FAIL! Zavvi Become the Latest Social Media Victim

Zavvi (the record store we used to called Virgin Megastore) are the latest firm to get bombed by social media applications.

I don’t want to go into the story too much (you can read about it here), but let’s say that their business acumen must be called into question by ordering and then banning the “War on Terror” board game.

The makers are regular digital citizens and their online ‘hood came to the rescue. As a result, the games that were recalled have been given away for free in front of the Zavvi store on Oxford Street in London. Cue much blogging, inclusion on B3ta, blogged by Graham Linehan (the writer of Father Ted and The IT Crowd), tonnes of hits on their own blog page and a YouTube video showing the whole event. Great publicity, all of it free, most of it digital, ultimately funded by Zavvi.

If I was a Zavvi Exec right now – I’d be shooting my PR team, and firing myself. FAIL!

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The Death of Marketing (Digital or Otherwise)

As an academic working in the field of digital marketing practice, it is my duty to inform you OF THE DEATH OF MARKETING.

Working for the man is now officially OVER.

So when did marketing die? Well it’s important to look at the causes to understand the actual moment of death. If you’re cynical (is cynical different to skeptical?), you’ll be convinced that the marketing of goods and services is purely for peddling of wares in pursuit of consumerism and conspicuous consumption. Goods are produced not because they are needed by people, but because goods need to be produced to make companies (and individuals within them) rich and fat. Marketing fulfills a role here by convincing people that they do need goods, often goods which they don’t need. In many cases, solutions are offered for problems which people do not even know they have. In some cases, people are provided with a solution to their lifestyle aspirations, and they can only know about this lifestyle if they are exposed to it through marketing.

I won’t bore you with the textbook explanations of marketing, or any of those that you might find in an inspirational book about marketing on the shelves of a bookshop in an airport – perhaps one that mentions a colour in its title or has been conceived by a “marketing guru” from the USA. You’ll aready be aware of these and may have taken many of the ideas on board in your practice.

Anyway – the death of marketing has come about because of fear. People are worried about their money. People who wash their cars and live on housing estates in the suburbs. People whose cars are quite new and being paid for. People who have very large mortgages. People with expensive plasma screen TVs. People who have to take the kids to pony club on Tuesday nights.

You can see these people in places where you might not have seen them before: Lidl, Aldi even Netto sometimes. You also see these people buying things they haven’t bought for a long time, stuff that hasn’t been marketed to them for ages. I’m thinking of food that might not be organic. Or ingredients for dinners that haven’t yet been woven into complete meals. It’s amazing how much time you can suddenly find on your hands when you’re feeling the pinch. Price sensitivity suddenly has a amazing effect. People are afraid that they are going to run out of money.

So marketing (digital or otherwise) is suddenly fighting for its life. People are no longer “browser-explorers” (“What’s out there? Tempt me?”), as this is the behaviour of people with disposable cash to spend. Search engine behaviour is going to demonstrate that people are much more like “researcher-hunters” (“I’m defining my requirements and assessing your ability to supply me as a marketplace”) and “finisher-trackers” (“I’m selecting a supplier with a view to purchase”). People are likely to reduce their level of opportunistic purchasing and focus on finding “what they need.”

So that fat days of marketing are over. The view that we should take now is that it’s time to look at how firms meet people’s needs. It falls to digital marketing to do this comprehensively. In the field of SEO, key-phrase identification will clearly have to move away from any notion of black-hattism – that will be a waste of time. More than ever will key-phrases have to be carefully honed so as to match the key-phrases used by researcher-hunters and finisher-trackers.

Interactive banner ads and Google ads will need to be injected into networks which speak to researcher-hunters and finisher-trackers. We’ll know they work if click-through rates increase. And what about social networks? Well that’ a tricky one. If a social network develops because of a need rather than some kind of whim, then it could become a winner for needs-based advertising.

Of course, this is great, but the whole thing will really go to pot if we get our heads around the whole “make do and mend” mentality. The days of FMCG marketing might really be dead then.

The Importance of Net Neutrality for Marketers

I’m off for a few weeks – but before I go….

You may or may not be up-to-speed on net neutrality, but if you aren’t it’s fairly simple. If you are a marketer and you’re not in cahoots with certain providers of Internet access, you may find your ads and your sites don’t quite make it through in the same way to your (potential) customers as those of your competitors who do actually pay the access providers. A neutral net doesn’t discriminate.

Is it a problem? Well – yes, because it will inevitably cost money and that cost will inevaitably be passed onto end-users as the cost of digital marketing increases. Your (potential) customers already pay a tax to providers of Internet access (this is called the monthly fee), so this is a second tax: Internet access is being paid for twice here, and if the second tax is not paid by the marketer (and subsequently passed onto the end user), then the end user will not be able to access the content provided by that marketer. And so a form of discrimination can take place.

There is a way to see if this is happening on your ISP. If you’re a bit geeky/techie, you can download this tool provided by the Electronic Frontier Foundation which will let you know if your own ISP is running this approach to deciding what content is allowed down your pipe. I suspect that in time, we’ll see this happening. As a marketer, you might think that Phorm is a good idea, but when you mix it up with a non-neutral net, it could be problem for you and your (potential) customers.