Saturday, August 27, 2011

Most Eligible City: Dallas

As a Texan, a secure male, and father to a well behaved 2 week old daughter I recently embarked on the new Bravo Television show Most Eligible Dallas with my wife and our new newborn house arrest sentence (happily to begin raising our daughter). We watched DVR episodes in between naps and diaper changing over this weekend and after only 2 episodes deep into the series I have deduced that the MOST ELIGIBLE subject looking to court a new mate is none other than the city of Dallas/North Texas.

 Despite the group of attractive cast members boasting their self proclaimed greatness, Most Eligible Dallas is the city of  Dallas' audition tape for new residents. It seems to have been created to entice young professionals to  a city that can see an opportunity to seize the day to attract talent and money while the other major markets struggle. Dallas is on its A game like a playboy spotting a rebounding female fresh out of a bad relationship across the bar. The city of Dallas can see its prey and their ready to pounce.
Since hosting the (sadly uneventful) Super Bowl, NBA All Star Weekend a World Series appearance by the Texas Rangers and a World Champion Dallas Mavericks run, the city of Dallas has shown the nation and celebrities alike that they can hang with the cool kids of Chicago, New York, LA and Atlanta. Already known as one of the fashion capitals of the world Dallas can hold its own in both entertainment and appeal. We have culture.  I'm not saying Dallas is directly on par with some of the other major markets party scene wise or on a "fabulous" scale with its major city counterparts but on paper we look a lot more sexy than them to singles, families and businesses. It all seems so similar to the push the original show 'Dallas' made decades ago.(By the way that series is launching its 21st century version soon)

The Original "Team Dallas"

Our states Governor is leading in the GOP polls able to boast that his state is responsible for creating 2/3 of jobs in America that are oh so rare in the rest of the country. Texas does not have a state tax while Chicago has just raised theirs for the next few years. Tort reform for the entrepreneurs as well as low business taxes are a financial draw to businesses looking to relocate. North Texas has more space and a better housing market than those over valued more popular cities ( Dallas is only second to Houston in new home property development). With an increasing number of states having budget issues it's ironic all of our cooler competition in particular belongs to states that routinely have bankruptcy and tax increase related terminology attached to them. Even Dallas retail better reflects what used to be exclusive to certain regions.  A Californian would feel right at home with North Parks' H&M and burger favorits Carl's Jr and the famous In and Out Burger all now in the Dallas area.If we start to steal Chicago's deep dissh pizza joints I'm going to have to suggest we seriously start stealing some of California's bike lanes. All in all we look better on paper and we are starting to look more familiar as well.
The city of Dallas is campaigning. The exploratory committe has done there diligence and they want the votes of young professionals areound the country for most desireable major market. So while the cast of Most Eligible Dallas seems to only perpetuate the idea that Dallas is as vain and self promoting as the more desirable major markets of the country, what this show  feels is an important takeaway for the potential convert is for them and the nation to see is that you can have a similar self discovering, beautifully flirtatious lifestyle in North Texas similar to coastal cities with potentially significantly more money left in your wallet at the end of the year. Dallas is seizing this opportunity to win the hearts of people around the country and the last 2 years party hosting (and possibly a future presidential term's timing)  couldn't be better with so many other major cities hurting..It's like the the starting QB of the football team just got injured and Dallas is the 3rd string backup has its moment to win a starting spot. Soon the nation will be aware of the upside of the Big D, and the best part is North Texas has seriously more depth than the cast that is the face of the show, which is all the more reason to Date Dallas.

The NEW Team Dallas. Want to Join?

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The 'Tipping Point' for Social Media: The War over Users isn't about Users, but How Best to USE Us


The business climate in social media has shifted. Before it was a come as you are all food provided shin dig for the masses and having users on your site spending time was enough to make theses networks feel like they threw a pretty good party. But all of a sudden as a result from new market entrants and pressure to convert users to get off the bench and spend online. the party has come to reflect more of a state dinner or fundraiser spewing out motivations to convince marketers they are making key additions and an atmosphere best to offer consumer insight. to spenders of money and not just time wasters. their has been a major shift in focus in the past month.  I suspect soon the image will better reflect a gubernatorial or presidential fundraiser, with networks fighting to have the most influential users and more of a whos who. The future of social media is no longer FOR US but now includes us only in a strategy that involves making the media and information we share quantifiable for marketing while turning us into check out customers as opposed to passive opinionated stalkers. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Linked In, FourSquare and whatever other site I am missing have built their networks with volume in mind, but with pressure to perform they now are charged with who can make us the user most profitable. They are looking to leverage increasingly more savvy and aware users like Google+ has with techies and early adopters of new technology plays in their favor.  Remember the most appealing feature of Facebook initially was that it was exclusive to college students. Assumed to be more educated and most importantly eventually bigger salaried customers (also assumed) all together in one space with preferences displayed for all to see and analyze. It was looked at by marketers as a virtual ant farm for highest earning potential and most influential consumers. Facebook had an immense amount of leverage.

Each network is doing their best to square away their niche and their place amongst marketers. As certain users online influence grows I see companies catering toward or even paying popular users to test or share online items and opinions of products and services in a very "coolest kid in class" type attempt to penetrate influence on a community based level amongst desired groups. The rapid pace of change for the social media scene has just begun and I see no signs of it slowing. Below is an article on how Facebook now acknowledged by the Nielsen ratings company responsible for marketing data and Television rankings is being adopted as a legitimate measure for marketers now. This battle isn't for users it over users. Stay tuned at sites like Mashable referenced in the below article for the latest.

Facebook vs. Twitter vs. Google+  via Mashable

Fast Company article on Nielsen & Facebook

Time Waste: iPhone app 'HALF TONE'

So what do you do when your wife starts early labor and your stuck in the house all day? Grab an app that will allow you to murder a few hours while you wait. This iPhone app I found called 'HALF TONE' is FREE and has lots of features if you are as warped as I am to turn your iPhone's photo album into amusing comic book like material. Below are some of Saturday night's creations. This app actually is a good reason to catch more natural poses and capture situations in your photography. I use it to hone ad writing skills (despite most material being low brow and lowest common denominator). Have fun with it. Oh how life has changed...

Friday, August 5, 2011

Consumer Buying Conflict: Who Knows the Public Best @Retail?

*Editing in progress

In a time where marketers and retailers are scrambling for a competitive edge I find it amazingly puzzling how often they do not leverage each others information. It seems more often than not do not even fall across the same conclusion regarding what consumers do and do not want in the marketplace. As a part of a market leading consumer goods company the information gathered from marketers on consumer buying habits are the first thing that is commuicated amongst the sales force. My current company looks to be a resource that achieves mutual benefit in growing our business as well as the customers. Nothing puzzles me more though than when retailers (be it small convenience chain or big box such as Wal Mart) do not arrive at what is driving their business.Or even worse not leveraging the resources of their vendors to come to more solutions that equal maximized solutions for particular industry's they themselves do not claim or seek to be experts in.

I also find it ironic that in the age of information, social networks, and what I will deem this decade to be ("The Age of Sharing"), I find it puzzling the amount of disconnect between consumers, voters, participants or end users  and the powers that be that seem more distant than ever. This could be a result of the number of measures now used to draw conclusions of what people want through research, surveys and consumer grouping etc but I seem to believe that the disconnect is a result of agendas. Agendas that have retailers and buyers and even Washington legislators not LISTENING. During the recent debt negotiations depending on who who one sides with, speak to, or network you watch arriving at what the American people want or who they are is not the easiest of tasks. So how much of the data that is collected is accurately used or represented? Example: I could tell you that all 10 SKUs in my company's brand category perform well as a whole if I choose to represent all 10 of them under the banner of the brand. As individual SKU's or flavors though, one might discover maybe 4 of the 10 flavors are carrying the load, or are effectively representing the brands success. This is strategic information one would choose to share at your discretion but can be compromised with the proper unbiased and credible resources. How can the age of information be so wrong, so often in delivering favorable results? We are more engaged than ever measured by more metrics than ever. It seems so many of those responsible for delivering to the end user are far more consumed with what they would like to be perceived as or would want customers or voters to value more than listening to the true atmosphere before them. There was a time when businesses learned to engage with the customer, than they learned to adapt more quickly, now they need to LISTEN with intent to deliver. We see a bit of this now with changes like grocers taking out undesired self check out lanes.
At at time where Nielsen, IRI, focus groups and other data driven resources are so leveraged successfully at one level it seems the trickle down is just now beginning to be felt at a retail level. The confections company that I work I believe does a masterful job of leveraging accurate and credible information  to prove our worth and differentiate from the competition on several levels. Informing buyers at headquarter and retail level is something the company thrives on but the inability for organizations to adopt our recommendations as experts of the industry an not just our own products and brands baffles me when retailers do not seem to put forth the same investment in time credible non bias information.
 It would be interesting to see a ratio comparison of the investment dollars spent and resources used on consumers buying habits, wants and needs and industry trends based on retailers vs. product developers. Below are 3 articles that share what customers habits are at retail. See if you identify with the information they have discovered among most consumers. Then see if your grocer or retailer is listening. Enjoy

Proof of conflict at retail. I noticed the trend in the soda industry more popular than ever, soda made with REAL sugar. Dublin Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Pepsi and 7 up. The article below says that Americans are drinking less sugar infused beverages. In a weak economy it seems commodities such as sugar are more highly consumed as a cheap treat, and I would believe that most would prefer a true cane sugar based beverage over a "zero" you name it. Another example of an industry going against what they "say" consumers want. Who knows the the end user best?

Link: AOL/ Huffington Post: Americans Drinking Less Soda, Consuming Less Sugar

There's enough stress going on in our daily lives so marketers  have discovered the K.I.S.S. method is best for retail math in these tough times.

Link: Is More Really Less? Go Figure!

Front counter mint selection

Even in the UK it stands true that the gum and mints business is an impulse item best delivered closest to the register. This discourages shoppers from second thoughts of over indulgence and retailers benefit from the unplanned purchase..

Link: Cash In: Mints & gums - Ed-chew-cation