The New Product Life Cycle
John Moore over at Brand Autopsy
discusses an interesting book called "Hip: the History," and its implications on the product life cycle.
Traditional marketing suggests that products move through the marketplace in a predictable fashion - first attracting innovators and early adopters, then moving to the majority, and finally being snatched up by the laggards while the innovators have moved onto something new.
One of my mentors back in school came up with a different model to describe product movement through the teenage market. He identified six or seven "influence" groups (such as goth, punk, hip-hop, country, etc.) and suggested that these fringe groups decided what was cool or "in." The majority of kids paid attention to what these outsiders were buying and eventually made the products a part of the mainstream. Of course, once the mass did this the influencers didn't find these product cool anymore and latched onto something else.
The book appears to have identified the same phenomenon in the population as a whole. It's not necessarily a new idea - Seth Godin has talked for some time now about the benefits of marketing to a niche of influencers. But the idea of "hipness" as a main component of the product life cycle puzzle is interesting nonetheless.
File this under more evidence for avoiding the big blob of people in the middle. They're too busy watching what the influencers are buying to pay any attention to you.
Instant merchandising for everyone
Anyone who has a baseball-loving bone in their body had to appreciate what happened last night. As the Red Sox completed their trouncing of the Yankees, it was easy to get swept up in the euphoria.
And now it's easier than ever before to capitalize on that euphoria.
The talented Greg Storey at Airbag Industries
put together his cool image and, using the power of CafePress, put together a variety or screen-printed shirts
celebrating the improbable come-from-behind victory for the Sox.
What a cool world we live in - these are the kinds of products that are going to become increasingly popular in the post-mass-media world.
One more reason to love BMW
As a tribute to a decade of democracy in South Africa, BMW has produced 10 special edition cars to be auctioned off, the proceeds of which are going to Nelson Mandela's Childrens Fund.
A fantastic example of a company leveraging its brand to support a cause. BMW didn't have to do this - their position as one of the premier car companies in the world is firmly cemented. They appear to have done this simply because they wanted to celebrate a historic moment in the history of democracy. Even cooler, their employees loved the idea as well, donating over 1500 hours of their time to manufacture the 10 vehicles.
How can you not love this company?
Last month's Fast Company article
on Gap's Social Responsibility efforts was pretty interesting. The company has decided to go "fully transparent," keeping investors and anyone interested in the loop on working conditions in their overseas factories. The results of their first report, released earlier this year, weren't good - some factories were reported to have engaged in physical and psychological abuse.
This isn't surprising to many people, in a world where corporate distrust is at an all-time high. But what's cool is that the company decided to publish these results themselves, in an honest and open way. More importantly, by committing to publishing these reports on a regular basis, the company implicitly has charged itself with the responsibility of making serious changes.
What's most interesting to me is how forgiving people can be. You can tell people about some pretty horrible things you've done, and people will praise you for being honest. People will give you the benefit of the doubt, offer you second and third and fourth chances - all you have to do is say, "I screwed up."
I wonder why more companies haven't realized this.
As the stakes continue to get higher and the impact of mass media continues to dwindle, the concept of "viral marketing" has become more prevalent. And - as always - there are companies that do it an an effective and ethical manner, as well as companies that ignore ethics all together.
But what about that ubiquitous "gray area?" In no marketing medium is this more of an issue.
Two companies spring to mind immediately. The first is a Boston-based firm called BzzAgent
. BzzAgent is a brilliant company that recruits people to spread the word about their clients' products. People sign up online for a particular campaign, receive the product in the mail, and are then charged with the task of telling friends, co-workers and strangers about it. They then submit "bzzreports" about what they said or did to spread the word, which they receive points for submitting. The points can be traded in for prizes (which are very cool, by the way.)
I've been a BzzAgent for a little over a year (they push a lot of books, which I talk about all the time anyway.) They seem pretty picky about who they work with, which means that the products and services they market are usually cool. And the people spreading the word are doing so consciously. In fact, BzzAgent doesn't give you a spiel - they ask you to try out the product and make up your own mind.
In short, they approach viral and word-of-mouth marketing from a very responsible, ethical standpoint.
Compare this with another word-of-mouth company, the "Girls Intelligence Agency."
They, too, have agents who have consciously signed up to participate. But does a 10-year old girl have the intuition necessary to understand that the "slumber party" they are hosting with their friends represents a marketing ploy?
I'm not a 10-year old girl, so I can't comment on their behalf. But I do remember how easily I could be influenced as a child from mass media - and this appears to be much more subversive than a television advertisement.
Are they right or wrong? Who knows - it makes for an interesting dialogue. But in situations like this, I think a good rule of thumb is "if you're not sure whether it's wrong but it makes you feel a little guilty, you probably shouldn't be doing it."
Looks like I learned something from my parents after all.
To successfully market a product or service, it has long been considered essential that you know something about your market's demographics and psychographics. But how well do companies really
know their consumers?
Tom Peters wrote again today
about marketing to the boomers, one of his big talking points the past few years. And he's right - though they represent the majority of the buying power in this country, we continue to construct massive advertising campaigns that are "hip" and "edgy" and geared towards a younger audience.
But at least we're reaching the coveted 18-34 year old demographic effectively, right?Perhaps not.
"Recent findings published by the American Sociological Association and based on U.S. Census data show a sharp decline in the percentage of young adults who have finished school, left home, gotten married, had a child and reached financial independence, considered typical standards of adulthood. In 2000, 46% of women and 31% of men had reached those markers by age 30, vs. 77% of women and 65% of men at the same age in 1960. "
Young people are taking more time to grow up, get hitched and settle down. Which means that their purchasing behavior is likely changing as well.
I know a lot of young folks who live very zen-like existences. They keep their crappy car and live in a small place with few possessions. This is partially because they don't have much money to spend, but more importantly (according to them) is because they don't want their lives to be tied down with "stuff." They want to be able to pursue that new opportunity across the country or take that trip through Europe for three months. They want to keep their options open.
So, less buying power plus a lifestyle that is not centered around the accumulation of more things. Why in the world are we still constructing marketing plans around reaching this demographic when there are more profitable markets waiting for a smart company to impress them?
It's crazy to think that the simple act of marketing to the people with the most money might require a pre