It Seemed Like A Good Idea At The Time

I started blogging in December 2006. Had absolutely no idea what blogging was, having never read a blog before deciding to create one of my own. So, unsurprisingly, I gave it a stupid generic name — Marketing ROI — which I later changed to Marketing Whims (Idea, passing thought, fool notion, or What It Means).

After two years, I felt that I was spending too much time on the blog, so I stopped blogging. After about six months, I missed the writing and decided to create another blog, and give it a name that would reflect a tone and message that I wanted to get across.

When I hit on the Tea Party concept, I thought it was perfect. For me, the notion of a tea party conjured up two notions: the Boston Tea Party, which signified revolution, and Alice in Wonderland’s tea party, which signified whimsy (and perhaps other connotations that I was perfectly OK with).

A third notion quickly took hold, and became what is probably the first notion to come to mind when hearing the term tea party: The conservative political movement.

My own political leanings aside, it doesn’t — or shouldn’t — take long to figure out that this blog has nothing to do with the political movement. But for the better part of the past year, I’ve wondered if I’m failing to gain potential readers (most, probably from searches) because of the name.

For the past year, I’ve let it go, figuring that if you’re not smart enough to tell the difference, then I don’t want you reading my blog anyway. Life’s too short to deal with the helplessly ignorant.

But I’ve decided that it’s time to make the change. The straw that broke the camel’s back was a comment that was left on another site, that the owner of the site decided not to publish, but shared with me. This particular genius, responding to a comment I made regarding Bank Transfer Day wrote:

“It seems that Ron Shevlin is the creator of a blog called The Marketing Tea Party. I want to thank him and the anonymous author at [website] for outing themselves.  Or is Ron Shevlin the anonymous author of this article? No, he wouldn’t quote himself twice in the article, would he? And then create the first comment? No, no Ron, tell us it isn’t true! I did a whois on [website]. Ownership is hidden behind a shell company. Tell us, Ron, might you be the owner? Ron, there is definitely a great future for you at one of the 20 TBTF Wall Street Banks. Or are you already on the payroll?”

What a moron. First off, to figure out that I was the creator of a blog called Marketing Tea Party, all this moron had to do was click on my name in my comment on the website, and he’d be taken to this website. Second, figuring out who owns the website in question is no mystery, nor is it owned by a shell company. And third, if you go to the About page of this blog, it clearly says who I work for, and we make no secret of the fact that our clients are financial institutions, many of whom would be considered TBTW Wall Street Banks.

Not to appear like I’m caving because of one lunatic, I did receive this advice from someone whose opinion I highly value:

“Getting rid of the Tea Party bit is a good idea, simply because of the connotation and the kind of traffic you likely attract. It does make you sound like you’re affiliated with that group. When tweeting your posts, I’ve been deleting the title of your blog. You should use the Snarketing name. Marketing ROI sounds a little generic and doesn’t really convey the personality of your posts.”

That was enough for me. Time to kill the Marketing Tea Party moniker.

So, starting with my next blog post, I’ll be blogging at Snarketing2dot0.com.  Yes, snarketing.com was taken, and my attempts to contact the owner of the URL have gone nowhere.

Now, I’m quite aware that the reference to snarkiness isn’t for everyone, either.  But to that, I’d like to quote Atomic Tango:

“Snark is not to everyone’s tastes. Some consider it too mean, and also a significant contributor to the decline of American civility. To which I say, get over it. Snark constitutes the perfect antidote to the nonsense being bandied about by self-proclaimed social media “gurus” and “thought leaders” — nonsense that could waste the time and money of all the innocent people that these charlatans sucker, I mean, consult, I mean, sucker.”

Hope you’ll follow me over to Snarketing2dot0.

The REAL Real Lesson Of Financial Literacy Month

The CU Water Cooler called attention to a GlobeAdvisor article titled The Real Lessons of Financial Literacy Month. The article lists “12 points that  no one has raised since Financial Literacy Month began Nov. 1,” and includes some very worthy items like “banks are part of the problem” and “relying on schools to teach financial literacy is passing the buck.”

My take: While the list is good, the article still misses the REAL lesson that no one has raised since FLM began:

Financial literacy is not a worthwhile goal or objective.

The problem that many people have regarding the management of their financial lives is rooted in behavior, not knowledge. Knowing how to effectively manage your financial life doesn’t mean that you will effectively manage your financial life. It’s like driving a car — knowing how a car operates doesn’t make someone a good driver.

You might think that I’m mincing words here, and believe that while behavior might be the important goal, that literacy or knowledge is the path to achieving that objective.

Hogwash. I’ve never taken a financial literacy course in my life. I’ve never accessed a single web site page on any financial institution’s web site that dealt with financial literacy.

In other words, I would have a hard time proving that I’m financially literate. But I have no debt, my family spends within its means, and my financial life exhibits none of the problems or issues that are characteristic of those who are supposedly financially illiterate.

Literacy is simply not the problem we — as a society — need to address. It’s personal accountability and responsibility for one’s own financial live.

The “as a society” part of that sentence is important. Blaming banks, credit card issuers, or mortgage lenders for the problems that people have with their financial lives is wrong. (It seems to be a popular sport these days to consider banks that foreclose on defaulted mortgage holders to be the “cause” of homelessness). 

Should makers of Cracker Jacks prohibit the sale of their product to people who are overweight? No. It’s the responsibility of the individual to eat right, and pass on eating junk, or eating it in moderation. Cracker Jacks could educate consumers about how sugar is bad for you, or how taking in more calories than you expend causes weight gain, etc. — but if people aren’t disciplined about what and how they eat, the problem won’t go away. 

So, if you work at a financial institution that is promoting Financial Literacy Month, good for you. But you’re probably having absolutely no effect on the real problem. Stop trying to educate people about financial literacy. Give them tools to change their behavior. Or get tough, and tell them what to do.

And for the holier-than-thou, righteous types out there: Stop blaming financial institutions for the bad decisions that individuals make. 

p.s. No boxes of Cracker Jacks were harmed, or consumed, in the writing of this blog post.

Banks’ Social Media Challenges

I had the chance to participate on a SMB Boston panel last week on Driving Business Value Through Social within Financial and Regulated Environments, which I think was just a fancy way of saying “social media in financial services.”

The main message of my presentation:

Financial institutions should integrate social media approaches into their marketing and customer service processes.

As I see it, banks (and credit unions) are wrestling with — or perhaps, simply failing to address — challenges regarding social media. And you don’t even need to be a journalist to know where these challenges came from:

  1. What: Banks don’t know what to say in social media.
  2. When: Banks don’t know when to say it.
  3. How: Banks don’t know how to say it.

There are, of course, a couple of other potential challenges, but I think that “Who to say it to” is less of a challenge, and that “Why they’re saying it” is better understood. Regarding “why”, the research that Aite Group has done on social media in banking, bears this out: Most FIs are fairly clear that engaging customers, building brand awareness, and building brand affinity are why they’re involved with social media.

Engagement may be the objective, but I’m not sure, based on what I’ve seen FIs tweet and post, that they know how to achieve that objective.

I saw one FI recently tweet:

Have a new business that needs to grow quickly? Add credit card processing to increase revenues and cash flow. #smallbiz

Here’s another from a credit union:

We are listening. We are not like the BIG Banks. Check us out!

Do people really turn to Twitter or Facebook to see shameless marketing messages, re-purposed from other marketing channels? Are these tweets effectively engaging customers/members/prospects? I don’t know. But I bet the FIs that tweeted those messages don’t know either.

Another thing that struck me reading those tweets, was thinking about why the FIs chose to tweet those messages when they did. Was some marketing person sitting around with nothing to do, and suddenly realize that ts was 30 minutes since the last tweet, so s/he might as well tweet something else? Did something trigger the need for a credit card processing tweet at that particular time? I can tell you this: The credit union’s tweet came 11 days after Bank Transfer Day, so I doubt there was some pressing need to send out that tweet when it was sent.

The tone of these tweets doesn’t sit well with me, either. How many times have you heard the phrase “join the conversation?” Look again at those tweets above — do you know anybody who talks like that in the course of a normal conversation? (If you do, I bet you don’t engage in too many conversations with that person).

This gets at a big issue that marketers (not just in financial services) have to face: They don’t know how to have (or start) a conversation with consumers. Here’s the problem:

Marketing has, to date, been driven by the need and desire to persuade consumers.

But “engagement” isn’t accomplished through persuasion. (Well, persuasion can be a part of it, but it can’t be the only part of it).

———-

So what should FIs do to address these challenges? There’s a tactical response and a strategic response.

The tactical response: Categorize and test.

A couple of months ago, Michael Pace from Constant Contact wrote an interesting blog post, advocating that Twitter users should periodically do a self-analysis of their tweets. Honestly, I thought that was a pretty self-indulgent thing for an individual to do. But at the company level, the idea has a lot of merit.   

A high-level analysis of your company’s Twitter stream can help you understand how well you’re balancing various types of tweets. And the same could be done with Facebook posts. The challenge, of course, is understanding what impact those messages are having, and if shaking up the mix would improve the impact (i.e., engagement).

———-

But even if you do this, I doubt that you’ll make more than just a minor impact on your firm’s bottom line. To have a more meaningful impact, you need the strategic response:  Integrate social media approaches into marketing and customer service processes.

In my presentation at the breakfast, I highlighted three ways to do this:

1. Influence preferences. I like what America First Credit Union does on its site (as does @itsjustbrent,  since he either borrowed this example from me, or I stole it from him). The CU incorporates members’ product reviews on the product pages. By doing this, the CU accomplishes:

  • Customer advocacy. Not just in the net promoter sense of the word — but in the more important sense of the word: Doing what’s right for the customer and not just your own bottom line. Helping consumers make better choices — that are right for them — by enabling them to access other customers’ opinions is a demonstration of customer advocacy.
  • Active engagement. I guess that, if a customer follows you on Twitter and reads your tweets, or likes you on Facebook in order to enter a contest to win a prize, you could call that engagement. But I would call it passive engagement. Customers who take the time to post a review are more actively engaged, in my book.
  • Continuous market research. I doubt many firms could capture the richness of information America First is capturing through satisfaction or net promoter surveys. And I know that they can’t capture it in as timely a basis as America First does.

2. Provide collaborative support. I’ve been holding up Mint.com as an example of a firm with collaborative support, but it recently discontinued its Mint Answers page. No worries, Summit Credit Union is doing the same thing, and hopefully, they can become my poster child for this. Collaborative support is giving customers the opportunity to answer other customers’ questions. Dell has been doing it for years. Why provide collaborative support?

  • Reduced call volume. I’m not going to say that you’re going to see a huge volume of deflected calls, but over time, if you market the collaborative capability, it can help.
  • Expanded knowledge base. This is where the bigger value comes in. Customer service reps leverage internal knowledge bases to answer customer questions. Collaborative support helps grow that knowledge base, and helps figure out which answers and responses are more valuable than others. This expanded knowledge base will also prove valuable in training new employees.
  • Active engagement. Similar to the product reviews, customers who participate in collaborative support sites are demonstrating active engagement.

3. Instill financial discipline. This is about using social concepts to get people to change the way they manage their financial lives. Take a look at the research that Peter Tufano has done regarding what motivates people to save.  There are some good examples of this in practice — see Members Credit Union’s What Are You Saving For?. I recently chatted with the CEO of Bobber Interactive, and like what they’re doing about bringing social gamification to how people manage their finances.

———-

Bottom line: Your firm can putz around with Facebook and Twitter until you’re blue in the face. For financial institutions, this is probably not going to have much of an immediate impact on the bottom line. It will likely take years of experimentation to figure out what to say, when to say it, and how to say it on social media channels.

If you want to engage customers, you have to give them a reason to engage. Mindless, idle chatter on Twitter and Facebook isn’t sustainable. 

The path to making social media an important contributor to bottom line improvement — and sooner rather than later — will come from integration social media concepts and approaches into everyday marketing and customer service processes.

Stupid Marketing Comments

Every once in a while, I come across a marketing-related claim or statement made in an article, blog post, or tweet that makes me think: “That’s not right!”

Well, hold on. That’s not exactly right.

It doesn’t happen “every once in a while,” it happens all the freaking time.

Keeping track of these stupid marketing comments could be a full-time job. Here are a few that wedged themselves into my field of consciousness over the past two days.

“Mobile Users Click But Don’t Convert”

According to a report from Macquarie Group, search advertisers experience higher click-through-rates (CTR) for mobile phone and tablet search campaigns than for desktop search campaigns. But  mobile conversion rates were at just 31% of the average desktop campaigns’ conversion rates. The study found that the average cost-per-click (CPC) on mobile phone search campaigns was slightly higher than for desktop search campaigns, but that tablet campaigns were slightly lower than desktop search campaign CPCs.

My take: Exactly who do you think “mobile users” are? Aren’t they pretty much the same consumers that use the online channel and tablets? Sure, there may be some consumers who use the mobile channel and don’t use the online channel or tablets, but how big could that segment be?

Not only is it mistaken to conclude that “mobile users click but don’t convert,” it’s not even helpful to point out that CTR or conversion rates differ across channels. Well, not unless you’re comparing apples to apples in terms of the types of campaigns run across channels, and the scope and scale of campaigns.

“Apple spends $5.5 billion on marketing, while Microsoft spends $17 billion. Whose brand is stronger?”

A FastCoDesign blog post claimed that: “The decreasing importance of promotions in a digital economy explains…why Apple can build the world’s leading brand in by devoting only $5.5 billion (out of its 2010 revenue of $65 billion revenue) to sales and marketing, whereas Microsoft spends more than three times as much, $17 billion out of a total revenue of $62 billion and still has a weak, unexciting brand.”

My take: Don’t ever compare what one company spends on marketing to what another company spends. Here’s why:

1) You don’t know what they’re including or excluding in their definition of marketing.

2) One company’s marketing goals and objectives may be very different from another company’s (even a competitor’s) goals and objectives. Apple is a primarily consumer-focused company, while Microsoft is heavily focused on selling to enterprises. The marketing investments necessary to achieve their differing objectives can’t be measured by looking narrowly at their “brand.”

3) At any given point of time, one firm may need to spend more even if everything else was equal. If Microsoft’s only objective was to improve its “weak, unexciting brand,”  then don’t you think they would have to outspend Apple to make up the gap? Of course it would

“Promotion is the one P whose importance is clearly diminishing.”

From the same FastCoDesign blog post, comes this claim, regarding the 4Ps of marketing. Per the blog post: “What is interesting about all these forms of promotion [WOM, SEO] is that they, compared to, say, successful TV ad campaigns from the past, are predicated on the existence of a great product. People only recommend products they feel strongly about. PR is hard without something interesting to say. And a site’s position in Google rankings is based on how many hits it gets, which is a reflection of how valuable and interesting it is. Even paid ad words are structured according to relevance and popularity. The promotions of today are nothing without a great offer to back it up.”

My take: Huh? Can somebody translate that into English for me? While Wikipedia might not be the best site to source here, according to the site, Promotion — in the context of the 4Ps of marketing — refers to “all of the communications that a marketeer may use in the marketplace. Promotion has four distinct elements: advertising, public relations, personal selling and sales promotion.”

Even if you only looked at “promotion” in a narrow sense, when you consider the number of firms using Facebook to run sweepstakes and contests, it’s hard to conclude that the importance of promotion has diminished. 

But in its broader definition, it’s hard for me to understand how anyone could believe that the importance of “all of the communications that a marketer may use in the marketplace” has diminished. With the proliferation of channels and ways to communicate — two-ways — with customers and prospects, promotion has never been more important. 

And even that’s a stupid comment. Because the idea behind the 4Ps is that they’re levers that marketers can pull to influence the demand for their product. Arguing that, in some generic sense, one P has disappeared or diminished doesn’t make any sense. The importance of any one P ebbs and flows and varies by product, company, and economic situation.

———-

If you know anybody willing to pay me to do this full-time, let me know. The number of stupid marketing comments coming down the pike is hard to keep up with.

What Do We Need Marketing For?

In my (very glamorous, high-profile) job as an industry analyst, I’m supposed to be on top of industry trends and happenings. For other analysts, that means talking to a lot of people.

Ugh. Mr. Cranky doesn’t like talking to people. 

So I’ve planted listening devices in the offices of leading financial services execs to hear what’s really going on.

The following is (as best as I can make it out, the audio quality wasn’t that good) a conversation between the CEO and CMO of JYAFCU (Just Your Average Federal Credit Union), on Monday, November 7th, the first working day after Bank Transfer Day. 

CEO: How did we do on Saturday?

CMO: (mumbling) You would know if you had bothered to show up.

CEO: What’s that? Can’t hear you. 

CMO: I said, “wouldn’t you know, we did very well.”

CEO: I read that overall, credit unions pulled in 40,000 new accounts and $80 million dollars in deposits. What did we bring in?

CMO: Well, considering we’re JUST YOUR AVERAGE credit union, we opened 6 new accounts, and added $12,000 in deposits. 

CEO: So that’s like, what? One account per hour that we were open on Saturday?

CMO: Uh, yep.

CEO: And were all branches open?

CMO: Uh, yep. 

CEO: So then, not every branch even averaged one new account per hour. 

CMO: Uh, nope.

CEO: How did we do in the month leading up to Bank Transfer Day? CUNA says credit unions opened 650,000 new accounts and brought in $4.5 billion in new deposits. 

CMO: Well, boss, seeing that we’re JUST YOUR AVERAGE credit union, we opened 91 accounts and took in $630,000 in deposits. 

CEO: Well, I’m no CFO, but something doesn’t seem right to me with those numbers.

CMO: I’m the marketing person. Maybe you better explain it to me. 

CEO: Well, on BTD we averaged $2000 in deposits per new account. As did the industry overall, for that matter. Yet, in the month leading up to BTD, we averaged nearly $7000 in deposits per new account. Why the discrepancy?

CMO: I don’t know. My people are working on it. 

CEO: OK, so let’s recap. Since the end of September, we’ve added 97 new members, did I get that right?

CMO: Sure did. 

CEO: So we currently have how many members?

CMO: That would be 12,783. We ended September with 12, 686, which, interestingly enough, is the credit union industry average. 

CEO: Well, I’m no CFO, but my trusty calculator says that’s about 0.8% growth in the month. 

CMO: That’s correct. 

CEO: Remind me again what our membership growth was from September 2010 through September 2011. 

CMO: We grew by the industry average of 1.7%.

CEO: And remind me again what our marketing budget is. 

CMO: Our marketing budget is 1% of assets, which is about the industry average, which comes out to $1.3 million. 

CEO: And remind me again what we spent to create Bank Transfer Day.

CMO: We didn’t spend anything to create Bank Transfer Day.

CEO: OK. Now remind me of one last thing: What do I need you for?

CMO: Huh? What do you mean?

CEO: Between September 2010 and September 2011, we spent $1.3 million on marketing which produced 216 new members. That means we spent about $6000 per new member. According to that Net Promoter guy from Bain, it costs 6 to 7 times more to acquire a customer than retain one, isn’t that right?

CMO: Ron Shevlin says that’s quantipulation.

CEO: When Ron Shevlin writes a bestselling management book, I’ll listen to what Ron Shevlin has to say. In the meantime,  I have to assume that the vast majority of our marketing budget is focused on member acquisition and not retention. So, even if the part of the marketing budget that went to acquisition was just $1 million, we still spent more than $4600 in the past year to acquire each new member. And what you’re telling me is that in the past month we acquired 45% of the total number of members we acquired in the previous 12 months — at absolutely no cost to us. I ask you again:

What do I need marketing for?

Credit Unions: New Members, Boiled Lightly

Well, Bank Transfer Day has come and gone.

Actually, I doubt that it really has “gone” as I’m sure that credit unions will do everything under the sun to keep the glow of the Bank Transfer Day movement a-burning.

Ironically — and I don’t hear anybody else talking about this — credit unions might not have been the only financial institutions to have benefited from BTD. And I’m not referring to the “shedding of unprofitable customers” that some people talk about.

Anecdotally, I’ve talked to a few folks at mid-sized banks who have told me that they’ve seen pretty good growth in new customers over the past month or so.

But that’s not what this blog post is about. This one is about the Wall Street Journal.

I’m a big fan of the WSJ. Read it every day. Agree with the editorials far more often than I disagree with them. But when some press outlet screws up — whether I support it or not — regarding something related to the world of financial services, then I’m going to call them out over it.

And that’s what this blog post is about — calling the WSJ out regarding an article titled Credit Unions Poach Clients (you may need a subscription to access this article. Surprise, surprise, I have one).

Here’s are the issues I have with the article:

1. Credit unions did not poach clients. According to my handy (online) thesaurus, “poach” means infringe upon, trespass, or boil lightly. Sorry, but credit unions didn’t do anything of these things. I’m pretty sure that the new members that credit unions have signed up in the past month came over willingly. I also don’t think that credit unions went over to banks and “trespassed” in any way. And if you know of any credit unions that lightly boiled their new members, please — PLEASE — let me know.

2. Profitability of switchers is an unknown. The WSJ article claims that “people who gravitate to credit unions tend to be unprofitable for giant banks because of the small balances they keep on deposit…” Not so fast. Take a look at the report I did for BancVue. There are many credit unions — and community banks — who offer high-yield checking accounts (Rewards Checking) where the average balances are about 4x the size of free (no-interest) checking accounts, and whose profitability exceeds that of the free checking accounts. According to CUNA, 650k new accounts were opened at CUs leading up to BTD, with $4.5 billion in new deposits generated. That’s nearly $7k/account. Not exactly “small balances.”

3. CUs charge fees, too. The article says “banks try to recoup such costs [to maintain a checking account) by imposing overdraft fees and other charges.” While credit union members may — on average — pay less in fees than the average bank customer (let’s not get into the quantipulation inherent in that statistic), guess what WSJ? Credit unions charge an overdraft fee, too.

4. Banks are everywhere, man.  Johnny Cash shoulda done a song on this. The WSJ quotes a guy from NCUA (which it says is a trade group, which isn’t accurate according to @paulsworld) who says “many of the nation’s 7,200 credit unions are in rural areas where there is no other banking option.” I don’t think this is a supportable statement.

5. The housing bubble comment was a poor choice. The article states that “several large commercial credit unions…went bust after loading up on high-risk mortgages during the housing bubble.” True statement. But in comparison to the impact the housing bubble had on banks, calling out the impact on the credit union industry was pretty manipulative. 

C’mon WSJ: We expect a lot better from you.

p.s. If you want a copy of the report referenced above Financial High Coup: Why High-Yield Checking Accounts Trump Free Checking, contact BancVue.

Social Media’s Chicken And Egg Problem

An article titled Research: Most social media marketing initiatives fail on New Media and Marketing states:

From the book The Social Organization the author states “One of our more striking discoveries is that most social media initiatives fail. Either they don’t attract any interest or they never create business value.” Why ? Because social media is not a tactic social media starts with a social organization focused on consumers and its customers.

[I think there’s a grammatical problem with the last sentence. I think there should be a period after the word tactic, and that the rest of the sentence is a new sentence]

My take: Hold on a second here. For the past two+ years, I’ve been reading left and right that: 1) The ROI of social media far exceeds the ROI of every thing else on this planet, or 2) The ROI of social media can’t be measured in just dollars and cents.

The explanation for why so many firms allegedly fail with social media is intriguing: That firms fail at social media because they’re not a “social organization” which the author defines as:

One that strategically applies mass collaboration to address significant business challenges and opportunities. Its leaders recognize that becoming a social enterprise is not about incremental improvement. They know it demands a new way of thinking, and so they’re moving beyond tactical, one-time grassroots efforts and pushing for greater business impact through a thoughtful, planned approach to applying social media. As a result, a social organization is able to be more agile, produce better outcomes, and even develop entirely new ways of operating that are only achievable through mobilizing the collective talent, energy, ideas, and efforts of communities.

When I first read this, I had a deja vu moment. Ah yes — substitute “knowledge-based organization” from the late 90s or “digital business” from the early 200s, and you realize that we’ve heard all this before.

My deja vu aside, I’ve also read — countless times over the past few years — that firms that don’t get into social media “will be left behind.” (Don’t make me find links, you know they’re out there).

So what should we conclude from all this?

  • That social media does indeed have a higher ROI, but only in a small number of instances, specifically those where the organization deploying social media has already become a social organization?
  • That a company that deploys social media will most likely fail in its social media attempts until it becomes a “social organization”?
  • That somehow a company should become a “social organization” BEFORE deploying social media in order to improve its odds of social media success?

If you’re a senior business executive feeling a bit confused by all this, join the club.

What this means is that — since social media is an imperative in today’s business environment (according to social media proponents), and that a firm must first become a social organization before achieving social media success (according to the author of the book) — business executives should take a leap of faith and radically change and transform their organizations before knowing if it’s the right thing for their organization.

And that is not going to happen in any well-managed, reasonably successful firm.

Social media gurus: It’s back to the drawing boards for you. And when you come back, please get your logic, rationale, and arguments straight.

The 2011 Marketing Tea Party Awards

Last year we issued the first of our eponymous awards to some very worthy winners.

The word Like took honors for Most Annoying Word in the Marketing Lexicon, while Twitter walked away with the Most Overhyped Yet Ineffective Marketing Tool award. And, to nobody’s surprise, Groupon won Bonehead Decision of the Year (for passing on a $6 billion offer from Google).

Although 2011 is only 10/12ths of the way done, we’ve pretty much seen enough (in fact, we’ve seen all we can take), and can confidently call this year’s winners in some newly ordained categories.

The New Coke Award

This year’s winner of the New Coke Award, for the company that commits the worst strategic blunder, is — hands down — Netflix. The firm’s pricing decision and  flip flop on the Qwikster thing resulted in the loss of nearly a million customers and somewhere in the order of $12 billion in market valuation. If you’re Google, that’s no big deal. But to the rest of us in the 99%, that’s a lot of money.

In the age of social media, where gathering feedback from the market and testing marketing (read: pricing) decisions can be done relatively fast and cheap, there’s simply no reason for major strategic blunders like this one.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Based on the criteria, wouldn’t Bank of America be a close contender? No. They captured a different award:

Credit Union Marketer of the Year

Bank of America, with a single move — that they didn’t even implement — has done more for the credit union industry in one month than credit unions have done for themselves in 100 years. The Great Debit Fee Fiasco of 2011 will be a case study in business schools for years to come.

The circus surrounding an announcement — wait, did they ever really announce it? — is perhaps unprecedented. The number of parties taking credit for the reversal has only just begun. Claiming that they “listened to their customers” as the reason for the reversal only begs the question: Why didn’t they ask their customers BEFORE they made the decision?

Congrats, credit unions. This is your Rocky moment.

Most Overused Word in the Marketing Lexicon

I’m going to go out on a limb and make a prediction: 2011’s most overused word might just repeat the honor in 2012. Whether I’m right or wrong about that, there’s no doubt in my mind that Analytics takes the crown for most overused word in the marketing vocabulary for 2011.

Did you know that when you create a spreadsheet, and populate some cells with formulas that do addition and subtraction, that that’s called Analytics? If you use an Excel function, you might get away with calling it Predictive Analytics. 

Have you ever taken a list of customers and identified those that meet a certain criteria, like under a certain age, or over a certain income level? Congratulations, you’re an Analyst performing Analytics!

Do you create reports for the management team showing them traffic on your firm’s web site? That’s called web analytics.

And there’s certainly no shortage of experts telling us that analytics is the key to competitive success. If you’re not performing predictive analytics on the social media data you’re monitoring and capturing, then you might not still be in business in 5 years.

If analytics was overhyped and overused in 2011, just wait until next year. 2012 will be the year of Big Data. We here at The Marketing Tea Party will be doing our best to make it the year of Right Data. Because what’s one more bruise on the side of our heads from beating it against a brick wall?

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Don’t forget to check out Snarketing 2.0:

For the print copy:      For the eBook:

   

New Business Idea: Custom Twitter Avatars

I told a friend (@chaztoo, if you must know) that I thought he should start a business creating custom Twitter avatars. I know that there are online services like FaceYourManga, but those don’t produce anything of really high quality, nor are they very unique. 

@chaztoo is a great artist. Take a look at this picture he posted on his Tumblr:

Wouldn’t you pay something to have him create a custom Twitter avatar for you?

Or maybe, would you pay to have him to do this as a gift for someone else?

Maybe your company, who’s trying to create/support your brand using Twitter, could benefit by having custom avatars — that had a graphic element consistent in each of the avatars — for the people most active on the channel?

Favor, please: Leave a comment letting me know what you think of this idea. Your input will probably determine if @chaztoo does this or not. 

Bank Transfer Day Should Be A BAD Day

Many people involved in the financial services industry know that this coming Saturday, November 5, is being called Bank Transfer Day. (You can Google the term to find more information about it, how it got started, etc.). 

And many in the credit union industry seem to be licking their chops, awaiting a slew of new members, as (they hope) millions of disaffected big bank customers observe this newly-ordained “holiday.”

I challenge credit unions to make Saturday, November 5, a BAD day. 

What does BAD stand for? I thought you’d never ask. Bank ACCOUNT AVOIDANCE Day.

What I DON’T mean by “avoidance” is simply moving one’s checking account from a bank to a credit union. 

What I DO mean is getting rid of the checking account altogether.

Aite Group surveyed consumers who use “alternative” financial services products (e.g., prepaid cards, check cashing services, etc.) to manage their finances, and identified a set of consumers who don’t have a checking account (not all users of alternative financial products are un- or under-banked, FYI), and rely instead on prepaid cards. 

The most prevalent reason why prepaid card holders who don’t have a checking account don’t have one? They don’t want to pay fees. Not just fees for using a debit card. But fees for insufficient funds, fees for reordering checks, or even basic monthly fees. 

This is an interesting perspective when you consider that many of the prepaid cards that these folks are using to manage their financial lives do have a monthly fee (and other fees) associated with them. 

Are credit unions prepared to identify consumers who shouldn’t have, or could do without having, a checking account? Will they recommend to these consumers that they NOT open a checking account, and use prepaid cards instead? And do they even offer prepaid cards in the first place?

We’ll see what happens on Saturday.