Thoughts on stoicism, marketing or both, by the business editor and writer.

Demographics vs. ethnographics: a marketing minefield

Screen Shot 2014-09-09 at 11.10.13 AMOne of the most volatile issues facing American marketers today may be demographic, targeted marketing. This is particularly so when it comes to segmentation that picks out certain “ideal” groups as potentially good customers, while ignoring others as lousy ones.

It seems innocuous enough on its surface. A TV spot for a diabetes drug might feature black actors. Why? Studies show that minorities have a higher prevalence of diabetes than whites, and some minorities have higher rates of diabetes-related complications and death. It’s not that other spots don’t feature whites; it’s that minorities can be considered an especially appropriate demographic for a particular drug, and thus are targeted by marketers.

Here’s something similar that’s a bit less clear, a bit more problematic: The maker of Kool menthol cigarettes specifically targets the black demographic, tying its product image to a hip and sophisticated lifestyle. Newport and Salem, other mentholated brands, similarly orient their advertising disproportionately to blacks, and the response has been overwhelming: 80% of adolescent African-American smokers use menthol cigarettes.

Read more…

Marketing and Old Cameras: An Exercise in Composition

(This blog post originally was published by PointClear)

Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 3.07.12 PMRecently I bought an antique camera on eBay. I don’t know why, maybe just a desire to recapture something from my youth. Or perhaps to find craft in a world largely absent of it. Anyway, when it came in the mail I wanted to quickly load it with film and shoot something. Anything.

Given the camera’s age and limitations, I opted for a roll of slow (100-ISO) black-and-white film and waited for a sunny day. That took a while, given our balky Northeast spring. And I was paranoid about selecting subjects. What should I shoot … landscapes, buildings, flowers, elderly blues singers from Mississippi? The film offers eight exposures per roll, and it’s cheap to buy, develop, and print. But it isn’t “free.” My digital Canon “costs” me exactly nothing per shot.

With film, I’ve become very careful about the choice of subject. I make sure each shot doesn’t duplicate the previous one, unless the lessons learned help me improve. Now I watch the weather and sun. Backgrounds just as carefully. Tonality, shade, exposure, speed. Carefully. The results are good. Read more…

Content Marketing Is Doomed! (Or, Why Las Vegas Cookery Isn’t All that Good Anyway)

(This blog post originally was published by PointClear)
Thanks to a LinkedIn post by Howie Sholkin, former IDG communications guru, I was directed to a sprightly 
Screen Shot 2014-07-09 at 2.51.16 PMMediapost essay titled, “Why content marketing probably won’t work for you.” Authored by Tom Goodwin, founder of the U.K. agency Tomorrow, the post asserts that content marketing is “a totally doomed area.” “Content marketing is like setting up a small food stand in the middle of a Las Vegas eat-as-much-as-you-can buffet, to an audience that’s just eaten. And one that happens to have the world’s finest chefs serving their best dishes for free, while the top fast-food joints do the same,” Goodwin asserts.

I think Goodwin’s reasoning offers a gloss of logic which (like a lot of other smart, short-form Internet writing) overlooks several key points. Read more…

Finding that entrepreneurial spirit, and maintaining it even when you’re big

Josh Linkner

Josh Linkner

(This blog post originally was published by PointClear)

Last month I attended the Future of Business conference in New York City, sponsored by international software giant SAP. One of the featured speakers was Josh Linkner, founder and CEO of Detroit Venture Partners, whose company enables startups in the infamously dystopian town. But Linkner was not here to talk about bootstrapping Detroit. What he did talk about was an eye-opening presentation about how to bring the “startup mentality” to enterprise companies.

“The entrepreneurial journey is celebrated, of course, when it results in fame and fortune,” said the diminutive VC capitalist. “It’s a messy process, but by clawing and scratching you can achieve something special. It’s all about the mindset. All of us in the enterprise can embrace the same entrepreneurial spirit.”

Linkner cited a number of companies that once were dominant in their fields: Blockbuster, Sears, Kodak, Research In Motion (aka, BlackBerry), Borders, et alii. They’re all in varying degrees of trouble. These guys got complacent, Linkner claimed. Read more…

Social media ROI sucks! (Or, you can prove anything if you send out a survey)

page4-img2Social media marketing is now precariously ensconced as a more-or-less mainstream marketing channel. Companies try to dutifully engage with customers and prospects on all the main social channels, plus as many of the secondary ones as possible. And even with concerns over social metrics, the rise of content marketing has rushed in to boost social’s street cred. After all, content is the “fuel” that drives the social media engine, right?

But things can get murky when marketers are asked to rate social media in terms of contributing to business goals. Social distribution of content and messages isn’t considered all that effective in providing business value to companies, according to a recent analysis by Forrester Research. Read more…

The opportunity with Big Data and content marketing

The purpose of content marketing

The purpose of content marketing

Never before have marketers had so much information about prospects, customers, the competition, and the markets they hope to reach. Sounds like a happy situation, right? But say “Big Data” instead of “information,” and marketer smiles will turn upside down in a hurry.

But Big Data is information—competitive knowledge about the behaviors of customers, helping you learn how to adopt to those customers’ needs. This provides an excellent opportunity to respond in kind, with campaigns of information that directly address those needs.

Data flows like a river through the world, regardless of what problem it is asked to solve. Marketers just need fishing hooks to find it and fish it out of the river. The data might include mostly words, not numbers, so you may have to invest in technology not to get lost in the fire hose. But finding the opportunities in Big Data can be deceptively simple. Read more…

Categories: Content marketing

N.Y. City Councilman Peter Vallone on social marketing tricksters

Me: Those who have followed Hurricane Sandy’s impact on the Mid-Atlantic states, and in particular New York and New Jersey, may be aware of the controversy over false Photoshopped photos and misleading social commentary. At least one trickster posted alarmist tweets he knew were false—that, for example, the New York Stock Exchange was flooded, Gov.  Cuomo was trapped in the city, and that all electricity to New York City was shut off.

The posts, apparently just a prank, were  picked up and spread by news outlets, alarming citizens already fearful for their lives. And they may now place the trickster behind bars.

On Friday, Nov. 2, 2012, I chatted with New York City Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. (photo right) on the topic. Vallone, who chairs our city’s Public Safety Committee, said that New York State law marks it as a crime to intentionally distribute false information, about “a crime, catastrophe or emergency” that might result in “public alarm or inconvenience.”

A fuller story in context will run on Nov. 7 in BtoB’s “Social Media Marketer” newsletter, which of necessity edits down Vallone’s comments. But I felt his views in full are interesting enough to post in their entirety. I’m all for free speech. In fact, I founded and was the first president of the Florida Coalition Against Censorship during the Reagen years, when I lived and worked in Miami, when censorship over adult reading materials and images was running rampant.

However, Vallone makes good points about social responsibility that seems to accommodate the First Amendment’s guarantee of free expression. I’ll let you decide.

Vallone: I think this storm showed how great social media can be in illustrating potential problems. So many people out there (during the storm) got good information from social, but unfortunately morons like this guy were scaring people. The problem is, he actually tweeted a lot of legitimate stuff in between the fake stuff.

This is one of the first times we have seen social media used like this, and we need, unfortunately, to take some measures you’d hope would not be necessary. I have absolutely talked to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, and they are taking this very seriously. Right now, they have no electricity, but we will continue to discuss this.

Even the First Amendment has its limitations. It happens few and far between, but yes, yelling fire in a crowded theater can be a crime. And with social media, the theater has gotten much larger.

There is a specific crime here, cited in New York State Penal Code Article 240.50 (“Falsely reporting an incident in the third degree”). We have to tread lightly to not infringe on free speech, but this person tweeted many times, and we don’t see any other information that he could have relied on. It wasn’t just one mistake. It was an attempt to mislead people.

I’m a former prosecutor for six years in Manhattan, and currently chairman of the Public Safety Committee of the New York City Council. When it comes to this, I am very serious and have a background in this area.


Me: It will be interesting to see how this case proceeds, and if the D.A. feels a crime has been committed. Meanwhile, as we put our lives and livelihoods back together after the storm, it may be worth thinking a bit about how this new phenomenon, social media, can be a force for both good and ill.


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