Marketing murketing

Ever heard of Brian Halligan? Maybe not, but you’ve probably heard of HubSpot, especially if you are involved in any sort of new business venture.

One of my friends has an internship with a start-up company this semester. This morning she was telling me about this great new marketing software that she thinks could be really useful to the company, called HubSpot. I decided to check it out.

Woah, hang on. Is this Rob Walker talking? This clip looks like it is the video complement to Walker’s book, Buying In. In fact, it seems as if HubSpot is murketing in action. As Walker predicted, perhaps companies are starting to recognize and capitalize on murky marketing tactics in this ever changing world.

Yet, as HubSpot suggests, this may not be such an easy transition for some companies. HubSpot operates under the principle that “outbound” marketing, which involves interrupting the potential consumers’ daily lives, is no longer effective. Walker would call this “traditional” marketing. HubSpot identifies outbound techniques as cold calls, tradeshows, direct mail and seminars. HubSpot claims that these techniques are no longer effective, because of changing technology which creates barriers to their access (caller id, spam blockers, TiVo, SiriusXM Radio) and new technology which is more readily accessible and user-friendly (Google, Facebook, Twitter, blogs).

HubSpot also suggests that perhaps we are just simply sick of these interruptions.

Thus, HubSpot promotes “inbound” marketing. What exactly is inbound marketing? It involves conversing with the consumer rather than interrupting the consumer. It entails adapting to and entering into the ways in which Generation X interacts and learns. Thus, inbound marketing involves integrating search engine optimization, social media sites, blogs, etc. in order to relate to potential consumers. Inbound marketing requires becoming a part of the every day life of it’s target consumers. HubSpot is sure to emphasize that this can be a daunting task, as the new marketing world is vast, complex and interrelated.

HubSpot’s website explains:

“It’s time to reshape the way we think about marketing. Stop pushing. Start attracting. Stop interrupting. Start engaging.”

How, exactly are companies supposed to do this? Ah, that’s easy. Simply buy the HubSpot software. Duh.

“HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing Software gives you all the tools you need to make marketing that people will actually love – earning quality leads and loyal customers in return.”

Essentially, HubSpot is turning murketing into a product.

Fancy that.

HubSpot’s software includes blogs, website management, SEO (search engine optimization) tools, prospect intelligence (“lets you know if a company is visiting your site without filling out a form”), marketing analytics, competitor tracking, blog analytics, email management and lead intelligence (“understand how your leads are navigating your site for more informed sales calls”), among others. These tools fall under three different categories of the software, “tools to get found,” “tools to analyze” and “tools to convert”. How much does this all cost?

Up to $700 a month for the “enterprise” plan. Ouch. Yet, HubSpot appears to be a rapidly growing and readily successful company.

Perhaps murketing is worth the cost.

Walkin’ on water

These days you can’t just sell a product by starting a marketing campaign. To sell a product, you have to create a phenomenon and sell a lifestyle. The trick is creating the phenomenon and selling the lifestyle without anyone realizing that you’re also trying to sell a product. Enter Hi-Tec’s Liquid Mountaineering ad campaign.

Back in 2009, a video popped up on Youtube introducing the world to the newest extreme sport sweeping the world, Liquid Mountaineering. In other words, walking on water. The video was shot like a documentary and ostensibly filmed in Portugal featuring a number of foreign athletes who helped “invent” the sport. The video interviews these athletes and they talk about how the sport got started and then show a number of attempts to liquid mountaineer. In the video, the athletes are all discretely wearing T-shirts and sweatshirts branded with Hi-Tec. A few of the athletes make mention the fact that the sport became possible due to their discovery of a pair of 100 % water repellant shoes. The video gained over 4 million hits. Suddenly everyone was talking about Liquid Mountaineering. If this all sounds a bit fishy to you, it should. A lot of people fell for the video. It was shot documentary style and seemed plausible enough. A Facebook page and a blog were made in homage to the new sport and the “athletes” were obscure and foreign enough that any person on the internet would not be surprised if the only mention they found of them was through the Liquid Mountaineering sites. When a few people noticed the Hi-Tec branding and questioned them about the video, they at first denied any involvement. It wasn’t until some time later when they acknowledged that yes it was an ad campaign and yes the videos were not real.

When asked about the campaign Simon Bonham, the head of marketing at Hi-Tec, explained that the goal of the videos was to “capture the fun, spirited side of our brand.” Bonham and Hi-Tec wanted to sell the Hi-Tec “lifestyle,” as the most extreme of all the extreme sports clothing brands. To do that, they invented an outrageous sport and sent into the blogosphere where they got all the free publicity they needed. When a video goes viral there’s no telling how large the audience and the exposure will get, certainly more than any commercial on a hit TV show. And you can bet anyone that saw that video wont be forgetting who orchestrated the gag.

Check out the video:

Murky Muscle Milk (Ew)

I have had a large box of Muscle Milk sitting in my kitchen (in a house full of eleven girls it remains largely untouched, though it has been an interesting conversation starter at times) almost all year. Where did I get it? One of my friends works for Muscle Milk. I’ve seen her around campus a few times, clad in all black, riding in the passenger seat of the Muscle Milk car.

If you haven’t seen it driving around yet, take a peek.

She has showed up at our university’s athletic field to give the athletes free samples. I even saw her and her Muscle Milk posse at a house on Spring Fling, our spring concert, giving out free samples. Muscle Milk and beer on a hot day, what could be better? (Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.)

Recently, I came across this “music video” for Muscle Milk.

So, already we have some very evident murketing in the Muscle Milk campaign. First of all, the Muscle Milk car is a moving advertisement. And I would guess that it is no mistake that the car of choice is a jeep. Muscle Milk is a “sporting drink” and thus it seems in order to target this “sporty” population that would drink a “sporty” drink, Muscle Milk advertisers chose a jeep, a car that already has an established “sporty” identity and association.

This leads to my next observation. In his book, Buying In, Walker describes the case of the Timberland boot. Sidney Swartz, the original creator of the Timberland boot, developed a boot for the average, honest, hardworking, blue-color individual. However, the boot was soon embraced by an urban, Hip Hop and R&B population. Walker refers to this as bottom-up marketing, when a group embraces a brand and defines the meaning of the brand themselves, regardless of the efforts of the producers of the brand to cultivate a different meaning. This is an important phenomenon in the new murky world of marketing, and marketers are faced with the challenge of adapting to and maintaining this newly determined meaning of their brand.

What does this have to do with Muscle Milk? Well, thats for us to find out.

Take a look at the Muscle Milk website. Turns out Muscle Milk is a larger company called CytoSport. CytoSport describes itself as a “premier manufacturer of sports-oriented nutritional products that address the needs of athletes and active lifestyle individuals at every level.” The website provides links to sponsored professional athletes as well as colleges that it is associated with, under the tab “Team Cyto”. Cyto Sport even has a special line, “Muscle Milk Collegiate” to directly serve the needs of this young demographic. The last link under this tab identifies CytoSport’s partners, training facilities and sports teams, including the Yahoo! Cycling Team. (Yahoo! has a cycling team? I can’t keep up with all this murketing…) Muscle Milk also sponsors a auto racing team, Muscle Milk Team CytoSport.

I could go on and on, but clearly, Muscle Milk is rapidly adapting to and capitalizing on the murkiness of today’s marketing environment.

However, I wonder how murky marketing is affecting them. Let’s return to their music video. It hardly screams healthy, professional athletes training for competition, as their website boasts. Rather, it seems more in line with the Muscle Milk truck showing up at Spring Fling at Tufts. What’s going on here?

Perhaps the population that is embracing Muscle Milk is not the professional or competitive athletes CytoSport seems to focus on. Maybe Muscle Milk Collegiate fits more effectively into the population of “guido” spring-breakers hoping to tone (and tan) their muscles to increase their chances of picking up a hot chick. The music video seems to suggest that this may be the case, as it blatantly pokes fun of this population of people.

Perhaps, however, Muscle Milk marketers know that bottom-up murketing is at work here, and know that this population could in fact help them, even if it is not what they originally intended. This play hard, party hard, pump-iron hard population may be just what they need.

I bet the majority of Muscle Milk marketers cracked a smile at the line:

“But wait, before we get reckless, gotta look in the mirror and go over our checklist. My arms… are ridiculous, check. My legs… are ridiculous, check. My abs are all tight like their ready for business.”

Blending entertainment and advertising

Effective murketing is about getting the kind of exposure that you cant “tivo” out. With DVRs, cable tv, and internet, entertainment is more on-demand than ever. People fast-forward through commercials, watch television programs on their laptops and turn to alternative sources of entertainment such as youtube. To get people to pay attention to your product, you really have to cut through the noise and capture the zeitgeist. To do this, you have to turn your commercial and your product into something more than an advertisement. You have to turn it into entertainment.

One of the most famous examples of this type of marketing is the Will It Blend campaign by Blendtec. In this popular series of youtube videos, Blendtec founder Tom Dickson puts various items in his sturdy Blendtec blender to see if it will indeed blend. Some of the items include iPods, golf balls, marbles, Nintendo Wii, and even a car, a Ford Fiesta. The Will It Blend series is popular (all of its videos have a least one million hits) and irreverent. It features the type of off beat dead pan humor that sells so well on the internet.

So, of course, the campaign is impressive for getting us to want to watch its commercials. But that is only half the ingenuity of the campaign. What has made it so popular is that we get to watch Dickson blend various brand name items that we know such as the iPhone, the iPad, and the Wii. Free advertising and brand exposure anyone? If anyone had any doubts about just what Tom Dickson is up to, then check out this video where Dickson attempts to “blend” a Ford Fiesta. The video is essentially a three minute Fiesta commercial with the punchline of Dickson blending the various items in the backseat of the Fiesta for “roadtrip smoothie.”

The Blendtec videos have become a phenomenon in many circles. They are a perfect example about how to create grass roots brand exposure that spreads through “word of mouth” faster and more effectively than any traditional means of advertising. Instead of spending millions on commercials during peak TV hours, Blendtec made a series of cheap, clever videos that pay for themselves. I bet the guy who came up with that idea got a big raise.

Here’s the video that started it all:

 

Targeting Generation Y

In the old days, Television was the zeitgeist. Everyone watched it and there were only a few channels, so everyone pretty much watched the same thing. As such, the most effective marketing strategy was to appeal to the largest cross section of America as possible. Because of this, we got inelegant but widely appealing commercials like this, from Chevrolet.

The internet and cable TV has fragmented everything into niches. It’s ineffective to go after the whole apple pie these days. Now you have to go for the right slice. It is here that we see the marketing strategies of today. Enter the Toyota Free Yr Radio campaign. When Toyota designed the Yaris, their goal was to create a car that marketed directly to Generation Y. It had to have the DIY indie spirit and street cred that seems so pertinent to our generation’s psyche. So what did Toyota do? They launched a campaign in conjunction with Urban Outfitters (sounding hipper already, eh?) that partners with independent radio stations, providing them with funding and awareness. In addition, Toyota sponsored concerts with the radio stations that feature hip bands  such as Tokyo Police Club, Portugal the Man, Yeasayer, and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.  The concerts are free of charge and on a first come, first serve basis.

Let’s break down that strategy. So Toyota sponsors radio stations marketed directly to their target demographic. The radio stations are basically obligated to mention Toyota all the time by proxy of the sponsorship. There is a built-in audience that is always listening. The audience is happy because Toyota is propping up radio stations that might otherwise go under. In addition, the radio stations generate buzz for the concerts which will surely sell out because they are free. Is there something we love more than free concerts? I don’t think so. What to know the final kicker? Toyota gave the radio stations free Yaris’s to give out to listeners during their buzz building events.

And that, my friends is Class A marketing for the new generation.

iPhone, iCloud, iAd… iMurketing

The iphone 4s is all the buzz this week as it was released on Friday, touting new technology such as the interactive “Siri” which literally speaks back to you when you ask it a question and the iCloud service which helps sync your phone with your other apple software and devices by storing your information wirelessly. Sweet.

But what about the iAds? A less publicized new addition to the latest version of the iPhone…

I decided to splurge and finally upgrade to the iPhone, and I have to admit its pretty cool. Not one to usually be up to date with technology, I have found the iPhone 4s to be user friendly and super entertaining. Admittedly, I am already an avid user of the games “hanging with friends” and “words with friends,” which I’m sure most people by this point are aware of, if they haven’t already fallen victim to their addictive qualities. Yet, users will now be targeted as potential consumers during all of those hours sweating over which word combinations will land them with the most points.

How? Apple has announced its implementation of the iAd, as Jesse Hollington explains in his article, Apple iAd: iPhone OS 4 ad platform offers devs 60& of revenue. iAd provides advertisers direct access to consumers inside the applications, so that users will be interacting directly with the advertisements as they use the app.

Hollington explains Apple’s goals of “…more interaction than typical web ads and allowing users to view advertising without being taken out of the application that they are currently using, thereby encouraging users to click on ads without having to worry about leaving the current app.”

He continues to explain how this opens the door for advertisers to reach one billion iPhone users, and thus potential consumers, a day. Clearly, this is a huge opportunity for advertisers. But what does it mean for us iPhone users?

Well, here’s what it looks like.

The first two pictures pop up in between the players turns. The player must wait a few seconds before he or she can press continue to navigate away from the advertisement. The second two pictures are the home page of the hanging with friends app. Notice the adds at the bottom of the screen. Also note the “follow us on Twitter” link at the top of the screen and the link to Facebook. Just another example of how intertwined, and murky, all of this advertising is really getting.

Also it seems to me that this sort of advertising is really inescapable, as it transcends all barriers to reach right into your pocket and essentially into your personal, everyday life. The user does have the option to pay for the app without advertising, but it seems highly unlikely that many people would actually do this, including me.

Looks like another example of murketing. In fact, we’d say this is downright iMurketing.

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