Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Marketers Scan Blogs For Brand Insights

Marketers Scan Blogs For Brand Insights
By William M. Bulkeley
The Wall Street Journal
June 23, 2005

Many marketers suspect there are probably some valuable insights contained in the Web logs produced by the estimated 12 million online diarists. But in the cacophony of trivia, vitriol and bombast that fills the blogosphere, useful nuggets have been hard to find.

Now, a growing number of marketers are using new technology to analyze blogs and other "consumer-generated media" -- a category that includes chat groups, message boards and electronic forums -- to hear what is being said online about new products, old ad campaigns and aging brands. Purveyors of the new methodology and their clients say blog-watching can be cheaper, faster and less biased than such staples of consumer research as focus groups and surveys.

Blog watching helped advertising giant WPP Group PLC craft a new promotion aimed at teenagers for its Chicago-based client U.S. Cellular Corp., says Bethany Harris, senior vice president of WPP's G Whiz Entertainment unit. Using technology from Umbria Communications, a Boulder, Colo., company that aims to identify demographic groups online based on their speech patterns and discussion topics, G Whiz concluded that teens were "really anxious" about exceeding their cellular minutes, often because parents make them pay if they talk too much. The teens also resented being "ambushed" by incoming calls that pushed their minutes up. Ms. Harris says that led U.S. Cellular to offer unlimited "call me" minutes.

Marketers say bloggers' unsolicited opinions and offhand comments are a source of invaluable insights that are hard to get elsewhere. "We look at the blogosphere as a focus group with 15 million people going on 24/7 that you can tap into without going behind a one-way mirror," says Rick Murray, executive vice president of Edelman, a Chicago public-relations firm.

Walter Carl, a professor at Boston's Northeastern University who has studied "word-of-mouth" communication and marketing, says blog-watching services "are very useful for quickly getting the lay of the land" in trends and consumer reactions. Still, he says, it isn't clear how closely online comments mimic the 80% of "word-of-mouth" that still occurs face-to-face.

Not everything bloggers have to say about brands correlates to the real world. Last summer, Umbria, working for a fast-food client, was monitoring Burger King Corp.'s Angus Burger and found it got some bad reviews from bloggers. Some were deriding Burger King's tongue-in-cheek TV ads that called the burger a diet food. Bloggers notwithstanding, the Angus Burger has become a hit.

Blog-monitoring services typically charge big companies $30,000 to $100,000 a year. They say their technology goes beyond basic tools, such as keyword searches or counting links from one Web site to another, both features available at no charge from online services such as Technorati.com and Yahoo's Buzz Index.

Intelliseek, a Cincinnati firm started by veterans of Procter & Gamble Co., has a free Web site, BlogPulse, where users can enter up to three keywords and see how they compare. Before the latest "Star Wars" release, mentions of Natalie Portman briefly topped those of Paris Hilton, indicating the movie's pre-release marketing was making an impression.

Intelliseek and most other blog-watching services combine technology with some human analysis. They say their full services provide more insight than a simple keyword count. Some companies have developed text-analysis techniques as the result of funding or contracts from the Central Intelligence Agency and other intelligence services that monitor newspapers and other media. The technologies make use of software technologies known as "natural-language processing" and "unstructured-data mining" to understand even ungrammatical writing.

Bernice Cramer, vice president of market intelligence for Polaroid Corp., a unit of Petters Group Worldwide, says she uses Intelliseek's service. "If you look for it manually, you'll spend months searching through a lot of junk," she says. Polaroid recently found that consumers online frequently discuss photo longevity and archiving, making that an important issue in product development.

Sometimes blog watchers spot trends before they emerge in mainstream media: Pete Blackshaw, Intelliseek vice president, says blog mentions last summer of the Swift Boat Veterans ads against Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry indicated their claims were a big issue three weeks before the Kerry campaign finally addressed them.

Mr. Blackshaw says companies used to dismiss vocal complaints from one or two consumers as an aberration. But now, they have to pay attention because now those complainers may have blogs. "Those folks have influence with others via the Internet," he says. PR firms are hiring Intelliseek to monitor their clients, he adds, because once-obscure consumer issues are surfacing at awkward moments, such as CEO interviews with "reporters who go to Google and type in a brand and [then] ask tough questions."

Umbria, with clients including Sprint Corp. and Electronic Arts Inc., says its natural-language analysis can determine blogger demographics based on language, subject matter and acronyms. OMG ("oh my God!") or POS ("parent over shoulder") are expressions defining Generation Y girls, or those ages 10 to 25; FUBAR ("fouled up beyond all recognition") is often used by male baby boomers.

Such analysis can be important. Umbria says Laker guard Kobe Bryant has lost his cachet with most bloggers, but he is still the No. 2 National Basketball Association personality, behind LeBron James, among the boys of Generation Y, important buyers of videogames, sneakers and basketball jerseys.

David Rabjohns, president of blog watcher MotiveQuest, calls the field "online anthropology" and says he regards his firm as "almost a mouthpiece for the consumer." The Evanston., Ill., firm's clients include Motorola Inc. and Citigroup Inc.

For a Japanese auto maker, Mr. Rabjohns says MotiveQuest studied online postings about minivans. Soccer moms said their young children love minivans, which they regard as "a playhouse on wheels," but teens regard them as lame and want SUVs. MotiveQuest recommended developing a loyalty program to persuade minivan owners to buy the company's SUVs, rather than trying to get them to buy another minivan.
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French GSK arm starts blog to engage consumers, spark debate!!!

French GSK arm starts blog to engage consumers, spark debate
GlaxoSmithKline's (GSK) French arm has started a blog called Avenir de la Sante (The Future of Healthcare), according to the weekly public relations magazine PR Week. The blog is written only in French and is intended to provoke debate over France's plans to retool its healthcare system, according to the report. A GSK spokesperson said the blog shows that the company is involved in the debate and offers a way for the pharma to engage directly with patients and other stakeholders, according to the PR Week report. There is also a link to the blog on GSK's French Web site. Visit the blog at avenirdelasante.fr. Other companies are jumping on the healthcare blogging bandwagon. United BioSource Corporation is sponsoring a blog about third-party payer reimbursement for prescription drugs, while GSK, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, and at least one regulator plan to hire a firm that has devised software to spy on blogs.
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Monday, July 11, 2005


McDonald's, Masterfoods, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Timex Ready Summer Dial-in Campaigns

SAN FRANCISCO (Adage.com) -- The mobile phone appears to be making headway as an advertising delivery system as growing numbers of major marketers launch summer campaigns designed for the "third screen."

Coming of age
Along with McDonald’s, marketers including Masterfoods, Timex, Coca-Cola Co., Heineken and Johnson & Johnson are readying promotions that encompass everything from mobile games to ring-tone giveaways and text-in trivia contests and sweepstakes.

Mobile elements have already become an integral part of the mix for movie marketers, with most film sites now including a “mobile” link. Fans of Batman Begins can fight evil in Gotham in a mobile game, enter a text-messaging sweepstakes or buy ring tones or wallpaper; the Bewitched site offers 12 ring tones, including Samantha’s signature sound.

It’s been slower to develop on the package-goods side, but marketers who tested the waters last year are now poised for a bigger plunge. Masterfoods is running a contest with a promotion code on 60 million Starburst packages in which about half the responses have come via text messages. Nestle ran a “Grab. Gulp. Win!” promotion for Nesquik placed on 40 million bottles of ready-to-drink flavored milk and milkshakes offering text-in giveaways ranging from a gaming house party to music downloads. Kraft Foods is said to be planning a text-messaging promotion involving a raft of products; currently Kraft’s Oscar Mayer is giving away free ring tones of its ad jingle.

Concerts and games
Coca-Cola is exploring mobile games with developer Jamdat, said Doug Rollins, senior interactive-brand manager at the Atlanta marketer, while Heineken is using the short code “green” to allow consumers to text in updates and win giveaways in connection with its sponsorship of the AmsterJam concert scheduled for Aug. 20 at Randall’s Island in New York City.

Fresh off a successful co-promotion with the House of Blues, McDonald’s is launching a Hispanic-targeted music promotion called LoMcXimo, with an on-pack text-messaging code and a reference to text messaging as a response mechanism in supporting TV ads, an executive familiar with the program said.

Even TV commercial pioneer Timex plans a fall text-messaging campaign touting the “new face of Timex” with a text-messaging vote on preferred watch faces.

Trip to optometrist
Some marketers have gone farther. In an innovative use of text messaging, Johnson & Johnson will target patients awaiting eye exams in the doctor’s office with a point-of-sale poster asking patients to text in the code “MYEYE.” About 15 minutes later, when the marketer estimates the patient will be in the doctor’s office, it will ping a reminder to the patient’s phone to ask for the J&J lens brand. The marketer declined to comment on the promotion.

“Mobile is no longer a new media -- it has been tested and there is a protocol” for developing campaigns, said Nihal Mehta, president and co-founder of ipsh!, a San Francisco based mobile-marketing technology firm.

Where are the agencies?
That’s not to say there aren’t hurdles. An executive with one prominent package-goods firm acknowledged that mobile marketing is becoming more mainstream, but said brands are having trouble finding the resources to help them in the mobile space. “Brands want to go to the agencies and the agencies should be out there. They’re not, because they don’t see the scale.”

~ ~ ~
Kate MacArthur contributed to this report.

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Marketing Requires a New Approach


1. From demographics to lifestyle

2. From blind trust to 3rd party recommendation

3. From impersonal to concierge and customized

4. From broadcast to opt-in

(Presented by Jeff Bell at AD: TECH Chicago 2005, vp marketing Chrylser)

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World websites

Over 30% of the world's largest websites are in Chinese.

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