Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Is Humor In Advertising Just Laziness?

Watch just about any TV channel for an hour and you'll find that 7 out of every 10 commercials use humor to try and sell almost everything. If somebody was beamed here from another planet, they might think it was impossible to sell anything on TV unless it could somehow be ridiculed or maybe that we're all imbeciles because we don't take anything seriously. Even things we should take seriously!

funny advertising

Take for example insurance. Multiple companies hawking auto, home, life, and other hazard insurances now feature talking animated animals, uncommon accident scenarios, and comedic actor personalities to make their commercials funny so that they'll be more memorable to you and therefore want to share the funny with your chums. None of them mention some important things that should be considered when choosing an insurance company. Such as solvency, payout history, political affiliations, or legal history. Their message is basically, "We'll probably save you money and we're funny, so buy us."

You can readily see similar efforts selling cars, food and beverages, dating services, cleaning products, personal hygiene products, satellite tv, pharmaceuticals, furniture, internet services, mortgages, cell phones, travel services, stock trading, appliances, and more. Is this just laziness by ad agencies or is it a reaction to the laziness of consumers of today?

Not long ago, if a company came off as humorous in their advertising then they were shunned and laughed at, not with. According to advertising master John Caples, who has over 60 years in the business, relying on humor carries a lot of risk. “There is not a single humorous line in two of the most influential books in the world. The Bible and the Sears Roebuck catalog." There's a reason for that. "You can easily entertain a million people and not sell a single one of them.”

These days it seems like the humor is the immediate go to route, even though several studies have found that funny does not typically translate into more sales. So what gives? Dan Dennett, a cognitive scientist at Tufts University, says humor is the easiest and fastest way to form a positive relationship with someone because we are wired emotionally to respond to a limited set of triggers. Humor is one of them.

So it is laziness on both ends of the transaction. Advertisers are simply taking the easy route to your most vulnerable area of your emotional self and we as a society are too lazy to recognize it or care about it enough to hold them accountable. Are we slowly fulfilling a prophecy?

lazy humans


Friday, March 21, 2014

Content Marketing Is A Joke In The Real World

Over the last couple of weeks I have spent some time travelling along the Eastern coast region of the U.S. between Pennsylvania and Florida. I have clients and various business ventures all along that corridor, so I tend to make the trip up and down or down and up several times every year. This year I decided to take an informal poll of all the business people I came in contact with regarding the issue of Content Marketing as it relates to their business’ online existence.

Content Marketing Clown

Altogether, I discussed the topic with 100 different business owners or managers involved in a broad range of businesses. There were dentists, mechanics, lawyers, contractors, restaurateurs, accountants, florists, landscapers, optometrists, retailers, and more. All were people doing business in the real world who either have a presence for their business online or use some level of online tools to run the business.

I asked them all, “How’s business?” They universally reported that business is generally good. I doubt that any of them would tell me if they were about go under due to a lack of business, but from what I could see during my visits, none of them seemed to be in danger of that.

So I next asked, “Are you doing anything online to grow the business?” A full 20% said they don't have a website or do anything online, except pay bills, use email, and maybe read industry specific news related to their business. The other 80% said they have a website and/or a Facebook account and post something to either when they have a sale going on or when something new is available. Nothing really regular. Maybe once a month or, in some cases, only 2 or 3 times a year would they add something or change something in the information about their business.

For those who had no website or Facebook page I asked why they didn't have those things and they said they didn't see the need. They were already busy enough and were content with what they had. It was quite refreshing in a way to see that there are still some people out there who are not wrapped up in the goings on of the digital world.

For those who did have a website or social page, my next question was then, “Did you know that if you regularly add new, fresh and useful content to your website or social pages that it can increase your business’ exposure in the search engines and social networks?” About half said they had heard that before, but they didn't really know or understand what they needed to do. The other half said they were already satisfied with what their websites or Facebook pages did for the business and couldn't care less about the search engines. I must admit, that was also refreshing to hear.

I then gave a mini presentation that lasted all of about 60 seconds of what content marketing is, how it works, and gave examples of how each person could do it to promote their business. Keep in mind that I wasn't trying to sell them any kind of service. Most of these people were not clients of mine. They were just average folks running a business that I happened to come into contact with during my travels. My only intention was to have a little conversation, share a bit of information, and gauge their interest or opinion on the topic.

Some were generally interested and wanted to talk about it more. Most were happy to talk a bit about their business, but had no interest in devoting any more time to it than they already do to write or commission the writing of topics to regularly add to their website.

The optometrist I spoke to summed up the general consensus quite well. He said, “I already spend 50 - 60 hours a week looking at eyeballs and doing paperwork. I have no interest in being a journalist for an additional 10 - 20 hours per month writing stuff to bloat my website hoping that a search engine will care. Lot’s of other sites like WebMD already have everything anybody would ever want to hear about eyeballs and eyesight anyway.”

The landscaper I talked to said, “If I have to turn my website into an encyclopedia of landscaping to keep it relevant so people in my area can find me doing a search then that will be the day I ditch that thing and just start paying for regular ads that just include my phone number.”

The mechanic said, “That sounds dumb. Who has time to do that? I'm no writer and I don't have a bunch of extra money laying around to pay somebody to write for me. My website says everything it needs to say. This is who I am, this is what I do, this is where I'm located, and here’s how to contact me. Doing anything more than that is silly. I'm not trying to be some celebrity or guru. I fix cars. That’s it.”

The overall impression I got from the majority of real world business people I talked to is that having to do content marketing is a joke and a bad one at that. They just aren't interested and, in many cases, don't see the point. That leads me to believe the only real demand for it is coming from people looking to get paid to do content marketing.

I find it fascinating how every heavily liked, shared, or commented article or post that talks about content marketing, social media marketing, or search marketing is mostly liked, shared or commented on by other marketers. No real paying customers ever see most of these "tips" or "7 ways to do" whatever lists. It's all just basically a bunch of yes men clicking around and validating each other. Wake up people. The real world has no use for you or what you're promoting. What are you going to do when the bubble bursts?

Content marketing does work, but not like it used to. Now there is so much of it going on that a lot of it has little or no value. Even good content has a short shelf life these days. Who is going to want to pay you a decent rate to write something that will be swept from the search listings next week by some new flash in the pan writer? Anybody can go to Fiverr and get a decent 800 word article for about $10 now. Think about that.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Does Your Audience Bing or Google?

Bing Versus Google
When it comes to online business website marketing, do the people who are looking for what you offer prefer Bing more than Google? Bing is Microsoft's latest attempt at comprehensive web search and was launched in May of 2009. It is not quite as powerful or generally as popular as Google, but it is definitely making the world’s biggest search engine stand up and take notice due to some innovative differences and an actual effort to develop broader relevant results.

Many people believe that Bing is second rate compared to Google, but Bing may be cultivating a user base in a way that is much smarter. First, the Bing and Yahoo partnership was genius. For those who don't know, search results at Yahoo and Bing are supplied by Bing. This is the “enemy of my enemy is my friend” approach to gaining market share and it is working. Bing has also garnered search relationships with Facebook and Apple as well recently. So it seems that the strategy to bring Google down, at least a little bit, is going to be a coordinated effort by several of the other big web players.

Significantly Different Demographics Evolving
Over 80% of searches on Bing originate in the United States, while only about 40% of Google searches do. Google does have a much higher overall search volume number though, so their actual number of searches from the U.S. is currently higher than Bing. However, Bing has been steadily increasing its market share for search year after year since it's inception. Their new partnerships with other services and acquisitions into other markets will likely allow that trend to continue.

Dollar Sign
The age demographic is where Bing is really starting to shine. Bing edges out Google in users aged 35+ and significantly beats Google in the 55 and older group. That is likely due to Bing being the default search engine configured in Internet Explorer and IE being the default browser bundled with all Windows powered devices. That trend is also likely to continue even as younger Google users age because of how Microsoft has positioned itself to cater to the older demographic in general with how their content is presented.

You don't have to be web marketing genius to know that people over 40 typically have higher income and more disposable income. Another interesting statistic, that also correlates to the 40+ age bracket, is that Bing users are more likely to have young children in their household. It will be interesting to see if those youngsters buck the Google trend as they age into their teen and early adulthood years.

A Different User Experience
Bing search results and their overall user experience strategy appears to be setup to intentionally take advantage of the older demographic gains they enjoy. If so, then that's a very positive sign that Bing has a long term agenda and isn't just accidentally gaining ground due to it's default status in Windows or some people's anti-Google domination sentiments.

One of the very first noticeable differences in user experience between the two search engines is the location of the “related search information” choices on the search engine result pages. Google chooses to place these down at the very bottom of the page, while Bing places them easily within view on the right-hand side.

grab handle
These optional search tags are extremely relevant to the user, so why does Google hide them at the bottom? In most cases, these optional search methods are often not even seen by the Google user at all.  The fact that Bing makes them so prominent likely evens things out considerably when it comes to relevance and whether the user actually finds what they are looking for or not. Older users certainly appreciate the prominently placed suggestions for alternative searches if their original attempt did not produce what they were looking for. Most people, regardless of age, appreciate extra help and especially so whenever extra help is given with easy access.

More Diverse Related Search Categories
Another advantage Bing has chosen to offer in their related search options is broader search categories related to the original search request. For example, let’s say that a user wants to research the Canon PowerShot Digital Camera, but really has no idea of what they are looking for yet. They type into the Bing search box the words “Canon PowerShot”. Bing not only provides a more user-friendly experience by placing the optional related searches immediately within view, but the options are extremely more diverse in comparison.

Google simply lists about 8-10 different Canon models, while Bing offers options of manuals, downloads, and accessories, as well.  If you're a web marketer then that broader search experience gives you more chances to get in front of that user by targeting several different types of categories simultaneously in your search marketing research, techniques, and strategies.

Video Search Engine Results
More and more business website marketing research is showing that the use of video in online conversions is growing substantially and there are some major differences between the two search engines in how these video results are displayed. Google will simply give you a long list of video options, usually based on the keywords in the video write up and the number of clicks that it gets on YouTube or some other form of social media.

Bing displays the videos in a tile format, without all of the extra wording and meta data that no one really cares about anyway. The user is given many more choices within the same first screen than what they get at Google. What is even more unique is that some video begins previewing instantly as soon as the user runs their mouse over the video image. This means that if you're creative, you can manipulate the video preview to sell your product just by the user hovering over top of it. No click is even necessary.

Which Is Actually Better?
Some guy thinking
That question doesn't really matter and neither does your own personal opinion on the subject when you're trying to get the most targeted visitors to your website. Step 1 of online marketing is knowing who your audience is and where they spend their time. If a higher percentage of the people you want use Bing, or even if it's just easier or more possible for you to get a higher listing there, then that's where your SEO efforts should be focused. It makes no sense to put most of your efforts into getting higher listings on Google if the people who want what you have aren't there or if you have zero chance of getting a first page listing there.

Also, which is “better” is easily influenced by brand perception to some people then actual results. A survey conducted in 2013 found that respondents chose Bing search results of over Google ones more often when they thought the results were actually supplied by Google.

These are just a few ways Bing is certainly trying to shake things up that sets them apart for the better from Google. If your targeted audience is U.S. based, over the age of 40 or is a family with young children, or if your product is a little pricey and requires the customer to have a bit more disposable income, then Bing could be the better search engine to optimize for. The way the Bing results and related searches are presented may also give you an edge by giving you more chances to get in front of potential customers who are looking for what you offer, but don't really know how to best find you on their own.

Don't just automatically run with the Google bandwagon. Do your research and weigh your options. Then do the math. A smaller potential pool of visitors from Bing that are more in line with your target demographic will almost always produce better results for your business than higher, untargeted traffic from Google. That's especially true if you have next to no chance of getting on the first page of results there anyway.