Friday, March 6, 2015

Happy Sixth Birthday to My Blog

Another year is in the books and I've still been able to blog once in a while. My blog has never been viewed more than in the past year, so thank you for your increasing interest in what I have to say. And now, according to tradition, I'd like to highlight my favorite posts from the last year:
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Enjoy my favorite posts!

There's Never a Lack of Ideas

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Stop Calling Them Millennials

The Pew Research Center defines Millennials as Americans born between 1981 and 1997. Two years ago, Time magazine said people born between 1980 or 1981 and 2000 are Millennials. Most other definitions cite similar date ranges.

But I don't think Millennials are defined solely by their age. Sure, date of birth provides some guideposts, but Millennials are better defined by psychographic traits — like confidence, entitlement, tolerance, and narcissism. And one platform has done more to foster these traits than any other: Facebook.

Facebook has shaped the way this generation behaves as consumers and employees. It has influenced this generation's attitudes about privacy and has redefined "friendship."

In my opinion, a "Millennial" is someone who started using Facebook while they were in college, high school, or junior high school. But let's stop calling them Millennials.

We should rename "Millennials" the Facebook Generation.

College students started using Facebook in 2004 and 2005. In 2006, Facebook was opened to everyone at least 13 years old, which is when most junior high and high school students started joining the social network. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who was in high school or college in 2006 who did not use Facebook.

These days, fewer and fewer 13 year olds are even joining Facebook, which, according to my definition, indicates the tail end of the Facebook Generation. Note I also define the generation based on when they started using Facebook. Let's not split hairs: while grandma may have gone back to college when she was 70, I hope you know that's not what I mean.

Like every generational label, there are individual exceptions. But my definition speaks to the generation's more important psychographic traits than does a date range. Facebook did more to enable "Millennials'" attitudes and behaviors than any other single source of influence.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Image source: Wikipedia.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

#Super Bowl #Hashtags 2015

Hashtags were once again very prevalent in Super Bowl XLIX advertisements. Many, like "#Doritos," were straightforward and easy to remember. But most were not. Can you match 10 hashtags to their advertiser? Take the quiz and leave your score in the comments. (This link will take you to an external site. That's normal. Don't worry.)

In case you missed it: Take the quiz. 

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Go back to last year's quiz and test your memory. Does that bring back memories?

There's never a lack of ideas.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Rebranding Whole Milk: Sometimes a Name Isn’t Enough

In the not too distant past, there were basically only a few milk choices: skim, 1%, 2%, and whole. All of it came from cows.

Of course, the numbers refer to the fat content of the milk. But whole milk only contains about 3.5% fat. That's not terrible. So why not call it 3.5% milk? Calling it "whole" milk conjures up jugs of fat. But for as long as anyone can remember, whole milk has either been just "milk" or "whole milk."

Since 1975, whole milk sales in the US have decreased by 61%. See this chart (source):

Somewhere along the way, milk producers decided that calling milk "whole" wasn't a good idea. They switched to calling it "Vitamin D" milk. That has a much healthier connotation. But it hasn't turned around sales. The product essentially hasn't changed in years, and re-branding it didn't do anything. Because sometimes changing the name just isn't enough.

Of course, that's due to many factors such as changing consumer preferences, the rise of alternative milks, increased awareness of lactose sensitivities, and perhaps, having called it whole milk for so many years. A new name can't change that. But at least they tried. Unlike RadioShack...

Yesterday, news spread that RadioShack may soon be filing for bankruptcy. There are many reasons for declining sales at RadioShack, but as I wrote last year, the brand needed a name change years ago. A name change alone likely would not have saved it, but it would have been a step in the right direction.

Or, maybe Radio Shack was doomed to go the way of whole milk even after the name change. Who knows.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Half-Words, Quick Cuts, and Blaring Music: Advertising Trend Watch

I'm noticing a new trend in commercials for electronics: many of them feature very quick cuts of people using the products while music blares in the background. A few of them also feature one word on the screen that doesn't change, while a word before or after changes with the different scenes. Here are a few very recent examples:

1. Android: "And You"
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • The word "and" stays on the screen while other words change around it.
2. Fitbit: "Find Your Fit
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • The word "fit" is on each screen while other words change around it.
Slight variation: 

3. iPad Air: "Change"
  • Quick cuts of people using the product.
  • Music blaring in the background.
  • No words on the screen.
Example from two years ago: 

4. Chromebook: "For everyone"
  • Perhaps this was the start of the trend, as it contains all three elements.
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So is this actually a trend or just a coincidence? Did I miss other examples? Please let me know.

Of course, the real question is: do consumers of these products respond well to this type of ad? I think I'm in the target market for each of these products and while I like the ad concepts, I wish they'd slow down a bit so I can understand what's going on. But maybe I'm just getting old.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Cooking Up Something New

I'm excited to announce that I have accepted a job to lead marketing at Portillo's, a restaurant chain based in Chicago. It's a bit of a homecoming for me — I worked as a cashier at the Portillo's on Rt. 59 in Naperville while on summer and winter breaks in high school and college.

Check out the two pictures here: the first is me in my Portillo's uniform when I was 17. The second is me outside the Portillo's in Buena Park, California the day before I accepted the most recent offer. If I had known in that first picture what I know now, I would've shown a little more enthusiasm.

I am honored to be the first ever marketing employee at Portillo's. Berkshire Partners recently purchased the company, and along with the existing Portillo's team, they have a great plan for the future. I'm happy to say that we can all expect to receive the same quality service and food from Portillo's going forward.

Thank You, Google
It's very difficult for me to leave Google — I love the company and still think it's the greatest on Earth. I'm so incredibly thankful to everyone at Google for all of the wonderful opportunities I've had over the past four years. On the long list of things I'll miss about working at Google, the incredibly smart and collaborative people are at the top.

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I start at Portillo's in January. So when you're in the mood for a delicious beef and cheddar croissant or a great piece of chocolate cake, let me know. Maybe I'll meet you at your local restaurant.

There's Never a Lack of Ideas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

You’re Touring Hogwarts: The Psychology of Illusions (Part 2)

This is the second of two posts on the psychology of illusions. Read the first post here.

I hate waiting. I'll bet you do, too. My vision of hell involves waiting in a long line that never ends.

Smart marketers know people hate to wait, so they create illusions to trick us into thinking that we're not waiting. Theme parks have gotten really good at this.

These days, every major new ride created at a theme park includes things to see and do right in the line.

Example: Touring Hogwarts
When Universal Studios Islands of Adventure opened its Wizarding World of Harry Potter park in 2010, my wife, sister, and I were among the first to visit. We happily waited in line for nearly two hours to ride the main attraction: Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey. Why were we happy to wait in line? Because it took us on an awesome tour through Hogwarts.

In each room we waited, magical things happened to us. The Sorting Hat sang us a song. Harry, Hermione, and Ron cast spells in a classroom — one of which caused snow to fall from the ceiling. Portraits on the wall talked to each other and to us. It was fantastic. We even stayed in one of the rooms longer than we had to just so we could see everything.

We were waiting in line the whole time, but it was an illusion: we were being entertained.

The "You Are Not Waiting" Illusion
This illusion is meant to distract us. Brilliant theme park employees have created lines that are sometimes just as good as the ride. They're entertaining us and it doesn't even feel like we're waiting.

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Sometimes we can't prevent our customers from having to wait. But we can entertain them in the process. We need to get creative about it. Uber shows customers exactly how far away their ride is after ordering it. And it's kind of entertaining to watch our ride navigate the streets around us as it makes its way to pick us up. If we have to wait, we might as well follow along.

Take a page from theme parks and Uber: When it comes to handling a waiting customer, distract her, entertain her, and set reasonable expectations. She just might find a little joy.

There's never a lack of ideas.

Photo: The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Credit: Me.