A Super Company Makes a Super Blunder: Was Groupon a Victim of Groupthink?

Super Bowl Image I last blogged at the end of the year about product placement being shamelessly integrated into television programming. I’d like to shift gears now and focus on the actual TV commercials themselves. And, what day more than any other do people not only willingly watch commercials, but actually look forward to them? The Super Bowl! This year, one ad particularly stood out among the rest, but for all the wrong reasons. 

“The people of Tibet are in trouble. Their very culture is in jeopardy.” Hearing these words, combined with images of snowy mountains and Tibetan children, my heart filled with hope, with the thought that a PSA could coexist with Pepsi and Budweiser ads in a new era of Super Bowl broadcasts. My hopes were quickly dashed, as the sweetness of this “Tibetan relief” ad abruptly turned sour. Just as the ad questions whether all hope is lost, actor Timothy Hutton appears onscreen at a restaurant and answers, “No, because they still whip up an amazing fish curry! And, since 200 of us bought at Groupon.com, we’re each getting $30 worth of Tibetan food for just $15 at Himalayan Restaurant in Chicago.” 

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A Still-Tarnished Peacock in an Over-Advertised World

Nbc-peacock2 I blogged in April about NBC and its shameless use of product placement in its programming. As I write this now, it seems that things haven’t changed much at the “Peacock Station.” This comes at a time when NBC really should change its ways, considering the top entertainment story of 2010 was the Leno-O’Brien fiasco – a continuing publicity headache for the network.

NBC, however, refuses to change and, just recently, got called out yet again for its product placement in perhaps its most egregious and hilariously obvious gaffe to date. On fall episodes of its long-running soap opera series, “Days of Our Lives,” the actors, with no subtlety, have extolled the benefits of several products to one another and made sure the labels on each package were ready for their close-up. For example, in an otherwise serious scene, one actor takes out a bag of Chex Mix and explains that it’s “like a million different flavors in your mouth at the same time!” The good people of the internet have been criticizing the show and network for awkwardly pitching random products, crediting the comedian and actor Kristen Schaal (“Flight of the Conchords,” “Mad Men”) with first setting Twitter abuzz with news of the soap opera product placement.

ABC, CBS, and FOX have yet to adopt the "behavior placement" model. Yet. Until then, they are leaving it in the hands of traditional advertisers for commercial breaks between their programming. However, what led to NBC blurring the line between programming and advertising – DVR/TiVo – remains an obstacle for traditional commercials (not to mention the recent passing of the Congressional CALM Act, regulating TV commercial volume). As a result, the number of 15-second television commercials has jumped more than 70% in five years to nearly 5.5 million last year, according to Nielsen (and as extensively reported by the Associated Press). Previously, 15-second ads were mostly edited versions of 30-second or even Super Bowl-length spots, but that’s changing. Advertisers are finding that viewers are becoming more visual by nature and can still catch the images as they fast-forward on their DVRs or TiVo’s. So, it may not matter that viewers can’t hear the ads as loudly (thanks to the CALM Act) or that ads are shrinking in length — as long as viewers are visually picking up on each ad while fast-forwarding.

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Mason’s Folly?

Re-reading a recent NYT interview about Groupon's founder walking away from Google's $6B offer, I was struck by how much this situation reminds me of the Yahoo!/Microsoft melodrama we witnessed in early 2008. Andrew Mason, like Jerry Yang, walked away from the negotiating table and is being coy about it.

Before saying "no" to Google, Andrew, I hope you took a good hard look at how well Yahoo's go-it-alone decision has worked out, both for its shareholders ($16.72/share on Dec .23, 2010 vs. the $33/share offered by Microsoft in 2008) and for its employees. I'm sure you see yourself as more akin to Mark Zuckerberg than Jerry Yang; for your investors' and employees' sakes, I sincerely hope you're right.

Even so, I'm betting that Amazon's recent $183M investment in #2 LivingSocial is going to make your life much more interesting in 2011. After all, Tony Hsieh and Jeff Bezos know a thing or two about creating loyal customers in markets that have no barriers to entry.

Let the games begin!

 

 

 

Welcome to PlatformPro

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Built for Customization

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Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Nunc vulputate, nulla nec aliquet lacinia, nibh lacus tristique leo, vitae semper dui risus vehicula diam. Praesent in nunc sed est aliquam egestas. Nullam ac nisl non sapien gravida fringilla eu ut lectus. Nunc pellentesque iaculis odio vel tincidunt. Cras at metus risus, eget rhoncus sem. Mauris adipiscing, felis eu pellentesque hendrerit, sapien elit convallis neque, vel bibendum nulla nibh non augue. Proin tempus sapien sed lectus suscipit pulvinar. Integer ac eros pharetra dui fringilla condimentum ut at odio. Aliquam erat volutpat. Suspendisse potenti. Maecenas aliquet pulvinar ipsum, sed blandit mauris aliquam id. Maecenas nec leo ut nibh pulvinar porttitor. In ac dignissim lacus.

bbPress & BuddyPress

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To be International or not to be?

As I was mulling over what I should blog about today, I stumbled on Mashable's article on "6 Ways to Manage International Relationships Online". Since I am currently in Munich, Germany on business and have lived and worked in EMEA and Asia for many years, I thought it would be fitting to build on Mashable's list and add some of my first-hand perspective. Here are some further tips:

  • Public Holidays – While it's important to understand time zones as the Mashable article so rightly points out, it's equally important to know the countries public holidays, as no one likes to be called when they are on vacation. This is particularly important when doing business in Europe as there are several months that have many public holidays, such as January, May and November in Germany. A few good online tools that help you ascertain world-wide public holidays are sites such as Bank HolidaysEarth Calendar and World Calendar.  All sites are very self explanatory and by simply inserting the country you are doing business with, you can pull up the holidays of that month.
  • Translations – While Mashable lists some great online tools for quick translations, it's very important to understand that one can not translate documents 1:1. Languages can not be directly translated and need to take into account cultural nuances, otherwise they sound like gibberish. That said, my recommendation is to make the investment and use a "human" translator that is in country instead of using free online tools. Your initial investment might be more, but at the end of the day, you will have better and understandable local language content. Additionally, you will be more successful in your business dealings abroad and your local colleagues will appreciate you more.
  • Think global, act locally – The term the "Ugly American" might be a generalization, but it does have some validity. When traveling abroad on business, it's extremely important that you don't have the same expectations as you would at home. While it might be common practice to dive into a meeting right away in the U.S., it's important in Europe, such as in France, that you make your business partner feel at home, offer a beverage first and discuss personal matters before you dive into the heart of the business meeting. Before traveling, I would recommend that you read up on the business culture and gather further information. Also, be more observant when you are in a foreign country and be open to new ways of business dealings and personal behavior.

While there are many more suggestions and lots of great online tips, the best recommendation I can give you is to try and travel to the country with which you are doing business. There is no better way to understand a country's cultural and business nuances than to experience it first hand!

How to Make PR Efforts Pay Off for SEO

The public relations industry is evolving. Social media and
content generation are increasing as tools of the trade. Media relations
efforts are still the single most important part of the business, but the contraction
of media has forever altered media identities and roles.

This is because of the rise of a “Social Internet”. This new
way of communicating has changed what a communications professional does – but
the news release has remained an important staple of any good public relations
effort.

News releases are more than just a direct way to garner
media coverage – now they can also offer “
link juice” to a businesses site –
and, when done right, can increase the online shelf life of the news.


Link_juice1
 (Image courtesy of Raquel Franco)

This is illustrated in the similarity in language we now see
SEO experts when discussing how they prepare their copy for greatest effect.

Here’s a quote from CopyBlogger, a preeminent blogging
expert site that also happens to be very, very good at SEO: “What people say
about you is more important than what you say about yourself.”

He could be talking about PR, but he’s not. Instead, this
statement is about backlinking, the practice of inbound links to a website,
which is a primary indicator of the importance and popularity of a site or page.
This is one of the primary tenets of good SEO practice.

In the same white paper he says: “Good SEO is copywriting.”

John Gruber over at Daringfireball.net deftly explains SEO when
he
writes “I’m talking about…writing one article in such a way that makes it
the most likely that people who are searching for the information contained
therein will be able to find it.”

So a big part of SEO is smart, effective copywriting. Just
like PR.

But how can PR efforts improve SEO?

Simple. PR when done with SEO in mind can improve
search engine rankings for a business website.

Below is a short list of tips and tricks to get a press
release on its way to being well optimized for Google and other search engines:

·    
Do Research:
Use keyword tools to determine the best (potentially colloquial) keywords for
your announcement. They may vary depending on the news you’re issuing. Avoid
marketing jargon.

a.
The Google AdWords Tool is the easiest to use.

b.
Find A Niche:
Good keywords are targeted to your audience without being too broad to make
them hard to read or too specific for search engines to look for.

·
Title:
Headlines and subheads should include the most popular keywords (and keyword
phrases) relevant to the release as these carry the most weight with search
engines and potential readers.
Write like
people search and speak.

·
Use Common
Sense: Understand and mirror the language used by the intended audience. This
will increase click thru rate and the effectiveness of the message.

·
Content:
Shorter news releases are better for search engines. Keep announcements between
300-500 words if possible.
Keyword-tagged rich media such as videos and images can increase
rankings as well.

·
Keyword
Frequency: Experts agree that 2-8% is the right number of keywords. Anything
more is seen as “
keyword stuffing” and will hurt search engine rankings and readability.

·
Linking Out:
Make sure to include
anchor text (clickable text in a hyperlink) to important keywords and link back
to client pages with a similar strategy. For example, if anchor text is
“accounting software” be sure to link to a page containing “accounting
software” in the title tag and in the page content. Optimize your boilerplate
to include links (including the http:// of the website address) and keywords.

Here are SEO tips for tech companies.