Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Starbucks Digital Network

As of Wednesday, October 20th, users of Starbucks Wi-Fi will be greeted with the Starbucks Digital Network.

Starbucks has hinted at this idea for months now, first with the rollout of nationwide Wi-Fi in July 2010. In an interview with Mashable, Starbucks' Vice President of Digital Ventures Adam Brotman said, “The vision is for Starbucks Digital Network to be a digital version of the community cork board that’s in all of our stores.”

But really, it's more than just that. The unique selling proposition is that SDN makes available content from paywall sites such as The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. It's partnered with iTunes to provide free music downloads and listening experiences to users. It caters Zagat ratings and entertainment information. And, as Brotman mentioned, provides a local element unique to each area as well. Brotman has noted that Starbucks will keep a close eye on traffic, using web analytics to provide more than 40 unique experiences on the landing page. The idea is to have a full array of content available from the start, but also keep the look, feel, and partners fresh for repeat and regular users. 

(via Mashable.com)

Yahoo! not only curated the technology, but is also hosting the portal as well. This in turn has provided Yahoo! inroads to the local search that the company desires, as well as banner space and revenue.

Personally, I like the idea. With the release of branded media in stores, as well as special edition CD's and digital downloads available through Starbucks, its commitment to being as much of a media company as a coffee chain possibly can has always unabashedly been part of their core.

Why this will win: By offering a branded experience that provides useful and in demand content that's not available for free anywhere else, Starbucks created a media portal that is unique and financially beneficial for all involved parties.

What are your thoughts on this? Is Mashable right in questioning whether or not this is information overload? Will you use Starbucks and SDN the next time you're on the road and need Wi-Fi?

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Week 2: Online Marketing to Influence the Influencers

I realize the title of this post sounds a bit goofy.

But this is really what it comes down to as a marketer. In this Mashable article, Barb Dybwad analyzes the Forrester's Marketing Forum about the state of "Online Word Of Mouth Marketing." However, the argument that's presented is almost exactly to the letter what Malcolm Gladwell presented in his 2002 book The Tipping Point - basically, word of mouth trends are pushed by certain types of people, and that reaching the right people at the right time is key to a marketer's success.

In Gladwell's book, there are Connectors, Mavens, and Salesmen. Forrester analyst Augie Ray refers to a similar concept as Social Broadcasters (at the top), Mass Influencers (middle), and Potential Influencers (bottom of the pyramid). Reaching Social Broadcasters is not a new concept (at least trying to reach them isn't), but only as of recently can we say that online marketers have been having a lot of success doing so.

The most obvious example in my mind about reaching these Social Broadcasters (or Connectors) is the Social Media campaign recently unleashed by Old Spice Body Wash. This campaign was considered successful because of the sheer amount of sharing that went on. But why did this campaign tip so quickly? As we can see now, Old Spice did their homework. They reached out to Social Broadcasters and Connectors. I think the best was the ongoing response with Alyssa Milano. By reaching out to her and her hundreds of thousands of Twitter followers, Old Spice engaged a Social Broadcaster.

And by continuing to post and engage regular consumers - the Salesmen and Mavens, Mass Influencers and Potential Influencers - Old Spice carried out online exactly what Gladwell, and more recently Forrester, were talking about.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Week 1

First, a little background, both because it's necessary to the post and because I'm verbose and narcissistic.
My very first graduate course at DePaul was an introduction to my program, New Media Studies. For those of you unfamiliar with this program (I assume that's everyone), it's an MA program housed under Writing, Rhetoric & Discourse in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. (Not CDM or Communications, oddly enough.) It's pretty hard to explain what the program really is, so I usually say I'm getting a degree in the internet. (Hold for laughter.) But seriously folks... It's a program that looks critically at the web and interactive technologies and trends, as well as whatever you want to make it, since it's interdisciplinary. A few of my classmates are going more the design route, some more editorial/journalistic, some more critical/academic. Me? I'm marketing and usability. If you're ultra-curious, you can read my old blog here: http://brianblogsdepaul.wordpress.com. The stuff from September - November is my intro course, and the stuff from April - June is from NMS 504: Text & Image.
Now. Back to that very first graduate course. One of the recurring topics we discussed was the concept of innovation. Specifically, that innovation often comes through the repurposing of a technology, or a "hack." I know "hack" has a negative connotation, but to web insiders and tech geeks, it's a good thing. It's an indication of a user's desired outcome, plain as can be.

There, I fixed it: this is a hack.
I got to thinking about this the other day from a marketing perspective. I was going shopping specifically because of online marketing. That day, I visited two stores: the Levi's store and the Gap. At the Levi's store, I redeemed an online "coupon", consisting of RSVPing to a Facebook event page and showing my mobile phone to the cashier, which netted me 30% off. At Gap, I was redeeming a Groupon simply by showing the cashier the code on my mobile phone. These are the two main points of this epiphany as it relates to marketing.

1. Importance of mobile web and app development in marketing.
I do not own a printer. To get to one, I would have to take the bus, train, or walk to a lab at DePaul. In both situations above, not more than 5 years ago this would have been done on paper. Especially with the Levi's example (where it was a percentage off and not a purchased gift card redemption), I likely would not have done it if mobile wasn't a part of the equation.

Simply put, this "sale" had a low barrier of entry. Not much action, other than what normal people are already doing (out shopping, checking their phones) was required. There's no extra steps, and simply by "RSVPing" it became social on my Facebook wall: word-of-mouth. The nature of the web is now social, and the nature of the web is now mobile. It's portable and shared. While this obviously is only one aspect of a complete marketing plan, it's an increasingly important one.

2. Unintended positive outcome of mobile marketing. 
After the cashier at Gap rang up my sale, the woman behind me asked what I did, at which point I told her about not only Groupon, but about Gap's online marketing. As such, by participating in a novel (for now, this will be commonplace soon) method of redemption, Gap sealed (here it is again) the Most Important Aspect Of Marketing Ever: word-of-mouth. It's speculative whether or not this went into consideration before offering and promoting the Groupon sale. But for right now, marketers should be looking at this as a total online and mobile marketing win because of the unintended positive outcome.