Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A very unoriginal 12 days of Christmas Emails.

On the twelfth day of Christmas online retailers gave to me….

A very unoriginal 12 days of Christmas email campaign.

This is going to be the most tempting campaign for any online retailer as it just kinda makes sense, however I pose a challenge to any of you out there having a "12 Days of Christmas Brain Fart" and that is, not necessarily to cancel the idea all together but to get creative with it.

So the basic components of a typical 12 day's campaign include; 12 solid days of email campaigning, a single product or 12 sequentially reducing loss leader products to inspire spending, a subject line to reflect the day and for the purpose of time, generally a templated design covering the overall concept…which is a start. Now, what if you were to change the name from "12 Days of Christmas" and call it something relevant to your brand or product lines, perhaps Kiwi-ise the campaign, hire a designer to create a vibrant and fresh campaign, take notice of the fact that we have seasonally Southern Hemispheric weather…avoid snowflakes and put Santa into some beach shorts perhaps. All ideas, but born of the reality that most of the large retail email campaigners last year flooded my inbox with 12 Days campaigns that lacked originality and eventually created boredom, which furthermore…resulted in a direct reduction in click activity.

One of the offending campaigners brought to my attention that their email agency's top tier Account Director to Retail clients was recommending this initiative to them, but what they were unfamiliar with, was the campaign being recommended to all of their top tier clients…

Outcome - in a very small retail marketing, at least 4–5 of the biggies, deploying the exact same 12 Day campaign, over the same days, with similar subject lines and including similar campaign components.

A small piece of advice…check what your category exclusivity arrangement is with your email agency or at the very least, ensure you are not all being managed by the same person.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Online Communication Etiquette…what are the rules?

I got an email last week from a girlfriend that was also cc'd in to a few other sad individuals that's subject line read – To all of my friends who are NOT on Facebook!…a clear message if ever there was one with more than a slight hint of chastisement. BLESS CAPS AND EXCLAMATION MARKS IN EMAIL! Ooh did I say that too loud?

An invitation to a party that everyone else had received prior and we were the sad wee dregs, not able to be reached via the global monster…I certainly hope all 800 million users won't be there. It made me think (for about 5 seconds), what invitations have we potentially missed….weddings (have I noticed any rings on fingers lately?), product launches, baby christenings, birthdays, funerals…a personal invite from Hugh to the Playboy mansion.

So, what does a world look like with no personal contact…
Hi everyone! Just a quick note let you all know the weddings off, Jason was shagging the nanny.
The baby's arrived! A girl named Lequitia, she weighed in at 5kgs, has an extra digit on here left foot and she tore mum end to end.
I'd like to let you all know that Dad died last night in his sleep…bless, check out the photos of our trip to Rarotonga!

Communication, that informs and updates friends of events and then neglects them dreadfully, in the very same moment.

So what is online etiquette? What are the boundaries of what is to be shared online via an email, text or Facebook and what is worthy of…surely not…really…picking up the telephone and having an actual conversation with someone. I've made a list of the ones that possibly need some URGENT attention -
  • The baby's arrived and all related details – for extended contacts it's obvious that a txt alert is appropriate and photos shared on Facebook – family and close friends should also get the courtesy of a phone call. A smidgen of your time, in return for an abundance of flowers and baby wear only seems fair.
  • A family member or close friend is dead – do I even need to put this one into a bullet point!? Possible exception – boy racers who require a tribute page because, all of a sudden "everyone new him and he was amaaaaaazing".
  • We're having a party! – Mx it up across the channels, if you are over 25, it's likely that email, Facebook, txt, phone or heaven forbid…a hand written invite (more applicable for the Grandees).
  • Canceling anything on the day….if this is work related and you are positive that there is no investment in your attendance, an email or text may suffice. Think about this though, if it's a dinner or event that someone has paid for your attendance, pick up the phone to apologize formally. NB. If this is a client supplier relationship and not handled personally…I'd suggest you're committing relationship suicide. Important Note - If this is a canceling a dinner date or similar, with mates, it wreaks of getting a better offer.
  • We're getting a divorce – another one that fits into etiquette 101. Unless this is a celebration of sorts and everyone expects it, you may actually find that some of your friends are upset and some personal contact is required.
  • Sorry…you didn't get the job – again this seems ridiculous, but any conversation involving a set of balls is being abused by a cowardly email or text message.
  • The final point is dedicated to all of the rude and clueless text addicts out there that choose the following times to read and respond to texts – any shared meal times, when you are having a conversation with someone (you could even attempt to make eye contact as a real challenge), all day at work when someone is paying you to be there, during any formal ceremony, driving any sort of vehicle or machinery and finally, at any time when a collision may occur with an innocent bystander.
There are bound to be a heap more that I can't think of on the fly, but you get the picture.

My advice on online comms etiquette is similar to what I'd suggest to an online marketer, which is quite simply, be where your friends and customers are. Put yourself in the shoes of the recipient, if you have to question in your head if it's right, it's likely not. Remember your manners and don't expect your friends and customers to be where you are or want them to be and mix it up based upon how they like being spoken to….if that’s too confusing for you…ask them.

Join the Mobile/Online Etiquette Resistance…cammo's optional.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Whitelisting, blacklisting, graymail or blackmail…

Which one of these things is not like the other…well I guess if you were unlucky and a little dodgy, you may in your lifetime be blackmailed by email but all of the other aforementioned colourful verbs have to be taken into consideration when developing your email marketing program.

As an email marketer, I am very familiar with the importance of obtaining whitelisting to ensure that when I hit the send button on an email campaign, as many of those emails get delivered to the inbox as possible. If I choose not to take care with my content and subject lines, if I create email designs that are based on a single image and do not offer an easy to find and user-friendly "unsubscribe", blacklisting becomes a risk.

The color of today's focus however, is "Graymail". It's important as a marketer not to ignore the color gray, as it applies to emails that are perfectly legitimate, they have subscribed to receive your email but due to irrelevant content/subject-lines or emails being sent too frequently, they have gradually become disengaged and now ignore your email in their inbox. With complete inactivity, ISP's will carry out an automated process of graymail filtering, effectively moving or flagging disengaged customers.

For your benefit, I'll use Hotmail as the example of how they deal with Graymail.
  • Hotmail developed a tool called Schedule Cleanup
  • This allows users to automate the deletion of certain messages
  • Email senders that you pin as wanted, get delivered to the top of your inbox, in the fold
  • Users create custom categories and folders
  • Users can organize messages en masse – messages will automatically be delivered to their predefined folders
The key to avoiding the color gray is to ensure that your copy, content and offers all remain engaging. No longer will email marketers bang the "permission drum" but as a planner, you'll be challenged on fresh content, relevant content and how much time and effort is going in to the subject line.

The important thing for you to understand is that the ISP's are tracking subscriber engagement by opens, clicks, downloading of images, scrolling and safe-sendering your email. Negative aspects that will affect your reputation will be based on deletes, SPAM reporting, marking messages as read without an open, ignoring the message and trashing the message.

My advice – offer content and frequency preferencing, make sure your content is fresh, interesting, dynamic, creative and relevant (not necessarily in that order). Segment your database and avoid the load and blast….are you listening Daily Dealio's??

Good luck!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Have we hit rock bottom yet? - Daily Deal Websites

I'm asking the question to establish whether or not NZer's will require a Daily Deals Rehabilitation program developed for us to enter over the next twelve months if things continue on the same growth (or persistence) trajectory….of course!

Not only are they dominating our inboxes but the topic is being journo'ed up the Wazoo lately and the general consensus from the public is that you either love'm or hate'm and all that seems to divide these two choices, is time. If I'm to personally comment on the phenomenon, I'd suggest that Daily Deals serve a purpose but debatable areas of improvement, I've listed below -
  • A lack of choice and segmentation – campaigners in this area are still generally following a load and blast mentality
  • Potentially some of the offers are morally questionable – case in point Grab Ones special Vasectomy deal…really…and if it goes wrong???
  • Copy and content of the campaign – check the credibility of what you are emailing and google terms of words if you are uncertain – case in point the very same aforementioned email referred to "Dingleberries" as a euphemism for Testicles when the actual meaning is unfortunately a "dag" (of the sheep variety but located on a human….nasty and hard for the minds-eye not to engage).
  • List washing - deal deployers are automatically removing customers or email recipients who have not purchased within their defined timeframes – this style of marketing offers the customer to look everyday and buy when relevant, preferencing relevant offers would be better than simply ejecting individuals from a list.
  • Ruining global ability to deliver html emails to the inbox – subscribers are hitting the SPAM button vs the unsubscribe. Hotmail has identified this as a concern and implementing measures, but are today the only ones. ISP's are bulking and rate limiting emails from certain domains as a result.
  • Lowering customer engagement - benchmarking statistics for marketers and being affected greatly making the channel appear as if it underperforms. We used to relish in the average open rate world of 30-35%…now we have to carry out a massive spiel on how 18-20% is the average but depending on the quality of the data and how qualified blah blah blah….
  • The sheer volume of them – as published by loveonedaysales.co.nz there are 73 current offering various experiences from retail to travel etc, 18 on the horizon and 36 that have been abandoned. The best thing about this site is that they do all of the research and you can fine-tune your picks based upon their recommendations rather than signing up to the lot. The downside is that their researched kinda sucked.
  • Shane Bradley – he slags off all of his competitors which is generally just uncool, it used to be 1-Day now GroupOn are copping his wrath, ironic when he ripped off the concept from them.
My predictions – Shane B will lose his knee caps after slagging off a Daily Deal Site owned by the Mafia, Grab One will develop a bad case of dingleberries and Napalm will be the only solution and Kiwi's will get back to their old buying behavior of walking into shops and buying 10kg bags of Chinese chupachups.


Thursday, October 27, 2011

Should QR codes really be labeled PLWE Codes?

Should QR (Quick Response) codes really be labeled PLWE Codes (Painfully Longwinded Experience) Codes?

Every local marketing meeting or conference that I've attended during the last 6 months has resulted in some discussion or debate about the QR code and why it's not been adopted by the NZ consumer.

I decided to ask my work colleagues what they thought of the technology and why NZers aren't using it. Prior to, I'd of course formulated my own opinion around a "lack of consumer education" and kinda believed that the only way forward was some sort of large scale PR campaign via an offline ubiquitous media.

After chatting with my peers about it, I received responses similar to the following;

"if you have to explain how to download the technology or carry out an educational….it's just too hard". Response – If it makes life easier, they'll learn and do it… case in point - the remote control.

"Why would I download the software…what does it actually offer me by way of convenience" Response – You will no longer have to type in a web URL to your phone or mobile device.
Response – When was the last time you typed in a web URL to your phone?
Response – Valid point!

"The reader technology is pants, you have to hover over the code and it often doesn't read it. Response – Rubbish…in fact utter rubbish, the I-nigma download is awesome and if anything a little too sensitive. Phooey I say to that!!

"I don't really see the point in them". Response – You need to get online and do some research and come back to this argument a little later.

"I think that this is really just ramping technology to NFC and will be adopted when it truly offers some benefits". Response – You raise an interesting point but already we are seeing that the UEM 2007 may be prohibitive to completely successful NFC technology…and that is a whole heap more consumer education that QR codes!

So in essence, I see that QR codes could work brilliantly where there are crowds, much like the RWC, which I believe was a huge missed opportunity for NZ marketers (but that's another rant!) They'll be fantastic for microsite promos, the property market – capturing codes on the fly that direct you to property online (instant grat), basically at any instance where you need to take an offline campaign online.

My personal challenge to all marketers, is to ensure you sell them at the right opportunity, add an educational to the campaign in the short term for the consumer and sell the benefits, set the expectation in the short term as emerging technology…even if they were created in 1994. One last thing, use the reporting technology online to gauge and measure response, it's cheap and useful.

My opinion…QR Code is the appropriate title.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Seriously Weird ole World!

Andrew and I had the pleasure and privilege to go to a Chris Cornell Acoustic Concert in Auckland City.

Whilst I was sitting in the theater really appreciating the seriously good looks and beautiful sounds of CC, I had an epiphany, one of little or no value but one that I'll share…we live in a seriously weird world! And From this realization, I find I have some questions of the Universe…

Question 1
Why is Life so Insanely Busy – I mean stupid busy? This is the first CC concert I have been to in my life, have loved the man for years in every iteration and legendary frontman and yet I walked into the theatre, sat down and started a count-down to his final song. I'd read somewhere that he was to perform 24 songs…so in my head I commenced the countdown when he uttered his first lyric. Before the end of the second song, I realized what I was doing and made a mental pact to watch and listen like it really mattered and would never be possible again.

Maybe others in the theatre had the same realization but my observation saw some in surrounding seats getting up and down and leaving the theatre up to four times in 2 horus, some even left halfway through the performance and then there was Mr Numb-nuts that commented on departure at how boring it was. The concert was amazing, CC on a stage, playing acoustically, just him and his 8 guitars, a turntable, vinyl and a mic…kind of the essence of an ACOUSTIC performance.

Question 2
Are our busy lives making us all A.D.D?

Question 3
Why is everything moving so fast? - One man stands on a stage with 8 guitars, a turntable, vinyl and a mic. His guitars probably have names and at least 4 of them will have been with him for 20 years or more but the outcome is still the same…sound, lyrics and movement that engages all of the senses and just gets better with time.

iPhone 4S was revealed yesterday, not even 18 months after the last iPhone launch….so my next question (Q4) is why does an acoustic guitar look the same now as it did 20 years ago and doesn't require an annual upgrade?

Question 5
Why do aging rockers all dance like they're on smack? This one was more of an observation really.

Told you it was little or no value…mull it over in your spare time, hah!


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Dead Tree Media

We went home from work the other night in a storm (not a metaphor), there was actually a storm. The winds were raging, there was a Tornado warning on TVNZ's website for the shore and upon leaving the office, the Habitual Fix Street wobble board was sailing up the street and taking out everything in its path.

Upon arriving at the top of our driveway, I force open the drivers door to be greeted by 26 pieces of "dead tree media" in my letterbox, or to put it more accurately, 10 pieces in the letterbox, 16 peppered throughout the surrounding flora and fauna and now saturated and papier mached to my white concrete driveway. Now combine the 26 in our letterbox with the surrounding 5 letterboxes on our shared driveway and multiply that accordingly and we now have 130 crappy, poor quality flyers advertising (very effectively to my flowers, trees and driveway by now) retail giants like Briscoes, Noel Leemings, Farmers, Pascoes, Stevens, The Warehouse.

The bad news is my trees have no disposable income whatsoever, nor the need for a toaster, diamond ring or LED telly…the good news (yet to be received) would be for these retailers to become present in this modern time of realization of the rapid demise of our planet and cease this incredibly irresponsible behavior. I'd also ask, if Jim says on TVOne news that we are expecting 60k winds, if I can adapt my hairdo, why can the distributors of this largely unwanted scourge decrease or cancel the print run accordingly or if they must, deliver a day later.

It seems so unfair that we can unsubscribe from receiving email and have so much control over the media that is being presented to us now but have no control over the one that is the most annoying by far.

I'm off to buy a "No Circulars" sign for the dip-shit that delivers in my area to ignore…