Black Friday Marketing: The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

The Black Friday ads are highly anticipated.  At a near Super Bowl fever pitch, we (marketers and nerds) can’t wait for the first sight of them.  Who will be on top? Will it be someone who is always a leader? Who will open at Midnight? Who will have a 70” HDTV for $50? Oh, I just can’t wait!

This year (2010) there is clear winner for me: Target.  I can barely contain my laughter even as I write this.  Brilliantly led by comedian Maria Bamford and created by Weiden & Kennedy, these ads will surely leave you laughing and hopefully draw in to the bricks-and-mortar stores.  
The TV spots are fresh and a welcomed departure from the usual barrage of “come buy this stuff from us because we have it on sale at ridiculous pricing” that we get from other retailers.  Target hits home with those of us who view the holidays as a stressful, unwelcomed sight.  We must prepare our homes and ourselves to meticulous perfection like some sort of deranged version of Marcia Cross’s Desperate Housewives character Bree Hodge.  We have to make it all seem flawless so that our husbands and homes and children are well-kept, well-fed, well-gifted, and well-presented for the in-laws.  We have to look good and smell pretty while doing it.  Ah, yes, Miss Bamford is our worst fear come to life.  She is holding it all together but clearly she (like us) has lost it. 

Hands-down, my favorite of these spots is the “we open at 4am” spot.  This one features Maria laying in bed on top of the covers with dozens of clocks strapped to her so that she wakes up on time.  Then, in an eery voice, eyes bugged-out, she begins to sing “Carol of the Bells”.  She sounds like a lunatic.  With absolute hilarity – it is brilliant! 

Just when I thought it couldn’t get any funnier, Weiden & Kennedy did it again.  Now they are running a spot that promotes that this sale continues throughout the weekend. It features Maria once again.  This time she is at Target (obviously the 47 clocks strapped to her went off on time and she made it) and she is in the greeting card isle.  She is again singing “Carol of the Bells” but this time she is using actual words (not the real ones).  She sings into the greeting cards that allow the consumer to record a personal message.  She has several cards and sings a different part of the song into each one creating a virtual chorus in the card isle.  My favorite part is as the spot is ending…..take a notice at her facial expression as she exits the scene. I simply cannot get enough of her. Or Target. 

I was already loyal to Target before this but now they’ve sealed the deal.  They know their customers and speak directly to us the way that we want to be spoken to.  Kudos to Weiden & Kennedy for choosing Ms. Bamford.  And kudos to Target for taking this risk.  It worked! 

Are Musicians Good At Math?

There is a school of thought that says that musicians are good at math.  This is based on the fact that music is a set of patterns (like algebraic equations) and ratios: the note A Major vibrates at 440 times per second (440:1) – regardless of the instrument; a guitar string, a piano, even the human voice all vibrate at the same ratio to produce a given note. While I am a classically trained musician, I taught myself to play the guitar without instruction.  This is because once I learned the patterns, ratios, and equations that are true (like math) throughout my education, the guitar became easy to understand.  So, am I good at math? Not on your life.  In fact, I had to take remedial math in undergraduate school because my ACT scores were so low.

The math-to-music comparison is one I use often to describe the relationship between left-brain and right-brain. Each of us draws on specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions; it's just that many people tend to use one side much more than the other. This is very true with musicians and with writers (think of the rhythm of a poem).  I find this to be true for me and the process I go through for creativity.

I believe there is no defined process and that it varies greatly from one person to the next.  Here is an example. Today I had a meeting with someone who was faced with a potential public relations challenge.  They stated the problem and asked for me an answer.  Their problem was an “if this, than that” type of question which is a very math-based or analytical situation.  I told the person my first solution would be to solve the first part of the problem first.  Then, based on the answer to that problem I would develop a proactive PR solution.  They asked to me to give them my recommendation on the spot based on the two potentially different outcomes.  I said that a creative solution cannot be solved on the spot and that I would have to think about it (incubation, perhaps).

So, today I was an explorer first, an artist second, then I was a warrior as described by Von Oech.  Based on the article by Stultz, I would say that this scenario today could be described creative thinking + critical thinking = conceptual thinking.  I find that I work best in an environment where I allow myself to explore then incubate, so it is a hybrid of the Wallas and Von Oech approaches.

I had an Aha! moment in preparation for this post.  Not only do we take into account our own cognition, but also the consumers’ cognition was revealing. It is not just about how we process information but also how the recipient of our message will view it.  Knowing Left Brain-Right Brain theory is important in developing IMC messages because your target market will be made up of one or both types of consumers. Aha! Isn’t that the IMC approach in a nut shell – keeping the consumer, not the product, at the center of the process?

Hotels & Beer: It's Not Just For Spring Break

Brand Loyalty
Anyone who knows me will tell you that I am fiercely loyal to Marriott. I'm a brand loyal (BL) as described by Rossiter and Percy. (WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2010).  Partly because I used to work in the hospitality industry (and teach classes in meetings and conventions and hospitality marketing) and partly because my husband and I are hospitality snobs (my apologies to anyone who ever has to wait on us!), Marriott has me - forever.  Strong words, yes.  And here is why.

Marriott is a customer-centric company.  They take care of the internal clients (employees) and their external clients (you and me).  Still run by people with the last name "Marriott", their corporate philosophy about their employees is "the unshakeable conviction that our people are our most important asset" (Marriott.com, 2010). Unshakeable?! Wow. Their employees are the brand. Their philosophy regarding customers includes "Openness to innovation and creativity in serving guests" and "Pride in the knowledge that our guests can count on Marriott's unique blend of quality, consistency, personalized service, and recognition almost anywhere they travel in the world or whichever Marriott brand they choose." (Marriott.com, 2010). 

No detail is left untouched.  Everything excites me about the experience. From the decor to the bed to the in-room desk/office furniture to the lobby. Whenever I travel for business or leisure, I always stay at Marriott (if possible).  Their communications and product delivery is actually quite simple - it's personal. Whether I am talking with a reservation agent on the phone, checking in or out of my room, or connecting with them interactively via Web 2.0 or e-mail, my experience is the same.  I feel as if I am the only client that has ever mattered to them.  They stay in touch via e-mail (in which I chose to participate), and they are always, as they say, innovative in approach. For example, when I recently traveled to Oklahoma City for a conference with three colleagues, we were greeted at the new customer-centric check in stations.  They called me by my name from taking a cue from the name on my luggage tag! "Thank you for choosing Marriott Ms. Ennis, is your whole party here?"  One of my co-workers came bouncing down to the lobby exclaiming, "There's a robe in my room! My room is so nice! Is that because of your reward points?!" I laughed and said, "Nope.  That's just Marriott." 

Marriott has evolved in recent years.  They upgraded nearly 600,000 rooms in the U.S. to be more "Generation X Friendly". (Yang and Brady, 2005).  Its old position of being an exclusive place for Baby Booming male executives has changed to the business-savvy Gen Xer.  Gen Xers want boutique, upscale feel and they want to feel like "grownups" when they travel for business.  Marriott has done a fantastic job of hitting all of our sweet spots from Wi-Fi public spaces to upscale lounges to the design of the rooms themselves.  They also try to make the environment in the public spaces stimulate creativity so that brainstorming sessions and teambuilding can continue outside of the room or conference.  I will be taking a "girls getaway weekend" soon (also very popular among Gen X and Gen Jones) and my girls know where we will be staying.  I get a kick of showing a new comer the Marriott way!  Everything about Marriott is an experience.

Brand Switching

As much of a hospitality snob as I am, I can the same for beer but in a different way.  For the every day, football watching on Sundays sort of times I generally drink Coors Light.  I don't really know why.  I always have.  Ever since I was old enough to drink (which has been quite a few years!).  But I often switch. Usually it happens at restaurants, especially if I'm traveling and there is a local brew.  I'll drink dark beer, light beer, imports, domestic....the beer itself is inconsequential. What is important is what mood I'm in or what the environment is stimulating to me at any given moment. I might drink Corona if I'm feeling summertime, sit on the porch with the neighbor on a Saturday afternoon or I might drink Sam Adams at Halloween or I might drink....well you get the point. 

For a beer to cut through the noise and find me, I would say they should speak to me as an adult who's psychographics include median income, moderate house, moderate car, educated, shops at IKEA, likes to travel, and fun.  I'm not so old that I'm out of touch but I am far too old for spring break in Daytona (do they still go there?). 

I hope you enjoyed my rant about my brands!

Branding a City

You may not think of a City as a brand, but branding a city is quite important. Wheeling is a city of 30,000 residents located in the Northern Panhandle of West Virginia.  Its infrastructure is ideal for the distribution of goods and services and makes the city accessible to an abundance of distinguished educational institutions, world-class medical facilities, and ethnic and cultural diversity. Exceptionally situated within 500 miles of over half of the population of the United States, its mission is to facilitate an environment which stimulates economic growth for jobs, a competitive tax base, city services, education, recreation, and quality of life.  Wheeling is the home of Wheeling Jesuit University, West Liberty University, West Virginia Northern Community College, and Wheeling Business College.  Institutions within 60 miles include: West Virginia University, The University of Pittsburgh, Duquesne University, and Carnegie Mellon University.  There are hundreds of events, fairs, and festivals as well as a vibrant arts and culture environment.  Additionally, Wheeling is known for its hip music scene.

Wheeling has an identity crisis. There is no brand. The people here feel disconnected from other parts of the state geographically and from each other.  The sense of community is waning and there is low morale.  When a local connects with a visitor or new-comer they do not say, “Welcome to Wheeling” but instead they say, “Why are you here?” (The inference is why would anyone in their right mind come here?”). Wheeling is definitely low in brand equity and we need a positive brand, message, and morale booster – immediately.
 Currently, brand loyals have lost a sense of pride in Wheeling and have become complacent and generally negative; brand switchers try to embrace their new hometown however they are discouraged by the negative energy of the brand loyals.  We want the consumer to have a great sense of pride in the city and think the city “is cool”.  We want Wheeling to have a cult-following of devotees.My questions to you are this

1). What it is about your city that you absolutely love/are you loyal to your city? (or do you simply live there because of your job)?

2). Name one city, other than your current city, where you desire to live and work.  Name five reasons why.

3). What do you think of when you think of West Virginia? Have you ever been to Wheeling? If yes, what was your impression/experience?

4).  Rank the following in number order with 1 being the best and 5 being the worst in terms of what is important to you from your city/tow
            a. Location
                 b. Job Opportunities
                 c. Housing (old versus new, condos, price)
                 d. Recreational activities
                 e. Cool “third places” like restaurants, bars, wine bars, art galleries

5). What types of “third places” are important to you?
Thank you for taking the time to answer my survey!

How Does Beer Taste In America?

How does beer taste in America? I chose to highlight five beers: Budweiser, MGD 64, Michelob Ultra, Heineken, and Corona. I will give brief descriptions of all five, with particular attention to the ethnic subcultures.  Of course I found a plethora of information on Hispanics but also found marketing targeted at Asian-Americans. 
This ad is emphasizing that the brand Budweiser is rooted in American tradition. The imagery of the wide open plains with two horses running free is symbolic of the American settlers who went westward in search of the American dream. This ad is trying to invoke feelings of nostalgia and pride.   It is targeted to Baby Boomers (people born between 1946-1964) and Trailing Boomers (people born between 1954-1965).

Michelob Ultra. Asian-Americans make up 14.1 percent of U.S. light beer drinkers. Michelob is really into sponsoring Asian-American sporting events (see attached).  While the second ad (attached) does not specifically target Asian-Americans, it invites the reader to “live life to the Ultra” which struck me as having two possible meanings.  First, it reinforces healthy living.  Secondly, by the brand aligning itself with sporting events targeted to Asian-Americans, this ad now becomes an integrated marketing piece because it completes the messaging sent to the target (in this case, Asian-Americans).  When Asian-Americans attend these sporting events, they get a message that Michelob Ultra is the beer for athletes – or at least active people.  Then they see this ad and see the message again. Also, when an ethnic subset of the American culture sees a message like “live life to the Ultra” it could have yet another meaning.  It could be interpreted that living in America is living life to the ultra, and drinking this American beer acculturates the subset.

Heinenken. Heineken USA is a fully owned subsidiary of Heineken International. Based in White Plains, New York, it offers a world-class brand portfolio including: Heineken Lager, Heineken Light, Dos Equis, Newcastle Brown Ale, Amstel Light, Tecate, and Tecate Light. (HeinekenUSA.com). The ad below was chosen because Heinken targets Hispanics and Mexican-Americans (as seen in some of its brands like Dos Equis, Tecate, and Tecate Light).  This is a smart move since beer is the preferred beverage of Hispanic-Americans. (ScienceDaily, 2008). This ad -“tu eres lo que bebes” – means, “You Are What You Drink.” The brand attributes of this ad is clearly communicating a message to Spanish-speaking people that Heineken is the brand they should be drinking. This ad is demonstrating that Heineken is something that is part of you. It is part of your lifestyle.  The ad is trying to invoke feelings of ideal self (seeing oneself as who they want to be). The ad draws the reader in and invites them not to drink this beer but rather to seek a deeper part of themselves.  The ad speaks to Generation X or Generation Y because the first enjoys high-quality beer and the latter seeks to satisfy the Id (described by Freud as the pleasure principal – whatever feels good at the time).
The brand’s attributes are pure, refreshing, relaxing, calming, and fun.  The brand takes the consumer away from the gas and the groceries and the grind.  The brand gives the consumer permission to have pleasure for pleasure’s sake.  It is like the Freud’s Ego to the SuperEgo.  It’s saying, “it’s ok, just this once, indulge. The brand’s target is the Trailing Boomer and Generation X.  It is sophisticated and is to be enjoyed by beer snobs everywhere.  This is for the work-hard, play-hard, on-the-go folks who need reminded to chill out once in a while.  "It takes me back to being on the beach, and I feel relaxed and mellow just thinking about that," says the 29-year-old Bloomberg news salesman of his favorite brew. "It's the only beer I'll drink." (Smith, Gard, and Weber, 2005).

Whether Americans are working hard, watching football, or relaxing, there is a beer for everyone.  Just as the country itself is a blend of people and culture, the same is true of our beer. There is bold, sweet, fresh, light, fruity, low-cal, high-cal - and it is all made or distributed or marketed to exactly the right person.  From hops and wheat and barley come these distinctively aromatic flavors that we associate with different places or memories or sporting events.  Yes, beer is to America what people are to America.  Partly indigenous, partly imported, the beer in America is as diverse and complex as the people who drink it.   

Vehix.com vs. Consumer Reports: Who's Better?

Savvy shoppers spend some time researching products before making a purchase, especially when that purchase involves an expensive item such as high-end electronics or a home.  The methods consumers use to conduct such research vary greatly depending on many factors such as geography, demographics, psychographics, budgetary restraints and the item itself.  For this week, I decided to evaluate the research of vehicles by assessing ConsumerReports.org for a broad look at vehicle comparison and Vehix.com for a narrow look at vehicle comparison.

Across The Board
Consumer Reports is a widely respected organization whose mission is to “work for a safe, just, and fair marketplace for all consumers and to empower consumers to protect themselves.” (ConsumerReports.org).  Consumer Reports compares cars across the board and provides all sorts of information such as roads tests, tires, batteries, engines, transmissions, etc.  You can search by “new” or “used” vehicles across the board and they are listed alphabetically, i.e. Acura appears first. The web site tells the consumer that the organization actually purchases every car they test anonymously and they drive each car thousands of miles.  The upside to Consumer Reports is that they do not accept any advertising or trades or samples.  This is a major benefit to the potential buyer who trying to conduct research on which car to buy because Consumer Reports is unbiased and is simply reporting their research findings.  They do, however, include consumer opinions to help the potential purchaser obtain feedback from people who have actually owned and driven the vehicle in question.  The major downside to this web site is that you must pay to be  a subscriber in order to fully access all of this information.

A Closer Look.
Vehix.com allows the consumer to evaluate cars one at a time. The first thing I noticed was the tag line, “Find Your Ride”.  That really caught my attention and made the web site inviting.  You can search by “new” and “used” just as with Consumer Reports; additionally you can search by “reviews”, “videos”, and even “financing”.  Unlike the other site, Vehix does accept advertising (I noticed an ad for Mazda on the home page), which could make the consumer leery about reviews (downside).  It does provide reviews by both experts and consumers however, it takes a little searching to find the source of each review for validity.  Vehix also allows you to list your car for sale.  You can choose a free option or pay a fee for an advanced listing.  Currently, I am interested in selling one of my cars and the site was helpful in showing me how much similar cars are currently selling for on the site.  I found this to be an incredible upside.

Final Thoughts.
During preparation for this post, I saw a TV ad for Toyota Camry. Click here to see it.  This ad is showing a family that has several generations of Camry drivers and the family explains how each car is passed down to the next youngest driver over time.  Marketers are very interested in family decision making; that is, how family members interact and influence each other when choosing which goods to purchase for a household. (WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2010). This Camry ad is a great example of family influence on purchasing goods.  If a family member in this ad were to want to venture away from Toyota, perhaps they would use either Consumer Reports or Vehix to help them with their research – then weigh their findings against their family influence.

OOPS! When Marketers Get It Wrong

While marketing mishaps are hilarious in hind-sight, we have to wonder - what were they thinking?!  In the case of large multi-national corporations, one would assume that there is an educated, equipped staff of professionals who have advanced degrees in international business and marketing.  I hope none of them have a master's degree in IMC from WVU!

In addition to high-level, high-performing professionals we have to also wonder if these mishaps were done in-house or if the company hired a large firm to produce the campaigns.  In either case, it is negligent at best to release the same campaign internationally or even domestically to different cultural subsets.  We have all seen campaigns that we felt fell a little short for a variety of reasons.  But there is a big difference between falling short and missing the mark. 

This one really surprised me.  They are known as the international kings of furniture.  How on Earth could this product have made it all the way through design, research, and then launch? I'm simply going to post the product.  You will see that the image speaks for itself and requires no further explanation as to why this is a terrible idea outside of the native Swedish language. 

Chevy Nova
Who wants to buy a car that doesn't run? That's what Mexicans were asking Chevy when the car giant released the popular model there without changing its name. If you speak Spanish at all, you know that no va translates into no go.

Gerber Baby Food
In Africa, it is a common practice for U.S. food products in the grocery store to have labels containing a picture of what is inside the jar or can.  This is done based on the assumption that most Africans do not speak English and U.S. food manufacturers thought this practice would be helpful. Gerber Baby Food was not aware of this, and ran into a problem, since the photo on their label is of a cute Caucasian baby. We can rest assured that Africans do not want to eat American children.   

Why Do Consumers Buy The Stuff They Do?

My husband's car broke down and we were planning on buying a Jeep at a local car auction.  In the meantime, my neighbor, Hope, offered to let us borrow her Jeep until we can get it figured it out.  Subsequently we made her an offer she couldn't refuse on her Jeep, which wasn't really for sale.  This post is not about us buying a Jeep.  It's about what happened to Hope after this transaction.

Hope was able to lend us her Jeep because she had a 1990 Volkswagon Cabriole convertible and since it was almost summer she decided she was just drive that until she decided whether or not to replace the Jeep.  The VW, being 20 years old, broke down in the middle-of-nowhere-West Virginia.  We lent the Jeep back to her until she got it all straightened out.  I interviewed Hope about her quest for a new car to replace both the Jeep and the VW. 
Since Hope has owned a VW since 1990, she said that the cars are low maintenance, get great gas mileage, and can sustain acquiring high miles over the life of the car. (Fahey, 2010). She has years of research simply by owning a VW (internal).  However, when she was faced with buying a new car she had mixed feelings.  She said that she was a little concerned about going to a "car" since she had been driving an SUV since 2002, i.e. the Jeep.  She began thinking about her love of her VW and her equal love of the Jeep so she contemplated buying a VW SUV, specifically the Tijuan.  Her other (external) research began.

She searched VW's web site for the Tijuan and then began looking at the Jetta.  Her rationale for the Jetta was that it was more affordable and it is still a VW.  Her research (mostly on web sites like cars.com and consumerreports.com) revealed that the sale price of the Jetta has declined in recent years. She concluded that this meant that VW dealerships are selling a lot of Jettas.  Her search further revealed something that would seal the deal for her.

She saw a TV commercial touting the VW EOS was being offered at 0%.  She looked at the local dealer's web site and found the same offer. The TV commercial she saw in the morning followed by her search on the local dealer's web site later that day promoted her to visit the local dealership on her lunch break. 

The local dealer told her the Jettas are selling like hotcakes and there is zero room for negotiation. She felt immediate confidence since this "reinforced the TV ad." (Fahey, 2010). Since the EOS is a convertible and it would soon be Fall, there was lots of room for negotiation.  I will add that Hope sells cable advertising for living and is "aware" of things being marketed to her. 

After the sale, they sent her a personalized calendar featuring a picture of her that they took at the dealership! See the attached picture of what they sent her. Peppers & Rogers Group asserts that the customer experience is the totality of a customer’s interactions with a brand over time. (Peppers and Rogers, 2008). Hope is a savvy consumer and knows how to research.  Her twenty-plus years of being a VW owner combined with the unexpected sale of her Jeep catapulted her into becoming a buyer.  She loves her new car and I must say that as her neighbor (and owner of her previous car), she looks great driving it, too!

The Buzz About Buzz Marketing

When done correctly, buzz marketing can work. When done well, it fascinates me because the marketer is able to capture a collective audience or target market and call them to action.  Is it brainwashing or just perfectly executed marketing?
In October 2009, one of the most astounding and surprising guerilla marketing attempts (arguably ever) was flawlessly executed in Italy.  Heineken created more than buzz with this unique and way out-of-the-box idea; they created a legion of fans around the world.  Or, at the very least, got the world talking - about Heineken. 

As everyone knows, soccer is king in Europe.  Heineken staged an event so that it occurred on the same night as a match of Real Madrid versus AC Milan. This is like putting an event as the same night as the Super Bowl in the city where the Super Bowl is being played.  You simply do not do this.  Unless you're Heineken. 

Heineken had many accomplices.  Girlfriends, bosses, even Real Madrid and AC Milan! The fake event was a classic string concert and poetry reading at a concert hall.  Now, what sports fan wants to go to a strings concert on the night of this match? Not me!

Heineken even had the event broadcast live on SkySport, with crosses for interviews of famous sporting celebs to aid in the Authenticity, or infact, leverage some of the people who’d been stung by the stunt! (Heineken: Guerrilla Marketing Event In Italy, 2010). So these men (nearly 1,000 total people in the audience) were coaxed into skipping the game to attend this concert.  Bosses were in on it and asked employees to attend the concert ( of course the employee would say yes if they are a good employee); girlfriends asked their boyfriends with the boyfriends always replying by reminding the girl that this concert is the same night as the soccer match.

There was a big screen as the backdrop to the stage. The string quartet played music as a video played behind them. As the concert progressed - and the men got increasingly bored - the video's message began to change slowly.  Frame by frame it revealed the hoax to the audience culminating with a live broadcast of the soccer match! As the audience realized what was happening they all began laughing and clapping and cheering - and they got to enjoy the game!

The Downside of Internet Surveys

With our emerging world of technology we are constantly inundated with ideas and opinions. There has been a paradigm shift in the way we seek information of any kind.  Whether we are searching for a restaurant menu or having a political debate with our peers, we immediately go to the browser on our smart phones to find answers.  While I am a “Gen-Xer” and am tech-savvy, I often quip that I didn’t “Google” my way through college;  At that time (in the late 1990's) we still went to the library for research (you know, that building with all the books). 

As marketers, we know how and why we search for data, but are our methods effective?

The Internet is a wondrous place full of amazing things.  We can find information on just about anything.  The article I found is called Benefits and Drawbacks of the Internet as a Research Source (Ko, n.d.) and it gives all sorts of positive ways we use the Internet including finding newspaper articles (particularly ones from outside our home region),  access to government documents (both domestic and foreign), and connection to databases.  I found it interesting that the author also mentions access to non-mainstream views and sometimes even arcane facts. 

What about the potential pitfalls?

With so much information, it is sometimes difficult to disseminate. Even in preparation for this post, there were hundreds of articles from which to choose.  Searchability is both an attribute and a hindrance because there is so much information on the Internet that our searches only reveal a small percentage of what is actually available.  This article continues on to mention that the lack of context (search may only reveal a partial document or web page), lack of permanence (instability of web pages), and selectivity of coverage as detriments to effectively conducting research.

A thought-provoking viewpoint of this article was that some web sites only allow access if a person registers or creates a profile.  With commercial fee-based databases such as LexisNexis and other register-for-access sites (such as newspapers or trade journals), the information that researchers may be seeking could be hidden or simply off limits.

One thing the article did not mention was user-generated content.  How does this effect and affect marketing and research?  I contend that user-generated and interactive media are disadvantageous and beneficial.  The downside to interactivity is that one user could create multiple profiles autonomously, thereby skewing data about demographics and psychographics. This is also mentioned in our readings this week.  This can make our findings difficult to qualify and impossible to use effectively.   On the other hand, if some people have the ability to distort results by providing potentially false information, then others have the potential to be a tremendous asset.  With the Internet, we have access to industry experts, field experts, and provocative pundits that can enhance our knowledge base and help to provide accurate research results.

The Internet is an extraordinary phenomenon that has changed everything about our daily lives including the way we shop, eat, work, direct business, and the way we conduct research.  If we can approach Internet research with an open mind and understand the limitations and challenges, we can conduct an effectual campaign.  As with any research, we have to start with a goal and a budget. The most effective medium for execution of the research really depends on the subject matter and what we are attempting to accomplish.

Are B2B Companies Strong These Days?

“Certainly, last year we did an episode about the census and sampling versus a direct statistic. You just said the word "census," and people fall asleep.” - Aaron Sorkin

Business and Industry – B2B
Last published in May 2010, the E-Stats report is tremendously valuable to businesses doing business both offline and online. The link, found here, is a .pdf file of the report. Interestingly, in 2008 B-to-B activity—transactions by Manufacturers and Merchant Wholesalers—accounted for most e-commerce (92 percent). Furthermore, B2B commerce relies heavily on databases, especially proprietary ones such as EDIs (electronic data interchange) systems. This is important information to marketers so that we know where businesses are getting information on their customers and how they’re using it.

The amount of business conducted online by manufacturing and merchant wholesale trade is staggering. E-commerce accounted for $2,154 billion of manufacturing shipments in 2008, up from $1,879 billion in 2007. (census.gov). U.S. merchant wholesalers including MSBOs reported total e-commerce sales of 3 $1,262 billion in 2008. (census.gov). This information would be important to company that conducts B2B marketing such as credit card processing companies. Sellers of financial products/processing would obviously want to gain market share in e-commerce.

Consumers and Households
What is most compelling in this section is that the Census Bureau is that it gives instructions to data users (i.e. marketers) on the appropriate way to use this information. It advises the user of possible changes since the last time the user may have used information from this area of the site. It states that information from the American Community Survey (ACS) may be collected and used differently than the U.S. Census Bureau and it explains the relationship between the ACS and the Census.   It also gives a chart with words like "compare (this section) with caution".  This helps the data user to be as informed as possible and to use the information as correctly as possible.  There is a plethora of information on this site and way too much to explain in a brief posting. 

So what does this information mean for B2C marketing?  The information about families and households gives an accurate picture of the community which helps us directly reach the target market (whatever that may be).  We can reach the target(s) by demographics and psychographics with much more accuracy than just conducting surveys ourselves. 

There are two primary means for the application of census data for most purposes: (1) the demographic information that describes the U.S. population in terms of count and character, and (2) the often overlooked “stamping” of a consistent, statically-valid and stable cartographic base. (Neilsen.com).  If we combine the information provided by the Census with our other research, we will serve our clients to the best of ability.  We can provide our clients with a much better ROI and ROM by using all of our resources. 

Tourism Marketing

I read a research study that was conducted to find out information about tourists’ demographic information, the booking the method they used (online versus offline) and what hotel attributes are important to them.  Tourism is interesting to me because of the local as well national and international effects on the economy.  With consumer confidence low in 2009, the tourism industry declined globally.  However, here in Wheeling, West Virginia, our tourism industry remained an industry-high with occupancy rates at an unprecedented 85%-95% when other larger markets struggled.  The research in this paper will definitely be beneficial to us in our small market, which I will explore later in this post.

Surveys were conducted to in-house guests at three five-star properties in Croatia.  The sample of guests were those who stayed at the Excelsior, Bellevue and Dubrovnik Palace hotels during April and May 2009. All are situated in Dubrovnik which is one of the main tourist centers in Croatia. The questionnaires were distributed in hotel rooms and generated a total of 181 responses.  (Crnojevacet et al., 2010). The surveys were administered in English. 

The surveys were divided into two sections.  The first section was meant to discover demographic information of the guests including age, gender, nationality, and the reason for their visit, i.e. leisure or business.  The second part attempted to find out what hotel attributes are important to travelers including the availability of broadband Internet. 

Type of Data Analysis Used
They used descriptive analysis in the surveys.  Descriptive analysis helps get a picture of the respondents and who they are.  Statistics include frequencies, percentages, measures of central tendency (i.e., mode, median, mean) and dispersion (i.e., range, variance, standard deviation). (WVU P.I. Reed School of Journalism, 2010). Noting the limitations in the sampling method, the reasons they cite for using this are 1) because they did not want to make the surveys too long because they thought the hotel guests would not want to complete a long questionnaire and 2) was to focus on areas that have not been previously researched.  Additionally they note “small number of constructs and limited data from respondents was also the reason for applying only simple descriptive statistics although in further research advanced modeling techniques (like regression and structural equation modeling) should be considered to explain the causal relationships between the studied dimensions and factors. “ (Cronjevacet et al, 2010).

The Internet has become a powerful tool for eTourism.  Tourists use sites as broad as Google or as narrowly focused as Expedia to make travel plans. Consumers have become more sophisticated and discriminate in taste and the tourism industry must respond.  Research like this one is invaluable in helping National Tourists Organizations (NTOs) and Convention and Visitors’ Bureaus; they are essential pieces of information in helping these agencies design marketing plans.  Additionally, research like this can help hotel properties adjust the type and of level services they provide.  With a strong tourist industry here in Wheeling, we can (and now will) use this type of research to strength our local industry and the local economy overall.  It could further be used to find out tourists' spending patterns, travel method, frequency of travel, restaurant preferences, and to gauge customer service. 

Here is the link is below and the study: http://www.google.com/search?q=eTourism%3A+A+comparison+of+Online+and+Offline+Bookings+and+theImportance+of+Hotel+Attributes&sourceid=ie7&rls=com.microsoft:en-us:IE-SearchBox&ie=&oe=