Saturday, November 7, 2009

I Think Before I Spend

It seems that every week there's more relevant data released about increased coupon usage in the US (and occasionally internationally) due to the economy

What I'm more interested in are leading indicators of what's going to happen after the eventual recovery.  Will this new found value consciousness continue?  What generational impact does this severe downturn have on future generations?  Since 80% of us were born after World War II, is this the Great Depression of our generation?

John Gerzema, Chief Insights Officer for Young & Rubicam, in his talk about the post-crisis consumer which he calls "The Great Unwind", shows very impressive data and arguments that is a must watch if you want to understand where consumerism is headed.  The good news is that consumerism isn't dead.  It's just changing from mindless to mindful and "value driven".

In addition here's some more data and evidence that indicates the past 18 months may have permanent impact of how consumers shop and thus how brands must market:

TNS Retail Forward research shows that 95% of Americans have modified their shopping behavior in some way in reaction to the recession.

Data Monitor's July report indicated that 56% of US consumers feel that their lifestyle has been impacted by the recession. Suddenly, they have been forced to re-evaluate their spending, including where they do their grocery shopping as well as their in-store choices.

44% of US shoppers are frequent buyers of private label products. Many are now likely to consider private label products to be on a par, if not better than market leading brands across sectors

For 72% of US shoppers, lower prices have a high amount of influence over where people do their shopping. Nevertheless, the quality of products sold similar influence over their (changeable) grocery shopping destinations. This is symptomatic of the intensifying value-consciousness across FMCG product sectors.

In May, 50-year old financial planning firm, First Command Financial Services' Behavior Index research revealed that more Americans have permanently reduced spending "pointing to a more frugal consumer environment after the recession is over" and is "about the birth of a new way of life" said Command Financial Services CEO, Scott Spiker.  

Consistent with Gerzema's data that shows the turnaround of Americans' saving rate, First Command data indicates that the "feel good" has shifted from consumption to "cutting spending and saving more not just because they have to but because it makes them feel better".  

In First Command's July update, Spiker said that while financial attitudes and behaviors are rebounding from the Fall 2008 lows, "Americans are turning away from unchecked consumerism and embracing the traditional values of personal responsibility and self-reliance"

Finally, First Command's October update continues to indicate spending limitationse with "Fifty seven percent of survey respondents say(ing) they plan to spend less on holiday gifts again this year. Consumers say they will set a maximum dollar amount on gifts (42 percent), give fewer gifts to each person (41 percent) and give gifts to fewer people (39 percent).

I can see this in my own spending and those of my son, our friends and our neighbors.   I truly believe that we as a society will be much more value conscious going forward.  Not that we won't spend.  We'll just spend in a more thoughtful way with brands and retailers that match our thinking.

What are YOU thinking?


Saturday, September 5, 2009

Who's Using Coupons? The Affluent.

Nielsen research has just released data that may surprise some, but not those of us that work within the Coupon industry:

Of the 1.6 billion coupons were redeemed in the first half of 2009 (an increase of 23% YOY), more affluent consumers ($70k+) are considered the super heavy coupon users.

As one would expect, larger households with a female head of household 54 years old and younger are serious coupon users.

Consumers living in affluent suburban areas (defined as including annual income of over $94k living in a suburban ring of metropolitan areas) are also serious coupon users. Nielsen's defined "middle class metropolitan fringes and secondary cities with single family homes & a mix of while & blue collar jobs" also falls into the serious coupon user category.

As we would expect, the recession has driven lighter coupon users in 2008 to become heavier users in 2009.

While this data is from Nielsen's Homescan Panel and typically focuses on consumer packaged good purchases, I would argue that this trend crosses to all coupons, including those for non-grocery purchases and online purchases.

Todd Hale, Nielsen's Senior Vice President for Consumer & Shopper Insights, commented on the data, "while some might think that the fervent coupon clippers are only interested in a good deal, our research shows that this was the only group to show an INCREASE in overall purchases, with or without a coupon, suggesting real benefits to companies deploying coupons in their marketing mix".

"Coupons are back in vogue"

Time Magazine's "Cheapskate Blog" covers this data summarizing it by saying that people who make "decent money" are big time coupon users.

This data confirms what I've observed in the 12 years I've been involved in the coupon industry. What's surprising to me is the number of businesses that either don't understand the power of coupons and how to deploy a strategy around them to significantly grow their sales, or feel that offering a "coupon" has a negative impact to their image.

Want to read more about coupons? Here are all the articles & blog posts that I've found of interest this year.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

What was the most popular coupon search this summer? The answer may surprise you.

Google upgraded it’s Search trends tool, Google Insights for Search (beta) this week. You can read all about it here.

As a coupon marketer I played around with the search terms “Coupons”, “Printable Coupons” and “Online Coupons” and some interesting and not so interesting data.

First the not so:

The search trend for "coupons" are up. We know that. It's been well documented.

Here’s what I did find of interest:

Searching for “coupons” surges on Saturdays. Consistently. Except for holiday weekends (such as the 4th of July).

Why Saturday? Because people have more time to search for what is arguably a primarily personal consumer oriented term? Is it because of the specific type of coupon they’re looking for? Some might suggest it's in preparation for grocery shopping over the weekend. Sunday is traditionally when Grocery coupons arrive in the Sunday newspaper as Free Standing Inserts.

But, after top terms “Printable Coupons”, “Free Coupons” and “Online Coupons”, Google Insights shows the specific sector of top searches to be: “Car Rental Coupons” followed by “Restaurant Coupons”, “Pizza Hut Coupons” and then “Food Coupons”.

So why are “Car Rental” coupons been the most popular coupon search?

Ah, the data I was looking at is for the past 90 days. Summertime! Vacations. Fly-in and rent a car.

Car rental coupons popularity as a search term has increased in parallel with coupon searches in general over the past 20 months (January 2008-August 2009) but you can obvious see the impact of vacation season, as in the summer of 2008, searches dropped off by 33% the 2nd week of August and we’ve seen a similar trend this year as we passed the 2nd week of August and presumably summer vacation season has ended and school is about to start up again.

There are many more insights (no pun) in just my industry of interest that seasonality and geography play into the data. I’ll explore this in future posts.

For the time being I think it’s significant to focus on the reasons behind the weekend surge of activity (in general - not just car rental coupon searches) and what this means for traditional coupon & promotional marketing.

For what the numbers in the charts mean, click here. This is US-only data.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

We are living through "the largest increase in expressive capability in human history"!

This video is a must watch! Capture the essence of the message and you get what's going on!

This not really about Twitter but the sea-change occurring in media and messaging!


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

I get my news from Twitter. Do you?

The reaction to the elections in Iran has had me thinking & talking with my colleagues about yet another tipping point in the transformation of communication & news and the impact of social media, especially Twitter.

With Twitter's new found mainstream awareness, the impact this tool is having on the news out of Iran is exposing its capabilities to a new and larger audience. As some of us learned about its power from the US Airways landing on the Hudson River or the terrorist attack on the Taj Mahal Palace hotel in Mumbai, the world is hearing about a potential revolution in a high profile country primarily from citizens on the ground in Tehran. Well, at least until they were cut off.

A much more articulate explanation of what I've been feeling and seeing can be found in a wonderful post from Brian Solis of TechCrunch who covered a panel at the 140 Characters Conference (#140conf) in New York this week that included Rick Sanchez from CNN and Ann Curry from NBC among others.

Besides the title of the post, "Is Twitter the CNN of the New Media Generation", the salient points I got out of it:

  • "The pursuit of 'now' is conditioning us to expect information as it happens, whether it's accurate or developing"

  • News media may be physically and financially constrained in its ability to evolve and adapt in "Twitter Time"

  • Mainstream media is not covering the world fast enough

  • Media has to figure out how to monetize new (information streams) and platforms

  • As futurist Paul Saffo said: “News doesn’t break, it tweets.”

It's a long post...but well worth the read. Here it is.

UPDATED Additional Reading: Q&A with Clay Shirky on Twitter and Iran

..and the other point of view weighs in from
Business Week. "Iran's Twitter Revolution? Maybe not yet"


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Twitter makes cover of Time Magazine

Fresh from the founders making the Time Top 100 last month, Twitter is on the cover of Time Magazine

I found this portion of the coverage the most interesting: 10 Ways Twitter Will Change American Business.

For my "techie" friends and readers, there isn't anything really new here (although always good to get different perspectives on use).

For my "newbie" friends & readers who would like a comprehensive overview of this game changing icon of real time internet messaging, it's worth reading from the link, or even BUYING the magazine from a newsstand!


Sunday, May 3, 2009

Twitter - "How to" for newbies...

Thank you for those of you who answered the survey I posted on 4/19.

As a follow up to that post, I've been looking for the ultimate -- simple but thorough -- explanation of Twitter. Click Here to review an excellent slide presentation by an Assistant Professor of Communication at St. Edward's University

You can learn more about Corrinne & her students here.

And if you want to have some fun, here's the Twitter song!


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Silicon Valley Takeaways

I spent this past week in the Bay Area (San Francisco & Silicon Valley), spending half a day walking the expo hall at ad:Tech, a full day with a vertical ad network and various meetings with an online couponing company, a proximity marketing company, a printer ink refill franchisor, attended a "Tweet-Up" and had lunch with mobile marketing/local directional media expert. Interspersed with all this was watching some of local Bay Area news and absorbing my surroundings.

Besides acknowledging the fabulous weather & wonderful scenery, here are my Top 10 Takeaways (not in any particular order):

10. The Information coming through the Internet Fire Hose is overwhelming & needs advanced filtering

9. Not everyone in Silicon Valley is using Twitter

8. Traditional media is accelerating its efforts to figure out how to leverage all the new ways to communicate and advertise. Targeting & Transparency will win the day.

7. Most people in downtown SF walk with their heads down staring at their mobile device only looking up at street corners & when an impending pedestrian on pedestrian collision seems imminent.

6. I love coffee but seem to love it even more when there's coffee on every corner

5. There are a lot of new digital companies (displaying at ad:Tech) with solutions looking for problems with low odds of finding them.

4. Scale is truly a fleeting commodity

3. The out of work, under employed, laid off people and smart recent college graduates looking for work out there is nearly epidemic.

2. Proximity marketing has an incredible future as more people wear their Bluetooth devices more often.

1. Tweet-Up = A New Social Norm/Marketing Opportunity


Sunday, April 19, 2009

OK, So there's LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook - Now what?

I had dinner Friday Night with some very close friends/co-workers who know my passion for new technology but aren't very focused on it themselves. I found myself in a discussion about social media, specifically LinkedIn, Twitter & lastly Facebook. Wanting to learn more, they asked me if I'd do a "class" on how to "productively" use LinkedIn and help them understand why Twitter has become a phenomenon (the noise about @aplusk vs. @CNN has bubbled it up to the mainstream this week).

It got me thinking about other friends & co-workers who have casually sought my help in the past & might want some instruction on how to use these new social tools. Sure, if you troll the Internet enough, you will find lots of suggestions, how-to's, tips, tricks, etc. But, how do you filter it down to a level that is relevant for US -- i.e. "seasoned" adults, parents & professionals - who aren't digitally savvy or have the time to get there - but want to learn?

So I'm thinking there's an opportunity for me to share what I know and help friends and colleagues translate this new technology into usage that is truly valuable.

If you think so too, would you mind giving me some input. Either complete this quick 10 question survey, or leave me a comment.

Thank you!



Saturday, April 11, 2009

News of this week

In my ongoing assertion that the velocity of the digital inflection point is increasing, here's some more news of the week that I found of interest:

  • Facebook announces 200 million members If they were a country they'd be the 4th largest on the planet.
  • Apple's iTunes iPhone/iPod App Store has its 1 billionth application downloaded today and Netflix delivered its 2 billionth movie on April 1st. It took them 8 years to deliver their first billion and just over two years to get the 2nd.
  • CBS's March Madness Online Streaming traffic was up 75% over last year. 7.5 million unique users compared to 4.7 million last year and 1.8 million in 2007.
  • The NFL is using "Ghost" Facebook accounts to gain personal intelligence about potential draft choice's. Scary! Who else is spying on you?

Well maybe Homer has nothing to do with it, but his face on a stamp that will cost another penny is a sign of the time, no?

What do you think?


Friday, April 3, 2009

News of the Week - What does it all mean?

I found the news of the week to really be a sign of the times....

  • 1 million Skype iPhone application downloads in 48 hours - story
  • The parent company of Verizon's Yellow Pages, Idearc, files for voluntary bankruptcy
  • President Obama gave the Queen of England an iPod
  • Twitter's co-founder, Biz Stone, appeared on the Colbert Report
  • Google's making money from Twitter & rumored to want to buy it.
  • 56% of the opening weekend box office revenue of Aliens vs. Monsters came from theatres showing it in 3-D - costing $2-4 more per ticket - story
  • 45% drop in tech job availability on tech job board - - story
  • The Boston Globe threatens to shut down
And lastly, to round out the week, Robert Reich, posts a blog after the March unemployment numbers were released suggesting unemployed and underemployed is now 1 in 6 Americans and we are in a depression (albeit not nearly the "Great Depression").

I'm not sure yet what it all means but it's surely a clear indication of massive change we, and our children, need to aggressively deal with!


Saturday, March 14, 2009

Unthinkable thoughts - without Newspapers, you won't know

The original concept of this blog was to speak to people my age or older who are intrigued by digital technology but looking for someone to translate it into terms they can relate to. We'll be getting posts to that goal up on the blog in the not to distant future.

In the meantime, I read a blog post today written by someone I don't know. But should. His name is Clay Shirky & I was tipped to it by a Twitter tweet. Clay put into perspective something I have been trying to understand & articulate for a while now. What is the future of newspapers?

Tim O'Reilly explains why Clay was successful communicating this thought as well as gives some background on who Clay is.

I work for a division of a newspaper company. Three years ago I let my newspaper subscription lapse to see what life would be like without my morning paper. After about six months, I resubscribed for the following reasons:

  1. I missed the local local news & sports

  2. I missed the advertising

  3. I missed the perspective of a couple of columnists

  4. I couldn't engage in conversations at the office when a friend would mention "something I saw in the paper"

  5. The online newspaper form factor (of my local paper) sucked

  6. The newspaper made me a resubscribe offer I couldn't refuse ($7 per month)

As I read Clay's blog post, I agreed with his points about how we are living through a tunnel of revolution where existing media business models will break and we don't have a clear understanding of what that light is were racing towards at the end of the tunnel , how far away it is or how fast it's coming at us. But I also thought about the reasons I resubscribed to my paper (and have continued to subscribe ever since).

If I work at it, I can find solutions to reason #1 and #3 by going online. #5 is pretty much overcome by my personalized online newspaper - Google Reader (more on that in a future blog post).

The key components for me are #2 and #4. My friends & co-workers read the paper and I either need to do the same, not join the conversation, or find new friends. But of all the reasons I signed up for again, it was for the advertising.

I remember an ad campaign many years ago designed to promote radio advertising. The message was "Without Advertising, you won't know".

Without a newspaper, I don't know. Here's an example from just today.... I've been wanting to get rid of cans of old paint and chemicals that have cluttered my garage for a couple of years. There was a County-sponsored hazardous recyclables drop-off today not far from my house. Without their ad (in the local local section of the paper yesterday), I wouldn't have known. I'm sure we all have had numerous situations where an ad caught our attention and helped us make a smart buying decision.

In addition I look forward to my Sunday FSIs (Free Standing Inserts) from Best Buy, CompUSA, Staples, Office Depot & the others not to mention the coupons. Its the advertising - from a consumer's perspective - that is not addressed in Clay's terrific blog post and it's that aspect of all this that needs to be addressed. Google "Sponsored Links' on search results & website banner ads seem to me to be much more difficult to execute for an advertiser than simply placing their ad in your local newspaper -- if there's anyone out there to read it. At the same time, as a consumer I'm not sure I would have known about the paint drop-off without my paper and that ad.

All that said, you have to agree with Clay's point about journalism not being dead, it's just journalism "on paper" that's getting its last rites. But what about the ads? I want to "know".

Do you subscribe/read your daily newspaper? Why?


Sunday, February 1, 2009

My New Blog

I've been blogging for nearly 4 years now primarily to keep friends and family up-to-date on hurricane activity here in Florida.

It began with emails I started sending to a short list of recipients in
2004 when Florida was threatened by and/or hit by Charley, Francis and Jeanne along with Ivan which hit Gulf Shores, Alabama but had collateral damage in the Florida panhandle. I wanted to keep them up-to-date on how we were dealing with the threats, with a bit of humor thrown in, to ease the growing tension. 215 posts later, that blog has evolved into not only a diary of my observations, but some of the more important pieces of the considerable press hurricanes and their impact on Florida has received since that memorable season 5 years ago.

This blog will speak to my professional passions focused on the tremendous digital sea change we are experiencing and how it is affecting our lives, our parents' lives, and our children's lives.....

....and what you can do with it....

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