Michael Jordan seems to me to be one of the forerunners in terms of thinking of himself as a brand and then licensing that brand and actively managing it. He went beyond the traditional endorsement, and even seemed to take an active role in brand management across various endorsements and companies owned (e.g. when his gambling became a potential PR issue, he worked with Nike to market the “I am not a role model, I’m a professional athlete” message). I may be completely off base with the above, but the point is that personal branding is now rather common, and I found HBS professor John Deighton’s study of author James Patterson to be a fascinating case study:
While he doesn’t enjoy the same name recognition, Patterson regularly outsells other “brand-name authors” such as Stephen King and Tom Clancy by simply publishing more books, averaging three titles each year with the occasional assistance of a coauthor…Whatever the genre (he has also published romance novels, science fiction, and children’s books), readers expect a “good read” from the James Patterson brand.
Struggling for years with a decreasing market share and tumbling stock price, Nortel is going negative with a campaign against Cisco. This Wall Street Journal article details their PR blitz utilizing bloggers, YouTube, anti-Cisco websites, and trade show demonstrations. The message? Use Nortel to avoid “the Cisco energy tax.”
Nortel is countering with the argument that Cisco’s technology, as successful as it has been in the marketplace, is an energy hog. In its ads, Nortel claims that Cisco’s data networks “are costing you 100% too much.” At trade shows, Nortel staff attach wattage meters to comparable Nortel and Cisco gear in an effort to show that Nortel’s gear is much more energy-efficient. The company posted a film of the demo on YouTube.
Energy prices are finally rising to a point where being energy-efficient is not just something to make a consumer feel good, but something that affects purchasing decisions by price-sensitive customers. That Nortel is taking this message to large corporate customers is evidence that at least some people in corporate purchasing departments are concerned with cutting costs by conserving energy.
In a previous post, I talked about the strategy of going negative with marketing, and why it’s rarely done. This is one of those cases where a very small company with much to gain and little to lose takes on the market leader with a campaign aimed at gaining some awareness and hoping to steal just a bit of the leader’s market share. Or, as pointed out in the WSJ article, survive and keep their current customers as their competition makes persuasive presentations to switch. It’s not unusual for a smaller company to paint the larger one as evil, and it’s not that unusual to use an environmental rationale to make that argument. What might be unusual is that with the price of energy rising so quickly, customers might listen.
And frankly, Cisco’s response that “there are no industry standards to measure “green”; and Cisco’s gear meets the environmental requirements of the product-testing company Miercom” falls a bit flat with me. Not a counter-argument about green manufacturing or building initiatives, but a lack of industry standards? No pledge for improved performance or details of why the additional energy usage creates a superior product? This lack of rebuttal leaves me thinking Cisco either isn’t taking Nortel seriously or isn’t taking energy efficiency seriously - either case may not be a big mistake now, but could be a huge mistake in the future.
Posted in business, marketing
Tagged business, cisco, eco-smart, efficiency, energy, energy efficiency, environment, environmental, green, marketing, negative advertising, nortel, power, sustainability, sustainable, wall street journal, wsj
In college, my friend Jesse and I often discussed the “night guy vs. morning guy” phenomenon. Night guy would say, “I can totally get by on four hours of sleep – let’s stay up.” Morning guy would curse night guy as he rushed to class late and tired.
A HBS Working Knowledge article documents and codifies this type of behavior and provides a link to the PDF of a working paper by Todd Rogers and Max Bazerman. Here’s a brief overview from the executive summary:
Rogers and Bazerman show through four experiments that people are more likely to choose what they believe they should choose when the choice will be implemented in the future rather than in the present, a tendency they call “future lock-in.” They also discuss directions for future research and applications for public policy, an arena in which citizens are often asked to consider binding policies that trade short-term interests for long-term benefits. Key concepts include:
- Tension occurs between an individual’s immediate self-interest and the interests of all others, including his or her own “future self.” Individuals tend to think that their future selves will behave more virtuously than their present selves.
- Four studies demonstrated the future lock-in effect, which describes a person’s increased willingness to choose and support a binding “should-choice” when it is to be implemented in the future rather than in the present.
- Policymakers could leverage the benefits of future lock-in by advocating for reforms that would be decided upon in the present, but go into effect in the future. Future lock-in would encourage citizens to more heavily weight a policy’s abstract merits rather than its concrete costs.
The working paper presents several studies, including one on donation. They find that “the future lock-in effect… suggests changing the structure of the donation such that the prospective donor can commit now to donate in the future.”
This work obviously has implications for development professionals in nonprofits, and also brought to mind another HBS Working Knowledge article from July 2007 (thanks, Gmail, for making email archiving and search so simple!) which was, in fact, also co-authored by Rogers and Bazerman with Katy Milkman. It also chronicles the “want” vs. “should” cognitive dissonance, and study it in terms of grocery shopping and DVD rentals. You can read that article, an interview with Rogers and Milkman, here.
Yeah, it took an HBS professor to figure this one out. Authenticity is important in new media marketing. This recent article from HBS Working Knowledge looks at the research of professor John Deighton. After a review of the Dove “real beauty” campaign, we get this meaty tidbit:
The new rules
But what does this all boil down to for companies that want to be successful in this relatively new environment? In the working paper, Deighton and Kornfeld discuss 5 aspects of digital interactivity, including
- Thought tracing. Firms infer states of mind from the content of a Web search and serve up relevant advertising; a market born of search terms develops.
- Ubiquitous connectivity. As people become increasingly “plugged in” through cell phones and other devices, marketing opportunities become more frequent as well—and technology develops to protect users from unwanted intrusions. A market in access and identity results.
- Property exchanges. As with Napster, Craigslist, and eBay, people participate in the anonymous exchange of goods and services. Firms compete with these exchanges, and a market in service, reputation, and reliability develops.
- Social exchanges. People build identities in virtual communities like Korea’s Cyworld (90 percent of Koreans in their 20s are members). Firms may then sponsor or co-opt communities. A market in community develops that competes on functionality and status.
- Cultural exchanges. While advertising has always been part of popular culture, technology has increased the rate of exchange and competition for buzz. In addition to Dove’s campaign, Deighton cites BMW’s initiative to hire Hollywood directors and actors to create short, Web-only films featuring BMWs. In the summer of 2001, the company recorded 9 million downloads.
These 5 aspects show increasing levels of effective engagement in creating social meaning and identity, Deighton suggests, noting that the first 2 (thought tracing and ubiquitous connectivity) change the rules of marketing but don’t alter the traditional paradigm of predator and prey. In the last 3 (property, social, and cultural exchanges), the marketer has to become someone who is invited into the exchange or is even pursued (as in the case of the BMW films) as an entity possessing cultural capital.
Catching up on some of my HBS Working Knowledge newsletter reading, I found an interesting Q&A with Professor Gail McGovern. She discusses some of the major changes in marketing strategy in the past decade, particularly CRM. Particularly salient is this point:
“Indeed, popular metrics such as customer satisfaction, acquisition, and retention have turned out to be very poor indicators of customers’ true perceptions or the success of marketing activities. Often, they’re downright misleading. High overall customer satisfaction scores, for example, often mask narrow but important pain points—areas of major dissatisfaction—such as unhappiness with poor customer service or long wait times.”
She then goes on to promote the executive dashboard – a concept that seems to be all the rage lately. When our team evaluated software vendors at the Museum, the inclusion of a comprehensive yet user-friendly dashboard giving an overview of the Museum’s current business position was a key component. Of course, as with any data-driven tool, a dashboard is only as good as the data included (i.e. the old programming mantra, “garbage in, garbage out.”). Knowing which measures are important as actual business drivers and which measures are merely distractions is obviously the key. The best way to figure this out seems to be the key lesson that was hammered into my team as we defeated the competition in our Marketing Strategy simulation in business school: listen to your customers.