Tag Archives: google

Facebook’s Revised News Feed is a Hint-and-a-Half for Your Ass

Pundits have not yet finished the volley of thought pieces in the wake of The Zuck’s decree that his kingdom’s news feed will focus more on posts by your friends and families and less on posts from publishers and, more to the point for our purposes, brands.  This move reminds me of the advice of noted marketing guru Eddie Murphy to people in horror films: “that’s a hint-and-a-half for your ass to get out.”

OK, maybe I exaggerate a little by suggesting that brands get out of Facebook (hey, clickbaiters gonna bait), but I think they should stop relying too much on Facebook for engagement and start building their own platforms.

It’s not an ark.  It’s a species diversity platform.

First, let’s acknowledge that no one, maybe not even Zuck himself, knows what the news feed change really means.  On the face of it, the change seems to limit opportunities for brands to buy their way into Facebook users’ consciousness.  However, Zuck didn’t become a gajillionaire by ignoring marketers’ and publishers’ wants.  Based on my studies of the Mafia and OPEC, I suspect that the Hoodied One wants to drive up margins by artificially limiting supply.  Take that as someone who grew up in the home state of Tony Soprano and Exxon.

Regardless of Facebook’s endgame, marketers should take this moment to acknowledge the media duopoly.  Facebook and Google account for 77% of all digital ad dollars spent.

As an alternative, look to create platforms rather than campaigns.  Specifically, I mean digital platforms such as The Wirecutter, an e-commerce platform owned by the New York Times or American Express OPEN’s Forum platform.  While campaigns and platforms both engage consumers around a brand, platforms seek long-term engagement rather than a limited time capture of consumers’ attention.  To put it another way, platforms help engage consumers when they’re interested in something, not merely when marketers have something to say.

Over time, successful platforms reduce the need to rely on Facebook or Google to snag consumers’ attention.  They become self-sustaining.  Facebook can restrict its news feed to French bulldogs for all your brand cares.  As my friend and mentor Tim Suther likes to say, “why rent your customers when you can buy them?”

Take the hint.  Build a platform.

Pre-Emptive Cringing

How soon before advertisers worm their way into Goals in Google Calendar?


Pardon us, but do you have any oats?

If you didn’t read the announcement, Google has added a feature to its popular calendar that makes it easier for users find time to reach specific goals.  You want to work on your Spanish twice a week?  Tell GCal and it’ll schedule two sessions each work para aprender Español.

Given that Google earns a tad of 90% of its income from advertising (PDF), you must excuse me for cringing in advance.

Step 1: Advertisers start buying keywords in your Calendar

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Behind the Numbers: Google “near me” up 34x

Here’s an eye-popping stat: since 2011, Google searches including the phrase “near me” have increased 34 times.  Not 34 percent, but 34 times.   I read this figure as a nail in the coffin of distinct and discrete mobile and local strategies.  Put another way, your brand has a mobile and a local strategy whether you’ve planned it or not.  Brands need to prepare for the inevitable “gotta have it now” factor across channels.

Some other tasty stats from the article:

  • 50% of people who conduct a local search on their phone visit a store that day
  • Roughly a third of those searchers buy that day as well
  • About half of people searching for a restaurant do so within 30 minutes of going out

Searches differ by day and time of day as well:


I wonder, do people search for liquor stores before or after hotels on a Saturday night?




What does this mean for marketers?

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Retro Rant: Same as it Ever Was

File this one under la plus la change

Over two years ago, I wrote what became the most-viewed post on my old blog, Translinear: Silicon Valley Hates Children.  I wrote the post in about five minutes after the umpteenth time we got our ears blasted by a video on CNN.com because one of the kids had turned up the volume the last time he or she used it.  I took out my frustration on the tech industry:

These never-stop-working companies favor two types of people, the young or otherwise unencumbered who have no commitments as important as work or those who have commitments such as family but choose to push them aside in pursuit of a career.  In either case, you have a bunch of people designing products for a broad market with little to no understanding of the market’s needs.

Well, it happened again.  Recently, the missus and I decided to limit our kids’ screen time.  It took a few minutes on my son’s iMac, which has parental controls.  It acted a little wonky right after, but it was simple enough.

Then came my daughter’s Chromebook, a device designed as a secondary PC and a popular choice for kids.  You’d think their supervised user feature would have a time limit function.  Nope.

You can block sites.  Since my daughter lives on the Nickelodeon and Disney sites, however, I find that feature relatively useless.

In short, Google markets a device to families with kids without really meeting their needs.

So, my advice to Google’s product teams: go have some kids already.  Sheesh.

Apple Watch: The Marketer’s Opportunity

In a recent post, I talked about the consumer use case for the Apple Watch.  In short, my experience with an Android Zenwatch taught me that smartwatches work really well for people who find themselves on their feet a lot and/or like to keep an eye on a few pieces of information such as weather.

So what does this use case mean for marketers who want to keep on emerging consumer technology?

Right now, I can’t see any marketers benefitting more than Apple and Google.  In addition to watch sales, these companies will gain at least some access to usage data.  If I were Google (who, let’s face it, will almost certainly use the data better) I’d be curious to know what functions watch owners use the most and which data points they keep on their wrists.  These data add another dimension to their understanding of the consumer and how he or she uses technology.

As for every other marketer, I make a humble suggestion: build an app for the watch. Continue reading

It’s Not Me, It’s My, Um, Friend (from “Building a Better BS Detector”)

As part of a promotion for my two new ebooks, I’m sharing selections from “Building a Better BS Detector” parts 1 & 2 about market research.  Interested in reading more? Email me at ben@plannerben.com.

Respondents fail to tell the truth in market research to prevent misconceptions of others about themselves

This issue can wreck any research project, qualitative or quantitative, online or person-to-person.  Very often, the first person to sound off about a given topic in groups will set the agenda for the rest of the group, since sometimes people prefer to be polite and not disagree (also known as the dominant respondent problem).  Moreover, many participants feel pressure to look acceptable in the eyes of the other respondents.

Even in something as anonymous as an online survey, people feel judged or at least tracked in this era of NSA wiretapping and Google omniscience.  So it’s crucial for the moderator or the research instrument to give people permission to look misinformed or unglamorous or whatever.  Some common tactics:

  • Put yourself in their shoes.  In person-to-person interviews and focus groups, you can put respondents at ease by saying “I sometimes do that myself.”  For instance, instead of saying, “Does anyone have trouble finding the right app on a phone?” you can ask “I don’t know about you, but I fumble with phone when I need to find an app.  What about you?”
  • Gently encourage disagreement.  Sometimes you can read someone’s body language well enough to know that they don’t agree with something that someone else has said.  Other times, you can take a shot in the dark.  In either case, you can get mileage out of asking a respondent “Joe, can you think of a reason to disagree with what John just said?”  Alternately, you can do your all of your groups in New York City, where people rarely feel constrained to agree about anything.
  • Hell is other people.  Remember the old sitcom gag about someone whose “friend” is in trouble?  This ruse works in focus groups.  Maybe respondents won’t give their honest opinion, but they might say what they think other people think.  So ask something along the lines of “what might other people say about…”

    Note, however, that you as the researcher need to keep an eye on the line between what the respondent thinks and what the respondent thinks other people think.  Make sure you know when the respondent is really talking about himself.

  • Confront them with evidence.  You can sometimes get people to be a little more honest with you by giving them a chance to look smart.  Or you can also play bad cop with them.  For instance, you can say to a respondent “67% of women in their 30s watch reality shows.  You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”
  • This same evidence-focused approach works in quantitative research as well.  Merely by prefacing a question with a fact can give respondents a sense of not being alone.

    Naturally, marketers can abuse this use of facts.  Political candidates employ this approach in push polling, a tactic designed not to understand constituents’ feelings about an issue, but rather to cast their opponent in a negative light (“would you agree with the 89% of the electorate that Candidate A is wrong when he says…”).  Use with caution.

  • While surveys allow respondents a certain license to speak negatively of other people and brands, they still run the risk of making respondents themselves feel scrutinized.  As a result, respondents may feel reluctant to indicate honest information about themselves.  One way to counteract that reluctance entails leaving personal questions (gender, age, family composition) to the end.  Think of it this way: if the first question someone asked you was “how old are you?” how might that color your perceptions of subsequent questions?

Get your copies of “Building a Better BS Detector” by emailing me at ben@plannerben.com.

When Google is Your Research Assistant (from “Building a Better BS Detector”)

As part of a promotion for my two new ebooks, I’m sharing selections from “Building a Better BS Detector” parts 1 & 2 about market research.  Interested in reading more? Email me at ben@plannerben.com.

How to Tame the Wild Google

Google (or Bing, if that’s how you roll) will probably serve as your main gateway to third-party information.  We all know Google’s abilities: Google knows all.  Google sees all.  Google can almost read your mind.  However, Google works on hidden biases and trends that require vigilance by the researcher.

  • Ask pointed questions.  Yes, you can type ANYTHING into Google and get an answer.  However, the more specific your questions, the closer you’ll get to the answers you want.  So, don’t type in “laundry soap” or “laundry soap buyers,” but something more specific like “heavy users of laundry soap.”  Google even has rudimentary natural-language capabilities, so feel free to enter a question such as “who uses the most laundry soap?”
  • First isn’t always best.  Most notoriously, Google tends to return the most-visited or cited page for any given query.  While PageRank helps employ the wisdom of the crowds, it helps to remember what Gen. William T. Sherman said about journalists: “vox populi, vox humbug.”  Look down the page and even (gulp!) onto the subsequent pages to find the most complete and credible answer to your question.
  • Be creative.  While search engines work logically, people don’t, at least not always.  So do some free-association brainstorming to come up with other ways at getting to the information you want.
  • For instance, on a B2B financial services project, I wanted to understand the differences among roles in the industry.  So I typed “a day in the life of” plus the different titles (investment banker, commodities trader, etc.) and found a mountain of relevant first-person articles.
    • In another example, I wanted to get perspectives on home remodeling.  So after looking up terms like “home remodeling” and “home renovation,” I searched on the adage “a man’s home is his castle.”  I found several home remodeling websites with a more creative focus than the usual contractor’s site.

Remember, Google can’t be any smarter than the questions you ask it.

Get your copies of “Building a Better BS Detector” by emailing me at ben@plannerben.com.

A Hess Truck for Simon: A Plannerben Holiday Special

Every year, broadcasters temporarily replace their programming with Christmas- and Holiday-themed shows from old chestnuts like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (pace, Stuart) to such cutting-edge and meritorious fare like “The Great Christmas Light Fight.”

Who am I to stand apart from the crowd?

I’d like to share my own personal tale of Holiday marketing, which we shall call “A Hess Truck for Simon.”  For a good bit of marketing insight and not a little schmaltz, read on.

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How much do you need to know, really?

Companies have a lot of data, as I’ve discussed before.  The New York Times reported on Sunday that my alma mater, Acxiom, keeps 1,500 or more data elements on just about every person in the United States.

However, every time I think about all these data, I wonder if any of these companies–Acxiom, Google or Target, has any advantage over a middle-aged Nissan dealer in Livingston, New Jersey.

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