Thursday, October 31, 2013

When Did Marketers First See Opportunity In Halloween Costumes? (Infographic)

I came across this infographic today detailing the history of Halloween costumes over the years (hundreds of them, actually). It's interesting to see when Halloween become a marketable holiday, and costumes a money-maker for businesses.

It seems the 1930's were the starting point, where advertising campaigns bled into pop culture, and children dressed as the ubiquitous spokespeople and characters of the day. Funny that the first was a Phillip Morris creation. Somehow I doubt that a Joe Camel costume would be welcome in the school competition these days (though that reference is admittedly a dated one).

The 30's also saw the first mass-produced costumes of all kinds. These were mostly generic - a witch, a ghost, a princess, a skeleton. Licensed costumes referencing book and movie characters soon followed though, and in 2013, the Halloween costume is but one piece of the merchandise planning for any new Marvel or Disney movie hitting the big screen.

I like the idea of a kid being able to go trick-or-treating as their favorite movie hero or literary protagonist for a night. The same is true for us adults cutting loose at a costume party once a year. Though there's nothing like a clever homemade costume that does the same thing. How many Walter Whites do you think you'll see this year?

A History of Halloween Costumes
Explore more infographics like this one on the web's largest information design community - Visually.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Data Collection Helps Consumers Too. Do They Know It?

Image: Aaron Walker
It doesn't look like we as marketers are doing enough to show the value of consumer data...to the consumer, that is. Everyone knows what it does for businesses. Data collection and analysis delivers information that helps better decisions get made, whether that is a new product to develop, or how and when to market it and to whom. All of this is aimed at adding revenue through additional sales to new and existing customers.

What is often forgotten is that people actually want to buy things, and they want the marketing messages in front of them to be as relevant as possible. It's the confusion of what is gathered and how it is used that makes them nervous. A big part of this misunderstanding and fear can be blamed on media outlets. As soon as Google's live broadcast about updates to Google+ ended yesterday, websites like Wired.com were already talking about it as nothing more than a trick to get more user data for ads.

Does Google want user data? Of course they do! This should come as no surprise. But, what is ignored in articles like the one published to Wired is the value that this data adds to everyone, including the user that provides their photos and exact location for analysis. The need for data causes better features to be developed, such as Auto Awesome for photos and videos automatically uploaded to Google+ from a mobile device. The use of data (pretty much always analyzed in the aggregate, not at the individual level) allows the right branded content to be delivered to the right person at the right time. This makes it easier for brands to make a sale because relevant material makes it easier for consumers to find what they want to spend money on. And ads, while sometimes annoying or even intrusive, allow all of these great tools like social networks and mobile apps to be free to everyone.

And, let's not pretend that data doesn't help sites like Wired.com too. Better targeted ads mean higher CTR (Click Through Rates) which allows publishers to charge advertisers more to run them. It's a win for everyone. Maybe someone should explain this to the staff writers.

It is time that consumers stop being made to fear the use of their personal data by marketers, and realize that the improved experiences comes out of what is collected. The responsibility to communicate this lies chiefly with marketers themselves to be honest about what they collect, how it is analyzed, and what benefits come from it in the end for businesses and for customers.

For more on the data conversation between marketer and customer, you can read what Julie Bernard, Senior VP at Macy's, had to say at last month's conference in Cincinnati right here. Also, I sat down with Ryan Derrow of Empower MediaMarketing before his session at to touch on the same topic as it relates to digital advertising. Video of our Google Hangout is below.




Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Updates To Google Plus Hangouts And Photos Good For Users And Marketers


In case you missed it (or were thrown off by the late start time due to a power outage), Google Plus leader  +Vic Gundotra hosted "A Morning With Google+" today to unveil some of the latest updates to the network. Those of us that spend a lot of time on Google+ were pretty excited, and we weren't disappointed with what was revealed.

I live tweeted during the broadcast to share some of my thoughts as updates were mentioned, but here are my overall impressions from a user and a marketing perspective.

The updates centered around two tools of Google+ - Hangouts and photos with a total of 18 new features being delivered.

Starting with Google Hangouts, the two biggest changes were the addition of a location sharing button and integration with SMS messaging.

With a location sharing button, friends asking where the other is in a chat can easily share this information with the press of a button rather than typing out a text response. Cool. Assuming you have location sharing turned on like me (I want to see how this will be used over time), Google will pull your GPS coordinates and deliver the information to your friends through the Hangout chat. I can only assume the next step would be to provide walking/driving directions to your friends, so they can find you easily.

The SMS integration will bring more users into the Hangout app, giving them little reason to ever leave again. Hangouts offer text and video chat (HD quality now, by the way), many more emoticons (if that's your thing), new support for animated GIFs, synchronization across all devices, and now integration with texts coming in through your phone's SMS messenger. Really, what more could you want?

Now, the photo options on Google+ have long been superior to every other social network. You have a full suite of photo editing tools at your disposal including more filters than Instagram will probably ever offer. Photos are backed up automatically if you choose, so there's no manual uploading from your phone or camera to get them in there. Today, the photos section gets even better.

Profile Using Snapseed (No HDR)
Users can now run a text-based search for images from their own photo library, and that of their circles' shared images. No previous tagging of the photos have to occur. Google's algorithm knows what to deliver when you search "sunset on the beach with a boat on the water" for example and they will deliver those images as a result. Crazy.  

The acquisition of +Snapseed a while back has given Google even more to work with, and today they've added an HDR filter to bring out the best in landscape photos. I have been going back and forth with this app and Samsung Galaxy's photo editor. But, now I think I may stick with Snapseed exclusively.

Auto-enhancements seem to be what Google does best with photos. What they are now aiming to do is to use the Google+ platform and cloud feature to help users "better tell their story" through photos and video. 

While auto-enhancement has been a feature for a while, it is now expanding to offer several options to the user. Additionally, quick editing tools will allow you to do things like remove photo bombers and other undesirables using the Auto Awesome Eraser option. Auto Awesome itself is also seeing some updates that will allow action shots to, well, show more of the action.

If that wasn't enough, try uploading a video in the near future and you will see stabilization, filters, and even music added as optional features to make your videos all that they can be.

All of these updates are great for users, and continue keeping Google+ well ahead of the curve with what a social network can be. On the marketing side, more features that users love keeps them on Google+ longer and allows marketers more opportunity to interact with them. But, these new features themselves are of great use to marketers that want to create content on the network too. Think of all the cool images and videos that can be made to promote your brand. Or, how much better HD quality Hangouts with light adjustment will be for viewers on +YouTube.

As these tools improve, marketers gain a greater ability to produce high-quality content - for FREE. This is a huge advantage for small businesses with limited budgets, as well as bigger businesses that need good content in-between the highly produced and polished pieces. That's a plus for everyone.

I couldn't get to all of the updates introduced today. For the full scoop, watch the full video below.