages or using 301 redirects. A good link is a horrible thing to waste. ;-)

Get the Word Out, Advertise Your Viral Marketing Campaign
OK, so you have developed a great campaign, it’s a killer idea, the creative looks incredible, and you are getting goosebumps like I mentioned earlier. Now what?? You need to get the word out via a range of online marketing channels. Use your email list to stir up your base, use social media sites to communicate the campaign, advertise on targeted websites, use paid search to capture targeted visitors, and use PR to send waves across the web. Also, don’t forget to advertise on your own network of websites… I think this is sometimes overlooked. Create advertisements for key traffic areas on your own websites. Hey, there’s no ad spend! Add a footer to any email that goes out (confirmation emails to buyers, your email newsletters, etc.) Have your customer service reps explain the campaign at the end of phone calls. You get the picture. Leverage your own infrastructure to help get the word out.

Have Legal Approve Everything…
You are not a lawyer, so don’t make the mistake of not having your legal team or outside legal counsel approve your campaign. Let me say this again just so I’m clear. DO NOT LAUNCH A CAMPAIGN WITHOUT LEGAL REVIEWING EVERY ASPECT OF THE PROGRAM. I’ve seen campaigns run without a hitch and I’ve also seen campaigns come close to imploding. It’s all about the execution. I’m fanatical about this stage…it’s just in my blood. Listen to your lawyers…legal is a necessary element to your successful marketing campaigns. Make changes based on their feedback and get final approval before moving forward. Believe me, you won’t regret it.

Summary
So there you have it, some important elements to consider while creating your viral marketing campaign. This obviously doesn’t cover everything involved, but I plan on writing more posts related to viral marketing in the future.

Here are a few final words of advice…
* Be sure to view your ideas from the perspective of a would-be participant. It might be a great idea to you and your staff…but might fall flat with the people who will actually be participating.
* Definitely try to inject fun and energy into your campaign.
* Use technology to make it as interactive as possible.
* Use a wide range of online marketing channels to promote your campaign.

Last, my lawyer wanted me to add a line from him:

“This blog post about viral marketing sets forth the entire blog post and understanding of the parties relating to the subject matter hereof and supersedes all prior viral marketing blog posts and understandings, both written and oral, among the parties with respect to viral marketing, amplified word of mouth marketing, generating buzz, webfire, or any other terms related to viral marketing hereof.”

See, I told you to have legal review everything. :-) Sorry, I had to poke fun of legal at least one time in this post...

GG

Related Posts:
The Difference Between Viral Marketing, Word of Mouth Marketing, and Buzz Marketing
7 Drivers of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOM)

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

How to Make a YouTube Video, A Beginner’s Checklist for Marketers


How to Create a YouTube Video, Follow This Video Production ChecklistLast week, I was helping a client produce a YouTube video and I explained the various steps involved in the production process. After our meeting, it hit me that the list of steps could be a valuable blog post for anyone interested in creating their own video. So, if you are thinking about shooting your own YouTube video and don’t know where to start, this post is for you. The list below is a great starting point and covers the essential elements to consider while planning and creating your video production.

Disclaimer: Creating a high quality video isn’t easy…even if your intent is to create a low budget, guerrilla-style video. You’ll read many articles on the web about how easy it is, but I’m here to tell you that it’s not. Here’s what is easy: It is easy to shoot a shaky video, with bad sound, bad lighting, horrible edits, copyrighted music, and one that’s completely disjointed. But, that’s not what you want to do, right? You want a video that you can be proud of, something that’s viral, and that gets people talking. So, don’t just grab your camera, run out with a few friends, and start shooting. You might get lucky and have some good footage, but my guess is you won’t be so happy. End of disclaimer. :)

1. Concept Development (Brainstorming)
OK, so you want to create a YouTube video, but you are staring at a blank sheet of paper… Yes, concept development isn’t easy and it’s why the creative brains behind TV shows, movies, commercials, etc. can make boat loads of money. :) I recommend getting your hands on a white board, grabbing a few of your coworkers and hitting a conference room. Then begin a divergent thinking session. Brainstorm lots of ideas related to your core concept. DO NOT LIMIT ANY IDEAS AT THIS STAGE. Please, don’t let any idea killers in the room. That’s why it’s called divergent thinking… Start jotting them on the whiteboard, organized by major category (humor, serious, action, parody, etc.) If you have the right group of people in the room, then you should have a few dozen ideas on your whiteboard. During the process of working through your favorite ideas, think about the following:

a. How original is the idea? Has it been done 50 times already or is it a new angle? Will you build upon or parody an older concept? Originality is key.
b. Cost (if you have a great idea, but it’s going to cost an arm and a leg, it might not work...)
c. How viral can your concept be? Is it something you believe your target market will enjoy enough to pass along?
d. Location, location, location. Where are you going to shoot the video? Shooting a video in a baseball stadium would be great, but is that really possible? Is a park better? Do you need permission to be there? So on and so forth.
e. How complex will the editing be? Will you need to create a dozen effects for the final edit? How will you accomplish that? Do you even have the software or skillset to do it?

2. Script and Storyboard
Excellent, you have your concept and it’s a killer idea that’s completely possible to shoot on your budget. :) Now what? Well, it’s time to write your script. This is also not an easy task. If you’ve never written a script before, there’s a good chance that you’ll be in pain. If you find yourself cooking along, then you might want to do this full time. :) Personally, I love this stage… This is where you get to flesh out your concept. The script and storyboard are the foundation for your production. If you have a poorly mapped out script and storyboard, you are setting yourself up for failure. Take as much time as you need at this stage to get it right. You should determine your main characters, how much dialogue will there be, determine locations for the shoot, and of course begin writing the actual script. Just to clarify, the script covers what your characters will be saying and doing during the shoot, where the storyboard helps you map out the flow of the video. Keep in mind that the storyboard doesn’t have to be a work of art…I’ve created several storyboards that were on 8.5x11 sheets of white paper, framed with pencil, using stick figures. I’ve also developed some storyboards that were more elaborate…it’s all about timing and how involved your production will be.

3. The Shot List
By now your script and storyboard should be done. Now you need to create your shot list from your script and storyboard. A shot list is essential. It helps you determine every shot you need for your production. And it’s not just about your core shots, it’s also about getting additional footage for your edit. For example, if you were shooting at a baseball field like I mentioned earlier, you definitely need to get some establishing shots. Maybe you will pan up to reveal the stadium sign or get a 360 shot from inside the stadium. You need to think about all of your shots or you’ll find yourself cursing a lot in post production. :) The shot list can be a simple Word document listing each shot you need to capture with some notes about the scene. In addition, I would buy a clipboard and attach the script, storyboard, and shot list to it on the day of your shoot.

4. Necessary Video Production Equipment
You are getting closer to the shoot and you’ve got a solid script, storyboard, and a well planned shot list. Now you need to think about your equipment. I can write an entire post about each of the bullets below, but I’ll try and keep each description as brief as possible. Also keep in mind that this is a basic list. You can really go nuts with video production equipment, which is why the title of this section is “Necessary Video Production Equipment”. :)

a. Your Camera
Duh, right? Just like with other electronic equipment, video cameras have come down in price. Just make sure you have one (or buy one) that can do the job at hand. You don’t absolutely need a $5000 HD camera, but you also don’t want a $100 hunk of junk that captures horrible video and audio. You won’t have a chance… I’ve provided a few links below to CNET’s editor’s picks for both home video and pro/semi-pro cameras:

Pro and Semi-Pro Cameras – Editor’s Choice
http://reviews.cnet.com/4370-6500_7-135-103.html?tag=lnav

Home Video Cameras – Editor’s Choice
http://reviews.cnet.com/4370-6500_7-135-102.html?tag=lnav


b. Microphones
There is one thing you should keep in mind when thinking about audio. Most people don’t really notice high quality audio…they just know bad audio as soon as they hear it. They are used to great audio on TV, in movies, in commercials, etc. There are some really cost effective ways to capture quality audio and I highly recommend making the investment in a few microphones. For example, I have a great wireless lavaliere microphone from Audio Technica that only cost $50. It’s easy to use and works great. Audio is extremely hard to adjust in post production (while you are editing), so it’s critically important to capture the best possible audio during the shoot. You know the old adage, garbage in, garbage out…

c. Lighting
It’s not easy to light a set. I actually think it’s an art form! I would look into buying a professional lighting kit. If you don’t want to buy a lighting kit, then you’ll need to find locations for your shoot that provide the best possible lighting. Shooting outdoors might be a good way to go, as long as Mother Nature cooperates. If you are flexible with the date of your shoot, then this may be the way to go. Test out various locations PRIOR to your shoot and watch it back on your video monitor or TV. Jot down the best locations, lighting-wise, and try and go back during the same time of day. Lighting is another element that can make or break your production (and it’s hard to adjust in post production.)

d. Smooth Motion (Using a Steadicam or Glidecam)
If you are going to capture a lot of motion, definitely look into building or buying a steadicam or glidecam. There is almost no way to achieve smooth motion without one… Don’t believe me? Grab your camera and walk down your street while shooting. Watch it back and see how fast you get motion sickness. :) A steadicam or glidecam will help smooth out those bumps and can provide a cinematic effect that’s hard to achieve without using one. Note, you will need to practice to achieve smooth motion while keeping your subject in the frame, but it’s well worth it. If you want to build a steadicam, then check out the poor man’s steadicam. I built one a few years ago to see how it would work and it actually works really well. It cost me $25-$30 for supplies and then took me 2 hours to build. If you want to buy a Glidecam, then you might want to check out http://glidecam.com/product-2000-pro.php to learn about the Glidecam 2000. I believe it’s their least expensive product.

e. Backdrop
If you will be shooting any interviews, make sure you have a good location with a nice backdrop. If you want, you can also buy a professional backdrop for about $60-$100. If you think you’ll be shooting several more video interviews, then you can also buy a frame to hold backdrops for about $150-$200. It’s a small investment and will bring a level of professionalism to your production.

5. The Shoot
I can write 10 pages about the day of the shoot, but I’ll keep it brief. Don’t forget your script, storyboard, and shot list. Think about the essentials for your shoot. Make sure you have backups for everything. For example, batteries, microphones, video tape, battery packs, AC power, headphones, duct tape, adapters, wardrobe, etc. Capture lots of footage…you can always delete footage, but you can’t go back and get more! Even if you did choose to go back and shoot more footage at a later time, the lighting would be different, your subjects might look different, the surroundings might have changed, etc. So shoot away. Make sure you bring headphones so you can hear what your camera is recording. Try and minimize any problems before each shot. Before you end the shoot, check your script, storyboard, and shot list again to ensure you have everything you need. You should try and minimize the “Darn, I wish we would have captured more of…” syndrome. :)

6. Post Production (Video Editing)
Now that your video shoot is over, run back to your office to log and capture your footage. Actually, depending on how much footage you shot, you just might want to capture all of it. Hard drive storage is so cheap now that it just might be easier to capture all of the footage. If you need to log and capture your footage, just make sure you give yourself a few seconds before and after each clip (so you have room for editing on each side of the clip).

a. Video Editing Software
There are several popular video editing software packages to choose from. Which one you go with really depends on your requirements. I highly recommend both Adobe Premiere and Apple Final Cut. Both packages are not cheap, but well worth the money. In addition, I believe both have “light” versions of the software for less money. In my opinion, you probably won’t need all of the power of Final Cut or Premiere, so the light versions may work well for you.

Disclaimer: Video editing is not easy. You will improve with time, but chances are your first editing experience will not be pleasant. Keep at it, watch movies, TV shows, etc. to see how the pros do it. There’s a lot you can learn from watching Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, and James Cameron. :)

b. Length
I would try and keep your YouTube video less than 3 or 4 minutes in length. Attention spans are lower than ever, so if your video is 15 minutes long, good luck. Keep it clear and concise. Keep your viewers in mind. Most people don’t have time to sit through more than a few minutes. Factor this in as you edit.

c. Video Bumpers
Since you’ll be providing your video on several video sharing websites (including YouTube, Google Video, Daily Motion, and numerous other video sites), you’ll want to add bumpers to your video. Bumpers are basically short segments at the beginning and end of your video that provide viewers with information about the production. This is a great place to add the product name, company name, URL, etc. In addition, since viewers have the ability to add your video to their own websites or blogs from YouTube and the other video sites, adding a URL to learn more about your subject matter is a smart idea. This is where bumpers can play an important role in driving viewers to your website or blog!

In closing, I know this was a lot of information, but I hope it gives you the confidence to produce a well made YouTube video! At a minimum, I hope this post contains enough information to get you started. I plan to write more posts about interactive video production so definitely check back often. As usual, if you get frustrated and need assistance, don’t hesitate to contact me. Now, begin your divergent thinking and create a killer YouTube video!

GG

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