VeriSign Promotes Internet Video Starring “Cart Whisperer” at AOTA Summit

Saw a clever viral marketing campaign today at the AOTA Summit.

The creative campaign, from VeriSign, a provider of Internet infrastructure for the networked world, is called ‘The Cart Whisperer, and offers a humorous take on abandoned shopping carts.

Saw a clever viral marketing campaign today at the AOTA Summit.

The creative campaign, from VeriSign, a provider of Internet infrastructure for the networked world, is called ‘The Cart Whisperer, and offers a humorous take on abandoned shopping carts.

The campaign centers around a video that chronicles Liberty Fillmore, a man with unusual communication skills that allows him to “rescue” an abandoned shopping cart from a weed-choked parking lot and lead it back home to a shopping center. Filmed with the single-camera look of today’s reality TV shows, the videos plays off the recent popularity of the television programs “Ghost Whisperer” and “Dog Whisperer”. The video can be viewed at www.nomoreabandonedcarts.com. The Web site also includes photos, a fictional bio about Liberty, downloads and poems.

The video way shown at the opening of the Authentication and Online Trust Alliance Summit 2008, which took place June 4 to 5 in Seattle. Flyers promoting the Web site were also available here.

Essentially, the campaign promotes VeriSign’s advanced security technology that provides instantly visible reassurance to consumers using the most popular and latest versions of Web browsers, including Internet Explorer 7 and the latest beta release of Firefox 3.

When consumers using these browsers visit Web sites protected by VeriSign Extended Validation Secure Sockets Layer Certificates, their browser’s address bar turns green, according to a pres release from VeriSign. That green bar signals to consumers they have reached a Web page protected by VeriSign EV SSL Certificates, instead of a convincing impostor page created by identity thieves. Such fraudulent pages are a common tool for e-criminals bent on stealing sensitive personal information, from passwords to Social Security Numbers.

I thought it was effective and fun! Check it out.

Vendors in the Interactive Marketing Space React Positively to New FTC CAN–SPAM Rules

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

Vendors from the interactive marketing space are reacting positively to the news from earlier this week that the Federal Trade Commission has approved four new rule provisions under the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act of 2003 (CAN-SPAM).

According to the FTC, the provisions–which are intended to clarify the Act’s requirements–address four topics:

(1) an e-mail recipient cannot be required to pay a fee, provide information other than his or her e-mail address and opt-out preferences, or take any steps other than sending a reply e-mail message or visiting a single Internet Web page to opt out of receiving future e-mail from a sender;

(2) the definition of “sender” was modified to make it easier to determine which of multiple parties advertising in a single e-mail message is responsible for complying with the Act’s opt-out requirements;

(3) a “sender” of commercial e-mail can include an accurately-registered post office box or private mailbox established under U.S. Postal Service regulations to satisfy the Act’s requirement that a commercial e-mail display a “valid physical postal address”; and

4) a definition of the term “person” was added to clarify that CAN-SPAM’s obligations are not limited to natural persons.

Quinn Jalli, Chief Privacy Officer for online marketing firm Datran Media said he believes that legitimate marketers will embrace the new regulations, as they significantly reduce the complexity of complying with the law in a joint-marketing scenario.

“The FTC’s position is well in line with the prevailing philosophy in the industry, and the new regulations align the law with common-sense expectations,” he said. “[The new regulations] are a win for marketers and consumers alike.”

In a press release, Matt Wise, CEO of Q Interactive, an interactive marketing services provider, also announced support for the FTC’s revised definition of e-mail “sender”.

“Since CAN-SPAM’s inception, there has been pervasive confusion in the marketplace over responsibility for including opt-out links in e-mail, which has led to inconsistent execution of the unsubscribe process, increased risk of unsubscribe list abuse, additional and unnecessary costs for advertisers, and an overall reduction in the efficiency of the medium,” Wise said in the release.

Q Interactive said that under the revised ruling, companies advertising with e-mail can now designate a single e-mail “sender” responsible for adhering to the rules of CAN-SPAM, which include having the “sender’s name in the e-mail “from line” and providing a working opt-out link and physical address.

The FTC’s revised “sender” definition, Wise said “eliminates the confusion and frustration over multiple opt-out links for consumers and makes it as easy as possible for them to unsubscribe from unwanted e-mails, which, in essence, is the primary purpose of the CAN-SPAM Act.”

A New Approach to Integrated Marketing

I had a great chat the other day with Elana Anderson, the former Forrester Research superstar analyst who has gone out on her own with her (relatively new) company, NxtERA Marketing. The company offers advisory and consulting services to marketing organizations and providers of marketing services and technology.

We were discussing a new study that her company worked on with marketing solutions provider Responsys.

I had a great chat the other day with Elana Anderson, the former Forrester Research superstar analyst who has gone out on her own with her (relatively new) company, NxtERA Marketing. The company offers advisory and consulting services to marketing organizations and providers of marketing services and technology.

We were discussing a new study that her company worked on with marketing solutions provider Responsys.

The main gist of the study–called Marketing Beyond the Status Quo–is that as customer response to broadcast messaging steadily declines and as the percentage of prospects and customers giving permission to market to them decreases, marketers must increase the relevance of their multichannel communications or risk falling short of revenue expectations from the C-suite.

“The data shows – and marketers generally agree – that brands have reached a point where they must invest more time and money in improving the relevance of their communications,” said Anderson.

The report also unveiled the MSQ Model to help marketers determine their relevance maturity and develop a realistic action plan to become a more customer-focused marketer.

The four-point MSQ Model assesses the four fundamental competencies required for marketing relevance: strategic (how customer-focused are your marketing efforts?), analytical (how strategic and actionable is your customer insight?), technical (how well-suited is your infrastructure to support customer-focused marketing?) and process (how collaborative, efficient and error-free is your marketing organization?).

Each competency is weighted and combined to yield an overall Relevance Maturity Score which defines a MSQ Level ranging from 1 (broadcast) to 5 (integrated). Marketers can use the model in conjunction with the MSQ Self-Test to pinpoint their MSQ Level as well as identify the steps they must take in order to successfully move to the next level.

Other key findings and strategies from the study include:
1. Response to one-size-fits-all messaging is declining steadily. The report found that one retailer increased revenues by 500 percent by dividing its e-mail list into four segments and customizing the message to each group. In addition, a comparison of aggregate response data from companies leveraging broadcast tactics versus those using a highly targeted approach showed that the latter delivered significant improvement in open rates, clickthrough rates and clicks per open.

2.Marketers who want to increase marketing relevance must think outside in – from the perspective of the customer. The first step to relevancy requires marketers to clearly define relevancy to include timely response to customer actions, cross channel integration and a programmatic approach, the study found. Marketers must then develop a realistic action plan based on their current relevancy competency as assessed by the MSQ Model and measure and test every step of their program improvements.

3. Without the right technologies, relevant marketing is impossible. Technologies that increase marketing relevance should be made for marketers, and include functionality for automation, collaboration and integration – with little or no IT expertise needed. The report identifies emerging software-as-service options are a boon for marketers looking for lower up-front investment costs, to reduce IT involvement and to decrease time to market.

To receive a full copy of the Marketing Beyond the Status Quo report, visit www.responsys.com/beyond.

Check it out!

When Targeting Youth, Focus on Technology, Family

I attended a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon last week-sponsored by American Student List — and the speaker’s topic was “Trends in Youth Marketing-The Net Generation.”

I attended a Direct Marketing Club of New York luncheon last week-sponsored by American Student List — and the speaker’s topic was “Trends in Youth Marketing-The Net Generation.”

According to the speaker, youth industry analyst Sara Laor, there are more people in the United States aged 30 and younger than there are Baby Boomers. They grew up and are immersed in a digital and Internet-driven world. They blog, turn to Facebook and MySpace for social networking, and often prefer mobile messaging to e-mail. With their spending power they are key to anyone in marketing and advertising.

As a result, Laor offered several ways to successfully market to this group. Three highlights included:

1. Be family oriented. “Family is a huge topic for youth,” said Laor. “They love their families.” As a result, Laor said that when marketers are targeting the youth market, “make sure your marketing has a warm, fuzzy, family feel,” she said. “Market to parents, siblings, the whole household, as well as target with a family-related offer,” she said.

2. Think culture versus ethnicity. “This group knows who they are and are comfortable in their role,” Laor said. “Market to their ethnicity when marketing to youth, but don’t make it stereotypical–make it about culture and passion.”

3. Target them and ask them for information. “This group wants to be targeted to, and are willing to opt-in as long as they get something in return,” Laor said.

DM Hiring Down

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

Just when you thought it was safe…

While the economy has been a thorn in everyone’s side over the past few weeks, we have heard some encouraging words about the online and digital marketing world. Online sales are up, we’ve heard, and digital marketing may increase in a recession. So all wasn’t so bad.

But in my inbox this morning, I was greeted with a real clunker: According to a press release from Berhart Associates Executive Search, continued layoffs and more hiring freezes appear to be on the horizon for direct marketers this spring.

According to the latest Bernhart Associates employment survey, 54 percent of the companies responding said they will be filling new positions during the current spring quarter, down from 58 percent last quarter. The percentage of companies that have imposed a hiring freeze jumped to 19 percent, compared with 13 percent last quarter and more than double the rate just six months ago. Planned layoffs remained unchanged at 12 percent.

A total of 129 companies responded to the random survey that waa e-mailed the week of April 1.

Jerry Bernhart, owner of the Owatonna, Minn.-based search firm that conducted the survey insists, however, that there is some good news in all of this.

“If you look at what’s going on now and compare it with what happened during the last downturn in 2001-2002, things are still holding up better on the jobs front,” said Bernhart, in the release. “All of our indicators were weaker back then. Direct marketers this time around are turning more to hiring freezes and doing what they can to avoid significant cutbacks in staff. They know that when things turn around, talent will be more difficult to come-by.”

Even in the current environment, said Bernhart, many companies are still having a
challenging time finding qualified candidates for certain positions. “Nearly
three-quarters of those responding said they are having some degree of difficulty filling
openings,” said Bernhart. “For the most part, these jobs are more specialized lower to mid-level positions, or they are in geographic locations where the available direct marketing labor pool is relatively small.”

When asked what positions will be in greatest demand during the coming three months,
Bernhart said sales dominated the list. “This is similar to what we saw during the last downturn. Many companies apparently believe that a good way to weather an economic downturn is to increase the effectiveness of their sales force, and that’s exactly what
many of them are doing.” Bernhart said analytics was a close second, followed by account managers.

So, I guess there is still some hope, I guess.

Online Sales Continue to Climb, Despite Struggling Economy, Study Finds

Want to her some good news amdist all of the bad news surrounding the economy?

According to The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report–the 11th annual Shop.org report based on a study conducted by Forrester Research of 125 retailers–online retail will continue to be a bright spot in the industry with retail sales rising 17 percent this year to $204 billion.

Want to her some good news amdist all of the bad news surrounding the economy?

According to The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report–the 11th annual Shop.org report based on a study conducted by Forrester Research of 125 retailers–online retail will continue to be a bright spot in the industry with retail sales rising 17 percent this year to $204 billion.

Apparel ($26.6 billion), computers ($23.9 billion), and autos ($19.3 billion) will be the largest three sales categories.

According to the report, online retailers allocate 53 percent of their marketing budgets to online customer acquisition and 21 percent of marketing dollars to online customer retention. However, retailers are finding that traditional acquisition programs such as search engine or affiliate marketing may also serve as retention tools that attract existing customers as well as new shoppers.

Retailers report that search engine marketing continues to be the most effective way to reach new customers, citing 35 percent of sales coming from that initiative. As a result, nearly all online retailers surveyed (90 percent) use pay-for-performance search placement, and 79 percent said they will make this tactic an even greater priority this year. Companies are also using offline marketing tactics to drive customers to the web, with catalogs and other direct mail pieces taking priority over methods like television and newspaper advertising.

Though free shipping offers have proven to get some consumers over the obstacle of shopping online in the past, the study showed that retailers’ are less interested in promoting free shipping options this year. While 85 percent of online retailers said they used some shipping with conditions promotions in the past, just 35 percent said that they would focus more on these types of promotions in 2008. Instead, retailers are eager to experiment with Social Computing initiatives to attract customers – 65 percent and 55 percent of retailers respectively said that social network advertisements and widgets would be categories of increased focus this year. However, Social Computing efforts to this point have been considered more effective for brand-building and less proven for driving revenue or sales conversion. Therefore, the report advises retailers to continue investments in proven techniques like email marketing and free shipping promotions to drive sales.

The State of Retailing Online 2008: Marketing Report is currently available to Shop.org members and can also be purchased directly at www.shop.org/soro08.

Social Networking for DMers

Here’s a novel idea.

The National Mail Order Association is launching new direct marketing networking groups in each state of the U.S., and using social media as a component.

The NMOA’s strategy is to incorpate the social networking site Facebook as the first point of contact, and combine it with the all important aspect of “human interaction” that only comes from in person face-to-face networking.

Here’s a novel idea.

The National Mail Order Association is launching new direct marketing networking groups in each state of the U.S., and using social media as a component.

The NMOA’s strategy is to incorpate the social networking site Facebook as the first point of contact, and combine it with the all important aspect of “human interaction” that only comes from in person face-to-face networking.

“Online social networking is all the rage, but business does not live by the net alone,” said NMOA president and chirman John Schulte in a press release. “Face-to-face networking is still vital to business and career success,[and] these new networking groups combine the old with the new for super networking”

The online Facebook groups will be for day-to-day networking and information sharing, and once a month or more, members will coordinate local outings for some face-to-face networking, and have a little fun at the same time.

The best part? It’s all free. The NMOA will not require membership to be part of any of these groups.

“These new networking groups are needed,” says Schulte. “You can’t deny it, direct marketing is the way of the future, almost every business now utilizes at least one direct marketing tactic for creating sales, be it the web, direct mail, catalogs, infomercials, television home shopping or response ads in newspapers and magazines, and people want to learn more, especially the small business and budding entrepreneur.”

So far, direct marketing groups have been set up for 19 states and one main group for international connectivity. New states will be added as people request them. People that want to get involved on a leadership level in their state will be made officers of the group.

Every group is set up so members can start a discussion, ask questions, share links, promote their company, and post videos and pictures. If for no other reason, people should join their state group as part of their overall Web 2.0 strategy.

Links to currently active states can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/2ntwdc