Simple is Better

When I like something, I tend to stick to it for a while. Sometimes it’s a color, sometimes it’s a song, and sometimes it’s a brand.

I recently read an article about the demise of HMV. After 92 years in the music business, the brick and mortar store went out of business. It kept assuming that its customers would stay loyal forever because they had always bought CDs. Instead, online music streaming came into the picture. HMV failed to keep an open dialogue with its customers to learn what they really wanted/needed. One thing that stuck out to me in the article was about the big marketing mistake companies fall trap to: “they stick to tried and tested marketing methods and add a digital marketing strategy as an extra.” Like it or not, digital marketing is not just an “add-on” these days. It is marketing plain and simple. And in the case of HMV, it was the difference between staying relevant and crashing and burning.

Found here

However, going digital does not guarantee success. So many brands today assume that digital marketing is the key to success. It isn’t. The key to success is about understanding your customers and their needs, and then applying marketing strategies that address their needs and provide them with useful information. In today’s world, that means including digital as part of the bigger picture, not just an add-on. But it means including it correctly – not just pushing out irrelevant messages that annoy people.

I get tons and tons of daily emails from retailers who are trying to push me into buying their clothes. Sometimes there’s a discount. Sometimes there’s some kind of perk like free shipping.  But none of these really matter to me. I mostly get annoyed that I am getting so many emails. Very rarely do any of these emails catch my eye. Instead, almost 100% of the time, these emails get deleted. The same goes for brands I follow on Facebook. Some of them post every few minutes and don’t actually provide me anything useful. Sure, they include an image with their post, but I don’t feel like they are making an impact on my shopping habits. It’s annoying to get bombarded with so many messages all the time. I often end up “unliking” a brand when they start to get annoying.

Companies should really learn to talk to their customers and provide them with information that is useful and makes their shopping experience easy. If this were an in-person scenario, you wouldn’t want to be that annoying friend who doesn’t understand personal space. Or that used-car salesman who is desperate to get you to buy a car. As this appropriately titled Harvard Business Review article puts it: To Keep Your Customers, Keep it Simple. Companies need to really figure out what is driving their customers to search certain keywords. They need to become stewards for information so that consumers can stay informed about products so that when they are ready to purchase something they will remember what they learned and very likely purchase a product from that company. Its okay to send emails alerting customers about sales or offering perks, but just keep it simple.

What are some companies you like that you feel keep it simple?

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The Mother of all Data

Do you remember those analog radios that required precise tuning to get the right station? You needed a certain finesse of the fingers – turning the dial one way and then another. The key piece to getting the right station was your ability to listen and weed out the noise from all the other sound waves coming through the speakers until you finally had the right station and you could dance to your favorite tunes.

I recently read two articles (here and here) on Big Data, which made me think of this radio analogy. The point these two articles drive home is that Big Data is just Big Data; it’s what you do with it that matters. In the world of marketing, this couldn’t be truer.

Now granted, the thought of endless spreadsheets filled with numbers may sound intimidating, but just like the analog radio, it requires “listening” to the numbers to find the information you are looking for while weeding out the unnecessary information.

I think Big Data is a very useful tool that can lead to great ROI for a company. But companies need to look at data as a tool to help drive decision-making and really learn to dig deeper.  As marketers, it is our job to ask the “why”,  the “how”, the “where” – the questions that help drive the analysis and result in key insights for companies. Without it, the data (big or not) would be useless.

Much like the radio, we need to know what we are looking for and where we want the dial to turn before we can get anywhere.

The New News

This week in class we were assigned to read a case study about paywalls. Specifically, the article discussed a history of The New York Times paywall and the paywall trend in the newspaper industry. Paywalls are online payment systems that require online newspaper readers to pay for reading articles.

The New York Times has what is called a “soft” wall because it allows readers to read up to 10 articles for free per month, before having to pay for the content. It seems this paywall and previous iterations of it have been met with criticism because many people feel that they shouldn’t have to pay for their news. And while I am the first person to admit that all my news consumption comes from free articles online, I still have mixed feelings about the paywall.

Newspapers (the print versions) were and are not free.  However, news today is consumed very differently and the same business model that worked for newspapers does not work for their digital counterparts. People today don’t entirely rely on a newspaper to get their daily dose of news. And with so many free online news sources available, it is difficult to justify charging people to read content.

I think the soft wall is a happy compromise. For people who already subscribe to the paper version, this is not even an issue. And for people who read more than 10 articles per month, they can either pay, wait out the month, or read another newspaper. News, after all is (supposed to be) unbiased, so if you just want a high-level read on a subject, the internet has plenty of free and reputable news outlets available.

What are your thoughts on paywalls? Are you one of The New York Times loyalists? Do you pay for your content online?

Inspiration

It has been a few months since I last wrote on here. I could say it’s because my first few months in New York have been a whirlwind (really!) but I have admittedly been avoiding writing in here. Part of me feels that I have nothing good enough to contribute. And part of me is just.plain.scared.

I have been going back and forth for some time trying to figure out what I want this blog to be about. My reason for starting this blog was directly tied to my moving to New York (read here) but there are so many things that I want to try to write about that I don’t want to just make it about living in the city. Also, the fear of writing has been so paralyzing, I have put off writing anything. But this semester, I am taking a class in Digital Marketing, and one of the weekly assignments is to write a blog post. And even that has made me a little queasy. But then, as if the universe had heard my calling, I came across this on my way home from work:

InspirationImage from here.

It was on display in the window of an art gallery I have walked by every morning since I moved here. I hadn’t previously really paid much attention to it, but today for some reason I decided to stop and actually read it. It was simple; black font on white paper with a simple black frame. As cliche as it may sound, it was just what I needed. One line really stuck out: “Start doing things you love.” This blog, to me, is something I love – it is the reason I started this in the first place. So I will begin again with love.