Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The Old Gray Ad Ain’t What She Used To Be

Sharon Wildwind

I’m mixing and mashing two icons here: the 1956 movie about public relations, The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit, which starred Gregory Peck and Jennifer Jones, and a traditional song about an old gray mare. That’s nothing compared to the mixing and mashing going on in a current advertising campaign.

In case you turned in late, Kimberly-Clark is following up last year’s “let it out” campaign, where tough types let out all of their emotions on camera and mopped up their tears with the company’s product.

This year the same company is offering a choice of moms for the cold and flu season. There are two TV spots, one featuring a young man and one a young woman, with kids, who “try out” moms to find the one they like. If you’d like to do the same, you can visit the mom site where 8 stereotypical moms vie for your vote as the person you’d most like around when you get sick.

The most-picked mom so far is apparently the friend-mom, who looks way too young to have grown kids. If you’re sick, her solution is to bring you Chinese take-out and gossip, dissing on all your mutual friends, or discussing shoes. The least picked is the workaholic mom who tells you that you look just fine so get out of bed and get back to work because people are counting on you.

Okay, all of us can name advertising campaigns that prospered with even shakier premises.

But the ads are only the beginning. You’re encouraged to follow your chosen mom on Twitter or be her fan on Facebook. By registering your e-mail address and/or phone number on the web site, you can get personal e-mails and/or phone calls from your virtual mom. The messages range from sympathetic and inspirational mini-love taps, to tips on how to care for your kids when they are sick, to the best Southern comfort food to eat when you feel miserable.

I don’t need a phone message for this one because I already know, sick on not, that grits are my favorite Southern comfort food.

It’s not a coincidence that Twitter, Facebook, virtual messages, and the friend-mom favorite have come together in this campaign. All are aimed at the heart of the 18-to-35 year old, female marketing demographic.

Technorati, one of the leading researchers in on-line and blogging research, said that in 2008, 346 million people worldwide routinely read blogs. That is a huge number of people, but if you compare it to the world population base (something close 6.7 billion people in 2008), it means that only 5% of the world’s population is reading blogs so by focusing their ad campaigns on electronic media, companies have eliminated a huge section of potential customers.

Be that as it may, here are some differences that recent research has indicated about marketing to women in the 18-to-35 and the over-35 age groups. The comments were culled from a number of reports and resources.

The woman over 35 wants an easy-to-find, and easy-to-read site. Easy-to-find means that a friend gives her the address, or she reads it in a print ad, or it comes up on a basic Google search. The site loads quickly on both dial-in and cable hook-ups. There is no video introduction, just bang, straight into the site, which is clear and straight-forward. “To learn more about the author, click here” or “To see a list of the author’s books, click here” type of instructions. Text is text and graphics are graphics and they stay out of each others way. What the viewer wants most is a personal connection, things like a private e-mail response from the author or feeling that she knows the author better by having visited her site. Supplemental material, like maps and character biographies are favorites.

The 18-to-35 viewer values a different interaction. She’s willing to make the leap from one site to another and more likely to visit a site by accident or by following links from other sites. The more bling the better: background music, photo montages, a video introduction that plays before she actually enters the site. The book is only a starting place. She doesn’t want to read a character biography, she wants to discuss the character with other people who are reading or have read the book, maybe write her own version of how the character’s biography should read, maybe write some fan fiction. What she wants most is for the author to provide entertainment. The book is secondary, at most a spring board for a shared social experience on-line.

I was already going crazy figuring out to market on-line in general. Now it appears that I have to do vastly different things to appeal to two halves of the demographics. It sounds like one of those situations when a woman should phone her mom for advice.


Quote for the week:

Every fiction story has a non-fiction story behind it. Push the non-fiction connection as your brand and platform.

~David Morrell, fantasy writer, October 2008


This week I get to blog twice, once here today and once at Jungle Red tomorrow. So if you’re out surfing—the Internet that is—on November 18, you might pop in here.


Sheila Connolly said...

Argghhh! But the real trick is getting anybody to your site in the first place. What bait do you dangle, and in what pool?

Lonnie Cruse said...

It drives me nuts that even the major news networks want us to follow them on Twitter. No thanks! Put it on TV where I can see it or I won't. Urrrr.

As to Sheila's question, I think you have to dangle bait that people want (like mystery readers wanting to read more about mysteries) and dangle it in their pool. Dangling for the entire world is too wide a pool. Even Abe Lincoln realized you couldn't please all of the people all of the time, and he never Twittered.

Sandra Parshall said...

Lonnie, I agree about TV networks telling you to go somewhere else for more information. They're admitting that the written form of news is fuller and more informative. Yet newspapers are folding all around us.

How to attract visitors to a blog -- and if they do visit, does that mean they'll buy your books? -- is one of the great mysteries of modern life!

Sharon Wildwind said...

Merlin Mann, who is a techie guy and writes a lot about blogs, wrote in August 2008.

Good blogs reflect focused obsessions. Bloggers who draw large numbers of readers have an obsession and know a large amount about one particular topic.

Good blogs are the product of “Attention times Interest.”
A blog shows me where someone’s attention tends to go. Then, on some level, they encourage me to follow the evolution of their interest through a day or a year.

Don't know if he's right or not, but it's worth a thought.