Category market research

Is SMS Marketing Still Effective? The Answer Is YES!

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren on Flickr.In March of 2015, an eMarketer article asked, “Are we watching the death of SMS?”

The author’s case is based on the fact that while the total number of SMS messages worldwide is projected to decrease in the near future, the total number of messages in over-the-top (OTT) mobile-messaging services such as WeChat is projected to skyrocket.

In the past, other experts have also suggested that SMS has peaked and will decrease in value as a marketing vehicle as time goes on.

However, others have made a case that the shear increase in messaging volume does not mean that consumers are getting more value from OTT mobile-messaging services than from SMS.

In fact, Michael Becker, Co-Founder and Managing Partner at mCordis, makes the case that consumers may be more concise in getting their point across when using SMS. He also points out that SMS has no fragmentation, it has reach, it can be used for a wide variety of purposes, and marketers can control the timing and content of interactions when they get their customers to opt-in to receive SMS messages from the business.

Jeff Hasen, founder and president of the mobile consultancy Gotta Mobilize, is also an advocate of SMS marketing.

In a Mobile Commerce Daily article, Mr. Hasen is quoted as saying, “The most savvy marketers have decided this is a quality game and not a quantity game.”

The article goes on to point out that SMS is proven to drive business results.

The article also points to the fact that the average texter is older than 40 years old and 80 percent of consumers who have a mobile phone text on a regular basis.

Furthermore, one of the most interesting stats out there comes from the recently released Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Mobile Marketing. It states that, “90% of SMS messages are opened and read within the first 90 seconds of receipt.”

The Modern Marketing Essentials Guide to Mobile Marketing also states, “In recent years, mobile SMS marketing has pushed forward to become one of the most desirable forms of marketing available. The number of people with cell phones capable of texting has grown rapidly in the past few years and so it makes sense that texting is swiftly becoming the best way to reach a customer. The low cost and flexibility make it great for businesses, while its ability to deliver offers instantly leaves customers wanting more.”

Research sponsored by SAP confirms these findings.

Their report, titled “The SMS Advantage: How enterprises can leverage the power of SMS,” is based on a survey that looks at how consumers respond to mobile engagement and explores which mobile technologies are most effective.

According to this report, “Three-quarters of respondents state that SMS serves to improve the overall brand experience when communicating with businesses.”

The report also finds that “64% of consumers believe that businesses should use SMS to interact with customers more often than they do currently.”

Final Thoughts

There are many ways that consumers can communicate today.

While the projected volume of SMS messages is not has high as the projections for OTT mobile-messaging services, it doesn’t mean that SMS has lost its value.

In fact, SMS traffic is still at near record highs and most likely will continue to be used on a regular basis by many consumers in the years to come.

Furthermore, not only are many consumers still using it, but many think of it as a great way for businesses to communicate with them.

If businesses deliver quality and offer value to customers via text messages, SMS will continue to drive business results, now and in the foreseeable future.

Photo credit: Patrik Nygren on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Why Proximity Mobile Payments Are Good for Business (Part One)

For a few years now there have been experts recommending that businesses invest in the equipment that allows customers to use their smartphones to make point-of-sale payments for goods and services at restaurants and brick-and-mortar retail stores.

However, given the many potential roadblocks, it is not surprising that many businesses took a wait-and-see approach before making any investments in this type of technology.

That was, until last month.

When Apple announced that the new iPhone 6 would include near-field communication (NFC) and Apple Pay, in my opinion, one of the biggest obstacles to proximity mobile payment adoption was eliminated.

This doesn’t mean that it is a given that proximity mobile payments will be embraced by a majority of consumers right away. But, there are several reasons why now might be the time to make the investment, particularly if the business is located in an urban or suburban area. These reasons include:

The number of smartphones with NFC is increasing.

According to comScore, 174 million people in the U.S. owned smartphones (72 percent mobile market penetration) during the three months ending in August 2014.

What is of particular interest is that at the end of August, 42 percent of the U.S. smartphone subscribers used a device that was made by Apple. That means that at the end of August at least 42 percent of smartphone users in the U.S. couldn’t make NFC enabled proximity mobile payments, even if they wanted to.

Last month’s announcement doesn’t mean that all 42 percent of Apple smartphone users will now have access to NFC technology. It is going to take some time for customers to make the transition to the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus. However, according to Forbes.com, Apple has sold over 21 million new phones in the first two weeks, 10 million of those in the first three days alone. And, with the holiday season just around the corner, that number is bound to increase sharply by the end of the year.

When combined with the fact that many of the other smartphone manufacturers offer some NFC-enabled smartphones, the percentage of consumers who will be able to take advantage of proximity mobile payment options is much higher today than it was not too long ago, and that percentage will only continue to increase.

The number of mobile wallet options is increasing.

There are several Android mobile wallets (e.g., Softcard, Google Wallet, etc.) out there. Now that Apple has introduced Apple Pay, consumers will have more opportunities than ever to take advantage of proximity mobile payments when a restaurant or retailer makes the option available to them.

Major brands are working together to increase awareness.

As usual, Apple has done a great job introducing Apple Pay to consumers.

But, they are not the only brand trying to create awareness of proximity mobile payments.

In a recent article on eMarketer.com, Matthew de Ganon, Senior Vice President, Product and Commerce at Softcard, reports that Softcard currently has about 20,000 activations per day. This success is due in part to the fact that Softcard was created under a partnership with AT&T, Verizon Wireless and T-Mobile.

“We’ve had great success with consumer education through our partner stores, the carriers: Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile,” states Mr. de Ganon. “They educate consumers on the mobile wallet, what it means and how they can tap to pay.”

“A majority of consumers assume at some point they’re going to have a mobile wallet that will allow them to pay for goods and services, but only a very small percentage actually knew that it was already here,” Mr. de Ganon continues.

More consumers are moving to 4G smartphones.

Having access to high speed wireless data is very important to the adoption of proximity mobile payments.

If it takes too long for a transaction to process, there is a good chance that the customer will abandon the transaction or choose an alternative payment option. If this happens with frequency, the consumer will most likely lose interest in using proximity mobile payments altogether. That is why having access to 4G is going to be crucial to the success of this emerging technology.

The good news is that according to Ovum research, 4G connections in North America are quickly rising.

Citing the Ovum research data, an article on cellular-news.com reports, “With 127 million LTE connections, of which 15 million LTE connections were added in the second quarter alone, North America leads the world’s regions in the number of connections, market share and penetration of LTE, with a 33 percent market share of all 391 million mobile connections.”

Again, with the holiday season right around the corner, this number should increase even higher by the end of the year.

Final Thoughts

As shown, there are many factors that are coming together to make proximity mobile payments a viable and smart business decision.

Just the fact that Apple has entered the market is a great signal that now is the time to look into this technology. As Lance Whitney points out in a February 2014 article on CNET.com about NFC-enabled cell phones, “…Apple typically likes all of the pieces to be in place before it dives into a burgeoning technology.”

Still not convinced? In a future post I will explore how offering proximity mobile payments can benefit your business beyond the obvious convenience of offering an additional payment option.

Photo credit: Omar Jordan Fawahl on Flickr on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Online Video Marketing – Just What the Doctor Ordered

If your business isn’t utilizing online video to market your products or services, you are probably missing out on a great opportunity to connect with your customers and potential customers.

A research report that was published last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project points out that the percent of online adults who watch or download videos has grown in recent years, increasing from 69% of adult internet users in 2009 to 78% in 2013. This number is even more important given the fact that the number of adults who use the Internet is also growing.

According to the report, the increase in online adults who post, watch and download videos is being driven by mobile phones and video-sharing sites like YouTube.

However, as David Meerman Scott points out in his book, titled “The New Rules of Marketing & PR,” increased access to high speed Internet connections and technology that make it easy for anyone to create and upload video content also had something to do with the growth in online video usage.

Special Effects Not Required

If you check out what the big brands like Coca-Cola, Red Bull, or Old Spice are doing with online videos, you might get the impression that a huge budget is required for success.

However, that’s just not true. In fact, brands can be successful without all the Hollywood-style special effects, just ask Blendtec. (They were able to create viral videos with little more than a man in lab coat and a blender.)

The Hidden ROI of Online Videos

As is the case with all online content, online videos can have a positive effect on the business’s bottom line in other ways, as well, including decreasing operating expenses. This can be achieved by creating educational videos that help customers use the business’s product.

For example, take a look at what the Rug Doctor is doing with its YouTube channel. Even though the product is relatively simple to use, in my opinion, the directions that they include when you rent a Rug Doctor do not offer enough explanation on how to use their product effectively. While they fail in creating easy-to-use written instructions, they do an excellent job with their YouTube channel. The videos don’t look like they cost the company very much to make, but as the number of views testify, they have success demonstrating how the product is used.

As of today, one the basic educational videos that explains how to use a Rug Doctor has been viewed by over 435,000 people on YouTube. Just think about how much staff time it could have potentially saved the company if even half of those people didn’t have to call to ask questions. Not only that, think of all time they may have saved those same customers. That’s just good business.

The fact that this many people viewed the Rug Doctor’s videos does not come as a surprise when you look at online video trends.

According to the Pew Research study that I previously mentioned, educational videos are among some of the most widely viewed online video genres.

Final Thoughts 

Many experts recommend that businesses of all sizes use online videos in their marketing efforts for a wide range of reasons.

The Pew Research study reinforces the fact that consumers are already watching video online. This is not going to change any time soon. In fact, as the Internet gets faster and more options are available to reach your customers and potential customers, it will become not only a recommended tool in your marketing toolbox, it might become the key to success.

Photo credit: jm3 on Flickr on Flickr.

Video credit: Pew Research Center

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Using Sexual Imagery to Sell to Female Consumers

When creating a marketing campaign, particularly one that uses sexual imagery to sell the product, it is important to consider what you are selling and to whom you are selling to.

In his book, titled “Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear,” Dr. Frank Luntz points out that, “You can have the best message in the world, but the person on the receiving end will always understand it through the prism of his or her own emotions, preconceptions, prejudices, and preexisting beliefs. It’s not enough to be correct or reasonable or even brilliant. The key to successful communication is to take the imaginative leap of stuffing yourself right into your listener’s shoes to know what they are thinking and feeling in the deepest recesses of their mind and heart. How that person perceives what you say is even more real, at least in a practical sense, than how you perceive yourself.”

However, this is something that businesses often fail to do.

As I pointed out in a recent post, businesses have often used sexual imagery in the ads that aired during the Super Bowl.

However, the over-the-top use of sex to sell has created a backlash from female consumers who claim that some of the ads are just plain sexist. Given the purchasing power that female consumers have, especially for certain products, businesses like GoDaddy have been forced to create Super Bowl ads that appeal to both men and women.

This made me wonder whether or not sexual images really do help sell products, particularly when many potential customers are female.

To answer this question, let’s first look at it from a more general perspective.

Does Sex Really Sell?

If the number of companies using sex to sell is any indication, then the answer is yes.

In a 2012 article, Dr. Tom Reichert, professor and head of the department of advertising and public relations in the UGA Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, points out that, “Advertisers use sex because it can be very effective. Sex sells because it attracts attention. People are hard wired to notice sexually relevant information so ads with sexual content get noticed.”

The article goes on to point out that the use of sex in advertising has increased over the years. In fact, Dr. Reichert reports that although sex is primarily used to sell low-risk products purchased on impulse, the use of sex to sell everything from alcohol to banking services has increased in recent years.

The article specifically points out that much of the growth in sexual imagery, particularly in print advertising, was used to sell alcohol, entertainment and beauty products. And, with the exception of entertainment advertising, an overwhelmingly majority of sex-selling advertisements feature female models.

With the advent of social media, businesses may need to rethink this strategy. This is particularly true when female consumers are the ones using their product or service.

However, this doesn’t imply that sexual imagery is completely off limits when selling products or services to women.

Women’s Reactions to Sexual Stimuli

A recent study that was published in Psychological Science, titled “The Price Had Better Be Right: Women’s Reactions to Sexual Stimuli Vary With Market Factors,” provides some interesting insight into when and why it would be appropriate to use sexual imagery to sell to women.

The study, conducted by Dr. Kathleen Vohs, Dr. Jaideep Sengupta, and Dr. Darren Dahl, finds that, “As predicted, women found sexual imagery to be distasteful when it was used to promote a cheap product, but this reaction to sexual imagery was mitigated if the product promoted was expensive. This pattern was not observed in men. Furthermore, we predicted and found sexual ads promoting cheap products heightened feelings of being upset and angry among women. These findings suggest that women’s reactions to sexual images can reveal deep-seated preferences about how sex should be used and understood.”

According to Dr. Vohs, Land O’Lakes Professor of Excellence in Marketing at the University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management, “Women generally show negative attitudes toward sexual images. Sexual economics theory offers a reason why: The use of sexual imagery is inimical to women’s vested interest in sex being portrayed as infrequent, special, and rare.”

Final Thoughts

Although the use of sexual images in advertisements has increased in recent years, businesses may need to rethink this strategy. This is particularly true if many of their potential customers are female and the product that the business is selling is relatively inexpensive.

However, as the study cited above points out, sexual imagery can still be an effective marketing tool when targeting female consumers if the product is perceived to have high value and is therefore consistent with the way women typically think about female sexuality.

Photo credit: Hard Seat Sleeper on Flickr.

Video credit: Time Inc.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Not Your Father’s Super Bowl Ads

In recent years, when you tuned in to watch the Super Bowl, you could expect to see some beer commercials, car commercials, an occasional movie trailer, and a GoDaddy commercial or two that featured scantily dressed women who encouraged viewers to host their web sites or register their domain names with GoDaddy.com.

This year, you shouldn’t expect the scantily dressed women—at least from GoDaddy.

Last fall, GoDaddy announced that in 2014 they are going to take their advertisements in a new direction.

According to a press release issued in October of 2013, GoDaddy confirmed that this year’s Super Bowl commercials won’t have the risqué innuendo viewers expect to see in a GoDaddy Super Bowl advertisement.

The press release states that “GoDaddy’s marketing has evolved with the company’s overall transformation under new CEO Blake Irving, who is committed to maintaining GoDaddy’s edge, but in a way that speaks inclusively to the customer base and demonstrates the value the company provides to small businesses and entrepreneurs.”

In other words, GoDaddy is making an effort not to alienate women.

Less Cheesecake Is Good for Business

A recent Adweek article that was written by Kat Gordon points out that Super Bowl ads typically haven’t done a good job reaching female viewers.

According to Gordon, “Sadly, so far the track record of the work has been pretty degrading in their depictions of women. In 2013 we saw waitresses turned strippers, scantily clad women tackling each other in the dirt, and a supermodel sloppily kissing a computer programmer.”

“Those were the major marketing fumbles of the day,” continues Gordon. “Not only were these ads off-putting to women, but many men also tweeted their wish for something other than lowest-common denominator creative. And the old adage that “sex sells” is being refuted with research that says that brand recall dips when the brain is busy processing ta-tas.”

That alone would make some brands take note. However, it is some of the other statistics that Gordon points out that may have caused GoDaddy and other brands to show a little less skin this year.

“According to Nielsen demographic data, 46 percent of the Super Bowl viewing audience is female, and more women watch the game than the Oscars, Grammys and Emmys combined,” writes Gordon. “She-conomy.com reports that women influence the majority of consumer spending across all categories, and onlineMBA.com published a report that found women comprise the majority of Twitter users (59 percent). Finally, women out-tweet men by 60 percent, per a study of 1,000 British Twitter accounts by Brandwatch.”

This points to the fact that female consumers are not only very influential when it comes to making purchase decisions, they are very vocal about it.

This makes the female consumer a force to be reckoned with.

That would explain the fact that this year’s Super Bowl ads are going to feature a lot less cheesecake and a lot more beefcake.

Note: For additional information about what to expect in the 2014 Super Bowl ads, check out this USA Today article.

Final Thoughts

Each year, brands spend millions of dollars to reach consumers during one of the most watched events of the year.

Given the fact that nearly half of the Super Bowl viewers are female and they tend to be the most vocal online, it is not surprising that brands have stopped ignoring this important demographic and started to create ads to meet their expectations and desires.

In 2014, it is important that brands create ads that appeal to both men and women in an effort to maximize their return on investment.

Photo credits: Rocky Mountain High and torbakhopper on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Seven More Things That Will Influence Business in 2014

It’s a new year.

That means it is a good time to look ahead and try to predict what businesses will need to focus on in order to stay ahead of the game.

As I was thinking about this post, a few things occurred to me.

First, many of the things that I have on my list are things that people have been talking about for a few years. This may be due to the fact that technology is finally catching up to the hopes and dreams of innovators around the globe. This could also be due to the fact that smart people try to think in terms of what the world will be like 10, 20, or 30 years from now, and plan their short-term goals so that they are meeting the needs of consumers now and in the future.

Second, the lists that we make each year don’t only apply to the year ahead. They build off the past and hopefully look to the future. Therefore, it is not surprising that the items on last year’s list could easily be on someone’s list for 2014.

Third, although now is a good time to look ahead, smart businesses need to be doing this all year long. Because technology is advancing at such a fast pace, something new could be invented or released mid-year that could change the direction of business.

The List So Far

As I mentioned, the things I was watching in 2013 are still relevant in 2014. Therefore, instead of creating a whole new list, I am just going to add to it. For review, here is the 2013 list:

1) Rapid Advancements in Technology

2) Mobile (User Experience and Marketing)

3) Mobile Payments

4) Mobile-Influenced Merchandising

5) Privacy Issues

6) The Evolution of Marketing and Public Relations

7) Emerging Markets

Note: As I do each year, I suggest checking out the “100 things to Watch in 2014” list published by JWT Intelligence. As was the case in the past, this year’s list has some very interesting predictions.

Additional Things I Will Be Watching in 2014

While this is by no means a comprehensive list, here are some additional things that I think businesses should be watching this year.

8) Internet of Things The definition of the Internet of Things is not completely agreed upon. That said, my definition is most aligned with the definition provided by SAP. According to Wikipedia.org, SAP’s definition of the Internet of Things is, “A world where physical objects are seamlessly integrated into the information network, and where the physical objects can become active participants in business processes. Services are available to interact with these ‘smart objects’ over the Internet, query and change their state and any information associated with them, taking into account security and privacy issues.” This will not only change business, it will change how we live. (The most common example that I have heard about is the refrigerator that can tell you when you are out of milk. This technology can and is being used to help companies meet the needs of consumers in all areas of life.)

In the short-term, the use of this type of technology can help companies gain a competitive advantage over the competition. In the future, this type of technology will be table stakes.

9) The Evolution of Retail It is inevitable that advancements in technology will change the way people shop. In order for brands and retailers to compete, they are going to have to take many variables into account and offer creative ways for consumers to purchase products and services from them. Last year, I pointed out that mobile phones are influencing the way people shop at brick-and-mortar stores. But the changes don’t stop there. Innovative companies have found ways for consumers to purchase products from them in ways that we never thought possible. Need some examples? Look at number 11, 14, 59, and 79 on the JWT Intelligence “100 Things to Watch in 2014” list.

10) Omni-Channel Retail Although this is part of the evolution of retail, it is important enough to be included by itself. According to Wikipedia.org, “Omni-Channel Retailing is the evolution of multi-channel retailing, but is concentrated more on a seamless approach to the consumer experience through all available shopping channels, i.e. mobile internet devices, computers, bricks-and-mortar, television, radio, direct mail, catalog and so on. Retailers are meeting the new customer demands by deploying specialized supply chain strategy software.”

As Wikipedia points out, “With omni-channel retailing, marketing is made more efficient with offers that are relative to a specific consumer determined by purchase patterns, social network affinities, website visits, loyalty programs, and other data mining techniques.”

Note: Some people have used the phrase onmi-channel marketing. However, it looks like more people are going with onmi-channel retail. It seems like they are basically talking about the same thing (i.e., not only having the brand reach consumers via multiple marketing channels, but having each of the channels know how the customer interacted with the brand in the past.)

11) A Global Marketplace Thanks to the latest technology, we have access to and can sell products to consumers located in all areas of the globe. However, the Internet is not making us homogeneous. In fact, as I pointed out in a post last year, research has shown that the Internet may reinforce regional differences. The key is knowing what customers want and filling their needs. This is going to call for increased awareness of the needs of each demographic group (region, political affiliation, income level, educational attainment, etc.) in the market(s) that you are selling to.

The flip side of the coin is that businesses around the globe can now compete for your local customers, increasing the need for improved efficiency and quality, not to mention having an effect on how you price your products and services.

12) 3D Printing Wikipedia.org defines 3D printing as, “a process of making a three-dimensional solid object of virtually any shape from a digital model.” The rapid improvement of this technology has made it economically feasible for people to use it to create a wide variety of products. With it, the technology brings a host of legal and security concerns that need to be addressed. If 3D printers become inexpensive enough, this technology has the potential to change business as we know it today.

13) Cyberattacks By now, everyone has heard about hackers attacking companies and getting access to customers’ personally identifiable information (PII). When this includes customers’ financial information, it can cause a public relations nightmare. However, now that we are connecting things that we use in the terrestrial world to the Internet (see #8, The Internet of Things), just think about the problems that could arise. This is something that all businesses need to think about. This is even more important for companies that are helping bring the latest technologies to our homes and offices.

14) Ethics This is something that all businesses should be thinking about. In fact, it is going to become more important as time goes on. Businesses that deliver a quality product while being friendly to employees, customers, and the environment are going to win in the long term. And, when it comes to using the latest technology for business, companies that push the envelope are often going to be rewarded. However, businesses that go too far and make customers uneasy or upset could feel the financial impact. While I am often an advocate for using the latest and greatest technology, I am also aware that sometimes just because we can do something doesn’t mean that we should. A little forethought can go a long way.

Final Thoughts

So there you have it. My list of things that I will be watching in 2014 and beyond.

Is there something that you think that I should have included? If so, please let me know…

Photo credits: Zach Copley and Samuel Mann on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Green Is Good for Business

In his book, “An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What We Can Do About It,” Al Gore makes a strong case for addressing the issue of (human-caused) global warming before it is too late.

It should be noted that there are skeptics out there who say that the science that Gore uses to support his argument is biased.

That said, you need to look at the motives of all of the people involved before making the final decision as to what you believe to be true.

In a blog post, titled “Global warming consensus: Agreement among scientists confirmed, again,” Erik Conway explains that market research has shown that many people think that government should take action on controversial issues similar to this one only after the science is settled. Therefore, it is in the best interest of those entities that are adding to the problem to challenge the science to make it look like there isn’t a consensus about the whether or not human-caused global warming is a reality, in order to prevent action.

There is a lot of evidence out there to support the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality. In addition to Gore’s book, a documentary hosted by Tom Brokaw, titled “Global Warming: What You Need to Know,” and a website that was created by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) provide some of this evidence.

What Do Your Customers Believe?

Although I do believe that there is definitely some validity to the argument that human-caused global warming is a reality, what I think is not really the point.

In fact, when you are making business decisions that relate to how your company handles this issue, what you think is also irrelevant.

When looking at human-caused global warming from a business perspective, the people who really matter the most are your customers and potential customers.

As Al Ries and Jack Trout point out in their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” what you tell consumers doesn’t really matter.  What really matters is what they believe about your product or service and your company or brand. This is what is going to influence whether or not they make a purchase.

If the people who could potentially buy your products and services believe that human-caused global warming is real and your company is heavily contributing to the problem, then there is a good chance that they will eventually take their business elsewhere, if they haven’t already.

Our Children Are the Future

Our children and their children are the ones who are going to be living here on Earth 50 to 100 years from now. Therefore, it is not surprising that whether or not a product or service is eco-friendly has become more important to young consumers.

A study that was mentioned in an Adweek article on October 24, 2012 highlights the fact that, in 2012, a greater percentage of young consumers thought that factors like “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” were important to them when buying products than young consumers did just five years earlier.

Think About the Future Before It’s Too Late

Although it is not always possible, the long-term health of the company should be considered when making decisions in an effort to reach short-term goals.

With that in mind, what happens if the scientists who are predicting that human-caused global warming is a problem are actually correct?

What if in the year 2100 we experience effects of human-caused global warming that makes life unbearable for many consumers?

Who are they going to blame?

If your company didn’t do anything to prevent the problem when it had the chance, will consumers be forgiving?

What if these problems happen sooner?

Final Thoughts

Human-caused global warming is an issue that is often talked about on national news programs. However, the problem hasn’t reached a point where action is being demanded… yet.

That doesn’t mean that your business should ignore the issue.

As John Lindsay once said, “In politics, the perception is the reality.”

In their book, “Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind,” Ries and Trout point out that the same is true in advertising, business, and in life.

Therefore, even if you think that human-caused global warming is absolute nonsense, it still is a good idea to take steps to make your business green.

Making sure that your business has a minimal negative impact on the global and local environment not only helps keep existing customers happy, it can also be used as a selling point when trying to gain new customers.

Furthermore, as many thought leaders have pointed out, making your business green can actually increase the bottom line in other ways (e.g., lowering operating expenses, leading to new products or business partnerships, helping secure government contracts, etc.)

In the end, having a green business is good business and good for business.

Photo credits: Paladin Zhang and John LeGear on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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Made in the USA: The ‘Secret Sauce’ Needed for Success?

Two years ago, I attended an AMA South Florida event in Miami, Florida. While the speaker was interesting, it was something that an attendee from either Central or South America had mentioned to me that is still stuck in my head.

He had mentioned that people in his city love the United States so much so that, in that city, products that are made in America fly off the store shelves.

This is the kind of insight that I think businesses could use in some way.

The Value of ‘Made in America’

In an article on Inc.com, Eric Schurenberg writes, “Think of the label “Made in America.” What brand images come to mind? Odds are, you’ve conjured up a picture of one of two scenes.”

“First, there’s that rugged, sturdy (if underappreciated), no-frills, American quality,” writes Schurenberg. “It’s the stuff of Chrysler Automotive’s much-praised “Imported from Detroit” ad, and Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the USA.” If you buy this two-fisted version of “Made in the USA,” you also likely buy American because you’re patriotic. You don’t care if elites would rather buy a BMW.”

“The other Made-in-America vision embraces an artisanal, moral, locavore sensibility,” continues Schurenberg. “Think of Whole Foods, or, in apparel, Brooklyn Industries. In this vision, you buy boutique American goods because they’re holier-than-corporate and show off your elevated taste (not to mention your ability to afford such taste).”

However, if one of these two images comes to mind, Schurenberg thinks you are probably selling “Made in America” short.

As he writes in the article, “The label still has far more international cachet than Americans are likely to give it credit for. Even in the United States, buyers have proven that they’ll pay considerably more for some kinds of American-made goods–simply because they expect them to be a better value.”

In the remainder of the article, Schurenberg makes a great argument for the value of “Made in America” and how the label can bring with it a serious competitive advantage.

A recent Ad Age article written by Lauren Sherman provides information that supports Schurenberg’s viewpoint.

In the article, Sherman writes, “Not since the 1970’s has “Made in America” been such a hot way to market your product.”

Sherman points out that, “In a September survey of more than 1,000 Americans by the Boston Consulting Group, more than 80% said they preferred U.S.-made goods, and that they would pay more for said goods. The same questions were asked of 1,000 Chinese consumers: 47% prefer Made in America.”

However, Sherman also cautions brands that “Made in America” only goes so far. She says that it often comes down to quality vs. a deal. As she states, “When American-made goods deliver both, it works.”

Final Thoughts

In some geographic markets, the fact that a product is made in America might be more important than you think.

Therefore, brands might want to highlight the fact that their products are made in America—even when they are selling them to consumers abroad.

In some cases, it might be as simple as making the “Made in USA” label larger so that it can be conspicuously displayed for all to see.

However, businesses need to keep in mind that other areas of the world don’t share that love of our country or hold American-made products in such high regard. In those parts of the world, the fact that the product is made in America probably shouldn’t be highlighted as clearly, if at all.

The key is to do the research to find out whether or not the fact that the product is made in America has a positive or negative effect on purchase decisions among potential customers in a given geographic market and then test to see if different marketing techniques or product designs increase sales.

Photo credit: kenny_lex on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Geography of Marketing: The Global Marketplace

As technology advances, it is becoming easier for people to connect with other people around the globe.

Rapid advancements in technology are also opening up new markets to businesses that wouldn’t have even dreamed of selling their products and services internationally just a few years ago.

Although international marketing is not my area of expertise, I believe that it is going to become more important for businesses of all sizes in the very near future. With this in mind, I have begun to do some research on the topic.

In the early stages of the process, three things are already becoming clear. 1) The quality of the product or service is becoming more important as businesses compete with other businesses that are located anywhere on the planet. 2) Marketing campaigns need to be tailored to appeal to individual markets and cultural differences need to be recognized. 3) It is becoming increasingly more important for businesses to do the research to identify what the previous two items on my list actually mean to the business and its potential customers (i.e., how do individual markets define quality and what factors influence how effective a marketing campaign will be when it is used to target potential customers living in other parts of the world.)

Globalization Does Not Imply Homogenization

In an article in the September 15, 2010 issue of the American Marketing Association’s Marketing News, Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst at Millward Brown Inc., states, “Culture—the history, beliefs, customs, habits and values of a group of people—determines the ways in which we respond to the world around us, including the brands we buy. Local culture helps establish our values and priorities. It determines our taste for food, aesthetic preferences and communication.”

“Increasingly, however, people everywhere are exposed to foreign cultures through commerce, travel and media,” Hollis continues. “But just how strong is the influence of this global culture when compared to the local cultures in which we are born and raised? While the global culture grows increasingly prominent, my research suggests that the influence of local culture still is very important to brand success.”

Hollis goes on to point out that for brands with global aspirations, the influence of local culture can present significant problems. The combination of product formulations, positioning and communications strategy that made the brand successful in one part of the world may need to be adjusted to build a connection with consumers in new markets. Of these, Hollis feels that communication is probably the most susceptible to the influence of culture.

He also warns that the days of big brands gaining huge market share just by introducing their products and services to new markets are over.

According to Hollis, “It used to be that multinationals could launch a brand into a developing economy confident that their product would be better and more desirable than the local competition. Increasingly, this expectation is unwarranted. With product superiority no longer guaranteed, brands must compete for hearts as well as minds—and to win someone’s heart, you must engage him on his own terms and in his own language. Foreign brands increasingly will need to blend into local cultures if they are to become successful.”

He also points out that the Internet may, in fact, strengthen the connection that consumers have to their local culture.

“People in countries as diverse as China, Turkey and Brazil evince a strong desire to maintain their local culture,” writes Hollis. “In the future, they may celebrate their own cultural identities by choosing local foods, goods and entertainment over Western alternatives. And far from promoting a global village, the Internet actually may be promoting hundreds of local ones. The success of local Internet brands such as search engine Baidu in China and social network Mixi in Japan—as well as the growing trend toward local language blogging—suggests that far from undermining local culture, the Internet instead may be empowering it.”

The Middle East & North Africa Region

A recent report that was released by JWT MENA, titled “JWT MENA: 8 Trends for 2013,” provides insights about the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Interestingly, the report appears to verify that Nigel Hollis was indeed correct, at least for this particular part of the world.

According to the JWT report, “‘Arabification’ is definitely back. Whereas in the past, Arabs have looked to the West for inspiration, today, the region in entirety is looking inwards, supporting entrepreneurialism and its own national best interest. Rather than wallow in negativity, Millennials are optimistically looking forward and up, with a resilience and resourcefulness in addressing adversity. Consumer Confidence is up +6 points in KSA and +5 points in Egypt vs. 2011, shaping the ME of tomorrow, which will be pioneered by the dawn of ‘great brands from the Middle East’ as opposed to ‘great Middle Eastern brands’, towards self-sustainable individuals and economies.”

The report goes on to point out that about nine in 10 MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are of better quality,” and a similar percentage agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are ‘unique.’” Furthermore, about three quarters of MENA adults agree with the statement, “I prefer products from my country over Western products if they are cheaper.”

The report concludes that, “At the end of the day, people are not just buying national brands, they’re buying a great brand and that’s the most important thing.”

If your business is marketing its products or services to consumers living in the Middle East or North Africa, I’d suggest reading this report. It provides great insights about the Middle East and North Africa, including interesting case studies from brands that have been successful in this region.

Final Thoughts

It is my belief that advancements in technology, including the increased reliance on the Internet, will make International marketing even more important in the near future.

However, while the Internet gives businesses the opportunity to sell their products and services to markets that they wouldn’t have even dreamed of just a few years ago, just introducing a product or service to a new market is not enough.

In order to be successful, brands may need to adjust everything from the communications strategy to the product itself, in order to appeal to consumers in other parts of the world.

As Nigel Hollis states at the end of his article in the AMA’s Marketing News, “Successful global brands will embrace the diversity of individuals, communities and cultures around the world, rather than seeking to impose one-size-fits-all templates irrespective of local needs and desires.”

Photo credits: stevecadman and Staeiou on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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The Geography of Marketing: Staying Connected

The number of people who own smartphones worldwide continues to rise. Therefore, mobile marketing is becoming more important for businesses around the globe.

While the technology that is used in mobile devices has improved markedly in recent years, there are still issues that marketers need to be aware of that can influence the overall effectiveness of their mobile marketing campaigns.

In episode #436 of UNTETHER.tv, Rob Woodbridge interviewed Jasmeet Sethi, Regional Head of Consumer Insights for Ericsson ConsumerLab in India.

In a blog post introducing the episode, Woodbridge explains that Sethi believes the greatest challenge he faces is understanding the user experience for consumers in emerging markets.

“Forget your perceptions of UI/UX if you are thinking of swipes or “pull to refresh” or tap and hold, user experience to Jasmeet means something altogether more fundamental,” writes Woodbridge. “We take for granted the almost pervasive access to high speed wireless data we have at our fingertips but, as you know, in certain parts of emerging countries that doesn’t exist. This is a critical first step in understanding how to build for these markets – if your app or mobile service requires an always-on connection to the stream, it will not work in much of India. This, and many other basic usability requirements, could do irreparable damage to great brands and limit success in these huge markets.”

Back in the United States of America

While having limited access to an always-on data connection and slow download speeds are definitely going to be problems in emerging markets, these issues are also problems for marketers here in the United States. Therefore, the lessons that Woodbridge and Sethi are trying to teach marketers around the world are also valuable to those marketers who are trying to reach U.S. consumers.

According to a report that was released last year by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 77% of adult mobile Internet users in the United States said that they experience “slow download speeds that prevent things from loading as quickly as you would like them to” at least occasionally. In fact, nearly half (46%) of adult U.S. mobile Internet users reported that they experience this problem at least once a week. (Note: Data from this study was also reported in an article written by Amy Gahran on CNN.com in August of 2012.)

An even simpler way to illustrate this problem is to go to the maps that show the 3G and 4G coverage areas for any mobile network operator in the United States.

According the current coverage map for Verizon Wireless, Verizon 4G LTE is available in 480 cities and covers 87% of the U.S. population. However, there are still many areas of the country that still don’t have access to Verizon’s 4G network. In fact, there are major areas on the map where 3G coverage isn’t available. While these areas aren’t places where many people live, they might be places where people travel to. Either way, they are locations where mobile marketing might not be the best option at this point in time.

It should be noted that there are many places around the country, including in the metro areas of Atlanta and Minneapolis/St. Paul, where I have experienced regular data connection problems when I used my 3G smartphone. This includes outdoor spaces, as well as in malls and major retail stores.

In episode 6 of the Digital Dive Podcast, co-hosts Emily Binder and Melanie Touchstone talk about connection issues that they encountered in the metro Atlanta area when vendors used their mobile devices to accept mobile payments with apps like Square or LevelUp. In episode 7, they arrive at the conclusion that the problem is fixed when vendors are connected to a 4G network. Therefore, 4G might be the solution that marketers and entrepreneurs are looking for.

However, keep in mind, that although 4G LTE is available in most urban areas, not everyone has upgraded to a 4G-enabled mobile device.

Therefore, if your mobile marketing campaign requires an always-on data connection, it is highly recommended that you test to make sure that consumers can connect using various types of mobile devices in the geographical areas where the campaign will be running, and definitely test to make sure that they can connect using a 3G network. In fact, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to test at different times of the day using different mobile devices before implementing your mobile marketing campaign. Then, continue to test the data connection availability and download speeds from time to time while the mobile marketing campaign is running.

Final Thoughts

As Woodbridge and Sethi point out in the post introducing episode #436 of UNTETHER.tv, data connection issues and slow download speeds can limit the success of mobile marketing campaigns and possibly cause irreparable damage to great brands.

Although they were talking about marketing to consumers in India and other emerging markets, similar issues are still problems in many parts of the United States.

While having a 4G connection might solve many of these problems, 4G is not available everywhere. And, even in places where it is available, many consumers won’t be able to access it because they haven’t upgraded to a 4G-enabled mobile device.

Therefore, before your business implements a mobile marketing campaign that requires an always-on data connection, it would be a good idea to test the data connection availability and download speeds in the geographical areas where the campaign will be running using a variety of mobile devices during different times of the day. And, definitely make sure that consumers can connect using a mobile device on a 3G network. Furthermore, it wouldn’t be a bad idea to test the data connection availability and download speeds from time to time while the mobile marketing campaign is running.

Finally, if your business plans to offer mobile payment options using Square, LevelUp or some other similar service, it is probably a good idea to make sure that your business is connected to a 4G network. It is also a good idea to test to make sure that everything is running smoothly before you use the service to process transactions during peak sales hours.

Photo credits: LGEPR and ETC@USC on Flickr.

Chad Thiele

Marketing analyst and strategist, content curator, applied sociologist, proud UW-Madison alumnus, and an Auburn-trained mobile marketer. My goal is to help businesses identify trends that will help them achieve their marketing objectives and business goals. I'm currently looking for my next career challenge. Please feel free to contact me anytime at: chadjthiele@gmail.com.

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