WHAT IS HARD FUN?

On Friday, I was interviewed as a “kid expert” by members of the marketing team for a major packaged goods brand, talking about trends in kid marketing, what is influencing kids (and moms) today and providing advice for what the marketing team should be thinking about in their marketing and innovation efforts. 

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One of the interesting questions was, “What is fun?” Having worked in the toy industry for over seven years now, I have a good sense of some of the major elements of fun, and it made me wonder how other brands (that are not outright toys) embody “fun.” Is your brand fun?

 

One of the points that I raised had to do with the concept of “hard fun.” Now, hard fun is a vital element of every video, every sport, every board game, every card game, and many toys (certainly it is a key aspect of LEGO toys).

 

Hard fun is the idea that challenge is good. 

 

Everyone enjoys gaining a sense of mastery, a sense of a job well done, a game well-played, a challenge overcome, success achieved. Video games provide levels so that you can feel the thrill and the challenge of “getting to the next level.” That’s an integral part of the fun.

 

Would you want to play tennis with a two-year old? Probably not (unless it was your own child, a niece or nephew—and that’s a whole different aspect of fun)! You want to be well-matched on the court, to play with someone who will give you a run for your money. Even if you are just watching, you want it to be hard on both sides. The nail-biter, down-to-the-wire Superbowl games are much more fun to watch, even if you are a diehard fan! The triumph is that much sweeter if the challenge is strong.

 

Ever build a LEGO creation? It’s not easy. Taking a pile a bricks and turning it into a spaceship, or a fire truck or a skyscraper or an alien super-bug takes creativity, thought, and a sense of spatial relations. The pride and accomplishment are an integral part of the fun!

 

Of course, the trick is to develop something that is hard enough to be a challenge, yet not so hard as to shatter self-esteem. That pride, that sense of accomplishment must be there, whether using a Wii Remote, a deck of cards, or a ball of some sort.

 

What kind of “hard fun” have you built into your brand? Into your life? If you need more fun in your world, if you want your consumers to see your brand as fun, find a way to add more challenge. I guarantee it will be more fun!

 

If you’d like more advice on what you should be thinking about for your marketing efforts, give us a call. We promise, it won’t be too hard! J

WHO CAN ASSUAGE MOM’S GUILT?

One of my business partners and I are in the midst of a very interesting research project to find out what moms are thinking and feeling today about a whole host of issues. As soon as the research is finalized, I will be sharing the results with you in detail. However, one of the interesting insights that we are seeing is the emotional impact this is having on higher-income indulgent mothers.

 

Certainly, this economy is producing every type of emotion imaginable—fear, sadness, panic, anger, regret, relief—but among certain types of moms, glaring guilt is what we see. Once you recognize it and name it, it makes logical sense, but it isn’t something that you might have named before.

 

There are lots of moms whose household finances have shifted dramatically, whose financial worlds have been completely rocked. We see small business owners who have prospered outrageously in previous years, whose cash flow has simply dried up. We see six-figure salaried individuals take over a year to find new work once they have been laid off.

 

Doubly Guilty

 

And the moms, who never had to worry about the bills getting paid, said “yes” to their children way more often than they ever said “no” (if at all). Now, the harsh reality of a new financial world order requires that they learn the art of the word “No.” They feel guilty that they cannot give their child everything (of course, this is also creating a mindset shift for the kids as well!).

 

But even as they think about it, they realize that they never said, “No.” They may even admit, grudgingly, that this new order is actually better in the long run for the child, as it teaches them balance and not always “getting their way.”

 

This realization leads to even more guilt as they realize (even if only in their own minds) that they have not exercised the best parenting possible in the past. Guilt for the past parenting and guilt for the present situation is sobering for these moms.

 

So the question becomes, what can you do about it? As a marketer, it is up to you to find a way to come to the rescue. Do you have a product that reinforces good parenting at the same time as it provides a little indulgence to the child?

 

An interesting question. As I said, when we have a more thorough report, we will share it with you. In the meantime, if you’d like to dig more deeply into your own consumer’s emotional mindset, let us know. We’d love to help.

DREAM YOUR DREAM

51EbR5fLG5L._SX327_BO1,204,203,200_I read The Dream, by teen multi-millionaire and internet entrepreneur Gurbaksh Chahal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s a quick read and has some interesting themes in it, mostly advice for entrepreneurs. Here are a few ideas I got from it:

 

  • You have to have a vision for what you want in order to make it happen
  • A good idea, well executed, is worth a LOT
  • Take advantage of marketplace trends to fuel speedy growth
  • Don’t give up: If you have a passion, follow it
  • Surround yourself with positive, caring people who want you to succeed
  • Sadly, many people in America are still prejudiced
  • Sometimes you need to make yourself look different than you really are (give the perception of a bigger office, more clients, older, more experienced, less ethnic) in order to make the sale
  • Continue through the failures (and there will be failures—that’s a natural part of growth and success)
  • You need a team of “ A” players to help you
  • Family support is a rock-solid foundation from which to build
  • Once you have money, others will try to find a way to take it from you
  • No matter how smart you are or how much money you have or don’t have, people do stupid, whimsical things when they are 18-25 years old (like buy a Lamborghini on eBay without knowing how to drive a stick shift car!)

 

Reading the book sparked some on-going conversation about the difference between success and failure, goodness and greatness, etc. There are several other books that address this topic, notably Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, in which he postulates that if you put in 10,000 focused hours on something, you will be great at it. All that “practice” allows you to take advantage of opportunities when they come along.

 

What do you think breeds success? Practice? Opportunity? Luck?

 

I’m interested to hear your thoughts.

 

IT’S NOT JUST AN ECONOMIC “BLIP”

Everyone in the media has a different take on the economy, how people are responding to it, and what its lasting impact will be. Certainly, “The Great Recession” is distressing millions who have lost their jobs and small and large businesses alike who are impacted by the new frugality of American consumers.

 

At Beacon Marketing, we have conducted research to see what the short—and potential long-term— implications of this economic climate will be. People are sacrificing dinners out, planning “staycations” and reaffirming their core values as they reconnect to families in non-monetary ways. Over the past year, our country has gone through an amazing shift in thinking, from vaguely being aware that the AIG issues would somehow affect them, to being horrified to open their 401K statements and find almost half of their savings gone, to experiencing the panic of the neighbors, the sister-in-law, the husband out of a job, to then adjusting to the necessary budgetary changes and finding the good in the materialistic cleansing taking place in this country.

 

Recently, in a discussion on MSNBC’s program Morning Joe with Joe Scarborough, Donny Deustch predicted that people would go back to their spending ways once we came out of this current turmoil. That’s not what our research indicates! In the same way that The Great Depression forever changed our grandparents into frugal savers who reused bits of tinfoil in the kitchen, our country will never be the same. Our preconceived notions that the stock market would always be a good place to invest, and that real estate always increased in value are forever gone. The research that we have done indicates that a much more permanent shift has occurred.

 

How is this impacting your industry? Your company? Your product line? If you are to understand how to market to this new mindset, you need to understand it. Find out how by calling Beacon Marketing today. We’d love to help you understand your consumer better so that you can refine your marketing efforts and navigate safely through these economic waters. Just as with our other high-profile clients, trust us to satisfy your research needs.

VIDEO MATTERS

I’ve been focusing on on-line videos this week and thought I should share some of what I’ve discovered.

 

Here’s the bottom line: VIDEO MATTERS.

 

Whether you are a small business wanting to add a little mini-documentary video to your website or you are a large advertiser looking for new uncluttered channels on which to convey your message, on-line video is a rich area to explore.

 

If you’re a skeptic about the power of video, I have two words for you: Susan Boyle.

 

In case you missed it, Susan Boyle exploded onto the worldwide web in April as a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent. In the past two months, she has racked up over 100 million views — remember, the Super Bowl is viewed by something like 93 million! Suffice it to say, her life has been permanently altered by YouTube. And as we move forward, yours will be too.

 

In fact, it very likely already has been (especially if you are 18-34 years old). How many of you have seen amazing videos where men are bonding with lions or cats are hanging from ceiling fans? I’d bet a lot of money that the majority of you have. See my previous blog post for more quantitative info on trends and growth in on-line video.

 

Want another concrete example? Okay, a friend of mine is in charge of Digital Media & Marketing for Hyperion Books and spends her days leveraging the power of the internet to let people know about the wonderful books Hyperion publishes. Does she use video? You bet.

 

She recently worked with author Kelly Corrigan to develop a short but moving video on Transcending to promote the paperback release of her book The Middle Place. Upon posting the video, she and her team started to spread the word by sending an email to 50 of their interested friends. To date, the video has enjoyed over 4.4MM views and, more importantly, the book sat at #2 on the The New York Times Bestsellers List for many weeks. That’s low-cost, high-impact marketing. 

 

So what does this mean for you? As I said at the start of this article, video matters. Consider advertising on-line as a viable alternative, and develop a video strategy for your digital efforts. Do you have any video on your website and/or on other websites? You should consider what the benefits could be for you.

 

Video allows you to:

  • Discuss your topic with passion 
  • Take advantage of sight, sound, and motion
  • Engage with your audience more thoroughly
  • Show your thought-leadership
  • Develop your brand more distinctly
  • Entertain, inform and delight your consumers
  • Improve your SEO rankings

 

Here are a few tips:

  • Be really compelling: make sure the topic is relevant to your business
  • Be succinct: most people will willingly sit through an engaging one- or two-minute video
  • Be proprietary: embed the video on your own site
  • Optimize: pay attention to meta data and Google Video map details
  • Market your video: there are tons of video-sharing sites out there to post on
  • Spread the word: use other media (both digital and non-digital) to spread the word

“I NEED MORE COWBELL!”

I attended a workshop last week at the Simsbury Library, where Suzi Craig was talking about social media. It’s a topic I’m always interested in, and I always learn some little thing that I didn’t know before…. But sometimes what you learned has nothing to do with the topic presented. Such was the case for me.

 

Start With The Strategy 

 

First, the mass of confusion surrounding social media continues to beg for a strong sense of strategy to be brought to every digital media discussion. Why are you thinking about engaging in social media? What are your objectives? Answering these two questions will drastically simplify any further conversation with any social media expert.

 

Understand Your Audience.

 

She told the audience that she had sent a “tweet” out to her followers:

 

hey Twitterverse: talking Tweets, Posts and more with Simsbury CT crowd. If you’re out there give us more cowbell at: #simsburycowbell

 

She was asking for people to send a tweet back to her so that, as she displayed her Tweet Deck on screen, messages directly to the audience would appear. The audience of mostly 40- 80-year-olds had been struggling all night to wrap their brains around the basic concept of Twitter…. and now, when she started talking about “cowbell,” the audience collectively cocked its head, puzzled, and asked “Cowbell?” One brave soul raised a hand and asked, “Is cowbell some kind of Twitter phrase?”

 

For the few in the audience who understood this classic Will Ferrell-era Saturday Night Live reference, this comment was comical. The presenter tried to explain her meaning and then deftly turned to the misunderstanding into an opportunity to have the novice audience learn how to use YouTube by giving a homework assignment: “You need to go home and search YouTube in order to find the referenced clip (when I went to YouTube, I found that the clip has been taken off!).

 

So what’s the lesson?

 

Remember your audience. 

 

When you are with a theater full of octogenarians, you can talk about the 1950s in a very different way then you could with a general I audience. For one, the 1950s constitute the past–is in history, something to be studied, and for the other, it constitutes their past. As a marketer, you need to speak to your audience in a way that resonates with them.

 

And by the way, if you don’t understand the cowbell reference, follow the links I have provided for a cultural education, Saturday Night Live-style.

 

ARE YOU NURTURING AN ENVIRONMENT OF INNOVATION?

At last week’s Women of Innovation awards, the keynote speaker was Dr Gina Colarelli O’Connor, Associate Professor of Marketing at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s Lally School of Management & Technology. Dr. O’Connor talked about some work she had done over the years to study how innovation happens. She spoke about fostering an environment of continual innovation.

 

 

She is an author of Radical Innovation: How Mature Firms Can Outsmart Upstarts and Grabbling Lightning: Building a Capability for Breakthrough Innovation and is part of a research group that studied innovative product development at more than 30 companies over a 

10 year period. What she found became the basis for the two books. She talked about 3 major areas of innovation.

 

 

The first is Discovery: allowing someone to think about something differently, explore options, fail, try again, and look for a new way. Is your company empowering that?

 

The second phase she referred to was Incubation. Once the seed of an idea has been planted, is it given rich, fertile ground in which to grow? There’s a incubation period that is needed to let the idea marinate and grow and develop and expand and contract, often times businesses are so eager to bring something to market, that they don’t look at the full marketing potential or application that some piece of innovation can bring to something that is outside of the current scope of services or core competencies.

 

The third area, Acceleration, has to do with quickly being able to monetize something, to make it large enough and impactful enough to make a difference in the marketplace. Resources are needed to make this happen, and she talked about companies who excel at innovation and deal with all 3 of those aspects.

 

She also talked about the senior management skills need for each of those phases of innovation, and how certain skills are needed in Discovery that may not be needed for Acceleration and what is needed during the Incubation phase would be different from the other 2 phases.

 

 

It’s an interesting look at innovation and how it is fostered in companies. It made me wonder about other companies. The audience tonight was a highly technical innovative audience. Those attending have full-time jobs engaged entirely in discovering something new, bringing to market something innovative, something different. That may not be your full-time job, but how do you instill those qualities of innovation into your company every day? Do you foster an environment that encourages discovery? If someone does have a good idea, do you nurture that idea? Do you allow it to incubate? And are you making resources available for good ideas to come to market in strong, impactful ways?

‘TIS THE SEASON TO ELF YOURSELF

Okay, I love clever, funny pass-a-long emails just as much as the next person, but as a responsible digital branding expert focused on helping companies create relevant on-line engagement, I am struggling to see the relevance between Office Max and Elf Yourself. If you’ve never seen this fun holiday application (which is almost as good as the classic elf bowling), you can see a recent Elf Yourself dance done using my lovely family at http://elfyourself.jibjab.com/view/8RBn5ALLcMBFlwxvYvJb (notice my husband’s grimace; that is truly how he would look if he were forced to dance like that!).

Definitely, there are pure impressions that Office Max will get just because so many people will elf themselves this holiday season. but where’s the relevance? The dance could be done in an office, distributing office products, or sponsored by a musical group, with specific music behind, or anything more relevant. It just feels like gratuitous exposure that was done for the raw numbers but wasn’t thought through to the finer details a real missed opportunity!

If you work at Office Max and are reading this, please let me know how same store sales are doing versus year ago (or whenever you weren’t involved with Elf Yourself)! I’m dying to know.

IT’S ALWAYS ABOUT UNDERSTANDING YOUR CONSUMER

I read an interesting article by Morgan Steward on Email Insider that commented and compared two different panels hosted by two Email Insider Summits (one in May and one in December). The panel from May provided insights into how college students use email and the one in December highlighted moms usage. The writer provides a synopsis of the differences between the two target groups that should be noted by marketers;basically, college kids (who have the luxury of time) are looking for interactivity, connectedness, and engagement, while time-starved moms are looking for facts, structure and streamlined communications. Steward surmises, Seems to me that in all the conversations we have about being relevant or about the influence of social media on email, we need to acknowledge that there is a fork in the road. Moms’ use of email (and the Web in general) is incredibly utilitarian, while students use of the Internet is incredibly interactive.

Here was my response: Marketers need to remember that e-mail is simply another medium, another way to deliver their message. The differences shown between college kids and moms is merely indicative of the multitudinous ways that the medium is used. The visual is not a fork in the road; the image that comes to my mind resembles the myriad computer cables that snake under the floor of the stock exchange! There are as many ways to use e-mail as there are consumer groups that use the medium. Just think of the television. Most providers offer over 600 channels from which to choose — not two. Marketers need to look at their messages and find out how best to convey their message to their audiences, on HGTV, ESPN or Nickelodeon, in fifteen second spots or thirty minute infomercials. Email, just like television, is just the medium. The marketer’s job, AS ALWAYS, is to understand their consumer–their media consumption habits and desires so that they can deliver their message in the most impactful, compelling manner possible. 

At the end of the article, Steward re-poses a good question posed by someone at the Email Insider Summit: Have we even really scratched the surface? 

If you are involved in email marketing, evaluate your data. Email stats can be tracked in order to give you information — for free! What messages or offers are getting response? What patterns can you find that can help you further segment your lists? In short, what can you do to understand your consumer?

THE JOLLY OLD SMOKER

Santa was a smoker! my son gasped. 

This is the comment that I overheard from my eleven year old this morning as he and my eight year old daughter were reading the Christmas classic The Night before Christmas. 

It made me chuckle and it made me realize how you have to stay abreast of the time.You have to stay relevant. Any depiction of Santa now with a pipe clenched in his teeth and a wreath of smoke around his head is simply not politically correct. However, the use of reindeer power is very green and better today than ever before. 

So what you’re doing with your business to make sure that you don’t have any relics in your marketing efforts? Are your communications politically correct? If someone were developing a tagline today or designing your mascot, is there anything they would change? Make sure you review your communications on a regular basis to be sure that they are abreast of the times.