Sunday, March 16, 2008

Stop! I've been deceived..

Explain to me the terms of ethical business standards and the ideas behind consumer deception. From my understanding ethics are those things that would prevent an act, decision, or transaction from becoming illegal and/or unsavory in a business practice. For the idea of consumer deception I believe that the consumer will have made a decision that was based on available data and later have learned that the decision was faulty because of mis or dis information. Essentially, what the consumer thought they were getting was completely or partially different from what they actually got.

While the understanding of these two terms may seem like an exercise in futility, it is blatantly apparent to me that many people will use these terms in association with issues that do not necessarily fall within their parameters. For instance, the Internet search engine industry is a huge business. Google, Yahoo, MSN, Dogpile, Excite, and others are making billions of dollars by allowing consumers to use their technology in order to find websites that offer information on their entered quarries.

With a complete understanding of how people use these sites, it must be asked if these same companies are using advertising in an ethical and non-consumer deceptive form? Why should it be important for consumers to know who or what is considered an advertisement? Obviously there are a plethora of responses that can be had if this were an open forum, but the only true answer should be that it isn’t important.

Consumers are exposed to paid and unpaid advertisements in many places on a daily basis. Why should the Internet be any different? It shouldn’t be and that is the point! As consumers make free quarries (remember, consumers don’t associate a cost with a quarry because they are not being charged), isn’t is acceptable to believe that the companies that paid a fee for inclusion when certain words were sought, that they should be held in higher standing than those that were simply web crawled with spiders? Also, isn’t it true that most consumers have a predetermined idea of what they are looking for, as well as a personal evoked set of brands?

The entire situation boils down to one thing; that is the consumer ultimately has the ability to make the final decision on which link to click. This action alone falls within the boundaries of fair play and ethical operations. Why should sites that pay for inclusion be ostracized with a label when other sites (who did not pay for inclusion, but are still included) are not?

I find this to be a terribly misguided perspective and believe that labeling has only a negative impact on the perceptions that consumers have. Indirectly this type of action can damage an advertising opportunity. In my opinion the only deceptive and unethical act that will come from this will result in a negative action against those sites/brands/products that can pay for inclusion.



The ethics of searching...

So, this week’s discussion revolves around the question confronting Internet search engines. That is, are paid and ranked advertisement links ethical if they are not listed as such?

Personally, I find this to be a no-brainer of a question. The short answer is that they are totally and completely ethical. These ads should not and do not need to be listed or segregated from the myriad of other links, simply because they are paid for. From the perspective of the non-paying site, there might be a sense of unfairness, but in business, there are always companies/ businesses that cannot afford to advertise in every location. While they may not have the resources to communicate through a particular medium, there is no one telling them that they cant.

Obviously in this instance the laws of business come into play. Additionally, the laws of supply and demand determine the market place in an e world. If consumers have a bad experience or feel inconvenienced or deceived, they always have the option to not return to that website and to not utilize those services in the future.

Ultimately the consumer is what determines if something is unethical, unfair, or falls outside the lines of fair competition. There are already laws in place that are aimed at preventing collusion, monopolization, and consumer gouging. More rules and regulation regarding the identification or placement of advertising will only move to further the restrictions that gird the boundaries of the advertising and e commerce worlds.

In most cases, persons that have no vested interest in the outcome must review issues involving ethics and deception. For e commerce marketers that can afford to be listed as the first find in a search engine query, this is a very small and annoying issue. For those marketers in this medium that cannot afford to pay for advertisement, this may seem like a mountain of an issue. Business is rarely fair, however, it is the competition within the industry that causes this to be such a hot button issue.

In think it is a dead issue that can be chalked up to the laws of consumer capitalism!

What do you think?


Sunday, March 9, 2008

I cant see the forest because of the trees!

So, we want to create a website that will have a high adoption curve, serve a purpose, and become a measurable part of a marketing campaign. That in a nutshell is the holy grail of e-commerce. If it was as easy as it sounds, there would be no website failures.

However, much like a politician, the very next question to come will be, how? How are we going to create a website that has a high adoption curve, how are we going to make our website part of our marketing measurement metric, how will we know if it has served its purpose?

These and similar questions can be answered through individual analysis. In order to create anything that people want, marketers have to understand the people who want it. Once marketers understand their consumers, all the other questions will become easier to answer.

It may be true that a website will serve no purpose at all. It could also be true that the measurement metric may need to be changed in order to capture the true audience of a website, which conversely may be a completely different audience that was previously had before the website existed.

The point being here, marketers and web developers need to know who their audience is before they start with the nuts and bolts of a website. Potentially, less of a technology investment may be needed in order to make the target market functional on the website. While it is understood that the Internet in general requires some basic navigation skills, it is also known that a somewhat guided tour of a website is available. Thus, limiting the perks on the initial pages may prevent viewers/readers from becoming overwhelmed.

In this instance I have believe that a detailed understanding may be both informative and fiscally beneficial. Taking a step back from the trees and limiting the amount of initial detail may allow many developers to see the forest and prevent information overload for some consumers.

Keep it simple stupid!!

That is the motto that web designers should follow when trying to make something productive for a business and its consumers. To many times consumers are left in the lurch of technical lingo and difficult to navigate websites when trying to become more interactive with brands and products via the web.

This week, the focus has been on what makes up good website design and what are the intangibles that need to be incorporated to ensure a successful website. In my opinion, the age-old adage of, “keep it simple stupid” should lead the way. This catch phrase offers a lot of wisdom and is fairly easy to remember.

In the world of high tech gadgets and an ever more speedy Internet, simplicity could save, or make millions! As marketers, it is important that we recognize not everyone is tech savvy and versed in the latest website trends.

What can be done is to be observant that what is put together offers exactly the information that is important. Additionally, it needs to be in an uncluttered and organized fashion that allows for easy navigation. The results and opinions of the consumers who view these types of websites are continually positive.

The alternative is that only a limited and power user population will be able to enjoy a website that only offers high tech and cutting edge features that not all are in tune with. So, the next time we are looking to put something on the net, lets make an effort to ensure that it is pertinent for the goals of the website.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Youth market potential. It is worth it?...

The youth market of today is a booming industry for marketers and brands. To take an objective and critical looks at the body of this market segment, we have to look at the spending power of it.

In initial interpretation this looks to be a fairly insignificant group considered the apparently limited purchasing potential of this group. However, a closer look reveals that the youth market segment has a far greater purchasing capacity than previously thought. Not only does this group posses their limited income from part-time employment/ parental allowance, but they also have the exponential spending power of parents and non-nuclear family members and friends.

An example of this would be a crib mobile. We can classify this as a youth purchase because an adult has no real need for a mobile, other than they have a child or would like to provide it as a gift. Therefore, this example is perfect to illustrate the spending power of children that comes from non-direct sources.

In this manner many brands and marketers have had to create a novel approach to marketing and force the adult to have an emotional response to a product that is intended for a child in order to illicit a purchase. For these instances there is seldom any buyer’s remorse or negative inferences regarding the product because there is always a positive response from the child, parent, or person whom receives the gift on the child’s behalf. The only instance where there may be some issue is if it is a duplicate purchase.

Similarly, brands have made an attempt to coral parents and children through marketing at such young ages. Examples of this are Oshkosh Be Gosh and Fisher Price. Both of these companies are mainstays in the youth market and have longevity through early adulthood (0-17 years of age). In addition to their longevity, these companies have created brand fidelity with consumers from early life. When these individuals have children, they will recall these brands and make them part of their evoked set.

In all, the youth market is a booming market and one that has a vast array of purchasing opportunities. Marketers would be well to place their product with a high visibility in this area and capitalize on the long-term brand relationships that can be developed early on.

Ethical considerations for minority and youth population segments...

So, is marketing to minorities and children unethical? I think that this is a fairly good question and one that can be answered with a resounding “YES”!

Before we go down this road, lets qualify a few things. First, marketing and targeting minority populations and youths has their fair share of pitfalls. Each of these groups have several taboo’s about what you can and cant say, as well as what is appropriate to mention for the purposes of marketing.

The point of reason stands that if there is a product that is obviously intended for a specific group, then there is no need to beat around the bush and market it as something else. An example of this would be chemical hair straigtheners: While it is understood that women of non-color could use these products, the vast majority of the consumers are ethnic women who have a specific need for this product.

Would it be unethical to market this product directly to the consumers who use it? I say yes. It would be doing a dis-service to women of color to pretend that they don’t exist, simply for the purpose of being politically correct. This in my opinion is a perfect example of an unethical act.

Similarly, the youth market needs to have the veil removed. While it is understood that the naivety of today’s youths my be quickly eroding, it still wouldn’t be prudent to offer adult type marketing forms in order to develop brand relationships and fidelity. We should be aware and address the group that we are marketing to in a true and inspired way that is on par with the level of the consumer group.

In all, the ethics of marketing will rest with the marketer themselves. The consumer will tell the marketer through statistical data if the job done was effective or a waste of time. Many times, ethics will guide the marketer to ultimate success.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

So whats the skinny on mobile messaging?

Here is a question, is "new" a perception that is only in the eye of the beholder? For how long is something considered to be unique or novel? For example, lets say that a consumer has used a phone for a number of years and presumes to know everythign about the phones capabilities. Then, the consumers child barrows the phone and shows the consumer that a virtual attendant is available for a commonly used service.

The consumer had spoken about and even had conversations with the company who provides the service and still had no idea that the service was available. So, after a number of years the consumer is finally shown that there is a virtual attendant that can be accessed via his mobile phone and is capable of providing all of the services that had been wished for.

The question again is, for how long is something considered to be novel or unique to a person? Is it when the technology or tool was developed, or is it when the consumer discovers (in this case through a serindipitous discovery) the item regardless of the time that has elapsed since the products introduction to the market?

I can see that there will be a number of wheels that are turning in regard to this question, so Ill come clean. Did mobile messaging pass me buy with the virtual attendant from Delta airlines? I use Delta every week and have continuously for almost 3 strainght years. I have had conversations with Delta representatives regarding ideas for virtual attendants and mobile updating that fall outside the standard, "your flight has been canceled" updates.

I wanted the meat and potatoes virtual attendant that will help me navigate the Atlanta airport in a more efficient mannner. I want this virtual attendant to tell me to "hurry, because your plane is boarding in concourse C", while Im in concourse A!

Until this week, I had no idea that this was such a widespred already in use almost out of date service (in a wordperfect 1.0 kind of way) that is no longer considered to be new, novel, or unique. As a matter of fact I still have not seen this service in application, but evidentlly it does exist because I was told so.

I would think that being a "Gold" level member (2 years running) that I would have been alerted to this feature. I receive multiple email messages and texts from Delta on a variety of topics and for a variety of reasons. None of which has ever notified or alerted me to the availabiliy of a virtual attendant. So, to me, this is a very new and state of the art development. To others, appartently, this is old news and is yesterday's dirt sock.

In this case, who failed? Was it the consumer (me) that failed to inquire or ask the proper questions in order to be informed of the availability of such a product, or was it the fault of Delta for not responding to the demand and inquaries of a valued consumer (me) to provide them with the most recent and available technology for travel assistance? I just wish I would have known about this tool in order to avoid or, at a very minimum, diminish my travel angst during high volume and delay filled days in the Atlanta jungle!!