My Views on Spotify

Image representing Spotify as depicted in Crun...

So the news that Spotify is available here in the United States is old, however I still thought I would share what my views on the service is.  About 1.5 months ago I was invited to join Spotify prior to it being available to everyone.  I really like the fact that it is very similar to iTunes in the page layout and functionality.  It is also good because you can find just about any artist on there and you can listen to an artist’s entire album for free!  There are obviously ads associated with the free service and it does limit you to 10 hours per month.  If you wish to listen to it more than that you’ll need to pay for a monthly subscription.

For me, I will never purchase a monthly subscription to Spotify.  While I am a huge music fan I honestly do not purchase enough music to justify the monthly subscription price. For me it is easiest to just preview all the songs using Spotify, GrooveShark, or YouTube, and then if I really like them I buy them on iTunes.  Call me thrifty….  :)

On the other hand, a Spotify subscription is great for those who purchase a lot of music on a monthly basis.  For these types you just have a monthly fee and can access your music from anywhere.  One thing I am skeptical of though is after you have paid your monthly subscription, for let’s say a year, and you then cancel your membership, I am pretty sure you will have nothing to show for it.  While you will still have your playlists, you will not have any downloaded music with which you can do as you wish.  If someone knows more about this, please leave a comment!

Overall, I think Spotify is the music version of Netflix, a premium subscription is great if you listen to a ton of music and can justify the monthly cost; not that it is very expensive, but still.

Effective Music Marketing

Music is something that most of us have been listening to ever since we were a child.  There are certain songs that bring back certain memories every time we hear them.  Maybe these memories can be something as simple as the person who introduced you to the song, or even a song that describes the bond you have with someone else.  For these reasons, music is very important to many people and can actually be a very important piece of an effective marketing campaign.

A very common music marketing method is in retail stores.  You know those stores that play obnoxiously loud music?  Well, there is a reason for it.  They want you to hear it.  The reasoning goes as follows.  If you hear a song while having some kind of experience or in a certain atmosphere (either good or bad), when you hear that song later down the road, whether you actually realize it or not, you can actually have a mental recall of the first time you heard that song and thus bringing you back to that experience in the store, and hopefully increasing the chance of “brand recall.”

The same idea goes for Christmas carols.  When you hear your favorites, it most likely brings back memories of the holiday season from your childhood.  Feelings that are yours, often emotional, that you relate to.  If this Christmas carol is playing in a store, you may actually be more willing to buy something because inside you feel the store can now “relate” to you.

The power of music is incredible and with the 2012 Olympics less than one year away I would like to share a very effective piece of music marketing.  The 1984 Olympic Theme by John Williams.  This particular piece is so great because it stirs personal feelings of national pride, strengths, motivation, and achievement.  And the best part, there aren’t even lyrics!

Why I Love & Hate Twitter’s Trending Topics

Image representing Twitter as depicted in Crun...

For those of you who are non-Tweeters, Twitter has a feature that lists the most frequent words or #hashtags at a given time.  These so-called  Trending Topics can be quite useful but can often times harmful.  Let’s break it down.

Let’s begin with the good things:

  1. Provide a snapshot view of the current things going on
  2. You can select which geographic area’s topics you would like to view (Worldwide, Your country, & City Specific)
  3. Provide an excellent way to find out breaking news before the media can even report it (This is actually how I found out about the death of (Amy Winehouse)
  4. Is an excellent way for marketers to promote their product or service
Now, the ugly side of Trending Topics:
  1. The best way for rumors to be spread (i.e. false celebrity deaths or other news)
  2. Trending prejudice (i.e. #PearlHarbor when Japan was defeating the US team during the women’s World Cup)
  3. People adding a trending topic to their tweet that isn’t relevant – SO ANNOYING!
While I enjoy Trending Topics, I feel like there many misguided people in the Twitterverse that just do not understand when it’s appropriate to use #hashtags.  For those you who are guilty of this, let’s keep it classy people!  Leave the spam, prejudice, and rumors in your mind!

Who Will Be the Next MySpace?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

This last week I found myself consumed with Google+; “Google’s answer to Facebook.”  With all of the hype about this new platform, the first question that came to mind was, ‘who will be the next MySpace ?”

As many of us know, MySpace actually used to be cool.  After all, Tila Tequila actually became a celebrity after becoming the first person to have one-million friends.  And what ever happened to hi5 and all those other competing platforms?  Yep, they died.  With the advent of Facebook, it became clear that when there are multiple platforms that do the same thing, people prefer only one.

Today we have Facebook and a brand new competitor, Google+.  So far, my Google+ experience has been really good.  I don’t feel that I am being constantly bombarded by ads and it’s a network with, seriously, only my friends.  The Circles feature is amazing as well.  It allows you to easily place your friends into different categories which you can then utilize to target your status updates or filter your news feed.  (Much easier than Facebook’s “Lists” feature)

Now let’s go back to 2004 when only a select  few of us on certain college campuses were introduced to Facebook.  Facebook was Da Bomb!  The main appeal being that you could connect with (or stalk) those attractive people from your classes that you had secretly being watching… the whole time.  OK, so it was cool that you got to keep up with what your friends were doing as well.  Facebook was exclusive and downright entertaining.  Before we knew it, more colleges across the country and around the world were connected and it was so easy to stay in touch with all our college friends.  That is, until they made it open to everyone, including business.

Don’t get me wrong.  I consider myself a social media pro and really do think it is a powerful tool for business.  The biggest issue here is that many businesses have been doing it all wrong.  People did not join Facebook to be advertised to.  It is very important for businesses to remember this.  I personally think Google is aware of this as well.  After all, more people than ever before are in protective mode, with their privacy settings in hand, now that we have invasive games and apps that harvest and sell personal information.  When a consumer is in doubt, opportunity for competition thrives.  It just so happens that Google+ is there.

So who will win?  While many features of Google+ are still being rolled out, it will be interesting to see if they provide a way for businesses to engage with their audience in an un-intrusive, nonchalant manner.  If they can do this, and keep consumers feeling safe, Google+ will have a shot.  After all, we all know that since these platforms are so similar nobody wants to maintain both.  One will ultimately die.  (Keeping my fingers crossed it will be Facebook)

The Small Town Experience

View north along Main Street in downtown Pendl...

Downtown Pendleton

This last week I took a short trip down the road to Pendleton, OR to visit my family.  OK, so the trip isn’t that short (actually is 300 miles) and I am still going to be here a few more days.  Since I am currently looking for a new career opportunity, I have had a bit more time on my hands and thought, ‘what the heck, I may as well go visit.’  So far it has been pretty good and I have been able to meet up with a few close friends that I still have here.

Pendleton is approximately 16,000 people.  A pretty small town.  With that comes good things and bad things.  The good things are: it is a safe community, it’s really laid back, and people are generally pretty friendly.  The bad thing however is that with a small town, you practically know EVERYONE.

Being out of Pendleton for approximately 7 years now has let’s just say liberalized me a bit and I am much more used to being “lost in the crowd” in larger places.  To be completely honest, it is pretty nice to be incognito every so often.  I mean, here in Pendleton, let’s just say you go buy some beer; before you get home, the rest of your family practically knows.  Why you ask?  Well, most likely it was your church youth group leader from back in the day, that now has a part-time job at the grocery store.  A God-fearing soul like myself should not be buying such things after-all.

So, that was  bit of an exaggeration.  But at least you get my point.  Today my friend Megan and I went downtown to a restaurant we had never been to before.  While we were there, there was a total of 10 people that we knew.  YES, TEN!  And remember, I have not been living in Pendleton for 7 years!  After this much time it brings all kinds of awkward feelings and situations… ‘Hi, Mrs. Math teacher from my sophomore year of high school (that probably doesn’t remember me…. or DOES she!)’ Or it’s one of those thoughts… ‘Oh crap, look who just walked in, we must leave….’  Let’s just say it was a good thing we each had a beer in hand!

Both tonight and tomorrow night will include trips to the local “Saloon” where I am sure I will run into at least half of my high school class.  This will be entertaining to say the least!

Letting Down-Time Devalue Your Business

A photo of a cup of coffee.

Image via Wikipedia

Imagine yourself; you are walking through the doors of that play you’ve been excited to see all week.  You’ve read rave reviews, read the story, and have high-expectations.  You take your seat, the theater lights dim, and the large red curtain with gold trim begins to rise.  Next, you see the actor appear on stage; dressed just as you had imagined.  Perfect costume, make-up, and stature.  You know this play so well.  The actor finishes his first paragraph of dialogue…. Then,  out of nowhere, the lights flash on with the curtain still up.  You hear the producer give feedback to the actor while stage-hands begin re-setting the stage.  Wait… WHAT?!  That was not what you expected! Are you at a rehearsal?  Nope, just another purchase where you didn’t get what you paid for.

What you’re about to read may seem like an extreme comparison, however this is exactly how I felt while visiting a well-known coffee chain with my mother this afternoon.

From my many experiences with this chain, lines are always out the door and the employees have their game-faces on in the mornings.  After all, it is their job to be bright, perky, and help us wake up; right?  Well, this afternoon I had a completely different experience.  Walking in, everything was normal.  We were politely greeted and we placed our order.  Once we picked-up our coffee and sat down everything changed.  To my left, an employee was tearing down promotional materials and constructing the new display.  This process involved cardboard boxes scattered everywhere and a very cluttered atmosphere.   In addition to this, behind me was a manager and an employee discussing the employee’s performance and duties.  WHAT?! Yes, that just happened.  It was the slower pace and downtime that led to the employees not taking things as seriously as they should have.  Let’s look at each of these:

First, the promotional materials.  As a business you have likely invested a large number of dollars into these items.  These materials have been designed for very specific reasons.  First, they are there to promote the product in an intriguing atmosphere.  Second, they are designed to create a consistent image across the company.  By having a consistent image, every customer knows exactly what they will be getting when they arrive at your store.  So what is wrong here?  By having employees take down and construct theses promotional items while customers are in the store, you are putting them in a construction zone and NOT the desired company atmosphere.  Or as in the examples above, you are not giving the full, expected performance.

Next, the employee review.  This one seems pretty obvious.  Why would you talk to an employee about their performance in a public place, in front of customers?  This one is mind-blowing, and to me would break every HR policy in the book!  Customers should not hear this, especially the one’s who just may be ordering a coffee from that same employee tomorrow!

While I understand the shop wasn’t very busy during the afternoon, it is NEVER OK to do either of these things around customers.  Why?  Simply, it destroys your brand image.  By taking the game-face off and letting the guard down the atmosphere changes entirely.  To a consumer, it shows that you just aren’t taking things seriously and that you just don’t care.  Why would a person want to spend money in an establishment that just doesn’t give a rip?  Instead of just providing adequate service, downtime, or a slower business period, is the perfect opportunity to give that little something extra and guarantee that the customer will be back for more.

The actions that I witnessed today should have been conducted “behind the scenes.”  It completely devalues a company’s image and “magic” of the atmosphere.  Customers don’t want to see what it takes to put the show on; they just want the flawless performance that they expected.  While the majority of the customers were in the morning,  the afternoon customers should have the same experience.  A different, and especially, “off” or negative experience will most likely deter a customer from coming back; especially if it just so happened to be their first experience with the business.

Consistency is KEY!

Sales Done the Right Way

Today I had the delight to do a little “Early Access” Anniversary Sale shopping at Nordstrom.  As a fashion savvy individual, I would have to say that from a marketing perspective, Nordstrom does it right.  Let me tell you why.

Let’s begin by discussing Nordstrom when there aren’t in sale mode.  Be default, they are known for their outstanding customer service and quality products.  How do you know it’s quality?  Well, many of us are familiar with their very liberal return policy, so if they don’t want all their merchandise coming back, it better be the best.  From a consumer’s prospective this is assurance and establishes a level of trust between the company and the consumer.

Next, they have a nice loyalty program.  With the “Nordstrom Fashion Rewards” program you accrue points, however not in the same manner from a typical credit card. Once you have attained a certain amount of points they send you “Nordstrom Notes” in the mail.  These “Notes” work just like money in the store.  I must admit, they had some good timing.  My “Note” arrived a week or so before I had the opportunity to shop the Anniversary Sale.  Sending people “money” in the mail is a much better way to get them back in the store wouldn’t you say?

Lastly, they really do know how to have a sale.  For them, a sale isn’t just putting up “20% Off” signs.  At Nordstrom the sales are a tradition.  They have 2 men’s and women’s half-yearly sales and the Anniversary Sale which occurs every July.  The fact that the sales are limited, not only increases the hype for the sales, but it also prevents designer brands from being devalued.  As a consumer, if I know certain things are always on sale, there is no way that I would ever pay full price for any of it.

Overall, I think few organizations can pull off a sale the way Nordstrom can, however, there is always a little room for improvement right?  There was one thing that I had a slight problem with.  What I noticed is that during the sale there were a few brands or styles that were brought in specifically for the sale, and weren’t available at any other time.  I can see many reasons why they would do this from a business perspective, but for those who notice, they may begin to question the quality of these “new” items and the quality of the Nordstrom brand.  I would therefore suggest that these newly introduced styles or brands stick around for a longer time period and not just shipped over to the Rack.

In the end, I think the Anniversary Sale is by far one of the best marketed and hyped-up sales for an upper-end retail store.  While there is always some slight room for improvement, there was nothing that was going to hold me back from shopping this year!

Just my perspective,

Steve