Archive for October, 2010

What I learned from the iPad

DATE: October 29th, 2010

I spent a couple of nights this week messing around with the iPad.

Early in the iPad’s launch days the chatter revolved around the revolution of the iPad and what it changed. Some of us were skeptical. As I slid my finger from app to app, I pondered the idea of change. I’m not sure the iPad is a technological revolution — but I think it reflects societal change in approaching technology.

In my humble, non-geek, non-expert opinion, Apple’s success is understanding that change.

They have taken a product largely designed for artists, not business professionals or technology geeks and made it popular. The iPad strips superfluous functions and profiles core tech tools: facebook, email, the web (unless, of course, the web designer has chosen to use flash), books, magazines, photos, media, video, music.

As I was messing with the iPad, I could easily see how Ashton would get a kick out of the table hockey game. He’s six. I could see how Terry would love to flip through Sports Illustrated; he’s 50ish. My dad? Oh my goodness…. solitaire would be a whole new experience.

So let’s talk about change.

George Bernard Shaw said: “The only man I know who behaves sensibly is my tailor; he takes my measurements anew each time he sees me. The rest go on with their old measurements and expect me to fit them.”

What Apple has done is successfully measured the changes in society. I believe that they are marketing masterminds in creating a product and experience that is true to brand. All marketers should take note.

Apple has identified these trends in today’s culture

1. We are tactile and desire simplicity

When I unpacked my Dell it came with a 47 page, black and white, illustrated guide book on how to use it. My Blackberry came with a smaller version, but it was still a book. I still have it.
When I unpacked the iPad it came with a lovely invitation to connect with 4 simple steps. It was already charged.
It was as easy as a touch.
Apple understands that its audience will touch and try. They will not pour over the manual. They will swap ideas with friends all the while letting their fingers slide over the touch top to discover more.
And they will discover, not learn.
When we first got out PC the programs were driven by the miraculous interventions of F keys. To be fluid one had to memorize the functions of the F keys (yeah, yeah, it stands for Function… only PC developers would be that transparent.) But we’ve changed. Today computers start for us. Even I can open a new laptop and use it without any problem. I don’t need to set anything up.

As a marketer you need to understand that any product, web site or material you are producing needs to be simple, elegant and easy enough for a 5 year old to understand.

2. There are no superfluous activities to distract.

Apple understands that we are busy, fast-paced and easily distracted. The user interface is quick, without a raft of programs I don’t use or need. I can set up my own desktop, personalizing it to my own core activities.
They have discarded the attempt to please many audiences. They please their own audience. And millions besides.

Marketers don’t try to be everything to everybody. Understand the core benefit of your product and communicate it without superfluous information.

3. You get what it promises.

The iPad is an experience. The marketing team has influenced more than the brand advertisements and brochures. The entire experience is brand centric. The packaging, the invitation to join, the user interface all shouts APPLE. They have successfully created a series of like products, extending the like experience and convincing the same users to purchase it more than once.
iPad users are not disappointed. They get what they were promised.

We are not all iPads. Elegance, creativity and simplicity will not define all of us. Think about your offer and your product and understand the benefit to the user.

This afternoon I spoke to a board member of a government funded organization that focuses on early childhood eduction. They presented their key message as a “30 year old organizations with 17,000 square feet in which they present programs for parents and children for optimal learning.” I’m thinking their audience is not parents with babies and toddlers.

4. Connectivity and ubiquitous on-line experiences are expectations

The iPad uses expects me to have iTunes. Without access to wifi it is a waste of time. Apple understands that today’s generation has seen unbelievable change in communication over the past 20 years. Email, facebook, web and on-line streaming are a way of life for ordinary, ungeeky people.

While social media and web sales are more successful in some markets than in others, ubiquitous on-line experience is an expectation. If your shopping cart or on-line process is difficult or unfriendly to inexperienced users, you will deter sales and/or engagement.

Henry Miller said, “The man who looks for security, even in the mind, is like a man who would chop off his limbs in order to have artificial ones which will give him no pain or trouble.”

Change is inevitable, we need to understand the subtle changes in societal trends and do the research to see how they affect our specific audience.

Now…. I can hardly wait to mess around with the PlayBook! Mike promises me that it’s not a dumbed down version for internet use….

Middle Donor

DATE: October 14th, 2010

Sometimes I think it’s ironic that an industry that talks at length about relationships, segments by dollar value.
This spring we launched a middle donor survey with non-profit organizations. The survey will be formally released next week (stay tuned).
As we studied the many different ways organizations engage with donors, we realized that a lot of organizations continue to use one filter: dollars given.
But as we studied the characteristics of the middle donor, we felt strongly dollar value, while one of the characterizing features of the segment, does not reflect the depth of the donor’s relationship to the organization.
We realized that there are many challenges in defining that unique set of donors who are giving regularly, but not as frequently as our star mass donors. They are also giving high dollar values, but not as high as major donors. Somewhere in the land between the mass donor and the major donor hundreds of loyal, financially sound donors are waiting for you to ask them to join your cause.
One of the benefits of being an agency partner to a number of organizations is that we see the different personalities and unique perspective of organizations. We can make broad reductions of the characteristics of like organizations, grouping health care, social services, education and international development. But, while the reduction serves some purpose, it is too easy for fund raisers to fall into the gap of their own traditions.
Non-profits, like today’s growing businesses, must step back and question the traditions of their past. They must analyze the opportunities and test new ideas. They must be wise in their tests, investing in the best ideas, implementing the ones that show success.
Marketing is not a pure science. While scientific knowledge, strategic data use and understanding the algorithms underneath successful campaigns are critical, excellence in marketing requires a gut level intuition. A savvy marketer understands the offer, the creative and the science…. and when those three align… we have magic.