Consumer reviews are playing an increasingly important role in buying behavior. This means that traditional marketing communication vehicles are likely to be less influential. As a nice supplement to this article (“What Do You Think? Companies are learning to make the most out of customers’ online reviews of their products,” The Wall Street Journal, October 12, 2009), pair it with the results of a July 2009 Nielsen survey that asked consumers how much they trust various sources of information. As this survey makes clear, 70% of consumers trust online opinions from people they don’t know. I copied this table (right click on graphic, choose “copy image”) and pasted it into my PowerPoints (right click on the slide and choose “Paste”). Before showing the results, I asked students which sources of information they trusted the most and the least – choosing a set of five from this list. The article and survey can lead into discussions about what marketing managers can do with consumer reviews. For a related story, see “Amazon: Turning Consumer Opinions into Gold,” (BusinessWeek.com, October 15, 2009).
Here’s another technology product that’s moving quickly from the market introduction to the market growth stage of the product life cycle. The first Kindle (Amazon’s popular e-book reader) was released on November 19, 2007. Until I read this article (“Attack of the Kindle Killers: The Boom in New E-Readers,” Time, October 11, 2009), I did not know there were so many competing e-readers – either on the market or due out shortly. The article includes a slide show with nine different readers. Only the Kindle and Sony seem to get significant publicity, but that may change if one of these other readers catches on. Might be fun to show the slide show to class and ask students to develop a marketing strategy for one of the less well-known readers.
This short article notes Safeway’s use of Facebook as a way to distribute coupons (“Safeway Delivers Facebook Users Exclusive Coupons,” Supermarket News, October 9, 2009). Many companies are trying to figure out how to use social media like Facebook. I was surprised to see that nearly 30,000 “fans” on Safeway’s Facebook page (note – now more than 30,000).
Here’s another example of a marketer experimenting with social media. This article (“Rubbermaid Social Media Effort Thinks Inside the Container,” ClickZ, October 8, 2009) describes how Rubbermaid gave a popular blogger (Leanne Ely – a nutritionist and author) a kitchen makeover. Ely then blogged about the makeover experience and was able to offer Rubbermaid coupons to her 50,000 readers. The article provides links to Ely’s blog and specific results of downloaded coupons. This example shows how easy it is to measure results from certain types of online promotions.
This article deals with a very interesting legal and ethical issue with social media (“U.S. Seeks to Restrict Gift Giving to Bloggers,” The Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2009, subscription required – don’t subscribe? click here). The government continues to try to stay ahead of technology and promotion. As we have all seen, online reviews and bloggers are having an increasing influence on consumer decision-making. Now bloggers have to disclose if they receive any money or free products from a marketer.
Looking for some multimedia to enhance the in-class (or out-of-class) experience? Here are three options.
- You could assign the students to listen to the NPR radio coverage of this issue in their story “FTC: Bloggers Must Disclose Paid Endorsements.”
- Or have students check out (or show in class) the SocialSpark website, which calls itself “a blog marketing network that connects advertisers with bloggers through an online marketplace.”
- Finally, there is a WSJ.com video (see below) where some experts discuss the challenges of actually enforcing this law.
You could show some of these in class and discuss the ethics involved. It might be interesting to pose the question: If more bloggers shill for marketers, does this source of information lose credibility with consumers?