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It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new … errrr

This year I didn’t resolve to post more. I figured that I’d already done that twice and it didn’t seem to work, so I’ll just go along without planning. If I post, then I’ll stick to my philosophy of it being worth reading (so I’ll write long-ish posts, as before). If I don’t, I refuse to feel guilty about it.

But the truth is, I feel a little guilty. I was one of the first people to blog in Romania. I was THE first to blog about communication. I still love writing. So not blogging is just a failure of discipline that I DID resolve to eliminate in 2014.

And I also feel silly. Take a look at this:

http://www.forbes.com/special-report/2014/30-under-30/marketing-and-advertising.html

This is Forbes 30 under 30 top for 2014. The overwhelming majority of nominees in marketing and advertising are involved in tech or social media. A large number deal with consumer insight. All of them are busy, inspirational achievers.

It’s a new digital life, and I want it back.

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To watch in 2013

Last year, I predicted that in 2012 we will experience a new frugality (store brands), a retro revival (letter-writing, vintage style), and a boom in alternative spirituality. The latter did not happen, but I was (sort of) right about the first two. On store brands alone, as the leading economic publications attest, the growth and increase in significance was marked (http://incomemagazine.ro/articole/ce-se-ascunde-in-spatele-marcilor-proprii-din-hypermarketuri; http://www.wall-street.ro/articol/Companii/138570/produsele-marca-proprie-a-magazinelor-alegerea-pe-timp-de-criza-a-tot-mai-multi-romani.html).

As 2013 is well on its way, there are other trends and buzzwords. JWT, the leading trend-spotter, has listed its usual 100. Business magazines, websites, fashion editors and many more have come up with their own.

This year, my top trends include Infographics, crowd-sourcing everything (translations, funding, design) and fair travel, by which I understand socially conscious travel (whether travel with a social component, avoiding excessive luxury or accommodation and travel that contrasts heavily with local conditions, supporting local tourism ventures over big-brand establishment, etc.)

I am only going into detail regarding infographics, as they are the most relevant to my profession.

Say it with infographics

Charts and drawings have been around for decades, but as the world swung between the power of the written word, and “a picture is worth a thousand words” illustrations were a communication sidebar. However, as of last year, they are an increasing presence in our communication “protocols” and will continue to gather importance in 2013. Simply put, infographics are visual representations of bulk data or processes. They attempt to break down the data into manageable chunks, highlight the important aspect and clearly display relationships. Designed to be synthetic, short and memorable, infographics are also eminently shareable on a variety of platforms, from Facebook to image based Pinterest, which increases the likelihood of adopting the medium. Interestingly, research is also beginning to prove that infographics may be particularly suited to delivering “counter-attitudinal information” (i.e., facts that directly contradict one’s beliefs on a subject). At the basis lies the very nature of infographics: since they are data-based, there is a psychological bias to believing them more objective. Infographics have the added benefit of bringing marketers, analysts and designers together to discuss the best way to share information. I would therefore venture to say that, barring a major upheaval in social media platforms, infographics are the top 2013 global business communication trend, and will become a marketing buzzword.

 

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Are the 4Ps part of consumer behavior?

I never would have asked this question, had it not been one of the combinations of keywords that brought people to this blog within the past week. But once asked, the question is too unexpected not to receive an answer.

And that answer is NO.

The 4Ps are, depending on who you ask, a mnemonic device referring to 4 key concerns of marketing (product, price, place, promotion), a model for organizing marketing activity or a tool for influencing sales volume and frequency.

But they are not part of consumer behavior. That is “The process by which individuals, groups or organizations search for, select, purchase, use, and dispose of goods and services”, according to one definition.

Simply put, the 4Ps are stimuli (and they are by no means the only ones). Consumer behavior is the set of responses to these, and other stimuli.

I feel like I’ve done a bit of responding myself 🙂 Hopefully it’ll be of use to whoever wrote the original search string.

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Next generation branding

I am celebrating my return to blogging with some insight from the Harvard Business School Working Knowledge website. A recent article highlights new research on the importance of names for new products. It analyses whether naming products with numeric increments to show improvement over the previous version versus naming products with a completely new name has an impact on consumer choice.

Well,  guess what?  It does.

Consumers tend to feel that sequential naming (2400 vs. 2300, for example), tends to indicate an improvement in functionality and ease of use, whereas new product names (Ice Cream Sandwhich, anyone?) signify major departures from the previous product, which change the way in which the product operates, and the customer’s interaction with that product. Product name changes (from XP to Vista, for example)  imply a learning curve, while numerical increments only signal that minor adjustments are necessary.

The research also contextualizes the findings. Signaling improvements or touting major departures are neither good or bad per se, but carry weight only in the context of the risk associated with adopting the new product (perceived risk, that is). Thus fiddling with a new phone to learn how to adjust the setting is not as risky as a new server that may or may not be compatible with the existing infrastructure.

Granted, the findings seem to hold mainly for technology products, so I’d be curious to know whether they hold for products whose fundamental use is not affected by the change in formula or content, such as facial creams or mascara.

My guess is that there would be some small level of concern over the ingredients or the results of the new versus the improved product, but the brand name would carry more weight than the product name.

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Are the 4 Ps of marketing still relevant on the web? – Part 2: Price

A few weeks back, I was arguing for the continued use of the 4P matrix as a valid tool for conceptualizing marketing, including in the online environment. My position was that as a system, they continue to be relevant, as long as we can understand how the definition of each component must be expanded to reflect the new realities.

In the case of products, I stated that the changed environment means a change in the process of facilitating the meeting between wants and needs and those who can service them.

Now comes PRICE. My thinking here is that price as a concept is just as relevant in the connected world as it was previously. As marketers, given the modern structures of communication, we just need to reassess our thinking of price on 3 scales.

1. The price versus purchasing power continuum

The question of whether customers will purchase a good or not is often decided by whether they can afford it or not. We are used to thinking of the  available “out of pocket”, the impact of credit schemes, but the change brought about by the recession and economic crisis is in the time frame in which customers think about affordability. If consumer credit used to mean that something that we could not purchase now can become affordable by staggering payments (and paying a premium for that “affordability in installments”) customers now tend to think a lot more short-term about affordability. “Do I have the money now?” is increasingly used as a gauge of individual purchasing power.

When we think of purchasing power, we often refer to that of our niche target, which could be higher than the average. In the new, frugal, economy, I argue that the average purchasing power should become the reference, as our customers can very easily backslide or simply embrace the lifestyle of earning less as a precaution.

Finally, we need to think about the informational context that defines affordability. Customers can easily monitor the movement of prices across varied categories of goods and may time their purchase to take advantage of the fluctuations (see couponers and the evolution of Groupon and its clones).  This is where our online world differs from the previous generation’s: in its ability to gauge better, quicker, easier when a product moves in or out of the range of our purchasing power.

2. The cost / value ratio

We all know this one, and we’re also told that it is a significant concern to generation Y, who expect more value for less cost. The shift here is, again, in the ability to assess that value. First and foremost is the increased communication, whereby more and more information about the value of a product to various people is available. Traditionally evaluated goods (such as movies, books or restaurants) are now just a few among millions of reviews of everything. More importantly, it’s not only the features and functionality, the usability and durability that are being assessed, but also the more intangible aspects of value such as the experience, or the status that possession provides (for example the “Likes” or other reflections of how others interact with your purchase). Therefore, your price must now be set by referencing a larger, wider concept and understanding of value.

3. Price comparison

We’ve always comparison-shopped, looking for the cheapest version of something we needed or desired. But today, that ability is infinitely scaled up. It is now inbuilt into many stores, especially online. It is now possible with the least amount of effort. If comparison shopping for DIY or furniture or groceries often entailed several trips is widely different directions, it does not anymore. Nor is the separation between our own prices (sale, outlet, etc., regional) possible, and even if trudging all the way to the other end of the country for a cheaper pair of shoes, or asking a friend to buy and ship them is not economically advantageous, the customer is still able to know and question your pricing decisions in regard to him.

This perhaps is the biggest change that the WWW has brought to price, but it does not eliminate the relevance of this second P among the 4. Sure, if you think of price only as your price point, that elusive combination of cost-covering, profit making, affordability, yet desirability at which customers and company are both satisfied, then yes, you are using the “matrix” wrong. But if you understand the new content behind the figure that you must advance, you will find that PRICE is still a whole lot of relevant.

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Apparel labels strike (out) again

In a much discussed story, apparel giant Old Navy proves the old dictum “the devil is in the details”, with their latest line of college sport t-shirts that spells Let’s Go as “LETS GO”, conveniently omitting the apostrophe that grammatically indicates the contraction.

Objects with mistakes often become iconic, but in this case, when said object was created in partnership with academia, the mistake is less iconic than embarrassing, and should serve as a reminder to designers, product managers and marketers everywhere to check their product repeatedly.

A lot of people missed the mistake and there are, believe it or not, financial consequences.

Now, I know to err is human and to forgive divine. But may I propose a XXI century marketing version: to err is human, to check is professional, and to correct is expected.

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My top business movies

Today, 9 am released a fluff piece on the Top  movies any entrepreneurs should see. Social Network (2010), Wall Street (1987), Baby Boom (1987), and Jerry McGuire (1996) make up the top 7. While these are all good movies that happen in the business environment, I happen to disagree that these are the top, or that they hold that much business value.

My top is widely different, and you can check it out below.

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