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.

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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?

Are you being played?

Make way videogames- there is a new kind of game in town. Now introducing…drumroll please….(sorry for the cheesiness):

“Advergames”

Adver-what? Advergames. Quite simply, they are games designed  to advertise a product, organization, or idea. Frequently such games are one of the major sources of traffic to a brand’s website. They not only draw in hooked users who play the game themselves, but also encourage users to invite their friends to play (can you say word of mouth marketing?) In addition to drawing traffic, such advergames seek to promote a positive image of the brand by associating it with doing something fun (playing a game).

One obvious target for such games are none other than kids. As discussed in the previously mentioned film,  “Consuming Kids,” such games have a negative effect on children not only by exposing them to product placement, but also by limiting the amount of free, unstructured, creative play they engage in. When a child sits in front of a computer screen playing a pre-constructed virtual game with pre-created characters and plot lines, there is no creativity involved. Instead of creating their own world and characters, kids are essentially being told that their imagination isn’t good enough. Well, what about the games where you get to pick a character, add a name, or create your own virtual world? While that offers more in the way of user choice, let’s face it, you are still picking from a pre-determined set of choices.

Wondering what an advergame would look like? Let’s look at an example.

Remember a while back when your Facebook news feed was clogged with updates about how many sheep your friends had on Farmville? I’m sure you do. Well, now, the wonderful folks at Zynga games have introduced a brand new game, Cityville! However, Cityville has a twist….you can play as Enrique Iglesias!

Now let’s take a look at this. Definitely looks like murketing to me. It appears as if the purpose of the game is to create a fictional city, and get Enrique to perform in your city as part of his Euphoria tour (only after you build his Euphoria Arena of course!) Seems to me like a nice little plug for Enrique as an artist, his current Euphoria tour, and his new music video (which the game allows you to preview). That means the game is targeting three different revenue sources for Enrique- CD sales, ticket sales, and music video downloads. I would also like to point out that the font spelling “Enrique Iglesias” in the top right corner of the cartoon is the exact same font and color scheme as on his latest  record (not like I have it or anything). Seems to me like some subtle priming right there.

What do you think? Murketing or harmless entertainment? Oh, and perhaps even more importantly, does anyone actually think the animated Enrique resembles the real Enrique in the slightest?!

Facebook’s decision to sell you

Notice something new in your newsfeed? Maybe its a band you’ve put in the favorite music section of your profile. Suddenly they are showing up in your newsfeed even though you haven’t officially “liked” them.You are suddenly getting updates from their new tour, a show is in your area and a new limited edition album is coming out next week. Sure, it sounds pretty good to you. You like the band and maybe you’re interested in what’s showing up.

Guess what? That’s exactly what Facebook and advertisers want.

Facebook is a treasure trove of personal information on you, the consumer, providing the most in-depth access to the things you are likely to buy and be interested in. This information does not just come from the way you’ve set up your profile. .

The valuable information that advertisers covet is the information that you post, the links you share with friends, and now, with Facebook Places, the restaurants and bars that you frequent. Never before has so much individual knowledge been housed in one distinct space (except maybe at Google) and that’s what Facebook is betting on.

This year, Facebook launched “Sponsored Stories,” a service for advertisers that picks up when you mention say Starbucks or Urban Outfitters in a post. These “stories” then become featured more prominently on a sidebar or in your friend’s newsfeeds. Every time you “check in” to a restaurant or a store, that check-in can then be picked up by Facebook and broadcast to your friends.

These stories often appear as innocuously as any other newsfeed story, yet they show up more often, reinforcing the idea in your head that X company is good and referred by someone you trust (a friend), which is better than any commercial that company could run.

According to Readwritebiz,” sponsored stories” have a 46% higher click-through rate than regular ads on Facebook.

What to know the kicker?

You can’t opt out of these sponsored stories. As soon as you start using Places or writing about a particular company, if that company has paid for it, your story gets sponsored. So add that to your list of ways Facebook is turning into an Advertising Big Brother.

It’s like I always say. The difference between movies and real life is that the evil villain in real life doesn’t want to rule the world, he just wants more money.  Cue Mark Zuckerberg doing one of these:

If you want to learn more check out this article at eweek.

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