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Connected Television and IntoNow Are Poised to Disrupt Integrated Brand Advertising

Earlier this year, Yahoo! made a splash with its acquisition of 12-week old media check-in app IntoNow for approximately $27 million. The tech media circles, often critical of Yahoo! in recent years, praised the move in spite of the multi-million dollar price tag and the fact that IntoNow was just 12-weeks old.

IntoNow utilizes wavelength recognition to listen to and identify television programs with the tap of a button, and has become an important tool in Yahoo!’s previously-maligned foray into social. IntoNow combines the addictive check-in elements of Foursquare and the clever utility of Shazaam with the seemingly unstoppable power of Facebook and Twitter. While this conflagration of new media stars yields hordes of adoring users and Silicon Valley praise, IntoNow is poised to tap into the well-established mega-billions of the traditional media television industry.

IntoNow - From Yahoo!

The Internet is transforming television, and the first-glance value of IntoNow is obvious. Anything that gets users in front of television screens, especially if paired with live event coverage a la CoverItLive, holds immense value to television networks seeing more and more eyeballs transition to the smaller screens of laptops, tablets and smartphones.

However, the multi-billion dollar potential of IntoNow and Internet-connected televisions (including Yahoo!’s ConnectedTV) lies in the value these tools can deliver to brand advertisers and CMOs desperately seeking ways to integrate campaigns across the increasing number of platforms used by consumers. The possibilities are endless:

  1. A consumer “checks in” to the live airing of the latest White Collar episode and receives a reward from USA Network (a badge, points, a sneak preview video, a behind-the-scenes look, etc.)
  2. IntoNow utilizes a Pandora-esque algorithm to provide recommendations and offers brand advertisers the ability to provide highly relevant Sponsored Recommendations based on a user’s viewing habits
  3. Yahoo! pairs ConnectedTV and IntoNow with its own real-time ad bidding and exchange technology to deliver contextually matched, highly targeted ads based on what a user is watching right now
  4. A signed-in Yahoo! user receives time-sensitive television and movie recommendations from networks, Fandango, movie studios and the many advertisers Yahoo! already has relationships with based on their explicit IntoNow viewing habits and the inferred interests derived from them
  5. A viewer “checks in” to American Idol and is given the option to “Like” the show’s Facebook page, read the Idols’ tweets or purchase and download a song from the night’s episode directly from iTunes

The power of IntoNow in the right hands makes Yahoo!’s purchasing price of $27 million seem like chump change, and paired with ConnectedTV and real-time ad delivery, may be the spark that ignites Yahoo!’s rebound. Matching advertisers and brands with consumers is a ceaseless quest, and IntoNow gives Yahoo! a plethora of options to deliver value to a vast range of customers while capturing the always-critical adoration of its users. Execution matters above all else, and we’ve seen dozens of hot, nimble startups fall victim to the oppressive tides within a large and entrenched public organization.

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Twitter Microsites Offer Networks Real-Time Engagement

In a television era dominated by DVRs and Netflix, network executives are facing incessant pressure from advertising partners to increase the number of eyeballs that are watching programs in real-time. Traditional media has often been lambasted for fighting change, but the recent trend toward connected television and the ubiquitous popularity of social media has forced many media giants to embrace these technologies.

Twitter, the micro-blogging site that easily connects users across the globes with one-click follows and hashtags, has become a valuable real-time thermometer for networks to gauge viewer feedback during programs. What began as networks monitoring chatter on the main site feeds has evolved into the launch of enhanced microsites developed and powered by Twitter, and several major brands have already come on board. Visa and the NFL partnered with Twitter to launch a microsite covering the Super Bowl XLV. Women’s Wear Daily, Bobbi Brown and Bergdorfs sponsored a microsite for New York Fashion Week. HBO created a Twitter microsite for True Blood fanatics.

NYFW MicrositeThese microsites provide encompassing coverage of live events with real-time tweets, pictures and aggregated news. Brands can deliver real-time updates and become a destination for consumers to share knowledge and engage in active conversations on a particular topic with like-minded individuals. Most importantly, these microsites are a platform for branded content alongside user-generated content, integrating two incredibly powerful forces in Web 2.0 marketing. Brands can subsidize the costs of developing these sites by partnering with sponsors (i.e. “New York Fashion Week: Presented by American Express”) that obtain prime real estate alongside highly relevant content and engaged audiences.

For networks, these microsites encourage and facilitate real-time conversations that cannot occur on a comparable scale outside of the live program time slots. Networks can use these microsites to provide advertisers with more in-depth viewer metrics (i.e. 250,000 unique tweets, 50,000 hashtag mentions, etc.) that can command premium ad rates.

These microsites have significant potential beyond enhancing live, lean forward television viewing experiences. Imagine brands like Apple and conventions like CES implementing these sites for major product launches and events. It’s more important than ever to go where your customers and users are, and microsites offer networks and brands the opportunity to drive engagement and become a central online conversation destination.

Will more Twitter microsites pop up in 2011 and beyond? Would you use a microsite to tweet on your connected TV?

How the Internet Is Transforming Television

The way we watch television has evolved as technology has transformed our desires and expectations. New content delivery systems made possible by Internet connectivity have exponentially increased the control we have over what we see and how and when we see it. As the Web integration progresses with Boxee, Google TV, Yahoo! Connected TV, Xbox360, Roku and others, the lines between our televisions and computers are becoming increasingly blurred.

The concept of televisions with Internet connectivity is by no means new. In the mid-1990s, WebTV offered a set-top box with 2 MB of RAM and a 33.6 kb/s modem and Netscape Navigator/Internet Explorer browser compatibility. The service has advanced considerably and is now operating as MSN TV. Though it is no longer being sold by Microsoft, the company still supports the subscription service.

RokuMost recently, Google released what many consider to be the most advanced and capable “connected television” device, Google TV. This product allows users to search for television content from many sources, which Google aggregates and displays on your television screen. With this feature, Google TV supplies and displays content not available through your cable subscription with content from Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, and other websites, consolidating each of these individual platforms into a central experience accessible through Google-powered search. Currently, Google TV is the only device with full internet capability. Several devices from SONY and Logitech already feature Google TV, and more will be rolled out in 2011.

VIZIOOne of the most important elements of the connected TV movement is the availability of apps and widgets. Apps, the central value leading to the success of the Apple iPhone, are becoming available on select new televisions. Devices like the VIZIO XVT473SV leading the revolution are enabled by Wi-Fi technology, allowing users to connect to services including Facebook, Twitter, Rhapsody, Netflix, Pandora, and others through apps and widgets on their television. This integration of services delivers the “all-in-one” value by combining televisions and computers in a manner similar to the way smartphones integrated telephones and computers to phenomenal success.

With successful mobile operators like Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) staking their claim in living rooms, the growing circle of integration is likely to become more seamless as technologies advance and adoption expands. We are continually moving forward in an era of interconnectivity and integration, and Internet/app-enabled devices will drastically alter the traditional definition of televisions and their capabilities.

Image Credits: VIZIO; ecoustics

Toyota: Don’t Take Our Word For It!

Toyota is experiencing one of the most difficult public relations nightmares a company can face: a concern for the safety of their products. The pandemic-like spread of the news of brake failures, recaclls, and stuck accelerators has plagued the carmaker in recent weeks, and the company is in overdrive attempting to resolve the technical problems, but perhaps more importantly, their public image.

Rather than attempt to hide from the issues and attempt to refocus consumers as time passes, they have taken the approach of confronting safety issues with customer testimonials. With news today of a runaway Prius speeding out of control on a California highway dominating headlines, Toyota is revving up advertising that attempts to calm customer fears by focusing on the people involved with the company. Assembly line workers, dealers, and customers have been seen and heard in television, radio, and online advertisements.

This active approach attempts to confront the issue, solve the problem, and move forward in a calculated and pragmatic manner. The advertisement below, seen on the Yahoo! homepage, draws attention away from negative headlines, replacing them with positive customer experiences.

What do you think of this strategy? Does it reassure your confidence in Toyota? Leave a comment and share what you think!

Understand Consumer Behavior to Increase Sales

When companies are looking to develop a product, penetrate a market, or diversify their business portfolio, it is crucial for them to understand how consumers make purchases and what motivates their purchasing decisions. Navigating the complex structures of consumer decision-making and consumer behavior requires accurate perception and thorough understanding of pre- and post-purchase thought processes.

The generally accepted Consumer Decision-Making Model articulates a five-step process that depicts how consumers purchase goods and services:

  1. Problem Recognition: Consumers identify a gap between their current and desired state
  2. Information Search: Consumers search for appropriate information (from internal and external sources) to make a reasonable decision.
  3. Product Evaluation: Consumer compares different product/service choices using evaluative criteria (miles per gallon, processing speed, calorie content, etc.) obtained during information search
  4. Purchase: Consumer decides on purchasing alternative, buying the product/service that best closes the gap between their current and desired state
  5. Post-Purchase Activities: Consumer is either satisfied with purchase decision, or dissatisfied with product, leading to cognitive dissonance (anxiety or regret after purchase)

Prudent managers and marketing decision-makers maintain an up-to-date and accurate understanding of this decision-making process at it evolves over time. The decision-making process does not take place without influence of external factors. Cultural and social influences have a dramatic impact on which purchases consumers make and why. Today, for example, companies have largely shifted toward inexpensive products or services that better correlate with the wants and needs of the overall market in the economic downturn. Target’s “Frugalista” campaign exemplifies an recent attempt to make high-fashion at a low price a hot trend. Check out this recent Target television spot:

In 2007, when the economy was booming and luxury status-symbol retailers like Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus were experiencing drastic increases in sales, this ad would never have run. A conusmer need/desire for frugality didn’t exist on a wide scale, so ads appealing to this unmet need would likely have resulted in a small or negative ROI. Advertisements at that time largely appealed to desires for high-quality, luxury products and services that projected a specific image to others. Time periods have a major impact on which products and services are sold, and how they are marketed to consumers.

Understanding macroeconomic, social, and cultural trends is vitally important if companies intend to remain competitive n the rapidly-changing global economy. Perhaps even more important is an accurate understanding of how customers are affected by these trends, and in which ways their decision-making and purchasing behaviors are transformed by them.

Roll Out The Red Carpet and Add Some Drama to Your Campaign

Every one of us has experienced (and I do use that word intentionally) an advertisement that stops us in our tracks and – if only for just a moment – makes us forget we’re witnessing an advertisement. When we experience this phenomenon, the company has achieved its goal.

Traditionally formatted advertisements are still widely used and remain effective platforms for pitching a product or service, but there has been an increasing number of ads that stray from the conventional “What, Where, Why, How” format. Today, with DVRs and fleeting attention spans plaguing advertisers in every medium (television, print, online, etc.), companies are struggling to create gripping adverisments that capture and hold the attention of their audiences. More and more, they are turning to bold, dramatic, and intense campaigns that are intended to create a lasting impression on the viewers. Some turn to in-your-face statements targeted towards younger, liberal-minded individuals. Others stick to more mature, conservative, yet similarly dramatic statements that produce the same results in different demographics.

Every company seeks to display its competitive advantage through its products and services, and advertising is where they convey that message to the world. Sometimes, however, part of the competitive advantage lies not within the content of the advertising, but the style. One of the more prominent examples of this technique is a recent campaign by 5 Gum:

This commercial portrays stunning imagery and unique originality, yet refrains from mentioning much about the product itself. Rather, it attempts to focus on the image the brand upholds. Accompanying this dramatic ensemble of visual exploration is an exacting tagline: Stimulate Your Senses. This intriguing one-two punch of calculated visual and verbal messages commands attention and burns a lasting image into the viewers mind. In every sense, 5 Gum has accomplished it’s goal. However hard-hitting and dominating this commercial may be, it isn’t for everyone. Companies looking to create this lasting imprint on their more mature, and perhaps more conservative, customers can still be dramatic – just in a different way.

To better explain how this is done, I’ll use luxury car commercials as an example. These advertisements are notorious for utilizing captivating and mesmerizing images to entice the customers into buying their newest model. Luxury cars are very much a statement product, portraying a specific image to the rest of the world, so customers need to be impressed by that image. Gorgeous drivers are often seen silently navigating empty urban streets or smoothly gliding across a dimly-lit backroad, and these calculated images are intended to glorify the cars, further motivating customers to purchase them. This tactic is perhaps no better exemplified in this Audi A5 commercial:

While most companies have neither the advertising budget nor the intellectual capital to create such endearing, bold, and dramatic advertisements, every company can learn from the techniques they utilize. The extent to which you can employ these tactics varies depending on your field, but they can be implemented at some level in every sector. When creating a dramatic campaign of your own, attempt to dazzle your viewer or reader with captivating words and images. Tap into the essence of why your customers buy your product and cater to that need. Create a statement that is charging, abrupt, and commanding. Be Bold. Be Remembered.

When you feel comfortable with what you (or your team) have created, test it on friends, family members, or focus groups. If it’s a hit, run with it! Make sure you properly utilize social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter when distributing your new campaign. Creating a viral buzz for your ads can have as much or more impact than creating a buzz for the products themselves.

What do you think of these commercials? Do they make you more or less likely to buy the product? Do they enhance or damage your perception of the brand? Share your two cents below!