Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Is an explanation needed?

I know that several people have contacted me with concerns about MySpace. So I took some time the other day to write this up. Hope it helps if you have to make the case to senior management:

As the baby boomer generation ages and heads toward retirement, Generation X has become the coveted new target market. Generation Xers do not respond well to traditional marketing and advertising mediums, and therefore those mediums have been losing market share during the past decade, including such staples as newspapers, radio, and television.

Generation Xers respond to marketing that can provide the following:
1. an interactive experience
2. exclusive content
3. on-demand timing

Traditional mediums, which previously did not provide these opportunities, are in the middle of a large paradigm shift. They understand the need to reach this target market and are shifting their priorities away from one-way communication vehicles to timely, interactive, on-demand vehicles. For example:

The American Broadcasting Channel (ABC) currently offers via its website (www.abc.com) interactive gaming, video on demand (including full-length episodes), blogs, behind-the-scenes information, mobile phone downloads, podcasting, instant messenger icons, and wallpapers. Current popular television shows, such as American Idol, even ask viewers to use their cell phones to “text message” their votes, allowing the viewer a real opportunity to decide the outcome of a particular episode.

The Washington Post currently offers via its website (www.washingtonpost.com) discussion and message boards, on-demand photos and video, podcasting and RSS feeds.

The online content of the two aforementioned companies are geared toward providing an interactive, on-demand experience that offers exclusive content that cannot be found in other locations.

The Case for MySpace

MySpace is an online social-networking site that is currently the most visited website in the United States, and one of the top ten visited sites on the entire Internet. MySpace continues to grow at an astonishing rate. The site had 17 million monthly visitors in July 2005, and currently boasts 54 million monthly visitors. MySpace features nearly 100 million personal profiles posted by users, many of whom are in their teens and twenties. Even more astonishing is that the average MySpace user spends two hours per visit on the site.

Advantages of using MySpace:
- MySpace offers a chance for companies to take their marketing into new, potentially more lucrative territory, by becoming, in effect, members of their customers’ network of “friends.”
- MySpace allows for a two-way interactive experience with a company’s brand. MySpace visitors can leave comments, send you a message, and rank your page.
- MySpace provides a means for distributing information that normally wouldn’t be found elsewhere, including blogs, vlogs, on-demand music/video, photos, podcasts, and bulletins.
- Return on investment: creating a MySpace page doesn’t cost a dime and allows you to access 100 million people.

The advantages of MySpace attract the Generation X market by providing an interactive, on-demand experience that offers exclusive content that cannot be found in other locations.

There is a concern that companies that use MySpace will alienate potential customers by being overtly commercial in an informal atmosphere. Kevin George, Marketing Executive a Unilever (see case studies below) addresses this concern with the following, “we need to be engaging with our customers, not banging them over the head with brandalism that pollutes their space. When you deliver 18- to 24-year-old guys content they want to engage with, they don’t mind if it comes from a brand.” John Deighton, the Harold M. Brierley Professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School, addressed the same concern in an interview for Harvard Business Journal (August 16, 2006) Deighton states:

An old rule of thumb in the advertising industry was “relevance and likeability.” If ads had both, no one seemed to feel manipulated when their sitcom was interrupted by a commercial message. That goes for MySpace commercial sites. Artic Monkeys, a Sheffield, England, post-punk revival band that is promoted from a MySpace site, is a case in point. The site is credited for their explosive global growth, yet the commercial exploitation of the social network is welcomed by fans. In true punk style the band claims no commercial motive. When asked in an interview with Prefix Magazine about the role of the MySpace site, they claimed that the site had originally been created by their fans.

Case Studies

In 2006, Unilever, a consumer-goods giant, partnered with Christine Dole to promote Axe, a deodorant. Ms. Dolce, who goes by the alias ForBiddeN, boasts around 900,000 “friends” who link to her MySpace page. She was perfect to draw in the 18- to 24-year-old men to whom Axe is shamelessly marketed. Ms. Dolce hosted an interactive game, called “Gamekillers,” based around dating tips and designed to subtly to promote Axe. Some 75,000 MySpacers signed up for it. (The Economist, July 27, 2006)

Hyperactive Music Magazine
Since 2004, Hyperactive Music Magazine has used MySpace to connect with thousands—15,862 to date—of bands, readers, and anyone else interested in the publication. Hyperactive’s MySpace page plays music on a monthly basis from four unsigned bands that convince them in a 25-words-or-less essay that they should be featured. The publisher of Hyperactive says that she get hundreds of essays from bands looking to supply the tunes for Hyperactive’s page. They are looking to expand into music videos and live interviews in the future. (The Albuquerque Tribune, July 2, 2006)

Other Examples
Fox created a profile page for X-Men: The Last Stand. Disney ran a contest to place the trailer for Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest on the profile page of a MySpace member. Some of the most guarded brands in the nation are using MySpace, including Pepsi Cola, Procter & Gamble, State Farm Insurance, and the United States Marine Corps. Examples of large arts organizations that use MySpace include the Los Angeles Opera, Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, Washington National Opera, The Joffrey Ballet, Hartford Stage Company, Lincoln Center Festival, Center Theatre Group (Mark Taper Forum), UCLA Live, MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art), and the Getty Museum of Art.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Engage your customers...

I am back just in time for Thanksgiving! I am starting to settle into my new job at the Americans for the Arts. I am sorry that I have been away for such a long period of time, however moving and starting a new job is kind of taxing. I have numerous posts that I am waiting to write, so keep tuned in.

I just finished reading the Wall Street Journal's article entitled Mark Kingdon: Using Social Sites as Dialogue To Engage Consumers, Brands. Check it out.

More to come--I promise!

Friday, November 03, 2006

In transition....

I am in the process of relocating to Washington D.C. It might be a week or so before my next post. As soon as I get myself set-up, I will post more regularly. Let me leave you for the time being with this:

National elections are next week. If you are interested in knowing how your representative or senator has voted on arts related issues during the previous term, the Americans for the Arts has just released its 2006 Congressional Arts Report Card. Check it out here.