Archive for January 2010
In the early days of the Web, when I worked at HotWired, I thought mainly about the new. We were of the future, those of us in that San Francisco loft, champions of new media, new tools, new thinking. But lately, I've been thinking more about the old — about those aspects of human character and cognition that remain unchanged by time and technology. Over the past two decades, I've watched as the Internet changed the way we think and changed the way we live. But it hasn't changed us fundamentally. In fact, it may be returning us to the intensely social animals we evolved to be.
The buzz is palpable about Apple's plans to announce a tablet computer later this month. I think it's instructive as to the function and uses of conversation. Apple is a company that has utterly shunned the social media campaigns that have displaced more old-fashioned ways to waste consumers' time. It has no Twitter feed, provides no payola to twentysomethings so that they’ll blog about its products, and I bet it would happily ignore a request for comment from the President if asked. It doesn't talk. Apple does.
A number of retailers raised earnings forecasts Thursday after reporting healthy December sales gains, the fourth month in a row of year-over-year sales increases. Sales for the five weeks ended in early January rose 2.9% compared with the prior year, the best monthly showing since April 2008, according to a Thomson Reuters index of 30 retailers. Total holiday-season sales grew 1.8%, overcoming a tepid start in November with a late surge before Christmas, according to a similar index of 33 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers.
A longtime quest to bring the Internet to the living room has entered a new phase, borrowing a page from Apple Inc. and its iPhone. Companies are now racing to build marketplaces for TV programs that act much like iPhone apps, able to interact with social-networking services, play games, call up movies and other Web content—all using a remote control, rather than a computer equipped with browsers. The TV applications are designed to exploit new consumer electronics devices with Internet connections that are beginning to appear in homes in significant numbers.
Ford recently wrapped the first chapter of its Fiesta Movement, leaving us distinctly wiser about marketing in the digital space. Ford gave 100 consumers a car for six months and asked them to complete a different mission every month. And away they went. At the direction of Ford and their own imagination, "agents" used their Fiestas to deliver Meals On Wheels. They used them to take Harry And David treats to the National Guard. They went looking for adventure, some to wrestle alligators, others actually to elope. All of these stories were then lovingly documented on YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter.
While most CMOs have laid forth their plans for 2010, many are still seeking a way to innovate in a time of uncertainty. Where are the opportunities? With the recent dramatic drops in marketing spending, there has been one category that continues to grow. Throughout 2009 we saw the launch of many national cause-marketing programs (see sidebar: Dawn, H&R Block, Pepsi, Sonic Drive-In) at a time when marketers were watching budgets more closely than ever. With this rise in popularity comes the question: Where is cause marketing headed in 2010? While the rules of a successful cause campaign remain solidified, the category is set to change dramatically in 2010.
Microsoft on Wednesday evening positioned itself for a potential war over a new category of touch-screen “tablet” computers as Steve Ballmer, chief executive, anticipated an expected major product announcement from Apple by showing off a version running on Windows software. The Microsoft boss used his speech at the opening of the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas to highlight the product, made by Hewlett-Packard.
Board members at Cadbury PLC, resisting a hostile takeover bid by Kraft Foods Inc., have held talks with directors at Hershey Co. to encourage a rival offer, several people familiar with the matter said. The Cadbury board members have told the Hershey directors that they would support a bid by the Pennsylvania company, and they have provided some guidance on the kind of price that would draw board support, these people said. In these talks, Hershey has sought direction from Cadbury and disclosed financial terms and the structure of a possible offer. Hershey has also inquired whether Cadbury would be open to selling certain assets, these people said. In response, Cadbury has provided "reasonable guidance without specifics," said one of the people.
General Motors Co. will make money in 2010, its chairman said Wednesday, a bold and surprising forecast for a business that exited bankruptcy proceedings just last summer and hasn't turned an annual profit since 2004. "My prediction is we will be" profitable in 2010, Edward E. Whitacre Jr. told reporters at GM's Detroit headquarters, a sign of rising confidence that also sets a tough benchmark for the still-struggling car maker's employees. "Do we have obstacles in the way? Yes. But we have a good management team and a good plan in place."
Despite lip-service to two-way communication, branding has often been a one-way effort: we decided what we wanted people to think about our companies and designed marketing and communications that made that happen. Or so we hoped. But a brand is the collective impression people gain not only from you and your marketing efforts, but from all of their interactions with you—and the interactions others have as well (newly amplified through social media). That means we need to look at the process of branding in different way: through a social lens.