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:

Once upon a time….

I’m going to tell you a story. Actually, I’m going to paraphrase a story that none other than our favorite Rob Walker tells in his book, Buying In. He does a wonderful, detailed job telling you this story, but quite frankly I don’t have that time and you would probably get bored, so I will give you the highlights.

Once upon a time, there was a beer company called Pabst Brewing Company. They made a nice, cheap beer called Pabst Blue Ribbon (PBR). PBR wasn’t doing too well in terms of sales. The company wasn’t doing very well either. However, for some reason, despite the fact that they were not marketing the beer at all, they saw sales starting to pick up. And grow. And grow some more. When they investigated the growing popularity of the beer, they found that it was becoming a favorite among individuals in “alternative” people- especially in Portland. You know what kind of people I’m talking about. The hipster, grunge, Indie, underground type people. This included subculture groups like bike messengers. These people liked PBR because, quite frankly, there was no marketing around it. They saw it as a sort of underdog and adopted it into their culture. They were able to do this because there was a lack of brand meaning associated with PBR, which let the drinkers create their own meaning around PBR- a phenomena called projectability. This was also a bottom up approach to marketing.

The interesting thing about PBR is that even once its foundering sales picked up- it still abstained from basically any marketing. Aside from the occasional low-key sponsorship of a bike messenger tournament, it shunned advertising, including a possible endorsement deal with Kid Rock. However, I refuse to believe that PBR uses no marketing. Instead, I think it is very murky. Here is an example I found of one way the brand seems to be marketing itself- without seeming like it is coming directly from the company.

 

As you can tell by the picture, this campaign is spearheaded by Union Binding Company (a snowboard binding retailer) which offered this pretty cool looking pair of PBR bindings in a contest. In order to enter the contest, one simply had to share the image on their Facebook page. There are a few things about this that interest me.

1) PBR is very smart to team up and “co-brand” with Union Binding Company. It makes the source of this promotion more murky and makes consumers feel less like Pabst is hitting them with an ad directly.

2) Note that the product they are branding is snowboard bindings. Remember how I told you the brand was embraced by alternative subculture types? Snowboarders seem to fit that category to me.

3) People actually want to win these (as you can tell by the number of people who commented on the photo or entered the contest). This reinforces the idea that people see PBR as more of a cultural symbol and less of a brand.

4) This is yet another example of a company who uses Facebook advertising to their advantage. By making sharing the photo a term of the contest, they are getting free, word of mouth advertising.

 

Will Pabst live happily ever after using this type of murketing strategy? I don’t know. What do you think?

On College Campuses

I would like to think my college campus is unique in its own right with the homey location, diverse student body, party scene, interesting academic classes, and the many opportunities to get involved all over campus. However, when it comes to student groups and organizations it’s different. If other schools are like mine then every club is competing against one another and vying for the attention of potential members from newcomers and oldcomers alike.

With personal experience being in a student run culture club, not only are we trying to recruit enthusiastic individuals who share similar interests and will serve the club but we also work to host a variety of interesting events throughout the year. You would think that after the pandemonium of student fairs it would get easier right? Well, think again. Throughout the year numerous events are held and it’s not uncommon to have at least five events in one day. A student on campus has many choices to choose from. So how does one club stand out more than the others?

Doesn’t this sound familiar? Student organizations and groups remind me a lot like the consumer market these days. You could even say that like markets today, it’s overcrowded with too many choices and as Buying In’s author Walker addresses in his book as the ‘Pretty Good’ problem, the events put on by these various student clubs are pretty good in quality.

Yet, the way they are able to distinguish from each other is the onslaught of advertising that goes on around campus via Facebook, campus news publication, and the main method of all, flyers and posters. Just by walking around campus, one is exposed to the fliers that decorate the walls in academic buildings, dining halls, designated flier areas like the steps by our main library. The ones that get noticed go between the very unique and what people find recognizable.

Take these two fliers, one from the Japanese Culture club I’m apart of and one from UC Berkeley. What do these two have in common?

Answer is the use of iconic images or brands from TV shows and movies.

We are hardly aware of doing it but we use marketing used on us to market our own messages. In the case of my club’s flier, beyond Pikachu being of Japanese origin and the main character of a popular show amongst children and young adult fans, it has little to do with the club’s actual intentions, whi is bringing uncommon knowledge about the culture, practices, and history of Japan to the student body while UC Berkeley’s objective is to attract a crowd to discuss racial issues.

I’m sure like many school’s clubs out there, we do it because we know others will have an easier time associating to something they’ve seen before than to something that’s unfamiliar to them. It’s a habit that we’re all guilty of.

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:

 

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.

Coming to an inbox near you!

How are Hotmail, Hulu, and Facebook interconnected? I’ll tell you how.

As a relatively new member of Hulu, one of the first things I subscribed to is a short show called “The Morning After”. It’s about six minutes long airing daily from Monday through Friday and is described as “a smart, pop culture “snack” to help get Hulu users quickly up to date on the latest and greatest in entertainment news and celebrity gossip. So, I have the luxury of having a link to the program sent to my e-mail inbox every day!

Not seeing the picture yet? Just wait for it.

The program, with its two witty co-host Ginger and Brian, give viewers the latest news and critiques about the continued series and up and coming new shows. It’s also a daily six minute TV show promotion brought right to your e-mail. Not necessarily the direct advertising that many of us are used to it nevertheless makes viewers aware of the new media they should be indulging.

Recently, on this show, starting with this video from the 11th of October, they have been encouraging fans of the show to visit their page on Facebook for a chance to receive a Fall TV Makeover by using previews from two new HBO TV shows. Who wouldn’t want their very own makeover? Of course, focusing it on two lucky individuals makes it seem rare enough to attract attention and stand out enough to receive this seemingly rare treat.

Not only asking the public for their input on past and present shows that they enjoy in order to give other individuals this golden opportunity; the way they match you with your perfect show is by checking out your Facebook profile. There not an automated service mistaking your interests and referring shows that don’t fit you. By looking at your interests, hobbies, favorite TV shows and books, and more they are able to give you the best recommendation of what new show you should be checking out this Fall.

Don’t believe me? Take a look for yourself:

http://www.hulu.com/watch/287655/the-morning-after-tue-oct-11-2011?src=h&kme=Link+Html+Queue#play-queue

From your personal e-mail to internet TV to social networking sites, the borders between internet entities continue to blur the lines between clear advertising and murky marketing by the use of each other.

All in the name of being recognized on a TV show, I suppose.

I hope you enjoyed your few seconds of fame Kristi and Leonel!