Tag Archives: blogger

Helped by the internet, “the times, they are a-changin” in Egypt

I got home yesterday morning from a three-day trip to Hurghada, Egypt.  Hurghada is a sprawling resort town on the Red Sea frequented by scuba divers.  I was there to complete my PADI Open Water Diving certification.  As it happened, I had the April 5th issue of The New Yorker magazine with me, which featured an article by Joshua Hammer on the upcoming Presidential elections in Egypt.

The current Egyptian leader, Hosni Mubarak, became President in 1981 following the assassination of Anwar Sadat.  He has since been “re-elected” every six years by national referendum with no opposition candidates, except in 2005 when the Bush administration pressured him to allow multiparty Presidential elections.  The fairness of those elections has been challenged, with human rights watchers reporting massive suppression of the opposition in the weeks leading up to the voting and on election day.

Election year 2011 looks to be different, with several factors potentially ushering in real change.

One is that Mubarak is now 81.  While he once told the Egyptian parliament that he would stay in office until his last, dying breath, he has recently been grooming  possible successors, including his son Gamal.

Another catalyst of change is Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who recently returned to his hometown of Cairo for the first time since retiring as head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.  ElBaradei was the man who questioned the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq prior to the U.S. invasion and urged that inspections continue.  He has now heeded the call from different constituencies in Egypt and is assessing a possible run for the Presidency.

And finally, there’s the internet.  According to the New Yorker article, 16 million Egyptians are now online, most of them under the age of 35.  That’s relatively low for a population of about 80 million.  Nevertheless, Gamal Mubarak, who is trying to position himself as the leader of Egypt’s youth hosted a recent webcast with college students, and more are planned.  (One could also imagine him launching the Arab equivalent of The Great Schlep, the online campaign that mobilized young Jewish voters in the U.S. to get their non-internet affine grandparents living in Florida to vote for Obama.)  ElBaradei has created the National Front for Change, which includes a web site that is collecting signatures for adjustments in the law to make the election fairer.  And unknown to him, supporters also created a Facebook fan page.  Joshua Hammer reported that there were 76,000 fans at the time he wrote the article.  I just looked and there are now over 91,000.

Bloggers are also active in Egypt, although those critical of governmental policies have been called in for questioning and in some cases jailed.  Referring to these incidences, Mohamed Gamal, a leader in Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, said, “There might be some individual cases, but no government can crack down on the internet.”  One wonders if that statement is just a propaganda ploy to play down the ruling party’s efforts to suppress criticism online, or a sincere acknowledgment that in the immortal words of Bob Dylan, the times, they are a-changin in Egypt.  One hopes it’s the latter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

The antidote for the TV network is called the world wide web

The rumors of my death have been wildly exaggerated.

The rumors of my death have been wildly exaggerated.

Forgive me if I sound like I’m beating the proverbial dead horse.  But with all respect to Joseph Jaffe (social media maven par excellence and author of two terrific books — Life After the 30-Second Spot and Join the Conversation), I continue to struggle with the widespread assertion that the 30-second commercial has witnessed its heyday and will soon vanish from the face of the planet.  Note that I’m not saying 30-second television commercial.  The reason for the distinction will become clear.

I have written on an earlier blog post about how effectively this old format can tell a product or brand story in a remarkably efficient amount of time.  What’s more, while I am as excited as anyone by the possibilities social media and web 2.0 tools create for brands and “consumers” to engage on a much more personal level, we live in an and/and communications world.  Fact is, there are still times when people aren’t interested in a conversation (much less creating their own TV spot).  Conversation takes time, which is one thing most people have very little of.  If there’s a new, household product out there that is going to make my life easier, or if I’m in the market for a new mobile phone, then I’m not necessarily interested in a conversation.  Right now, I may just want to get a quick overview of the product choices available to me.  I want to hear what you have to offer — fast — and then get on with it.  A one-way message is just fine.

It’s simply not true that people have a problem with 30-second commercials.  They have a problem with bad commercials — ones that are unclear, convey no apparent benefit, or do so with an execution so tedious and irritating, they’d like to throw a brick through their TV screen.  Even more so, they have a problem with commercials, good or bad, for products or services that are irrelevant to them, and that show up as uninvited and disturbing interruptions to their favorite shows.

The problem isn’t the commercial, the problem is the distribution system.  Television networks are simply ineffective at delivering a specific message to the people for whom that message is relevant, and only to them.

Enter social media!

Marketers should think about online communities and networks as a new, superbly effective distribution system for their messages.  I don’t mean they should push commercials into online social networks uninvited, but instead enable individuals online to discover commercials that are personally interesting and relevant to them.  And then pass them along to others — friends, their communities, their blogging audience — for whom they think these will also be of interest.

A mom blogger who discovers a great new kids product will be connected to others who are in the same life situation, have similar needs and will also want to know about that product.  If she has access to a commercial that she thinks gets the product story across, especially if it’s executed in an appealing way, she will naturally pass it on.  All the more if she has tried and was happy with the product.  What she won’t do is share that commercial with her online connections for whom she knows the story won’t be interesting.  In this way the community becomes a self-regulating system that ensures the message spreads only to those people who will get value from it.  How cool is that?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be the traditional 30-second spot, although when people suggest to others that they take a look at a product message, 30 seconds are relatively risk free.  If, perchance, the story isn’t of interest, at least they only wasted 30 seconds of the their friends’ precious time.

So here’s something marketers ought to consider placing on the packaging of their next product launch, upgrade or line extension.  “If you like our product, please go to http://www.brandx.com, upload our TV commercial, and share it with your friends online who you think would also be interested.”  If the expression “TV commercial” seems too pre-web 2.0, then call it a 30-second video if that makes you feel more in sync with the age of “YouTube.”

It can’t hurt.  And it just might get your message to spread across a network of thousands of interconnected, prospective buyers for whom it isn’t an intrusion, but a welcome source of news and information.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Marketing isn’t communication

Pretty much every social media blogger and podcaster I come across today writes as if marketing and communications were the same thing. Communication certainly has an important role to play in marketing but it isn’t the same thing as marketing.

Marketing is the practice of identifying people’s unmet, or unconscious, needs and fulfilling those needs profitably through appropriate goods or services. It creates tangible value that people are willing to pay for. Fundamentally, it has nothing to do with communication.

Defined in this way, there is nothing bad, unethical or manipulative about it. What could be wrong with understanding people’s needs and fulfilling them, at a price they are ready to pay? We do that every day in our personal relationships. We may not get paid in money, but we certainly are rewarded for it. It’s the same thing that a local store owner will do every day to keep his customers happy and loyal. Understand who they are and provide them with what they need. No one has a problem with that. Certainly his customers don’t.

Why does it matter? Because it’s this confusion that has turned marketing into a dirty word. And stops people from thinking about the true nature of marketing and how to do it well. Marketing can be done poorly. But poor marketing has nothing to with exaggerating the truth, playing to people’s insecurities and fears, dominating the conversation and knocking people over the head with 1000+ GRP TV media plans. Those are the sins of bad communication, not bad marketing.

Recently I heard a podcast suggest that companies should already be thinking about consumer needs at the early stages of product development. That this is what good marketing ought to be about. Excuse me? This is what good marketing has always been about. This isn’t new. Except, apparently, for those social media podcasters and bloggers who believe that marketing and communication are the same thing.

7 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized