Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Reinventing and rebranding yourself

When it's old, don't be afraid to reinvent it. Just look at Simon Cowell. As American Idol got old and boring, he left and recreated it in the form of a new brand: The X Factor. We'll see how it goes for that show. Rebranding by creating a new product has worked for plenty of other companies before FOX.

Are rebranding and creating new products successful and reasonable actions? Will X Factor succeed and American Idol fail?

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One GIANT bad move by Netflix

Money is important, and cost hikes are inevitable, but a recent move by Netflix to raise prices for those who want both mailed-to-home videos and instant streaming may be losing it more customers and losing more money than gaining.

The change (see below), which was announced by email and on the Netflix Facebook page, has received over 13,000 Facebook comments on the Facebook announcement, most of them negative. Users are declaring they will drop Netflix for Hulu Plus, Amazon Prime, or Redbox if Netflix does not get rid of the change.

On a move (or lack of movement) almost as bad as the announced change, Netflix has yet to respond to the negative comments.

Marketing choices are difficult to make, and may require higher prices, but without good public relations, those decisions will hurt, rather than help a company. This is why clear communication is so important, as is having a prepared response for negative reactions. It seems Netflix has failed big time here.

Will Netflix users keep good on their word and drop the service? Are there any positives to Netflix's actions?

Read the Netflix announcement I received below:
We are separating unlimited DVDs by mail and unlimited streaming into two separate plans to better reflect the costs of each. Now our members have a choice: a streaming only plan, a DVD only plan, or both.

Your current $9.99 a month membership for unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs will be split into 2 distinct plans:

Plan 1: Unlimited Streaming (no DVDs) for $7.99 a month
Plan 2: Unlimited DVDs, 1 out at-a-time (no streaming) for $7.99 a month

Your price for getting both of these plans will be $15.98 a month ($7.99 + $7.99). You don't need to do anything to continue your memberships for both unlimited streaming and unlimited DVDs.

These prices will start for charges on or after September 1, 2011.

You can easily change or cancel your unlimited streaming plan, unlimited DVD plan, or both, by going to the Plan Change page in Your Account.

We realize you have many choices for home entertainment, and we thank you for your business. As always, if you have questions, please feel free to call us at 1-888-357-1516.

–The Netflix Team

When does offering personalization go too far?

Can personalization go too far?

MySpace offers a lot of options for personalizing your page, but to the point where it became cluttered, flashy, and immature.

Facebook offers applications and games. At one point, they had separate pages for users - on for information and one for applications and boxes (think "What Disney character are you?" quizzes). Facebook, too, becomes easily cluttered.

Twitter offers personalization for one solid background with a set layout for everything else.

Google+ has very little style personalization and a lot of informational personalization right now.

Who has the right idea? How much should a customer be allowed to personalize their options?

Monday, July 11, 2011

In times of trouble, make your policies clear

Lesson #1. When a customer complains, apologize, but make your policies clear.
Lesson #2. When making your policies, do your best to be reasonable. It will avoid a lot of problems and a lot of complaining customers.
Back in March, I wrote about a bad experience I had at a Carl's Junior. I later learned that the problem wasn't that the people at the restaurant were being rude, but that CJs had a certain policy that the restaurant managers were going by. Rather than just outright demanding I return the food when it was their fault their ATM machine was not working and they hadn't warned me, they should have told me the corporate Carl's Junior policy. Then, I would have been fine with what was happening and taken my concerns to the corporate offices, rather than yelling at the nice people at the restaurant.

I thought about this more after a recent interview I had for a position at a local theater. My interviewers asked me what I would do if a customer at the box office was complaining or asked for something I couldn't give them. I replied that I would stay calm, say what I could, and bring in my supervisor as a last resort, if it came to that. Upon further consideration, I realized how important it would be in a situation like this to make the theater's policies clear. For example, if it was concern over a ticket, I would tell the customer the policy and point out that it was made clear on the theater's website and when the patron bought his tickets.

Of course, some companies just don't think when they create their policies. So, once again, the two lessons here are:
1) When a customer complains, apologize, but make your policies clear.
2) When making your policies, do your best to be reasonable. It will avoid a lot of problems and a lot of complaining customers.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Giving your organization a face

Customers like organizations and businesses to have morals, personality - to have a face to them. This applies to a website just as much as it applies to the need to provide good customer service.

I've been doing some work for Hillhouse Opera Company, a new opera company in Connecticut. Currently, their website is not attractive. The colors aren't engaging. There's no logo. And the website has no production photos. Playhouse Merced, which has a lot of good information on its website, has a similar problem. It is missing a face, as well. It has a logo, but the photos are old and are only on one page.

Think of logos and pictures as a major part of your branding. In many ways, they are your face. They set the atmosphere of your website. And, aside from this, they wet the appetite of your customer. If a customer sees something they like, they'll be more interested in buying your product. But if the customer doesn't even know what your product looks like, they'll think it a risk to try your product.

You have to earn their trust. You have to own the right impression in their mind.

What are some other ways you "brand" your company?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Google renaming Blogger and Picasa

Google plans to rebrand the Blogger and Picasa brands as Google Blogs and Google Pics, according to a recent report by Mashable.

I don't think it's a very smart move on their part. Good branding doesn't necessarily equal putting a well known brand's name on every thing. Just read Ries' 22 Immutable Laws of Branding (

I see the Picasa and Blogger logos, and their names are programmed into my brain. Google will have to reprogram everything in the consumer's mind now.

Of course, it's not that big of a deal and shouldn't hurt them too bad since the products are all very different, so it's not like Coke Zero stealing business from regular Coke.

But, still, Google Pics and Google Blogs aren't very memorable names. If they want to succeed, they'll have to bet on the success of the Google name. Luckily, they're already very popular, so they may not have to deal with any problems for a while, if at all.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Chat in the Google Facebook Wars: Facebook announces Facebook Skype Video Chat

It seems that some of the Google+ versus Facebook wars is revolving around effective chatting (video or text). Facebook announced today that it will partner with Skype to offer group and video chat.

Personally, I use Skype for video chat - not Google. And I don't chat very often on Facebook.

Do you want all your chat functions in one place combined with your social media? Or do you prefer to keep them separate?

8 Must-read articles on Google+

Obviously, Google+ offers the same social networking abilities that Facebook offers. But it has its own unique qualities, as well, and they could mean something for marketers, public relations specialists, photographers and reporters.

Here are eight, must-read articles on the uses and potential of Google+:

1) HubSpot has the low down on all of the Google+ features
2) PR News reports on the PR uses of Google+
3) The Future Buzz reports on the marketing and PR uses of Google+
4) Chris Brogan talks about 50 current and future possibilities for Google+
5) The Next Web gives some advice on how to turn your profile into a photography portfolio
6) Chris Brogan gives some advice on how to use Google+ as a blog
7) Sprout Social Insights reports on the possibility of Google+ business pages
8) Read StarBright Business' summary of the pluses and minuses of Google+

What do you think Google+ offers your business or brand?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Google Makeover: Google+ is only the beginning

It's clever marketing, and it makes Google a lot more modern looking. That's right, Google is getting a complete makeover. You may have noticed that Google search has been getting a new look lately. You may have heard that Google+ is the new social network trying to surpass Facebook.

Now Google is switching up Gmail a bit too.

And all these aesthetic changes serve to build up excitement and talk about Google+, and they give Google a bit of a different brand image, too. Sure, Google is still fun and personable. You can still personalize the look of your Gmail, you can still personalize your Google home page, and you can still view those fun Google designs on holidays and special occasions. But now Google is giving itself a more modern look, setting itself up as a company looking to the future, a company that is the future.

Is Google making a good decision by changing its image?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Some pluses (and minuses) of Google+

Now that Google+ is allowing most anyone to sign up, I've had a chance to explore the new social network and find I like it much better than Facebook. Despite its name, however, it does have a few minuses that Google will likely fix as it adds features and changes to what is now the early, experimental version. It's already looking like they plan on adding gaming abilities.

But with the possibility of new features like games and applications, you have to wonder how Google+ will succeed if it decides to copy Facebook rather than capitalizing on what makes it unique.

That said, here are a few pluses and minuses of the current version of Google+:

+ Google+ is integrated with Gmail and all other Google functions. When you're logged in, the bar at the top of the page includes the typical "Web, Images, Gmail, etc" options, but there's also a section on the right of the bar that sends you notifications and allows you to view and access your profile and settings. So you can access your email and notifications, and you can post links and status updates - all on the same web page. This is the biggest plus for me.

+ Adding on to the previous plus, Google+ has a thing called "Sparks" that is similar to Google News. You add an interest to Sparks that will show up in your side bar and can click on it to view the latest news and web articles on that topic.

+ Its concept of easily arranging friends into "circles" is unique and fun

- When you invite people from you gmail address book by putting them in a circle, they show up in your circle whether they've accepted your invite and joined Google+ or not.

+It has a unique, clean look

- But it may lose that when it starts adding more features

+ It allows you to edit photos

+ It has video chat capabilities

+ Like other social media sharing methods, it allows you to share by giving you the ability to give a +1 to stories and other information/postings on the Internet, and it also provides a column in your account to view everything that you have given a +1 to.

+ It also has a column for Buzz posts

- Not that anyone ever uses Buzz. I only have one friend who uses it, and everything I post is automatically coming from Facebook and Twitter

- Posts are separated from Buzz and +1. The organization here is unclear, and since I already have all my Facebook and Twitter posts coming to Buzz, why bother reposting? Well, because otherwise I won't show up in people's streams.

- There's no ability to post from your phone, unless you have a smart phone and download the app for that. The webpage labels "SMS" as "coming soon."

- There's no way to connect Facebook and Twitter to your regular posts.

+ In a way, it combines Facebook with LinkedIn by automatically using your professional Google profile.

- Unfortunately, as it is in its beginning stages, I currently only have two people to be sharing things with.

Chris Brogan has made a list of 50 possibilities regarding Google+. Check it out here.

What are your favorite Google+ features? Have you joined yet? Will it beat Facebook?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Why e-blasts don't work

To please the modern customer, you need to make your product and your marketing strategies personal and convenient for your target audience.

A lot of e-blasts do not succeed in attracting customers for the very reason that they are not personal. If all you are sending are event or promotion reminders, if there's nothing more interesting or useful for the customer, your e-mails will be labeled as spam and deleted without a second thought.

Joanne Scheff Bernstein writes in her book "Arts Marketing Insights,"
"E-mail, like all other marketing tools, requires strategic and creative planning. Sending out an occasional e-mail message or blasting patrons with a series of frequent e-mail promotions when, for example, the organization wants to announce a special program or sell a large number of tickets to a production that has not sold well to date will not sustain interest and loyalty for very long. Each organization should develop an overall plan for e-mail marketing, just as it does for advertising, regular mailings, public relations, and other marketing efforts."
Besides being more personal, what are some of your plans for successful e-mail marketing?