March 16, 2014

Monday Mailbag

As always, you can send me your questions (kevinh@minethatdata.com), I'll answer them each Monday.

Today's question comes from Ron, and it is a valid one.
  • "Kevin, you used to talk about channels and new customers, but now you talk about merchandise. Why ignore marketing? We all know that brands are built on marketing strategy. Why are you choosing to devalue those of us in the marketing profession?"
Well, it's a good question, and the answer requires a metaphor.

Let's go to the world of music. I'm listening to SiriusXM's "SiriusXM Hits 1" channel last week. This channel plays pop songs that are reasonably current - from the past few months back to a year or two ago.

A song from the duo Karmin, titled "I Want It All" comes on (click here for the video). The song is, using my definition, "merchandise". It's what Karmin sells. They get to keep making music if and only if customers buy their music.

The video, via YouTube, is an example of using a "channel" to enhance the user experience. The video has been viewed more than a million times, not bad, but not in the 50,000,000 range it needs to be to be considered viral and effective.

As you know, all songs require a video ... the video is a form of marketing, and for many, videos on YouTube serve as a veritable jukebox - no need to buy the songs when you can create a playlist of videos from YouTube.

But just how important is the video? I mean, you watch the Karmin video, and you can tell it took a heck of a lot of work and money to create that thing. The video is essentially a tactic within an omnichannel strategy, don't you think? But, again, how important is the video itself? I mean, you could create a hundred different versions of this video - how much more music would sell because of outstanding creative vs. lousy creative? That's the real value of the omnichannel strategy, right? If you could create a hundred videos, don't you think that the best ones should launch the song into the stratosphere?

Let's do a comparison. Here's a video from YouTube of Morris Albert's popular "Feelings" (click here). 98,000 views for a famous song from 1975. A karaoke favorite, no doubt!

Now compare the video to this one ... America's "Sister Golden Hair", another popular song from 1975 (click here to see the video). 

The video isn't even a video, for crying out loud, it's an image of an album cover! And it has 1,900,000 views - views of a stinkin' album cover!

In other words, the merchandise (the song) has to be great. If the song is great, people will play a video of a static album cover.

But if the song isn't great, or isn't of interest anymore, video isn't going to make a difference.

Back to my focus on merchandise.

In the past decade, our focus shifted, and it shifted way, way, way too far toward channels. In our music metaphor, we obsess about the video. We obsess. We create best practices for making music videos, but we don't focus enough effort on the song. The video doesn't exist if the song doesn't exist, folks. And if we had the money to test 100 different music videos, we'd likely find that only one or two of the hundred would cause an appreciable increase in sales, and a marginal one at that.

We need to shift the focus back to merchandise. Marketing exists to support selling stuff. Instead, we view marketing as a product.

If I didn't find major merchandising issues in 20 of 25 Merchandise Forensics projects, I would not constantly implore marketers to focus on analyzing merchandise performance. It's low-hanging fruit, and it's largely ignored by marketing professionals and analytics experts. Heck, I'm glad y'all ignore it ... because it allows me to make a living!! If you paid attention, I couldn't pay my bills.

But because I find these problems, over and over and over again, I have to keep talking about this, until marketers choose to listen.

Your choice. Do you want to pay attention, or do you want to focus on topics that likely have minimal or no impact on sales?

Discuss.