5 Important Things About Digital Marketing

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Implications of “Powers of Ten”

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Powers of Ten is a 9 minutes short film created by Ray Eames and Charles Eames in 1977, which  shows the universe in different scales. First it starts with a picnic in Chicago, and then every ten seconds the view becomes ten times farther until we can only see the Galaxy as a little light. Next, it starts from the picnic again, and the view zoom in ten times every ten seconds until we can only see an atom of the cell.

Although it seems to be only a scientific documentary film, it actually contains inspiring ideas. It shows that in different scales or perspectives when looking at one thing, the scene will be totally different, and we will have different feeling and opinions about it. If we only on view a specific object on one angle but couldn’t get the larger picture, we would probably miss some important elements of it; on the other hand, if we just look at the broad side of it but couldn’t look down into the details, we would miss some insights too.

For digital marketing, it implies that marketers should view each strategy in different levels of distance. In a broader picture, marketers should understand the whole industry context or even the world trends in stead of only caring for their products; what influences will those future trends or change affect their brands and how to react to it? what do their brand, products, or service look like within customers’ mind? In a finer picture, marketers should figure out what elements compose of their brand and what specific causes lead to those elements. With these insights in head, marketers can make better decision for their brands and achieve long term success.

customer analysis-thumb-257x300As a student of marketing, I can gain valuable insights from viewing from different angles or distances. In a broader picture, I can see how the knowledge and skills I learned in the program are connected to the society and how I can contribute to the world. In a finer picture, I can see how the experiences in class or out of class affect my way of thinking and the way of interacting with other people. Understanding these causes and effects, I will be more confident and clear on my future path and what I can utilize to pursue my dream.

World Wide Rave (WWR), a concept developed by David Meerman Scott, means people talking about your brand or products from all over the world after you create triggers, and it’s different from “viral marketing” since they are talking and sharing on their own will but not caused by advertising. In the broad picture, you can see how fast and how enormous the buzz and the sharing spread over the world and how they make a difference; in a fine picture, you can know what elements of idea are relevant and interesting to consumers, who only care how their problems can be solved or how to get entertained.

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In short, no matter what role you play in the society, standing in different perspectives can help you see different pictures. Only if we can stand outside our usual logic, get the clearer picture- both in a broad or fine one- can we get most valuable insights which help us make decisions better.

Paywall – Good or Bad Strategy ?

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For those who didn’t hear about Paywall before – Paywall is a system that doesn’t allow users to browse web content if they don’t pay for subscription. You might have this experience before when browsing The New York Times or Wall Street Journals online: You clicked into a news link wanted to find out more about that title, and suddenly it blocked the page and showed “subscribe now to see the full story” or “You have reach your 20 free articles this month”.

To me, as a frequent researcher online, I feel pretty disappointed and annoyed about this kind of limitation. So far, I didn’t subscribe to any of this online content, expect for one time a professor required us to subscribe Wall Street Journals newspaper and it gave me free digital access, so I did it unwillingly. In my view, most of the news and articles can be found online without any cost. Also, news is news, an objective event or fact, so it doesn’t matter the reporters use what kind of tone or rhetoric.  Of course, if the reporters has unique, excellent viewpoints or analysis in their reviews, I might be willing to pay for it. But I definitely don’t want to pay for identical news that I can find on other sites for free.

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Despite that I prefer not to pay for the digital subscription, I still think there’s great opportunity in the journalism industry. Most people are on mobile now, and the online newspaper traffic has been steadily increased overtime while newspaper circulation and newspaper advertising decreased. The online advertising is increasing but is still a relatively small part of overall revenue. To adjust the business model based on the trend, journalism has to gradually move its media channel from newspaper to the internet. In my view, the new business model of the Times – “get free access to a certain number of pages and pay subscription based on devices” is very good, since the limited free access can keep website traffic from search engine and also gain revenue from loyal customers based on their choice of device. This model can act as a transition for journalism from being newspaper-oriented to digital-oriented, which is the inevitable future. I believe all online news will be free in the future, and the main revenue of journalism will come from online advertisement. If companies want to charge readers for digital subscription, they must provide very attractive content that is very different from others and worth great value in readers’ mind, or they must find another sources of income to supplement the revenue lost due to decreased newspaper subscription.

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I don’t doubt that why Jeff Bezos would want to by The Washington Post. Although there are lots of free news online and newspaper is diminishing, the society still needs outstanding journalism to create valuable and timely contents, just through a different media channel. I may consider subscribe to one of them if they show me notable difference and with reasonable price, since the value of journalism is not only about timely news, but also about finding truth and setting the values and culture of the society. The change for journalism will not be easy, but I believe it will find its way.

Newsjacking example of McDonald’s

Newsjacking  is a simple idea used in digital marketing. It means to inject your idea into a breaking news story in order to generate media coverage or social attention of your business, which we call “earned media”. It’s very common nowadays in the U.S. for brands to comment on latest news via their social media. But the following example led to controversy with this popular marketing tactic.

In May 2013, there was a famous kidnap news in Cleveland, Ohio.  Three women were held captive in a Cleveland house for years until one neighbor Charles Ramsey helped rescue them out. This courageous neighbor became a well known hero at that time, and in the interview he told the reporter before the rescue he went to McDonald’s to buy burgers, and he was eating his Mac burger when he heard the screaming of one of the victim. McDonald’s noticed it and tweeted with its corporate account about this abduction:

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There were lots of buzz about McDonald’s tweet afterwards. Some people applauded McDonald’s for reaching out to Ramsey, but others condemned it for the tweet. Chris Ann Goddard, President of the PR firm CGPR, said, “I call it news-jacking. They’re taking advantage of a situation to help their brand.” A lot of discussions and reviews stated that McDonald’s shouldn’t capitalize on the sensation of a tragic news to make its brand look good.  (McDonald’s Ohio kidnap tweet raises eyebrows ; Did McDonald’s Cross the Line in Tweet About Ohio Kidnapping Case?)

McDonald’s claimed that it was doing what “thousands” of people had urged it to do- to reward  the McDonald’s-eating hero who helped free the victims, and later in the end of that month, McDonald’s announced that Ramsey would get free McDonald’s for the whole year and that it donated $10,000 to the Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Ramsey’s name, which made the buzz last longer. Some reviewers commented in a sarcastic way, saying that maybe in later 911 calls people would incidentally mention Domino’s pizza, iPods, or Nike Sneakers.    

In my view, this newsjacking of McDonald’s was failed. It wasn’t wrong for McDonald to want to be related with the positive image of the kidnap hero, but the intend was somewhat too obvious. It did get lots of earned media- lots of discussion and news talking about the tweet, but were not in a good way, which meant McDonald’s failed its goal to gain positive brand image through this tweet. This kind of inappropriate social actions I will refer them to newsjacking, not real-time marketing. To me, engagement using breaking news that is appropriate, unharmed to anyone, and positively enhance brands’ image is real-time marketing, such as what Oreo did during the blackout of Superbowl.

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Nowadays, all brands work actively on social media and try hard to act as consumers’ friends, replying to fans’ and commenting on news in a casual tone. But brands are still not our real friends in daily life, and there are certain limitations or topics that shouldn’t be touched by them.  Although now everything is all about real-time actions, brands should still be very careful and cautious before tweeting or posting out anything on social media. After all, any action that cross the line incautiously might result in unexpected adverse effect and will leave permanent trace on the Internet.

Digital Strategy – Simplicity or Relationship?

There is a question about digital strategy- whether to keep simplicity or to develop relationship with customers. According to Harvard Business Review, an experiment comprised of more then 7000 consumers and hundreds of marketing executives and experts shows that in order to drive consumer “stickiness”, which means buying products repeatedly and sharing with friends, brands have to keep the purchase decision journey simple and easy, provide customers relevant and trustworthy information to help them make decisions. On the contrary, there are theories always tell us to build relationship with customers through social media- to focus on engagement but no sales. In my view, these two theories both make their points, and they don’t contradict.

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Simplicity and relationship with customers should both be maintained. It’s true that most consumers might connect brands online in order to get product information and discount and to make purchase. In this way, brands definitely should create a friendly environment for customer to easily get what information they want. But this is not the final step. No matter the consumers make purchase or not after they gain the information you give them, your relationship with them has already begun, and this is the point whether you can deepen the relationship and make them become your loyal customers. If the brand shows cool image or personality, consumers will want to stay in touch with it to know more cool stuffs it shares and even when to be associated with it, even if the thing the brand shares has nothing to do about the product. Apple is the best example. Fans love its products and talk about it all the time, not only the products but anything, such as leaders, event, employee culture, etc. If customers don’t feel connected with the brand, they will easily switch to another products if they see any brand with better offer or quality.

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I was a real estate agent two years ago, and what we did was pretty similar to the above digital strategy. When a client came to us for information of housing in the neighbor, we would explain clearly to him and at the same time, make friend with him. We would chat with him not only about housing, but his family and life. Senior managers always said to us, “make friend first, and the deal are almost done.” Showing houses to buyers was the same thing. We would not only introduce the details of the house, like when the building was built and how’s the price of surrounding buildings, but also the story of the owner and why they were selling it. We would provide relevant and trustworthy information the client needed and build the relationship with him at the same time. When the relationship was stable and he fully trusted the information we gave, the possibility to close the deal was very high. This kind of loyal customers usually would recommend us to his friends, and the chance of making a sale with these friends would be higher than with customers who came to us through organic search.

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The way Gary Vaynerchuk used social media is similar to my above experience. He not only provided clear information that lead to sales but at the same time created conversations and built relationship with his fans.  Through providing simple but relevant information to help customers make good decision and making friends with them, brands can both enhance engagement and increase sales. Only by maintaining both the two elements and creating a tribe with the loyal customers can brands pursue long-term success but not only short-term profit.

Big Data to Digital Marketers

Big Data is a hot word today. I hear it almost every day from class, web articles, news, or conversation between friends. From what I learned in Database, Big Data, which was born due to the fast-growing Internet prevalence, represents two characteristics- large amount of unstructured data and real-time processing as well as three keywords- Volume, Velocity, and Variety. Today, almost everyone owns and is obsessed by smartphones or tablets, relying on these mobile devices to do most activities in life, such as browsing, searching, socializing, or purchasing. All of these activities result in enormous amount of data with great variety, from transaction information to reviews of products, or even discussions on forums or pictures put on blogs. Big Data uses various techniques, such as Hadoop, to process this large data in real-time and assist marketers to better understand their targeted customers and take valuable actions quickly.

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Big Data has a lot of advantages in marketing. First of all, with Big Data, marketers can quickly reach each customer, get their profile, and give them customized response to solve their problems or give them incentives, which enhance brand image or order rate. For example, companies can change their websites layout in real-time based on the customer’s nationality or location and feed him suitable content. For another example, marketers can efficiently process remarketing, which means serve customers display ads of products they have browsed at other sites. Second, it allows marketers to understand customers’ sentiment through analysis of unstructured social media comments, which makes creating and improving products or service as well as understanding trends  more  effectively. Third, with Big data, marketers can predict customers behavior through analyzing customers’ real-time and historical actions. The most famous example will be Netflix serving subscribers recommendation lists based on their watching behavior. Another example is that Target tracked customer’s purchases and found out she was pregnant and served her ads of baby goods before she knew it herself. Last but not least, Big Data saves companies lots of money and time by reducing the numbers of engineers needed and by shortening the time processing the large amount of data.

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However, Big Data also has some disadvantages that are often concerned. The most serious one is privacy. Many people worry that with Big Data, companies can get customers’ personal information and figure out more private infos, and even things the person himself doesn’t know, such as Target found out customer’s pregnancy. This thorough track and watch make many people feel unsecured and being hunted by companies, which always know what they are thinking about, not only through the internet, but some times even offline. Also, most people don’t know how large amount of their information are being tracked, which they might not allow stores to do that and result in negative impression of that brand which tracks. From brands side, many companies might use Big Data wrongly; some of them want to use it just because it’s a current hot topic, but they don’t know how to do with it. Holding large amount of data won’t do companies good, they have to know what they are looking for and what to do with the insights derived from Big Data. Using it in a wrong way or messing up the privacy line will both creep customers out and result in worse situation.

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With Big Data, marketers can get all kinds of data, but the essence is how to explore it and extract the most valuable information from it. Although the total amount of data is enormous, most of them are irrelevant information and only very little data among it is needed or relevant to specific marketing objectives or strategies.  Therefore, learning how to use Big Data correctly and understanding of  the brand objectives and strategies are very important. Also, Big Data only provides marketers the data-driven analysis but no creative or qualitative-based decisions. A successful campaign can not run just with the analysis of behavior data but without creative. Only by combining both marketers’ creative ideas or intelligence and external data collected from customers or industries can brands really harness Big Data in a right direction and optimize their business towards success.

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The User Experience (UX) of In-N-Out Burger

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In-N-Out is a very popular regional chain of fast food restaurant located in west coast, mostly in California. I first heard of it was when I was researching for my trip to San Francisco and LA. Some bloggers strongly recommended that everyone should go try it if visiting California. Therefore, my boyfriend and I went there in great expectation, and we didn’t get disappointed at all. Its menu was extremely simple- only two kinds of burger, regular hamburger or cheeseburger, and you can choose double or triple meat as you want. The most interesting part was that they had a list of secret menu, and it was not on the menu and only by word of mouth, which meant if your friends didn’t tell you about this, you would never know the secret menu. For example, “Flying Dutchman” is double beef with double cheese without any bread or vegetable, “Neapolitan Shake” is chocolate-strawberry-vanila swirl favor, and well known “Animal style” is burger or fries with thick cheese and grilled onion  mix sauce.

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For In-N-Out‘s UX (user experience) across platforms, I check their site on iPad, laptop, and smartphone.

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They do have app on smartphone for both iOS and Android system, but unfortunately, they don’t have an app for tablet, so I access their website on iPad through Safari.  In-N-Out does design a special layout for its website on Safari, which is different from those of laptop and smartphone. The design is simple and clear with eight icons in the middle and photo of In-N-Out restaurant as background. The top three icons are for purchase information: Menu, Location Finder, and check your Giftcard Balance, which is useful and convenient for those who want to buy burgers. The second layer is for branding purpose: Foundation, History, and Download. In Foundation, they show that they sponsor The Child Abuse Foundation to help abused and neglected children. In History, they show big events happened since they opened first store in 1948. In Download, they provide several In-N-Out wallpapers and ringtone, as well as official mobile app. The last two icons are Contact and Full Site. In Contact, you can see their toll-free number to customer service associate and a form where you can leave your comments and contact information. Overall, it’s user centered, in clear, simple order, and I can easily find anything I want to know about them.

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On their website with my Mac, the contents are pretty similar but slightly different. The four main icons in the middle are Location Founder, Food Quality and Menu, Merchandise, and Employment. Still, they maintain the focus on providing information of products and location for customers who want to make purchase. Different from the experience using iPad, they add Merchandise, where they sell several In-N-Out’s T-shirts, accessaries, and gift cards.  Also, they add Employment icon, where you can fill out an application to available positions in In-N-Out, and a page of nutrition information of their food. The feeling I have here is different from that with iPad- it’s more like a real corporate selling and recruiting, which is more formal and has more distance.

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On smartphone, In-N-Out has an mobile app for both Android system and iOS. The contents are quite similar to those on iPad- Locations, Menu, Gift Card Balance, Downloads, and History. The difference is that there are Settings, and Share. You can set in your Email, Facebook, and Foursquare, and in Share “Tell Your Friend”, you can easily share this app with your friend by email or Facebook. This In-N-Out’s mobile app provides dinning information in a simple layout as laptop and website do, but features more on social sharing, letting users to refer this app to friends, which appears younger and energetic.

Overall, the user experience of using the three platform of In-N-Out is all very pleasant. Their design are pretty similar, all use the same color combination from the logo and photo of the restaurant as background, which shows the restaurant’s personality- live and passion. They are all user centered- I can easily find information about food and location and submit comments to them.

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A very interesting thing is that because their secret menu has become so famous, now they have a Not-So-Secret-Menu on their website, showing the well-known choices such as the animal style, and clam that you might hear “rumors” about the secret menu, however, they don’t have any secret in reality, they just want to make customers happy so let customers order customized burgers. Brilliant marketing, isn’t it?