Muddle in the middle

The news that Morrisons is really struggling has hardly come as a surprise.

There are probably a lot of reasons for this, not least the King Canute-esque refusal to follow industry trends (online shopping, convenience shopping over “big” shopping) until everyone else had it pretty much nailed.

But it’s also a failure of positioning, and another blow for those in an industry trying to occupy middle ground.  Premium is an easy sell, as is budget, but if you’re trying to do a bit of both you risk missing everyone.  I think Morrisons has done just this.  A desire to not undersell the quality has made people confused about the value, but a desire to not undersell the value has made people confused about the quality.

People can’t be bothered with that, they’ll just go for something that doesn’t confuse them, largely instinctively.

And this kind of stretching to each end of the spectrum is happening in a lot of industries – sport, movies, video games.  The big ticket stuff is still as big ticket as ever, and the niche stuff forms a long tail of interest, but the bits that try to do a bit of both are either struggling or no longer exist.

Stop trying to acquire me

I loved this from the always excellent Bryony Thomas on the aggressive nature of marketing language.

“Capture”, “Acquire”, “Target” etc.  All very SAS and a tone that makes B2b buyers run a mile.

It got me thinking about how this translates to sales people in B2b organisations as well.

Go onto LinkedIn, go to your “who viewed your page” bit.  If you’re a B2b buyer or involved in the decision making process in any way, look at the job titles of the people who have been “hunting” you.

The vast majority of them make me think “oh christ, I hope that person doesn’t call me”.

It’s probably about time we had a good look at this stuff.  Job titles are often the first thing people see.  As someone said at the B2b Marketing Summit the other week – your staff’s social profiles are your store front nowadays.  Not your website, not your brochure.

And yet we’ve got job titles that scare people off, with photos to match.

So change your mind-set, stop thinking of people are targets, then work that mind-set through your organisation, taking care to understand where people will first interact with your company.

Up Periscope

I had a good play with Periscope last night.

I won’t be the first to say this, or the last, but I feel that it is a real game changer.

Blogging turned us all into publishers, and Twitter turned us all into commentators.  Periscope (and Meerkat, shouldn’t forget Meerkat) can turn us all into broadcasters.

Genuinely engaging and world shrinking.  The possibilities for brands are huge of course, but the real impact may be felt between individuals communicating their experiences to each other across the globe.  Imagine something like this existing during the Arab Spring, for example.

Twitch invasion

At various points during reading this you’ll probably think that I’m a massive nerd.  That’s fine, I accepted it long ago.  I’m comfortable with it.  So with that out of the way….

I was watching a documentary about professional video gamers the other day.  It was interesting and bewildering in equal measure – a secret other realm in which people don’t finish games of Call of Duty with a 1 kill, 22 deaths score (I was tired, sitting at a funny angle to the TV and I think the batteries in my controller were dying).

During this documentary (which is still on iPlayer by the way), there was a fascinating section on the video game streaming service Twitch.  Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with Twitch, you need to start getting familiar with it.  Especially if you work in or around (cc Andy Townsend) digital media.

Check out these stats and you’ll see what I mean.

So whether you think streaming and watching people playing video games is weird or not is irrelevant.  It’s massive, and getting bigger.

And the big thing for me here is how it essentially cuts out the middle man.  The content creators become the broadcasters and the viewers completely and totally pick their own schedules.  It’s time-shifted viewing on steriods.

Just think of how this model could affect the landscape of all broadcast media in future, and of sport in particular.  Will the traditional broadcasters still hold all of the cards, still control the access to the viewer and will the rights deals of the future still look the same?  How will the balance of power shift?  And how will this differ down the “tiers” of sports properties – including sports, leagues and individual clubs (or even athletes)?

I don’t know.  Stop asking me.  All I do know is that anyone who isn’t at least thinking of this new future should be feeling, well, twitchy.

Corp Blimey

Sport isn’t getting any less important.  I’ve talked about this before.

Soon, every bit of media people consume will be on their own time.  TV schedules will mean nothing and the importance of channels will diminish as your Sky Planner (or whatever) becomes your channel.

So the fact that sport means people all want to watch the same thing at the same time will provide something fairly unique for advertisers.  And its importance will grow and grow.

So the mega-bucks gazillionaire corporations are going to continue to be drawn to it.  To own it.  They start with one or two clubs as you see now with organisations like Fenway Sports Group owning the Red Sox and Liverpool.  Then they’ll pluck a basketball team here, and an American Football team there.

Or, like the owners of Man City, they’ll hoover up a few clubs of the same sport in different countries.

So where does this end up?  I think it will end with the entirety of global top level sport being owned and controlled by 25-50 companies, all owning dozens of clubs across multiple sports – sharing brand and resource of all kinds.

I think we’ll also see the first pan-sport superstar as soon as he can be crafted in some lab somewhere.  A bit like when Hulk Hogan tried boxing in Rocky 3.


Stop trying to make me speak to actual people

There is an ideological divide in B2b Marketing between those who let their information roam free and those who lock it in a cage, only to be released on submission of a dozen data fields.

It’s my contention that the second approach, the “you want it, you give me your email address” is completely contrary to how modern B2b buyers want to buy things.

Using myself a focus group of one:

– If I’m researching vendors for a product or service I want to buy I want to read, study and view as much stuff as I can before even speaking to another person.

– When I’ve done this, I’ll form opinions about a few of them and create a shortlist.

– When I’m pretty damn knowledgeable about the whole subject, I’ll then engage with my preferred couple of vendors.

So, I’ve basically done most of the navigation of your “funnel” myself.  I’ve started as a lead, moved myself into being a prospect, and qualified myself – all without you even knowing I’m interested in that service.

Now imagine you’re a vendor at the initial stage of that process and you want me to fill in a form (for someone to get back to me…eek) at the start.  It’s an immediate no.  I’ve already moved on.  I’m not ready to be sold to by you yet.  And I’m not losing any sleep over not reading your sales documentation – I’m busy forming an attachment to your competitor by hoovering up all of their materials, following them on social media and generally learning about them.

So – create good marketing materials, in different formats that I can consume in different types across different media.  And do it about good products that you don’t have to apologise for, and that don’t have cracks that marketing needs to paper over.

And once you’ve done that, set them free.  No gateways, no data harvesting, nothing that you qualify as a lead but we all know isn’t anything of the sort.

And then wait for your prospects to be ready.  Then, sell.

Love you long time

It’s a pretty well established fact that people’s attention spans are shortening.

(Wait, come back)

Content is becoming more and more bite sized and these young whipper snappers are dotting from thing to thing, consuming different types of media at the same time on different devices.

But we’ve not yet seen this change in viewer habits translate to how sport is pitched as a product (other than cricket, which has gone from banquet-sized Test matches to 3-course-meal sized Twenty20).

In 20, 30, 50 years time, will sport still be asking people to sit down and watch it for two hours? Or will the winners in the next millennium in sport be the ones who shrink it to fit new audience habits?