Hallmark- Unsung Innovation based on Trends

Hallmark- Unsung Innovation based on Trends

Here in late 2017, the biggest trends are: the 24 hour news cycle, animosity in broadcast and online media, fatigue from constant connection and interaction, international threats and our political climate. The holiday season is in the background struggling for attention.

How are people tuning out of this cacophony to get in the mood for the holidays?

The answer: Christmas movies!  And which channel has 75% share of the new movies in 2017?  If you have watched any TV since October, you’d know that it’s The Hallmark Channel.  THC has produced over 20 original movies for the 2017 Christmas season and has seen viewership grow by 6.7% per year since 2013.  THC is on track to surpass the 2016 season in viewership and its brand image is solidly wholesome.

Starting in October, THC runs seasonal programming with its successful “The Good Witch” series (no vampires!) and continues with “Countdown to Christmas” featuring original Hallmark-produced content.

Hallmark spent decades preparing to capture the benefits of these trends.  It had become a source of family oriented, holiday-themed programming especially popular in recent years.  Once only an ink and paper company, Hallmark expanded strategically in the 1970s with ornaments and cultural greeting cards and again in 1984 with its acquisition of Crayola drawing products.  The company moved into direct retail in 1986 and ecommerce in the mid-1990s.  Hallmark eCards was launched in 2005.

Hallmark capitalized on branded media content originally to support the core business and it now generates profits as a standalone business.  In 2001, the Hallmark Channel was launched.  The Hallmark Movie Channel was developed in 2004 which became Hallmark Movies and Mysteries in 2014.  This year, the Hallmark Drama channel was launched further leveraging the brand.

Many companies sponsored radio shows in the 1920s through the war years.  Serials featuring one company’s products appeared in 1928 on radio.  In 1952, Proctor and Gamble sponsored the first TV soap opera featuring one company (“The Guiding Light”).  But The Hallmark Hall of Fame was there first on Christmas Eve in 1951 sponsoring a made-for-TV opera, “Amahl and the Night Visitors.”

Written by Gian Carlo Menotti in less than two months and timed for a one hour TV slot, “Amahl” has become, probably, the most performed opera in history.

 

Hallmark wasn’t the first mover in sponsored media content, but it had learned to experiment with new media. The company was positioned to take advantage of the trend toward family friendly broadcast content and this year was ready to give the nation a place to rest and escape from the chaos.  A bit like the story of Amahl and Christmas itself.

Once just a card company, Hallmark followed market trends to expand its business and become a leader in content marketing which is now one of the hottest areas in all marketing.  And both the new video content and large library were ready for the current trend- streaming video!

Facebook’s Path To Communication Domination

Facebook’s Path To Communication Domination

Facebook shareholders should be cheering. And if you don’t own FB, you should be asking yourself why not. The company’s platform investments continue to draw users, and advertisers, in unprecedented numbers.

sms messaging is declining

With permission: Statista

People over 40 still might text. But for most younger people, messaging happens via FB Messenger or WhatsApp. Text messages have thus been declining in the USA. Internationally, where carriers still frequently charge for text messages, the use of both Facebook products dominates over texting. Both Facebook products now are leaders in internet usage.

And as their use grows, so do the ad dollars.

digital advertising now greater than tv

With permission: Statista

As this chart shows, in 2017 ad spending on digital outpaced money spent on TV ads. And TV spending, like print and radio, is flat to declining. While digital spending accelerates. And the big winner here is the platform getting the most eyeballs – which would be Facebook (and Google.)

Looking at the trends, Facebook investors should feel really good about future returns. And if you don’t own Facebook shares, why not?

4 Trends That Will Forever Change Media, Advertising And You In 2017 And Beyond

It’s been over a decade since the Internet transformed print media.

Very quickly the web’s ability to rapidly disseminate news, and articles, made newspapers and magazines obsolete. Along with their demise went the ability for advertisers to reach customers via print. What was once an “easy buy” for the auto or home section of a paper, or for magazines targeting your audience, simply disappeared. Due to very clear measuring tools, unlike print, Internet ads were far cheaper and more appealing to advertisers – so that’s where at least some of the money went.

In 2012 Google surpassed all print media in generating ad revenue. Source Statista courtesy of NewspaperDeathWatch.com http://newspaperdeathwatch.com/google-now-bigger-than-u-s-print-media-industry/

In 2012 Google surpassed all print media in generating ad revenue. Source Statista courtesy of NewspaperDeathWatch.com

While this trend was easy enough to predict, few expected the unanticipated consequences.

1. First was the trend to  automated ad buying. Instead of targeting the message to groups, programmatic buying tools started targeting individuals based upon how they navigated the web. The result was a trolling of web users, and ad placements in all kinds of crazy locations.

 Heaven help the poor soul who looks for a credenza without turning off cookies. The next week every site that person visits, whether it be a news site, a sports site, a hobby site – anywhere that is ad supported – will be ringed with ads for credenzas.  That these ads in no way connect to the content is completely lost.  Like a hawker who won’t stop chasing you down the street to buy his bad watches, the web surfer can’t avoid the onslaught of ads for a product he may well not even want.

2. Which led to the next unanticipated consequence, the rising trend of bad – and even fake – journalism.

Now anybody, without any credentials, could create their own web site and begin publishing anything they want.  The need for accuracy is no longer as important as the willingness to do whatever is necessary to obtain eyeballs.  Learning how to “go viral” with click-bait keywords and phrases became more critical than fact checking.  Because ads are bought by programs, the advertiser is no longer linked to the content or the publisher, leaving the world awash in an ocean of statements – some accurate and some not.  Thus, what were once ads that supported noteworthy journals like the New York Times now support activistpost.com.

3. The next big trend is the continuing rise of paid entertainment sites that are displacing broadcast and cable TV.

Netflix is now spending $6 billion per year on original content. According to SymphonyAM’s measurement of viewership, which includes streaming as well as time-shifted viewing, Netflix had the no. 1 most viewed show (Orange is the New Black) and three of the top four most viewed shows in 2016.

Increasingly, purchased streaming services (Netflix, Hulu, et.al.) are displacing broadcast and cable, making it harder for advertisers to reach their audience on TV. As Barry Diller, founder of Fox Broadcasting, said at the Consumer Electronics Show, people who can afford it will buy content – and most people will be able to afford it as prices keep dropping. Soon traditional advertisers will “be advertising to people who can’t afford your goods.”

4. And, lastly, there is the trend away from radio.

Radio historically had an audience of people who listened to their favorite programming at home or in their car.  But according to BuzzAngle that too is changing quickly.  Today the trend is to streaming audio programming, which jumped 82.6% in 2016, while downloading songs and albums dropped 15-24%. With Apple, Amazon and Google all entering the market, streaming audio is rapidly displacing real-time radio.

Declining free content will affect all consumers and advertisers.

Thus, the assault on advertisers which began with the demise of print continues. This will impact all consumers, as free content increasingly declines. Because of these trends, users will have a lot more options, but simultaneously they will have to be much more aware of the source of their content, and actively involved in selecting what they read, listen to and view. They can’t rely on the platforms (Facebook, etc.) to manage their content.  It will require each person select their sources.

Meanwhile, consumer goods companies and anyone who depends on advertising will have to change their success formulas due to these trends. Built-in audiences – ready made targets – are no longer a given. Costs of traditional advertising will go up, while its effectiveness will go down. As the old platforms (print, TV, radio) die off these companies will be forced to lean much, much heavier on social media (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) and sites like YouTube as the new platforms to push their product message to potential customers.

There will be big losers, and winners, due to these trends.

These market shifts will favor those who aggressively commit early to new communications approaches, and learn how to succeed. Those who dally too long in the old approach will lose awareness, and eventually market share. Lack of ad buying scale benefits, which once greatly favored the very large consumer goods companies (Kraft, P&G, Nestle, Coke, McDonalds) means it will be harder for large players to hold onto dominance. Meanwhile, the easy access and low cost of new platforms means more opportunities will exist for small market disrupters to emerge and quickly grow.

And these trends will impact the fortunes of media and tech companies for investors  The decline in print, radio and TV will continue, hurting companies in all three media. When Gannet tried to buy Tronc the banks balked at the price, killing the deal, fearing that forecasted revenues would not materialize.

Just as print distributors have died off, cable’s role as a programming distributor will decline as customers opt for bandwidth without buying programming. Thus trends put the growth prospects of companies such as Comcast and DirecTV/AT&T at peril, as well as their valuations.

Privatized content will benefit Netflix, Amazon and other original content creators. While traditionalists question the wisdom of spending so much on original content, it is clearly the trend and attracts customers.  And these trends will benefit streaming services that deliver paid content, like Apple, Amazon and Google. It will benefit social media networks (Facebook and Alphabet) who provide the new platforms for reaching audiences.

Media has changed dramatically from the business it was in 2000. And that change is accelerating. It will impact everyone, because we all are consumers, altering what we consume and how we consume it.  And it will change the role, placement and form of advertising as the platforms shift dramatically. So the question becomes, is your business (and your portfolio) ready?

This Christmas People Matter — For Buying Ads As Well As Gifts

‘Tis the season of holiday giving. We hunt for just the right gift, for just the right person, to make sure they know we care about them. This act of matching a gift to the person has tremendous importance, because it demonstrates care from the giver about the recipient.

Once advertising was like that. Marketers built brands with loving care. They worked very hard to know the target for their brand (and product) and they carefully crafted every nuance of the brand – imagery, typography, colors, images, sounds – even spokespeople (famous or created) to project that brand properly for the intended customers. We’ve seen great brand images over time, from Tony the Tiger promoting cereal to start your day to Ronald McDonald bringing a family together.

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Ad placement delivered the brand’s gift to the customer.

 And, once upon a time, how that brand was placed in front of targeted customers was every bit as crafted as the brand itself. Marketers worked with ad agencies to make sure newspaper, magazine, billboard location, radio show or TV program matched the brand. The brand was considered linked not just to the medium, but to the message that medium projected. Want to sell a muscle car, you promoted it via media focused on sports, DIY projects, men’s health – a positive connection between the media’s message/content and the advertiser’s goal for the brand.

And marketers knew that if they put their brand with the right media content, in front of their targets, it would lead to brand identification, brand enhancement, and sales growth. The objective wasn’t how many people saw the ads, but putting the ad in front of the right people, associated with the right content, to build on the brand’s value, and make the products more appealing to target buyers. Placement led to sales.

 Just like finding the right gift is important for the holidays, matching the gift to the recipient, finding the right ad placement was very important to the customer.  It was an act of diligence on the part of the advertiser to demonstrate to target customers “hey, I know you. I get where you’re coming from. I connect with you.”

Then the internet changed everything.

In the old days marketers really didn’t know how many people connected with their ads post-placement.  There were raw numbers on readers/listeners/viewers, but nothing specific. There was a lot of trust by the marketer that “owned” brand placed in working with the ad agencies to link the brand to the right media – the right content – so that brand would flourish and product sales would grow.

Yes, ads were measured for their appeal, how well they were remembered and audience coverage. But these metrics, and especially raw volume numbers, were each just one piece of how to craft the brand and deliver the message. It was reaching the right people that mattered, and that required people to make media decisions – and that required really  knowing the content tied to the ad being placed.

Marketers clearly understood that customers knew the product paid for those ads to promote that content. Customers linked the brand and the content, and thus it was important to make sure they matched. The content had to be right for the ad to have its intended affect.

But in the internet age, all that caring about customers, branding and links to the right content began disappearing. Instead, ad decisions were dominated by metrics – “how many placements did my ad receive?” “how many people saw my ad?” “how many people clicked on my ad?” “how many page views does this web site generate?” “how many page views does this writer/blogger generate?” The brand was being lost – the customer was being lost – in identifying how many people saw the ad, and whether or not they clicked on it, and where they went after the ad was presented on the web page.

And, the worst of all, “Do we have the information to know who this internet surfer is, follow them, and deliver ads to them as they cross pages and web sites?” At this point, content no longer mattered. If some page viewer was known to be looking for a desk, ads for desks would be placed on page after page the reader (potential customer) visited — regardless the content!

Marketers allowed their brands to be disconnected from the content entirely – ouch.

In the era of programmatic ad buying, content no longer matters. Follow the target, hammer on them with ads, even if the brand is positioned first next to  information on weather, and next on a site about buying inexpensive baby clothes, and next on a site about high end power tools.

The care and crafting of ad buying, which was crucial to brand building and demonstrating customers really mattered to those who created and crafted the products, and brand, was lost.

In 2016, we saw the ultimate in forgetting brand value while programmatically placing ads.  “Fake news” emerged. And marketers started to see their ads next to those fake (often invented and totally false) stories, just like they would be placed next to legitimate information.  The breakdown between content and brand was complete. In the unbridled pursuit of “eyeballs” brands were paying for the worst any media could offer – not journalism or legitimate content, but outright crap.

The election served to demonstrate this in an entirely new way. People went to websites, formerly considered “fringe,” such as Breitbart, to find out information on candidates and their supporters. And there would be ads. The ad was following the eyeballs, no longer the content. Family product ads, such as for cereal, were suddenly appearing next to content that was in no way associated with the marketer’s goal for that brand image.

And by being content independent, these programmatic ads were not just harming the brands – they supported bad journalism, and bad content.

“Click bait” became ever more important. With no people involved in ad buying, ads were no longer were tied to content so there was no “editorial” management of how the ad was placed. What those smart ad buyers once did, helping to build the brand, was lost. Now, any writer who could figure out how to use the right key words – and often outrageous content (of any kind) – was able to pull eyeballs. If s/he could pull eyeballs – regardless of the content – they pulled ads. And that pulled dollars.

Media brand value was dramatically lost – and journalism suffered.

In other words, you no longer needed the credibility of a brand like NBC, Wall Street Journal, ESPN, Forbes, etc. to obtain ads. Those old media brands worked hard to make edited content, reliable content, available to readers – and something a brand marketer could understand and use to build her customer base. But now all a publisher/producer needed was something that brought in eyeballs – and often the more outrageous, more salacious, more demeaning, more hostile, more ridiculous the content the more eyeballs were attracted (like watching a train wreck).

And the more this pulled ad money to non-journalistic, bad content, and away from legitimate content providers that focused on building their brand, the more it hurt journalism and marketing. What a decade ago seemed like a possible fear came true in 2016. Unharnessed media access by everyone was proven to lead to the growth of bad journalism as funds for good research, writing, editing and masthead curating was lost to those who demonstrated merely the ability to pull eyeballs.

Those who have benefited from this shift think programmatic ad buying is great. To them if people want to read from their site, look at their photos, cartoons and other images, or watch videos then these site owners claim there is no reason that advertisers should complain. “If people want this content, then why shouldn’t we be paid to create it. This is a monetized democracy of the media putting the customer in control.”

But that is simply not true. Customers link the brand message to the content on the screen. And there should be care taken to make sure that content and the brand message link. And that’s where programmatic ad buying is failing everyone.

Net/net, we need people involved in ad placement. Just as we care about the gifts we give at holidays, it takes a personal touch to make that selection work. It takes people to craft the delivery of ads.

Hopefully in 2017, the lessons of 2016 will become very clear, causing marketers and advertisers to rely far less on programmatic, and get people involved in ad placement once again. For the good of brands and for decent content.

Happy Holidays!

Trump Vs. Clinton: Old Marketing Vs. Modern Marketing Will Determine The Winner

Trump Vs. Clinton: Old Marketing Vs. Modern Marketing Will Determine The Winner

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump debates Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the third presidential debate. (Mark Ralston/Pool via AP)

Whoever wins tomorrow’s election, their success will have a lot to do with how they marketed their campaign. And in many ways, selling a candidate is not different from selling anything else.

Do you remember the “four Ps of marketing” from Marketing 101? They are product, price, place and promotion. Every newbie is taught not to overly rely on any one, and greatest success comes from a well planned use of all four.

Product: The candidates are about the same age and health. And while they represent very different parties, both have spent less time talking about what a great president they would be, and a lot more on what a terrible product the other candidate is. Message after message has denigrated the other, to the point where we hear most of the electorate is now less than happy with both.

Most marketers know that negative marketing is risky, because it tends to tar all products with similar negatives. Greatest sales happen when you convince people your product is superior in its own right – not just compared to alternatives. Barack Obama figured this out in both previous elections, and he was able to convince the majority of people he would be a good president. Unfortunately, in this election the competitive attacks have cancelled each other out, and neither candidate has a majority of people liking them. An opportunity lost by both candidates to make their product more appealing, and thus bringing out more people to vote for them based on policies and the core of how their presidency would make voters happy.

 Price:  One could say that the tax policies of Hillary Clinton make her a more expensive candidate than Donald Trump.  However, the long-term cost of the debt increase from Trump means that the price of his presidency will be costlier than Clinton. Let’s just be practical and say that neither candidate has positioned themselves as the candidate better for everyone’s pocketbook.

Again, an opportunity lost. Ronald Reagan did a superb job of positioning himself as being good for people’s pocketbooks, and it helped him unseat Jimmy Carter. Barack Obama made hay out of the economic crisis as Republican George Bush left office, helping him convince voters that he would be far better for their pocketbooks – via job creation – than his opponent.

 Place:  This is all about “get out the vote.” Here the advantage clearly goes to Clinton. Candidate Clinton has done a superb job of building a “machine” that has turned out a record number of Democrats to early vote.  And she has worked diligently with her party to make sure local support exists across the country to help take people to the polls, and encourage voting on election day.  By making sure her constituents make it to vote, she will likely do far better at collecting votes than her opponent.

Additionally, candidate Clinton is not only campaigning, but she has a two former presidents campaigning for her, a sitting first lady, a sitting vice president and her key opponent from the primaries. This breadth of support, canvasing across multiple states, further puts her message into voters ears right before the election, and encourages people to go vote for her tomorrow.  Her large fundraising, and ability to offer funds to down-ticket candidates, has helped make sure her message was clear at the local level.

On the other hand, candidate Trump is walking a nearly singular path, with precious little party support. While he swept the primaries, he has not built a strong machine to make sure that those beyond the party faithful – those who are undecided or independent – are going to make it to the voting booth to help him be elected.  It is one thing to excite people about your product, it is another to make sure people actually invest the resources to obtain it.

In Trump’s case the advertising has been relentless, but the local machine support to turn out registered party voters, and everyone else who might enjoy his candidacy, is quite weak. One reason candidate Trump keeps saying the election is “rigged” is because he’s now realizing he failed to put in place the distribution system to get his voters to the ballot box.

Further, those who are helping candidate Trump secure his message are few and far between.  Outside of family members there are few making the case to get out the vote. Despite two living former Republican presidents and one vice president available, none is helping him be elected.  Likewise, despite a large number of primary opponents, most of which pledged their support for whoever won the primary, there is only one (Chris Christie) that has been a notable advocate for candidate Trump.

And the party itself has not been mobilized to get out the vote for candidate Trump.  His personal wealth has allowed Trump to implement a credible campaign.  But his inability, or unwillingness, to raise lots of money to invest in down-ticket races has meant he has not garnered support from other candidates running for Congress, Senate, governorships, etc. to promote his message at a more local level.

For months we have been inundated with polls. But on election day it is not someone calling your house to hear for whom you might vote. Rather, people have to leave their houses, make time in their busy days and go to the election booth – then stand in line and vote. Mr. Trump has not done the sort of job one would expect for building the support necessary to make sure voters turn out for him.

Promotion: This might be where the two marketing programs most differ.

Candidate Trump has relied on advertising. Years ago marketing programs often relied on huge ad budgets to build a brand. Companies quickly learned that if you spent a lot on advertising you could drown out a competitive message, and bring your brand to the forefront. Simply on the basis of a big ad spend, heavily reliant on television, success was once possible. And the Trump campaign has used advertising like a soap company launching a new brand. Lots and lots and lots of advertising.

Notably, there has been little use of digital, internet and mobile advertising. Little use of social media to build trends and increase brand effectiveness. The candidate himself has gone almost entirely against modern thinking about social, mobile and internet marketing by unleashing tweets which have been simultaneously shocking, and often opposed to the brand message the advertising set out to create.  While entertaining, this has not met even the minimum standards of modern marketing.

Candidate Clinton has matched candidate Trump in television and other traditional media advertising.  Thus, her candidacy has not been overwhelmed by competitive spending  While most people are likely tired of the ads from both candidates, it is clear that when it comes to traditional ad programs Clinton’s marketing has met the competitive level necessary to neutralize any possible Trump advantage.

But internet, mobile and social marketing has been much more successful for Clinton. Barack Obama did a splendid job of using these tools to mobilize young and minority voters in previous elections. This sort of marketing often touches people much closer, and has a greater “one-on-one” appeal, even if it is a modified “one-to-many.” And the Clinton campaign has lifted those guidelines, perhaps not as effectively as the Obama campaigns, to convert Sanders constituents to her as well as independents and undecideds.

The Trump campaign relied almost wholly on advertising, and an effort at achieving greater public relations via outrageous messaging. This has kept the candidate squarely in the public eye. But every marketer will tell you that it is not possible to build high commitment for your product with advertising alone. It takes an ability to touch people on a more personal, closer to home basis. It is critical now, more than for many years, to create identification with local issues within the home and workplace, and often reinforce social relationships.

At this, the Trump campaign has been out of step with modern marketing, and overly reliant on tools that were more effective in the ’80s and ’90s. Thus his appeal outside of European heritage, Christian, white and mostly male voter groups has struggled.

The Clinton campaign’s use of these tools has spread her base considerably wider. She has been able to connect with minorities, women, people of color, people of different religions and other groups much more effectively. In tune with demographic trends in America, this greatly enhances her opportunity to obtain the largest share of market. Tied to a superior placement campaign (to get out the vote,) this use of modern tools gives her a significant advantage.

These two campaigns have lessons for all business leaders. Too often we rely on product alone to think we will succeed. But product is only part of successfully luring buyers. You also have to make sure your product is in the right place, accessible to the most people, at time of purchase.

And today budget is only a part of good promotion, because effective use of social, mobile and internet marketing tools can help you connect with your targets more closely, and more personally. New promotion tools can expand your base, identify new target markets, develop strengths in niche groups and achieve greater loyalty at lower cost.

In history, there are almost no great campaigns that were won just because a product was superior.  Nor because a product was cheaper. And despite some great ad lines (“Where’s the beef?” or “Plop, plop, fizz, fizz oh what a relief it is”) advertising has limited ability to actually make a product successful.  Those that win build a marketing program using all four Ps most effectively to build on trends and excite customers.