December 15, 2010

The Island of Misfit Toys

I refer you to this classic scene from Rudolph:

If you read Twitter, you realize there are maybe five things that matter anymore.
  1. Social Media (i.e. Nine Reasons Why Social Brands Capture Increased Mindshare, With Examples From Dell, Comcast, Zappos, and Southwest Airlines ... never mind that only a couple dozen companies generate more than 3% of their sales from social media).
  2. Mobile Marketing (never mind that 72% of cell phone owners don't even own a smart phone, you'll be out of business if you don't have a mobile strategy in place by December 20, 2010).
  3. Google Analytics (Seven Easy And Quick Ways To Segment Visitors And Set Goals That Result In A 2,439% Increase In Conversion Rates ... ever read something like that?).
  4. Conversion and Engagement (Four Critical Tactics That Increase Engagement And Drive Up Conversion Rates, never mind that in so many cases, neither metric is correlated with profit). 
  5. Groupon.  These folks seemingly invented the concept that if you offer merchandise at half-price, more customers will buy the merchandise, with background cheering supplied by those who haven't ever had the benefit of having to deliver a year-end profit and loss statement.
That's it.  According to so many of the Twitterati, that's all that matters anymore.  You do anything outside of that narrow box of goodies, and you're a Luddite.  Everything else has been banished to the Island of Misfit Toys.  Let's look at a few examples:

E-Mail Marketing:  In the real world, e-mail doesn't exist anymore.  But on the Island of Misfit Toys, residents eagerly await personal and relevant messages from gurus who specialize in targeting and segmentation.

Catalog Marketing:  Oh boy.  Oh boy.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, customers still possess physical mailboxes.  Can you believe it?  Mailboxes.  And people actually walk around in uniforms delivering catalogs to physical mailboxes.  Wow.

Television Commercials:  In the real world, this is called "unaccountable advertising", which is a fancy way of saying "... my web analytics tool doesn't lead me directly from a paid search click to a purchase when trying to measure television advertising, so measuring it accurately is really hard work, work that is more complicated that three clicks with a mouse, therefore, it is old school and therefore, the advertising couldn't possibly work.".  On the Island of Misfit Toys, DVRs have yet to be invented, causing the population of the island to respond to Burger King commercials that air during re-runs of Family Ties.

Programming Code:  In the real world, Google Analytics solves any imaginable problem, and if Google Analytics cannot solve the problem, the problem never mattered in the first place.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, SAS programmers churn out old-school reporting using "proc summary" to identify trends that aren't easily measured by Omniture, Coremetrcs, or Google Analytics.

Radio:  In the real world, you plug your iPod into your home network and you can hear any song you stole off of the internet.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, there are all sorts of over-the-air radio stations that air 23 minutes of commercials per hour.  People actually pay the radio stations money to air their commercials, and SAS programmers set up matched-market control groups that allow them to measure the effectiveness of the commercials.  Even more curious, a subset of the Island of Misfit Toys play compact discs and long-play records that sound wonderful.

Billboards:  In the real world, these are called "Display Ads", and even though only 8% of the population clicks on them, CRM experts are considered rocket scientists if they can squeeze an incremental 5% gain in response out of Display Ads.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, there's this ancient technology called a "billboard" ... this ancient technology "displays ads" to folks who drive by the billboards in cars that consume fossil fuels.

Wal-Mart:  In the real world, customers eagerly await their daily, personalized, customized discount via Twitter from Groupon.  The customer never leaves her seat, she just clicks on the ad and scores a major discount  On the Island of Misfit Toys, there's this big box retailer called "Wal-Mart".  Customers have to get into a car and drive to this magical store that offers merchandise that is often 50% cheaper than the prices found at urban stores that are about to go out of business because of Wal-Mart.

Yahoo! and MySpace:  In the real world, Google, Facebook and Twitter control users.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, people love their Yahoo! e-mail accounts, and aren't afraid to exchange Christmas greetings via MySpace.  In the real world, folks secretly worry that Facebook becomes MySpace in 2014, never sharing their opinions publicly, of course.

Profit:  In the real world, profit is an irrelevant and inconvenient concept focused on only after one achieves "scale", cashes in all available stock options, and pays off angel investors who footed the bill required to achieve "scale".  On the Island of Misfit Toys, businesses routinely generate profit, often 10% of annual sales.  Businesses re-invest this profit in growth opportunities, make capital investments, or (gasp) give the profit back to the employees responsible for generating the profit via 401k plans or annual bonuses.  On the Island of Misfit Toys, employees spend their annual bonuses at Wal-Mart, in an effort to save money.

Sales:  In the real world, you only generate sales in three ways ... you either "join the conversation" and monetize the magical world of social media, or you embrace the Apple or Android app stores, or you partner with Groupon.  That's it.  The experts will tell you that's all you need to be successful, that everything else old-school folly, or worse, is "dead".  On the Island of Misfit Toys, companies simply do what is right for the customer, regardless of channel.  I know, that's a really old-fashioned concept, no wonder it has been banished to the Island of Misfit Toys.

As you can see, the Island of Misfit Toys is an odd place, a relic in a modern world where a friend mentions a Groupon promotion on her Facebook wall, causing a "fan" to tweet the message to "followers" who are highly "engaged" in "relevant" content, resulting in purchases that are easily measured via Google Analytics.

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