Why Google Really Doesn’t Need @alphabet on Twitter

Similar to have the media destroyed Google after the announcement of Alphabet, swift searching pundits also pointed out that Alphabet doesn’t even own the Twitter handle @alphabet. How amateur hour of Larry and Sergey. Don’t they know that the real estate claiming process is the most important part of social media? Rookies….

But the fact is that the @alphabet twitter handle isn’t important, for many reasons.

  1. Many parent companies do not own the Twitter handle associated with that parent company’s name.

For example, parent company extraordinaire Procter & Gamble own the Twitter handles of @tide, @crest, and @charmin, but they do not own @pg, which is secured by PG Holmlov and his 573 followers. Staying within the P&G family, Shulton is the entity behind Old Spice, but @shulton is an account with 8 followers.

It is also more than just P&G, as Johnson & Johnson owns Twitter handles for  but they do not own the @jj handle, which is owned by Josie Jeffries and her 3000 followers.

Owner of everything in the universe, Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway do not own @berkshire, @berkshirehathaway, or @bh.

The fact that pundits were hammering Alphabet for not claiming the @alphabet Twitter handle is again, shortsighted.

  1. Do parent companies need a Twitter handle?

Similar to that of the other brands listed above, is there a real need for a parent company, who does not produce a product with the name Alphabet to own a Twitter handle? What would this handle share? Investor information, new acquisitions, product features? This outward only messaging goes against everything that successful Twitter accounts possess today, making it dated methodology.

  1. Who will need @alphabet when you own the platform

Ok, ok, this one might be a bit speculative, but what is the need of owning @alphabet when you can umm own the platform it is on. If G is for Google and then T is for Twitter! Add W for wings, C for Calico, L for Life Sciences, etc. to the mix and you are filling out the err… Alphabet.

As if the claiming of a Twitter handle is a barometer of success for an organization or parent company announcement, Alphabet chose not to claim any property on Twitter. This move apparently showcases their lack of interest in having a public facing Twitter entity to handle the parent company entity, owning the rest of the mothership. As I mentioned in the first part of this series, we would be incredibly naive to think that the senior leadership at Google just happened to miss the development of a Twitter handle for Alphabet, as well as claiming the .com TLD for the new entity. This move was incredibly well thought out, and missing these two obvious web culture requirements wouldn’t have gone unnoticed.

Why Google REALLY Doesn’t Need Alphabet.com

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past week (and if you were living under a rock, I would imagine Internet is hard to come by there), you already know about Alphabet, Google’s new parent company.

Shortly after the new launch, reports are that consumers went flocking to Alphabet.com to read learn more about the umbrella company, and they were met with a BMW owned Fleet Service, ironically named, Alphabet.

Commence widespread panic, Google bashing, domain squatters, and the like throwing around opinions on how short-sided the name choice was, and how could they imagine choosing this name without buying the .com TLD first, let alone the Twitter handle…. The HORROR!!

Why Alphabet.com doesn’t matter:

The truth is that owning Alphabet.com doesn’t matter to Google, as the .com real estate grab is just the dated and archaic type of thinking that Larry dispels in the announcing blog post/press release.

“We’ve long believed that over time companies tend to get comfortable doing the same thing, just making incremental changes. But in the technology industry, where revolutionary ideas drive the next big growth areas, you need to be a bit uncomfortable to stay relevant.” – Page

The expansion of gTLDs has been widespread as you can now purchase .cool, .ninja, .io, .pub,and a countless number of other iterations, including the now famous .xyz, in which Google chose to give Alphabet its home on the web.

In late 2014, Google entered the game and launched nic.google, which redirected to their gTLD registry page. Subsequently, Google is now in the business of selling gTLDs and with that being said, why wouldn’t they look to make a splash on a gTLD that is NOT .com? What better way to move forward from the fossilized thinking of the .com movement, then to ignore that gTLD altogether.

Product launches are in Google’s DNA. From wickedly unsuccessful launches (G+, Wave, Orkut, etc.) to a myriad of tremendously successful launches (Hangouts), Google routinely gets product launches right. So now that they are creating a NEW PARENT COMPANY, who will own the entire mothership, which allows them to fund projects to make self driving cars, now is the time they will be so shortsided that they overlook the need to buy Alphabet.com? We would be naive to think that the senior leaders are Google/Alphabet didn’t think of the unavailability of Alphabet.com when they were kicking around names internally. We would be EXTREMELY naive, given the fact they ummm SELL gTLDs and knew that BMW had it for some time. Conversations would have been had with BMW and Alphabet would have known that the .com property wouldn’t be available.

The Dissolving of gTLD Importance:

The perceived allure of .com has eroded. Gone are the days that if you owned a .com for a prominent brand, that you could sell it for thousands and retire to Fiji. Google themselves has already made public that they treat all gTLDs the same (except for the .gov and other handpicked, coveted TLDs, even though they won’t admit that), so the necessity to purchase the .com for some sort of real estate buying endeavor, is short-sided and dated thinking.

The Branded Organic Search Effect:

Another reason why the .com and other gTLDs lack importance in today’s search landscape is the increased instance of branded organic searches. I have the luxury of reviewing over 80 different Analytics and Search Console data each month, and if you see data like I see data, you see a relatively large influx of branded searches contributing organic traffic. Additionally, use a tool like SEMrush or SPYfu and you will see these are some of the strongest organic traffic drivers for many sites. Consumers aren’t really that interested in whether you are a .com, .net, .eat, .foo, or whatever you want. They understand your brand and look to connect with you there.

The Voice Search Effect:

Voice Search adds a whole other factor to the erosion of gTLD importance. When a consumer utters the words “OK, Google” or summons Siri, they perform a search or request information which goes directly to the default search engine, NOT to a specific webpage. Cell phone manufacturers and operating systems are making it easier to search from anywhere on the phone, and it ends up being significantly easier to just search for the website you are seeking, vs. actually opening your mobile browser, and typing in the URL address (cross your fingers you do not make a keystroke error or you could end up at a sketchy site).

The Future Homes of Alphabet:

I will admit that my initial thought was that Alphabet will launch Alphabet.Google as an homage to their roots, as well as a showcase of their shiny new brand gTLD, but I think that is too obvious. I also do not feel that .xyz is the future either, despite the countless domain squatters scooping up every iteration they can think of. Again, we take Google for absolute amateurs if we think they haven’t already had the internal discussions about what gTLD properties they need to own, BEFORE they announce this.

We also seem to forget that Google paid upwards of $25 million to own the entire .app universe and with the unpacking of Google+ into many parts, and the deconsolidation of ‘super apps’ capable of handling many functions, and the .app landscape appears to be a fruitful investment.

The fact the media was so critical on the fact that Google didn’t have the ‘foresight’ to scoop up the .com property for their new venture is a dated mindset. Perhaps Google chose the name Alphabet ON PURPOSE, with the intent to dispel the myths about how it is .com or bust. Perhaps this was a deliberate move to introduce their bevy of new gTLDs, or perhaps some other methodology is in place. We just need to move past the point of .com being the holy grail of TLDs, and embrace the likes of thatsdelicious.coffee, and numberone.dad.

rCommerce: Bringing Retail to the New Century

As I sit here writing this, eCommerce is all the rage, despite contributing only about 6-7% of purchases. The other 90%+ of purchases take place in a brick and mortar store, known as retail. While this is a humbling fact to those incredibly bullish on eCommerce (me being one of those), the death of retail is a bit pre-mature. However, there are fundamentals of the eCommerce experience that the retail environment should really think about, to improve the process.
Let’s face it, the retail experience kind of sucks. Waiting in lines, trudging through racks and racks of clothes hoping to find your size. After you fish through endless racks to find your product, you are ready to give your hard earned money to the retail store. You get ready to checkout and then without warning…. you have 30 people waiting to check out as well. Yet all of the consumers waiting in line have a device in their pocket 1,000 times more powerful then the registers they are about to hand a payment method.
What I find completely interesting and quite ironic about the whole experience is that any of the people waiting in line could pull out their smartphones, go onto the retailer’s website and purchase the exact same good, at most likely the same price, delivered free to their home. Yet, they are choosing to wait in line, all in the name of instant gratification. As a consumer base, we are just not ready for the 100% no-touch methodology of eCommerce, despite its ease of use and limitless benefits.
This is more than just hard goods such as clothing, furniture, toiletries, and entertainment that have consumers waiting in lengthy lines at retail, but the single biggest waste of our time in retail, the grocery store.
What is incredibly frustrating about the retail experience is that lines appears to be feast and famine, which makes it difficult for retailers to staff accordingly. When everyone wants to checkout, there are 2 cashiers, but when everyone is browsing 5 are available and doing nothing. Ugh!!
But I think that I might have a hypothesis on what could be the next big thing for retail and actually eliminate most lines completely and actually doesn’t require almost ANY technology.

The Birth of rCommerce

Why couldn’t we go to stores, wade through the racks and shelves, pick out what we want, and when we are ready to purchase, just grab our phone and checkout.
Think about it, almost every retailer you shop in has a mobile application, or at least a website. With technology available such as Square and Paypal, available as payment gateways for those websites, couldn’t we just enter the same items into our online cart, make a purchase, and walk out. This is basically Sam’s Club meets eCommerce. You pile what you want in your physical cart, add it to your online cart, complete your purchase online and when you leave, there is someone to check your cart. This person receives a printed receipt of your checkout (or up on the screen), confirm the items in your cart and allow you to leave.
Why couldn’t this work? Let me be the antagonist here.
  • People would steal: Losses happen everyday in regular retail transactions, but if you add the confirmation employees at the exit to confirm purchase, you reduce some of that. Eventually, technology should get to a place where it confirms purchase without human interaction.
  • People would still want to buy from a cashier: People enjoy lines? Why so they can all be in misery… nope. Lowest common denominator.
  • People aren’t comfortable buying on their phones: This is true in the exact time I am writing this, but I sense that will change.
  • eCommerce and Retail Operations are very siloed in retailers today: Again, this is true but progressive retailers such as Walmart will understand a true omnichannel approach with unified inventory, in which retail stores act as a warehouse for both eCommerce and retail transactions.
Because we already have eCommerce and mCommerce, I needed to think of something and rCommerce (even though it is lame) was born.
What do you think? Is this concept something you feel is viable?

My 3 Words for 2015

For several years, I have sat back and watched the likes of Christopher Penn, Mitch Joel and many others share the 3 words that will shape their year. Each year, I mentally develop those words and then store them into my private bank, choosing not to disclose publicly. The reason for this has little to do with privacy and had everything to do with internal accountability. I have always been the type of person who did not need to put goals in public in order to hold myself accountable. I prefer to keep goals locked inside my head as this allows me more satisfaction.

However, this year is different. I am proud of my 3 words in the fact that I want to showcase them publicly not because of accountability or even some sense of overconfidence. I want to share them because I feel they can inspire others to share similar goals and challenge themselves to not only go further in 2015, but do so in a tenacious manner.

1. Kaizen: This is one that I saw on Christopher Penn’s 3 words and it struck a chord. This absolutely sums up my mindset as I enter 2015. This past year has been a great year for me as I left the world of corporate america to solve the complex problems of brands with an agency. I was finally able to harness the mountain of ideas that run through my head on a daily basis and use them to do amazing things for our clients. I have also been able to lead an unbelievable team of online marketers who have challenged me, inspired me, and forced me to be better everyday. As I start this journey of 2015, incremental change is going to be how I get better. Planning for seismic change will do nothing to help me reach my goals, will lead to frustration and most of all… will not help me develop.

2. Probe: The quantity of content for which I consume on a daily basis is enough to reach someone’s monthly quota of content. I love content and I love learning even more. I am continuously trying to absorb knowledge for countless internet marketers, neuromarketers, life hackers, and even those outside of my direct lens (thank you TED talks). This has helped me build a massive archive of knowledge, which allows me to generate fresh ideas, understand the future of online marketing and keep my brain on its toes. In 2015, I want to spend more time probing, researching, and picking more at the things I read, see, and hear. This is going to include alot of my own testing, research, and the like, but I look forward to the challenge.

3. Journey: Not… I am not talking about seeing the great 80’s band in concert… I am talking about allowing myself to embark on mental journeys, to tell better stories, to see where things will lead. In our disposable and abbreviated society, many of us stop short of seeing the entire picture or allowing ourselves to go on the journey in exchange for the quick hit… the Cliff Notes as opposed to the book. The Executive Summary over the data of the report. But doing so causes us to lose the fun of allowing yourself to get lost in something, in a story. Sitting back and letting the story consume you and send your brain on a ride filled with emotions, questions, and reactions. This year, I want to allow myself the time to take journeys, both from media, and those caused internally. Each day, I have dozens of ideas for blog posts, research papers, outreach opportunities for my clients, etc. which most of the time go undocumented and prevented from flourishing due to artificially created deadlines. This year, I allow these ideas to see the end, to get the whole picture, to tell the whole story. This is going to allow me to be happier with the journey and allow my imagination to do what it is supposed to do, entertain, challenge, and enlight.

What are your 3 words for 2015? I hope that you will put some serious thought to those words and select ones that are attainable, incremental, and fun. While they say what is not measurable is not changed, I disagree in the sense that if you mentally commit and allow yourself to reap the benefits, what do you have to lose?

Low Moments in Marketing: Dave and Buster’s Racist Tweet

I love ads…

I see ads all the time. I am continuously watching commercials and pre-roll videos, listening to Pandora spots, and viewing online ads and banners. Most of this viewing has more to do with evaluation and inspiration then it does looking to make a purchase decision. I am in marketing, I understand the game that is played everyday with promotions. It is a game I truly enjoy and one I find to be one of the hardest challenges anyone could face.

Most of the time I just view ads and keep my thoughts about the ads internalized. My thoughts generally come out when I am in discussions with people of my own ilk or to myself when I am making my morning commute.

I decided to share some of my thoughts on a variety of ads and create a new series in the blog (a post more than 2 times a quarter would be a start…) called “Low Moments in Marketing” or L-MIM. This is the second post in the series.

Dave and Buster’s Racist Tweet sends shockwaves through social media

Race has been a heated and reoccurring issue among current events for months now. From the Ferguson shooting to equality in the workplace, race is a polarizing subject that our media continues to highlight. Most of the time race is enhanced by media, but when it comes to Dave and Buster’s ill-worded tweet, this one was just too easy to sit back and scratch your head in wonder.

It has been over a decade since my first ‘Taco Tuesday’ event that happened at a local watering hole in my hometown. This was a destination for the low priced Mexican cuisine and even better drink specials. This weekly ritual of gastro delight was a can’t miss event which brought together a gaggle of friends for a guaranteed night of hilarity.

In an attempt to generate buzz on one of the slowest days of the week for a restaurant, Dave and Buster’s sent a tweet with the intention of attracting those individuals craving some Mex-American cuisine and mindless gaming. Unfortunately, their choice of context is what got them into social media hot water. dave-busters-tweet-hed-2014

By now, everyone has seen the tweet (and I will include it below) but I want to discuss the mindset of this tweet. Was this a purposeful tweet with a motive of attention, or was this a tongue in cheek message gone wrong? While many believe it was intentional to gain more attention to Dave and Buster’s with the NFL playoffs right around the corner, I feel this was a slick attempt at humor gone wrong. I do not believe it has any ‘real’ negative intention, this should have gone through at least one filter on its way out.

Many times in larger corporations, one of the most junior members of the marketing team has the daunting task of manning the social media channels, garnering the ever-elusive engagement and fostering visits from a non-ROI generating medium. The constant attention and SPAM filtering is one of the major reasons why this incredibly important task gets volleyed over the wall to the junior members as a right of passage. Unfortunately, your social media channels are one of the few marketing arenas that has DIRECT access to your customers and ALLOWS YOU to have a conversation in a location they frequent. An analogy I use with clients (that I do not believe anyone has used previously) is social media is like being the bartender at a cocktail party with half a billion people. You are not integrated in their every conversation, but you at least have their attention while they are seeking something you offer.

The lesson out of the Dave and Buster’s tweet is one we have stated for years. Get a second set of eyes when you are attempting to integrate humor, coy, or tongue in cheek innuendos into anything that is forward facing to your customers. Now I am not a fan of the corporate bureaucracy that required 60-90 day approvals through the legal department and 25 other desks. This kills the real time nature of social media, but when you are attempting to deviate from your consistent brand message and toe the line of decency, get a second opinion.

Low Moments in Marketing: Walmart.com’s Fat Girl Costumes

I love ads…

I see ads all the time. I am continuously watching commercials and pre-roll videos, listening to Pandora spots, and viewing online ads and banners. Most of this viewing has more to do with evaluation and inspiration then it does looking to make a purchase decision. I am in marketing, I understand the game that is played everyday with promotions. It is a game I truly enjoy and one I find to be one of the hardest challenges anyone could face.

Most of the time I just view ads and keep my thoughts about the ads internalized. My thoughts generally come out when I am in discussions with people of my own ilk or to myself when I am making my morning commute.

I decided to share some of my thoughts on a variety of ads and create a new series in the blog (a post more than 2 times a quarter would be a start…) called “Low Moments in Marketing” or L-MIM.

Walmart.com’s tasteless choice of words to describe their plus sized costumes.

walmart-plus-halloween-hed-2014

from Adweek.com

On October 27th, Walmart.com used the term ‘Fat Girl Costumes’ to describe their plus sized costumes available for Halloween. While there are more traditional terms used to describe the larger male costumes (Plus Sized Costumes, etc.), the retail giant decided to use ‘Fat Girl’ to describe the female plus sized costumes.

While this appears to be just a major error in judgement by someone on the Walmart.com team, I think that there were ulterior motives in place. According to the Google Keyword Planner, search volume for [fat girl costume] equals 90 average searches per month. Compare that to [women plus size costume] at 30 searches a month and [woman plus size costume] at 10 searches per month. I think that there might some SEO games happening here.

Obviously, as soon as this gained steam, it was quickly eliminated from Walmart.com and they went on the defensive, trying to save face.

This is quite interesting and one that I feel wasn’t a mistake at all, but an attempt to rank well for a higher trafficked term.

The slippery slope of incentivizing customer service

I have been a satellite radio customer for almost 8 years. Having upwards of a 90-minute commute for many years caused distaste for commercials and station surfing that satellite radio felt like a good investment. They hooked me with a very attractive offer and a new customer was born. Shortly after my year introductory offer was over, I was met with a bill equal to double my introductory offer. I call the provider asking what the deal was, and when they told me that this is the ‘going rate,’ my excitement for the convenience of satellite radio quickly wore off. I was ready to cancel. Shortly after I muttered those powerful 6 letters, the customer service agent on the phone sent me to another department. Forced to reiterate the exact same story I told the previous agent, this customer service person wooed me with yearly rate, equal to my introductory offer. Feeling like I had won, I accepted and another year was born. Each subsequent year following this incident, I have made the same fateful phone call, each time met with the same offer and same commitment. It feels so rehearsed that most of the time, I don’t even make small talk with the initial agent, the other 4 words I expend effort to say are “I want to cancel.” Then I am met with the 2 level agent, who extends my almost laughable rate. This charade has turned into a sport.

A fiery lust, a conquest awaits

The quest for customer acquisition reigns supreme above all else. No matter where you look, brands are throwing everything and a box of candy at winning a new customer. Whether it is a cell phone carrier buying out a contract with another carrier, incredibly huge price cuts to win that first time purchase, or incentivizing your customers to be referral engines, a new customer instills a bloodthirsty lust among brand marketers everywhere. Brands look to woo prospective customers by showing up with roses, opening up the car door, paying for dinner, giving a back rub, and doing the dishes, all at once. The days of building a brand with such a unique and attractive lifestyle, seen to be superior enough to organically acquire your business, is sadly gone. Here are the days of FREE everything, introductory offers, and the abolishment of brand loyalty.

They are just not that into you anymore

But once the honeymoon is over and the brand has moved onto the new flavor of the week, their dedication to ensuring your happiness flames out like a summer crush in September. As long as you are paying your bill, continuing to buy their wares, and not causing a ruckus on social media, a brand could careless about your happiness.

The quest for acquisition is much more valuable then the quest for retention. Unless, your customer base is leaving at such a feverous pace, that your only method of customer acquisition, is through retention.

Enter Incentivizing Customer Service

By now, you have all heard about the now infamous Comcast call with AOL Executive Ryan Block. If you haven’t, here is a great piece from Slate that covers all of the juicy details. While most of the population gasped in awe of this one employee’s desperate attempt to hang onto a customer, continued details show that this employee (and thousands of others) is being so reluctant to cut the cord, because it takes money out of their pocket.

Yes, Comcast incentivizes customer service.

Their employee’s pay is based upon how many customers they can keep. Their retention specialists are trained in the art of persuasion, given detailed scripts and rebuttals, and regularly sell their soul to continue to receive their bonus. Most people, including Comcast themselves, blamed the employee as being a rogue and overly aggressive money grubber. However, the problem lies significantly deeper (or should I say, higher) than that.

The Problem with Buying Customer Service – The Employee

When employees fear financial hardship is at the precipice, they often react in a defensive manner. Clinging to the last bit of hope that the sale will turn around, that you will change their mind, and their money will magically reappear. Like it or not, money changes emotions, and money causes you to act in a manner in which you might not enjoy, if your paycheck was not on the line.

Incentivizing customer service does little to further entrench of the reputation of the brand, even amongst employees. Employees required to perform all tactics necessary to save that one customer, have very little loyalty to their organization. Customer service agents incentivized on retention are nothing more than mercenaries. Hired to pillage as much as they can out of the land, and then move on to the next patch of fertile soil, through no fault of their own. Organizations that incentivize their customer service agents choose short-term profitability over long term customer value.

In a day in age of transparency in customer service, those brands whose employees exude the confidence of knowing their organization values customers over profits, or even employees over profits, bleed through to the customer base. More often than not, customers value a positive experience before, during, and after the sale more than they do the best available price. If you do not agree, just look at Zappos, USAA, Amazon, Chick-Fil-A and many others who put the happiness of their customers first.

The Problem with Buying Customer Service – The Customer

Incentivized customer service has spawned a new breed of consumer, the brand hopper. A few short decades ago, our parents would be the epitome of brand loyalists. If your parents drove a Chevy, you drove a Chevy, and your children drove a Chevy. Not because you were giving some referral bonus for being a loyalist, but because you knew the brand cared about your business and you felt appreciated. Today, customers are forced to jump around, play the introductory offer game, and mostly forget all affiliation to a brand. The perils of being a brand loyalist typically leaves you spending more and getting less and less attention from the brand you are loyal to. An uncomfortable recipe that explains the Nielsen report that 78% of consumers are not loyal to a brand. Couple this with the Ernst & Young study that states just 25% of customers consider brand loyalty something that impacts their buying behavior, and you have the death of brand loyalty.

This Comcast experience is not unique, and all it takes is about 5 minutes on Twitter Search to see that this public display of customer dissatisfaction happens regularly. This particular incident just happened to be prominent news, due to the high profile victim.

The Finances of Good Customer Service

For many customers, a direct interaction with a brand is a make or break moment. These moments can result in anger or outright rage towards the brand, or conversely a euphoric moment of bliss that comes from a positive experience. But it means just as much for the brand. According to McKinsey, 70% of customers cite poor customer service as a reason not to buy from a particular brand. Couple this with the research out of InfoQuest that states a Totally Satisfied Customer contributes 2.6 times more revenue than a Somewhat Satisfied Customer, and you have a financial case for customer service, not just customer retention.

Every marketer will agree that the courting, qualifying and convincing of a customer to choose your brand over a myriad of other options is one of the biggest struggles they face. However, most marketers miss the gold mine that is their existing customer base. If you have ensured a positive consumer experience, you will surely stand a better chance of getting more money out of those customers. Data fromBIA/Kelsey states that a repeat customer will spend 61% more than a new customer. Treat your existing customers well, and they will continue to spend.

Lifetime Customer Value is something that is undervalued by marketers, left on the side of the road while they join the countless others chasing the new potential customer. Incentivizing customer service does nothing for the consumer and for the brand. It gives the customer yet another reason to shop other selections, puts a negative sentiment in their head, and forces you to continuously be on the hunt for the new unsuspecting prey. The churn rate alone, as it pertains to the perils of incentivized customer service, is exhausting and one that has no real obtainable growth in sight.

Reviews: The Green-Faced Cure to Incentivized Customer Service

The build up of continued negative sentiment only causes one thing, which can be more negatively impactful then one lost sale; a litter of negative reviews. With reviews equaling social currency, many brands go out of their way to ensure a positive experience for the customer, in hopes the customer leaves a positive review. According to eMarketer, 88% of customers leave a negative review to warn other people about a product or service. Additionally, according to Dimensional Research, 90% of respondents who recalled reading an online review claimed positive reviews influenced their purchase decision, and 86% said their purchase was influenced by a negative review.

A positive customer service experience can mean so much more than a won phone call, it could mean a loyal customer, in the age of choice. Brands cut corners, force retention, and degrade customer experience, all in hopes of maintaining profitability and low prices. But somehow, these brands do not understand that customer service elements (such as return policy, reviews, and support) are the primary purchase vehicles. So instead of focusing on your ‘deepest discount ever,’ try focusing on providing a joyful customer experience, one in which the customer feels like they matter, and watch your customers become your biggest advocates. They will fight your battles in the wild wild west of the web, and act as your unpaid customer service agents; ones that do not require continuous incentivizing and persuasion training.

The A la Carte Economy and the Death of Packages

As someone who is an active DirecTV subscriber, Netflix subscriber, Amazon Prime member and frequent RedBox consumer, the engaging nature of passive media is something I am very interested in. Whether it is watching a live sporting event, viewing some of my favorite shows, or watching Hollywood’s next blockbuster, allowing myself to sit back and allow the media to consume over me allows me to unwind after a stressful day or immerse myself into another world.

But while I subscribe to a battery of viewing options, I continuously am frustrated when I see my account and consider the fact I watch 5% of the available options on my DirecTV package. I have often thought about joining the massive list of cord cutters and relying on my other media options to fill the void. This got me thinking of what I consider to be the future of TV, and potentially the death of any package offerings. Below I will list several reasons WHY I feel the package economy we knew and loved, has run its course and will soon make way for the a la carte economy.

  1. More options available: Did you see the list of options I subscribe to above?? That is probably 10% of the options available to consumers. HBOgo, Hulu Plus….the list goes on for consumers. With more options comes a higher inclination to investigate those options.
  2. Costs become too great: Consumers are reaching a breaking point with the continuous price increases, shrinking of channel options, and difficult customer services experiences. The now infamous Comcast customer service video just highlights one of many troublesome phones calls consumers can experience when running into problems with their cable providers. When there are many other (and potentially superior) options available, seeing that ever increasing debit hit their account just adds to the allure to move on.
  3. Networks being squeezed: Every year or so, you see networks in deep negotiation with cable providers to establish a new contract, fight for their money, all to attract an ever shrinking consumer base. Networks are realizing the a la carte consumer mindset is already here and establishing apps to appease those consumers who are not interested in the larger package buy,  AMC, HBO, Showtime, etc. all see that value with more jumping on board.
  4. Mobile: With the volatile growth of mobile, consumers want to take their content on the road. While many of the providers are reacting to this by creating apps in which consumers can control their DVRs and recording devices from home, it doesn’t help the fact that consumers want to consume content on the road, the same they would on their TV. The mobile apps provided by various networks (again…HBO, AMC, etc.) allow you to consume content no matter where you are. Some of the providers are allowing you to download your DVR’d material and take it on the road but new material, that would require a Slingbox. Yes, another device and clunky, fragmented experience.
  5. Digital Advertising vs. TV advertising: 2014 marked the first year that mobile advertising overtook traditional advertising. Brands, agencies, and the like all see the benefit and measurability of digital advertising. With streaming content showcasing native ads, consumers recording content through DVRs, the value of the traditional TV continues to shrink. Digital is completely measurable, which helps showcase the value of digital to the corner office, and allows you to reach exactly the consumer you are interested in. This is incredibly important in an economy of increasing attention fragmentation.
  6. Cords = Ugly, Terrible, Waste of space: Who wants to place their gorgeous flat screen TV on the wall, only to make it hideously ugly with a bevy of wires hanging from it. The cable boxes alone are ugly and almost feel very antiquated in a time most TVs are connected through the web. The provide’rs reluctance (or talent gap) to provide a TV app that works exactly the same as the cable box (and integrates with the other apps on the TV) just make it easier for consumers to jump to the apps that actually do provide benefit. Consumers have been familiar with TV apps for years, why did it take so long to bring them to cable providers.

I just started on the TV industry. You can insert just about every industry that offers packages in a time where consumers are looking to pick and choose as much as possible. Those organizations that stop putting profits before the consumer experience are going to just provide consumers another reason they need to look for another solution. The options are too plentiful to possess the mindset that consumers have nowhere else to go.

We already curate everything in our lives in order to get maximum value out of our choices. Our music stations are perfectly curated, heck our phones are a model of curation that gives many museums a run for their money. Why shouldn’t we be able to continue to curate our life with all of our media? There is a massive paradigm shift on the horizon for the package mindset. Those willing to break up the packages and allow consumers a choice will win that consumer attention and preserve further growth.

What do you think is going to happen in the a la carte economy?

Apple buys Beats, Google buys Songza… What’s so attractive about Streaming Services?

The Roller Coaster of Music

Remember the time where we had to plan our weekend activities for the Tape/CD release of our favorite artist? Then Napster burst onto the scene and we become introduced to MP3 files, and our CDs were dropped into a storage bin, never to be found again. The feverous growth of MP3s (and subsequent death of Walkmans) were further driven by the inception of the iPod and other MP3 players. But just like their earlier counterparts, affordable (and sometimes free) connectivity has paved the way for MP3s giving way to streaming services. What started with Pandora, Slacker, and a battery of other services has now become a market with 28 million users. One thing is for sure, we love our music and while the size of the market continues to grow, change is inevitable.

While streaming services come in all shapes and sizes, a few rise to the top of the pack when it comes to tenure and user base. While users continue to flock in droves to each one of these streaming services, tech giants realize the importance of these audiences and two of them have made recent moves to make a strong play into these spaces, all while possessing native streaming services. What was a market dominated by one or two players, has quickly become a fragmented space with no real dominant player. I can list off 10 of these right off of the top of my head.

Apple Buys Beats

While not one of the largest streaming services in the space, Beats showcased volatile growth and a hardware component so trendy, that it is difficult to walk into any gym in America without seeing a kaleidoscope of Beats headphones. Beats unique selling point is that they are able to curate the music to your needs, based on your behavior. While this is a feature that many other streaming services tout, Beats appears to have honed in on what users actually want from a curated service. Less repetition, more adjacent artists, and an ever learning and growing platform. Apple had iTunes Radio, which has seen adoption from the quintessential Apple Fan-dom, it never really saw the scale associated with the larger streaming outfits.

Google Buys Songza

One of the most popular streaming services, as it pertains to user experience is Songza. This streaming services doesn’t curate music based on your behavior, however, it will allow you to select music based on your ‘mood’ or activity. Just waking up from an afternoon siesta? Songza has a selection for you, looking to start a party, there is a group of stations to help, enjoying a romantic evening with no kids, there are stations for that. All of these stations are custom tailored to match certain moods and the musical selection reflects this mood. Google had their own Google Music service which wasn’t very popular. Admittedly, I am a huge Google Fan-boy and even I didn’t use this. It was just not a good platform and I was confused on whether it was my phone’s native music storage or a streaming service. It never made sense, so it remained unused on my devices. So what is the draw to these services? This particular deals were not cheap, Apple spent $3 billion for Beats and Google spent $39 million for Songza (which feels like a bargain) and put two of the largest tech giants directly in the cross hairs of some major streaming music players (I am looking at you Amazon and Pandora). So the question lies in what drew them to make such a purchase? I hypothesize 4 potential reasons for which I will outline below: Audience, Technology, Talent, Advertising.

  • Audience: While there is no doubt that the audience associated with these purchases were vast, I am talking more about audience information (data) and not necessarily the scale. Any avid streaming service user who enjoys a curated station, spends a great deal of time weeding out the songs they do not like, and promoting the songs they do like. This data is golden for a digital marketer and manufacturer of technology devices. Why wouldn’t Apple want to know what music is hot right now so they can promote it on iTunes or use these songs in their advertisements? This data about real time trending, popularity and user feedback is wonderful.
  • Technology: With Beats, it was more than a streaming service purchase, Apple inherited one of the most popular music hardware devices commonly paired with their vaulted iPhone family. While many know the Beats hardware is not the highest quality on the market, they are trendy, cool, and Apple has always been known as the ‘cool’ brand; a monacre that has taken a beating as Samsung has wooed the ever coveted tween market. Couple this hardware purchase with the fact Apple is eliminating the 3.5” audio jack from their new phones, and you have a beautiful segway into increased adoption and purchase of new hardware when the new iPhones release….preferably Beats headphones that are surly to come equipped with the Thunderport already native.
  • Talent: Beats has Dr. Dre, Songza has a battery of very smart engineers and marketers. Was this a talent buy? Many feel that Google purchases many of their acquisitions based on talent alone. However, neither of these services are truly ‘unique,’ which makes the talent rationale harder to validate.
  • Advertising: While Pandora has their own native advertising network (one that we know very well FYI) equipped with ads of varying levels, Beats and Songza have their own display component. Songza does not interrupt your listening experience with audio ads, as they leave the advertisement to display only, primarily when you are making changes to your musical selection. This is yet another property Google can employ their Display Network to but to spend this scale of money on more display real estate, that doesn’t feel as if they would have received solid value.

Whatever, the reason behind Apple and Google entering the streaming music service space, one thing is for sure and that is they are going to look to implement these new properties into the sphere of overall portfolio to try to keep the threat from Amazon at bay and chip away at Pandora’s share.

Unless….

Unless there is separate play all together… One that fully integrates these services into the ecosystem of an already Apple/Google dominated landscape. Imagine a fully integrated experience for which you can be listening to your streaming service in the car (via Wifi, 4G, etc.), get to your house and walk into your house to have the song continuing right where you left it (due to the  connectivity to adjacent products/offerings), and follow you throughout your house. Now that would be a seamless and beneficial service. The technology is there, we just need a platform to operate and bring this entire experience together. O the possibilities….