There’s No Bad Publicity, Right?

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” That’s a line usually associated with P.T. Barnum, the 19th century American showman and circus owner.

Barnum made no attempt to hide his ambitions.  He wrote a book titled The Art of Money GettingIt’s a title Donald Trump (who has been compared to Barnum) would probably use on a book. It says what it is about right there on the cover.

Barnum was big on being a self-publicist. He used any opportunity to get his products in the public eye, even if some scandal was the reason. Get your name out there.

It is a theory that sometimes seems to work. Sometimes.

Some big companies like Volkswagen, BP and Toyota have had bad publicity the past few years and I don’t know that getting their name out there in those contexts was very good branding.

United Airlines was the bad publicity winner last week when it forcibly removed a man from a plane because they wanted his legitimately booked seat for an employee. Did it hurt their brand, stock price or change their policies?

Recently, Kendall Jenner got some bad publicity along with Pepsi for a Black Lives Matter-themed Pepsi commercial that was trashed in both the Big Media and social media. Distasteful. Insensitive.

Of course, every TV network replayed at least a portion of that commercial in their story. Free airtime, right? And the week after it aired, 19-year-old Kylie, who is big on social media, was announced as getting her own TV show, “Life With Kylie.” Coincidence? Result of the ad? Promotional consideration?

Burger King pulled off a clever, or devious, commercial recently. In the ad, a BK employee holding a hamburger says that there’s not enough time to tell you all about this burger, so he says “Okay Google, what is a Whopper burger?”

Okay, he is using technology. That’s cool.  But the employee’s words would also activate listener’s devices with Google Home to define a Whopper.

Google intervened to prevent the commercial, but it got replayed on shows and written about in lots of big and small media outlets.

Did Burger King run the ad knowing what would ensue?  Was that “bad” publicity actually baked into the campaign?

Is it legal? Marc Rotenberg, the president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, told Fortune that “Google (and others) literally ‘opened the door’ to this new hack when they put ‘always on’ devices in the home. We warned the FTC of the basic flaw in the architecture — it is not simply the owner that activates the device … They didn’t ‘listen,'”

Similar things have happened unintentionally with Amazon’s Echo when “Alexa” orders an item because using that name activated the device. One case that got a lot of attention was when Amazon’s Alexa started ordering people dollhouses after hearing its name on TV. That led to lots of posts about how to stop Alexa from ordering without your permission, thus disabling a feature that Amazon wants turned on.

Is there bad publicity? Absolutely. Is all negative publicity ultimately bad for a brand? No, but that is a very dangerous strategy to put into place.


Is It All About Conversions?

There is plenty of talk about e-commerce now that we are deep into the end-of-year holiday shopping season. In e-commerce marketing the key word seems to be CONVERSION. That term refers to converting site visitors into paying customers.

Getting visitors to your website is important of course, but even to a non-profit organization you want visitors to engage with their organization. A “conversion” is generally, but not always a “sale.” The organization might also want a visitor to add their name to a mailing list, request information, make a donation or download a special offer.

Websites monitor carefully your activity on the site. When a customer visits, adds item(s) to an online shopping cart and then “abandons” it, that is a lost conversion. Nowadays, it is common in that situation for the organization to re-engage the customer. They might offer free shipping, an email reminder, or even offer live chat with the customer as soon as they attempt to click away from the site.

Social media has become another way to boost conversions.  Social media has been a way to generate traffic to a site for a lot longer. Using contextual ads, word-of-mouth social sharing and positive reviews are all important to attracting users, but turning that traffic into sales or leads is more important.

Using social media is one way to react to the analytic data about visitors.  Using tools like AddShoppers, which uses reward sharing by identifying social “influencers by tracking social activity and crossing that with conversions or ROI.

As instructional designers often use the ADDIE framework for designing training and instruction, some social media and marketing designers use the AIDA (Attention, Interest, Desire, Action) principles to design the user experience. This framework is built upon the conversion funnel.


The conversion funnel is a phrase used in e-commerce to describe the journey a consumer takes through an Internet advertising or search system, navigating an e-commerce website and finally converting to a sale. The metaphor of a funnel is used to describe the anticipated decrease in numbers that occurs at each step of the process from getting traffic to the conversion of a sale or other action..

Of course,there are many things that can be done to increase conversions besides marketing. Increasing trust in the site, improving site navigation structure and content (text, images, video) and usability to reduce barriers to conversion.

Is it all about conversions? Probably, but it is not all about marketing.

What Facebook Thinks You Like

I came across this Chrome browser extension that allows you to see how Facebook collects your data.

It can only use data on what categories Facebook has placed you in (not identifiable information or cookies, for example) but the name of the category, the I.D. number Facebook gives it internally, some other subcategories and your logged reaction to the category.

There are so many questions, rumors and concerns about social media and the Internet concerning privacy and data collection that this seems very relevant. I know that amongst my own friends and students there is a lack of knowledge about what is collected and how it is collected when you’re online, but there are a lot of negative feelings about it.

Most people know that sites want to determine your ad preferences and use data and tracking to figure out which ads might be relevant and useful to you. They don’t do it to be nice to you – although if I have to see an ad I would rather it have some relevance – but because advertisers want to know their ads are getting to the correct people.

Your Facebook profile information and interactions with friend and businesses influences the ads you see. It is not so different from targeting ads from before the Internet Age. Demographic information—such as age, gender and location have always been important. But we voluntarily give so much more information (even if unconsciously) by our thousands of clicks and activities online that targeting is much more refined.




When you use the “What Facebook Thinks You Like” app offered by propublicasocial, you’ll see how your interests in people, travel, news etc. help determine the ads you will see.


Are You Ready for Generation Z?


As an educator, I have had a long interest in all the discussions of “generations” and their attitudes towards school, technology, media etc.  At NJIT, at the turn of the new century, we ran workshops and focus groups on teaching the Millennials. People would point to members of that generation, like Mark Zuckerberg, and say that these students would reject higher education and start their own companies in the hope of earning their own first billion dollars by the age of 23.

That didn’t happen, but they are a different generation of students than those I taught on the 1970s.

The Millennials are of somewhat less interest these days to educators as they age up (though there is still interest in them as consumers and people still discuss marketing to millennials) and attention is turning to the kids who follow them. Beside educators, they are of interest to market researchers, cultural observers and trend forecasters. Hello, Generation Z.

They are young. The oldest members are just out of high school and most of them are tweens and teens. But they will be the influencers of tomorrow. Marketers have an eye to the billions in spending power they hold. Can we figure them out now and build awareness and brand loyalty while they are young? Will there even be such a thing as brand loyalty when they hit their twenties?

The New York Times had a piece recently about Generation Z and those that came before them and according to some forecasters, they are the “next big retail disruptor.”

These generation labels are not really even agreed upon in the years they span or the descriptors used to label them. A millennial can be defined as a person reaching young adulthood around the year 2000. Demographers seem to like to use 15 year blocks of time.  That makes millennials probably born between 1980 and 1995, so they are about 22-35 years old now. These are my sons. They are out of college, in the workforce, marrying, buying homes and having children. They are important consumers.

Millennials grew up in the boom and relative peace of the 1990s, but they also saw our country crash on September 11 and financially crash in 2000 and again in 2008. The second half of their youth took place in an age of terrorism. They had computers as kids, though it might have been an Apple IIe with 5.25 inch and very floppy disks. They had a fledgling Internet and slow modems. They discovered social media at the age that Mark Zuckerberg thought they were ready (age 13, if they were playing by the rules). They saw many of the social media platforms they used disappear (FriendFeed, MySpace) and others, like Facebook make billions of dollars.

They were not digital natives for smartphones and tablets, though older generations assumed that they would take to it more readily.


Alex, second from right, with her book and phone and her modern family

The Times article says that Alex, the middle-child character on TVs Modern Family, is Gen Z. She just graduated high school and is conscientious, hard-working, self-describes as nerdy and is anxious and very concerned with her future. Her younger brother and slightly older sister are probably Gen Z too, but they don’t fit that description.

Following that 15-year block, they were born between 1995 and 2010 (some overlap of generations in the first and last years with that system).

You’ll find this generation also called the Post-Millennial, iGeneration, or (in the U.S.) the Homeland Generation. Generation Z is really the first generation that are digital natives. They were playing with their parents’ phones when they were in their car seat. There always was an Internet. Everyone uses social media. Even their parents use Facebook – which means it is time to use something else.

Who are the parents of Generation Z?  They were raised by Baby Boomers, like me, and the sometimes-forgotten Generation X. Gen X was that smaller in-between generation that was post-Vietnam and post-Watergate. There were a lot of latchkey kids growing up in the 1970s. They tried to give their kids more attention and, like most generations, a better childhood. They were concerned about schooling, foods and health. They wrote are read mommy blogs.

If you are wondering what happened to Gen Y – the demographic cohort between Generation X and Generation Z – they were relabeled the Millennials.

I think it is an unfortunate generalization by some marketers that Gen Z is seen as a group that you need to communicate to in 5 words, images and emojis. Does Generation Z have more awareness of their personal brand? I think that may be a safer generalization.

More important to note is that Gen Z  a generation more dominated by a Hispanic population. According to the Census Bureau, in the first 10 years of this century, the U.S. Hispanic population grew at four times the rate of the total population according to the Census Bureau. The number of Americans of mixed white and Asian descent grew by 87% and the number self-identifying as biracial white and black rose 134%. Gen Z has been hearing about same-sex marriages for a long time, and they grew up with an African-American president.

TV Alex’s extended family has a gay couple, a Hispanic step-grandmother who doesn’t look like anyone’s grandma, an adopted Asian, a working mom and a sensitive dad.

The Times article also notes that if you think overall about Gen Z and their concerns with privacy and about getting a good career and being middle or really more upper-middle-class, they don’t really look like Millennials. They probably look more like their grandparents’ generation.

That large demographic is known as the Silent Generation. They were born from the mid-1920s to the early 1940s. They were shaped by two world wars and the Great Depression. The younger ones grew up in the fifties and sixties with a Cold War, nuclear threats and lots of television.

There are no obvious answers to how to reach Generation Z, but these kids may want to start their own online company instead of working summers at Burger King. Remember that the Silent Generation was not only very job and career-focused but it was also the richest generation.

Is it too early to worry about the next generation of toddlers born since 2010? The oldest ones are entered kindergarten this fall.

This Generation Alpha (or whatever we decide to call them when we start over on the alphabet) is ready for virtual reality.

Marketers and educators, be prepared.


Web and Social Media Analytics

Google AnalyticsAnalytics are important is every business and organization. They always have been. Today’s world of “big data” has made them more important and has certainly given them wider use and more visibility.

With websites and social media accounts, the numbers (statistics, metrics, measures) you always hear about are hits, follows, likes, shares and reposts.  Every person using social media has become a part of others’ analytics – and probably follows their own numbers.

I don’t know of anyone who has a website or blog that doesn’t take a look at their hit counter and whatever data is being gathered. If you use WordPress, you get a suite of stats and analytics. But many users use other tools in addition. Google Analytics is another popular method of analyzing site traffic. I use and use their stats, and I use Google Analytics. Most of the time the numbers don’t agree. It’s not a small variation either. Have you heard the saying “A man with two watches never knows the correct time”?

I have read a number of explanations. For example, JavaScript based analytical tools, like Google Analytics, can never be completely accurate because many people have JavaScript blockers installed in their browsers. Some tools allow hits by the owner to be counted and some do not. I know that when I’m working on a site, updating and viewing it, that can amount to a few dozen “hits.”  That is why analytics will also sometime break out visitors versus unique visitors. The former is always bigger because the latter means that if I visit a site (or a site’s pages) 25 times today, that is one visitor.  Unique visitors may sound more accurate, but in some cases you would certainly want to know that your visitors are returning throughout the day (think of Facebook, Twitter or a news site) and visiting multiple pages.

That is why you’ll find articles with titles like “Is Your Social Media Content as Popular as You Think?

One of the buzziest terms out there now is “engagement.” Not a new word, just new to this new arena. Engagement means capturing and holding attention. As a teacher, I want to engage students and have interaction with them. I also want that to occur with this post and all my blogs and websites.

When we are talking about a business and profits, engagement changes. To, hits are good but engagement means all the things that lead to conversion and sales. Some critics of the aggressive online marketing we see now say that where engagement was once the journey, now it is the goal.

I am not a marketer, but I need to be aware of what is happening in the field, so I look at things like the content marketing goals in places such as the Content Marketing Institute reports.

“Likes” don’t necessarily mean a conversion or sale and thousands of views don’t mean a positive ROI. And yet, you still need to follow the numbers.

What did it mean that Twitter removed share counts from its widgets, buttons, and API? Are they telling us that the share count didn’t mean much? It didn’t count replies, quote tweets, variants of your URLs, or reflect that some people tweeting these URLs might have many more followers than others, so the share count was never an accurate measure of social engagement with your content.

Remember that analytics is not statistics, but what you do and learn from those statistics

YouTube only counts a view after approximately 30 seconds. That’s so that accidental views or bounces don’t get into the stats. You might also say that if 25% of your views were under 30 seconds that it is because your videos aren’t interesting – or at least they are not engaging in those first 30 seconds. YouTube analytics will tell you if someone watched 1, 2, 3, or all 4 minutes of your video and that is important to your analysis and further action.

Many of the “pro” tools are for a price and so is hiring someone to handle your analytics and marketing, but there are good free analytic tools to measure content effectiveness.

Uber Style

Uber gets some good reviews and some bad press. They are definitely disruptive and innovative and forward-thinking. They are currently looking closely at autonomous vehicles which may some day wipe out their fleet of cars with Uber drivers. That flips their entire business model.

That’s not unique. Look at Netflix. They started as a DVD service using the postal service. But they quickly starting flipping that to a streaming service and will eventually eliminate the less efficient physical media and physical delivery.

They released their app in 2010.  Über is a German word meaning “above” or “over” but Uber Technologies Inc. is an American multinational online transportation network company headquartered in San Francisco, California.

For many Uber users, it is the first app they have used for transactions. They offer a free first ride (up to $15) which gets you to download the app and give it a try. A literal test drive of the product.

For Uber, problem solving is at the core of what they want in an employee. Yes, they hire many people in traditional roles and use some traditional recruiting. But they have flipped a few things about hiring that we might learn from.

They are very lean. As they expand into new geographies, they use teams of only three.: a city General Manager (operations and strategy), a community manager (marketing on social media and local markets) and an operations manager (logistics).

They also have a strategy to hire local people (local intelligence) for marketing and operations.

In interviewing, they don’t use the typical behavioral questions. They focus on finding out how a candidate would respond to situations. Outperform the tricky part and solve an Uber situational problem and you’re a good prospect.