Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Role of Search Engines

I’ve learned quite a bit in this course over the last nine weeks however the topic that probably has made the biggest impact on me is the one we explored during this last week and that is search engines. I knew of search engines prior to this course and had a general understanding that the first links in a search engine are usually paid for by companies wanting prime placement on a result page. This class opened my eyes to the different types of paid search engine advertising and the impact it can make on a company’s marketing efforts. Competition for search engine placement is fierce to say the least.

Search engines are becoming the modern day phone book plus so much more. Search engines just don’t provide contact information they provide access to a brand and everything it can offer. Search engines are somewhat like the ultimate index of anything you need to know about.

Marketing professionals need to understand how search engines work in order to maximize their web marketing efforts and their overall marketing program. Some companies spend a lot of money on improving their web site but relatively little on their search engine placement. A great web site isn’t much good if people can’t find it and access it.

The biggest eye opener for me was the difference between paid inclusion and paid placement. As Lesson 9 states “The difference between paid placement and paid inclusion is that with paid inclusion, the fee only guarantees a Web site’s listing within a search engine’s full index of possible results. In other words, if I’m Apple and I only purchase a paid inclusion from Google, while the site will definitely appear on the search list, there is no guarantee that it will rank at, or even near, the top of the list” (Lesson 9). Paid placement on the other hand guarantees prime placement in search results toward the top of the page. It is important for marketers to understand the difference because as many of my classmates pointed out in class this week; most web users don’t go past the first couple of pages of search results.

This puts small businesses in an interesting position because they can’t compete with larger competitors on media buys however they may be able to utilize search engine marketing to their advantage if they work smarter than their competitors. Some people feel that search engine marketing puts the small business at a disadvantage however I feel that search engines are the best thing for a small business because it gives them an opportunity to compete with large businesses on strategy and not just on money.

There are some ethical issues linked with search engine marketing which we learned about this past week. The first issue is that many customers don’t realize that companies are paying to be place first on search engine results. As Wouters states “WebWatch began reporting on the relationship between advertising and search engine results in 2002, when it released the results of a comprehensive national poll of 1,500 U.S. adult internet users. The survey “A Matter of Trust: What Users Want From Web Site,” showed more than 60 percent of respondents were unaware search engines accept payment to list certain sites more prominently than others in search results, a practice commonly known as paid placement” (Wouters).

This brings up an interesting dilemma of how much or how little should consumers understand about paid placement. My suggestion would be to put all paid placement sites all the way to the right hand side of the page listed vertically in order to differentiate the site from the main list of results. Google currently does a pretty good job of doing this but some sites do not and it can mislead consumers.

Search engine marketing is a very strategic part of marketing that I think is often overlooked by many small to mid-size marketers who may be able to benefit greatly from it.

- Patrick

Wouters, J. (2005, June 9). Still in search of disclosure: Re-evaluating how search engines explain the presence of advertising in search results. Consumer WebWatch. Retrieved January 11, 2008 from

Lesson 9. IMC 619. (2008). West Virginia University.

The Online Advertorial

As more and more offline methods of marketing transition to an online format, it brings some of the same and new ethical issues for some tactics. One of these controversial media tactics is the online advertorial. As Lesson 9 states “An Advertorial is an ad designed to deliver the experience of reading an article. The use of advertorials is a somewhat troubling trend, especially because it seems that advertorial content is increasingly being designed to make readers think that the content isn’t paid for and, thus, has the value of real news coverage” (Lesson 9, IMC 619).

Spizziri gives a good example of an online advertorial that is not ethical when she states “A good example of advertorial is the Feature by Sony campaign launched a few years ago. It consisted of articles written by freelancers who presented themselves as average citizens writing about how they used technology. The articles were commissioned and paid for by Sony. They often didn't even mention Sony except in sidebars, which made them especially hard to distinguish from normal site content. But what really drew criticism was that the labeling to distinguish the articles as advertising was often in very small type, and sometimes the word "advertising" was not even used” (Spizziri).

This situation poses a few interesting questions for marketers:

1. Regardless of ethics are online advertorials an effective marketing communication tool?

I would say it depends on what you are trying to accomplish. I believe advertorials are a good form of marketing communication to help educate customers on complex issues in order to help them make a purchase decision or to open the customer’s eyes to a new industry or new use of an existing product. They also help position a brand as a resource in the mind of the customer.

2. Should online advertorials be labeled as paid media?

Yes, it’s important to label the advertorial as a paid form of communication just as a traditional advertorial would be labeled as a paid advertisement. Just because the advertorial is online doesn’t mean that it should have any less disclosures affiliated with it. As Lesson 9 indicates by using paid advertising labels, a third party disclaimer and utilizing different fonts this will help clearly differentiate the advertorial. I think online advertorials should also pop up in a separate window for further separation from the main content of a site.

3. Are online advertorials more effective than traditional advertorials in print?

This I’m not sure about and I struggled to find any research on the topic however online advertorials do have a longer shelf life in terms of being able to be searched for and re-read numerous times after the initial launch. I would expect that more marketers will begin to utilize the online advertorial more than a traditional advertorial. Also look out for online advertorials to start blurring the line with online infomercials.

- Patrick


Lesson 9. IMC 619. (2008). West Virginia University.

Spizziri, Martha. Retrieved on December 17, 2008 from

Monday, December 15, 2008

Web Design - Who are the experts?

Prior to taking this class, I simply believed that there are people who know everything about how to design a web site and those that don’t. After our studies this week, I’m not so sure I believe there is such thing as a “web design expert”. Ultimately your customers determine what is a good web site design, not your company, not your boss and not a marketing agency.

The key is to test the site. As Uborne states “In a business environment where marketers demand an accountable performance from every web page, it’s time to put aside the assumed expertise of design and copy gurus. The way forward is to test, and let our readers show us which designs work best, and which copy works best” (Usborne).

Here are few things that you should ask any potential outside vendor that is trying to give you help with your web site.

1. Do you design the home page first or the internal pages first?

Now I would have automatically thought the home page would be the obvious answer however check out what Powazek thinks about this approach “When I set out to design a website, I do it backwards. I start with the design of the smallest, deepest element: the story page or search results. Then I work backwards to design their containers: section pages, indexes. Then, lastly, I work on the home page. I do this because each container needs to adequately set expectations for what it contains. If the home page says one thing, but the internal pages say another, that’s going to lead to a user-experience failure” (Powazek). This makes a lot of sense check out the rest of the article for other good pointers at

2. What have been the results of your previous projects for your clients?

If the vendor can’t give you some hard numbers then you should probably move onto another one. Web site effectiveness is very quantifiable therefore you shouldn’t settle for “We made a site look better.” Says who? Make them prove it.

3. What do you think are the strong points and weak points of our current site?

If they don’t have some real substantial opinions immediately then move onto the next vendor. Don’t settle for “We haven’t had time to look yet since you are not our customer yet.” Chances are if they haven’t put forth the effort prior to meeting with you to at least give your site a general review then they are simply looking for a sale and not a partnership with you. I really believe that not only in web design but marketing in general that the best vendors are those that do their homework first and go out on a limb and make recommendations early in the process rather than waiting for you to basically tell them what to do.

If you have any of your own good questions to ask (and expected answers), feel free to respond to this post.

- Patrick


Powazek. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from

Usborne. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from

Good & Bad Web Sites – The Difference is Small

We spent this week in class focusing on web design and the various factors that go into it. What I thought was a relatively easy task of creating a good looking web site, actually requires quite a bit of thought and much attention to detail.

I’ve also learned that the difference between a good web site and a bad web site may not be that much and sometimes is just a minor detail. If a detail is off in the eyes of an audience, it can significantly effect the overall performance of a web site and even lead to less sales. If you want to see an example of how a small difference in design can lead to a dramatic difference in results check out the article by Nick Usborne titled “Design Choices Can Cripple a Web Site”. The article shows how a test between two different designs for the same web page generated a 15% increase in sales for one version and a 53% decrease in sales for another version of the same page.

This is amazing considering the biggest difference between the pages is going from a one column format to a two column format. As Usborne states “However compelling the message, however great the copy, however strong the sales argument… the way a page is designed will have a dramatic impact on conversion rates, for better or for worse” (Usborne). Check out the entire article at

Another tip that we learned this week was to make sure a product web page answers four key questions. As Kissane states “Most product pages need to answer these questions:

1. Who is the product for?
2. What is the product?
3. What does the product do for its target user?
4. Why is the product better than the available alternatives?

Stupidly simple, right? But the lack of answers to these questions is what leads to thousands upon thousands of wasted hours (and more money than I want to think about) spent writing, serving, and reading meaningless dreck that doesn’t inform users, promote products, or help anyone” (Kissane).

Think about any of your favorite product web pages and chances are they answer the four questions above. These questions are not only good questions for writing web copy but good questions for writing any type of copy for marketing communications. Sometimes as marketers we over-think and over-communicate therefore unintentionally omit the information the consumer really wants. Mastering this skill will be a key for marketers utilizing the web in the future as more and more companies are relying on the web more for their brand image campaigns and overall sales strategies.

- Patrick


Kissane. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from

Usborne. Retrieved on December 15, 2008 from

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Advergames - The Controversy

Our assignment this week focused on the ethical issues of marketing to children online. Through this assignment I learned a lot about advergames. Growing up in the 80’s I was exposed to home-based Coleco video games such as Q-Bert and Donkey Kong but that’s all they were –games not advertisements. Apparently things have changed and online video games are now one of the biggest marketing tools when targeting children. Little did I know that video games now a days a much more than just trying to have the coolest graphics – it’s about influencing children to engage with a brand outside of the home as well. Advergames are particularly used for children’s cereal brands. Basically advergames are a video game that somehow incorporates the brand’s product, logo, slogan or mascot/character into the game. Some games require children to enter in secret passcodes that can be only obtained by buying the products themselves.

As Lelchuk states “To assess how big these "advergames" are, researchers looked at the 77 Web sites of top food companies such as Kellogg's and Wrigley's. They found that between June and November of 2005, these sites had more than 12.2 million visits by children” (Lelchuk).

To show just how sophisticated advergames have become check out these statistics from Kaiser Family Foundation Study:
- Many of the advergames included various features to encourage repeat playing.
- 25 percent of the sites offered a membership opportunity for children age 12 or under, such as registering or joining a club to get access to special activities or secret games.
- 13 percent of the sites include polls or quizzes, often used to ask opinions about products.
- Nearly half the sites include a movie or TV tie-in.
- 38 percent of the sites offer incentives to get the user to buy more food so he or she can collect points, which can then be exchanged for new games, brand-related clothes or other products. (Lelchuk).

Advergames have done a great job of blending in customer engagement, sales promotion, branding and database marketing. The ethical debate comes about when advergames unfairly take advantage of the innocence of children in order to influence them to buy unhealthy products. My take on the subject is that if the advergame is simply just a game that features the product or company mascot then fine. On the other hand though, I think it is unethical for companies to link access to playing the advergame with information that can only be obtained by buying more of the product. I think this is unethical because then the child is encouraged to ask their parents to buy a product that they may really not care for the product itself but are more interested in just playing the game.
The balance of using advergames in an ethical manner will continue to be a challenge for marketers who are trying to target a youth audience that is very fickle and easily influenced by the internet.

- Patrick

Lelchuk, Ilene. Retrieved from

Opportunity: Minority Targeted Social Networking Sites

Our class this week focused on multicultural audiences and emerging media. The reading from this week makes me think that there could be an opportunity for minority targeted social networking sites. As our Lesson 7 states “Thanks to the huge popularity of MySpace and Facebook, social networking is a cultural phenomenon. In 2006, marketers spent over $280 million on advertising and marketing on social network sites in the U.S., and an additional $70 million in international markets – mostly to create profile pages and sponsored promotions (emarketer, 2006/Lesson 7 IMC 619).

Sites such as MySpace and Facebook are aimed at the masses and basically for anybody and everybody. But what about social networking sites for minorities? I think this could be successful. Black Entertainment Television (BET) has found its niche on cable TV so why not a minority targeted social networking site? I’m not just talking about a site for African-Americans but Hispanic and Asian-Americans as well. We learned this week that use of online tools is increasing among all three of these minority groups therefore this could be a great opportunity for marketers. Lesson 7 states “According to the Census Bureau, the growth of ethnic groups in the U.S. is booming; in fact, the non-European population will increase from 24 percent in 1990 to a predicted 37 percent by 2020, led by the rapid growth of the Hispanic population. Furthermore, as access to the internet becomes easier and less costly this will drive adoption of the internet even higher among all ethnic groups. For example Lesson 7 states “The most recent studies show that nearly 60 percent of all adult Hispanics who speak English are online, making Hispanics the fastest growing segment of online consumers. Seven in ten Hispanics have a PC at home. (AOL Latino Cyber Study, 2005/Lesson 7, IMC 619).

Here are some ideas for social networking sites for minorities that may have potential in the future:

Job site – Similar to, a site could be set up for minority based employers and minority candidates. A specific ethnic job site could be set up for a specific ethnic group. LinkedIn is a popular career networking site that could be adapted for a specific minority audience.

Dating Site – Online dating has taken off this decade and a dating web site specific to a targeted ethnic audience would probably be welcomed by many minorities who wish to only date within their own ethnic group.

Health Site – Think WebMD for a specific ethnic group. The site could have expert advice from minority doctors on minority health issues. UnitedHealtcare has made some strides in this area by having a special section targeted to the health needs of African-Americans.

Keep an eye out in the future for minority-targeted social networking sites as marketers look to be more efficient with their messages and their advertising dollars.

- Patrick


Lesson 7. IMC 619. West Virginia University.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Video vs. Written Word

With the rapid evolution of electronic media being used in marketing, it has me wondering if the use of written words will decrease for marketers. My thinking is that we are living in a video world and it is becoming easier for marketers to deliver spoken messages rather than just written messages. With the use of Vlogs, podcasts and streaming media, the possibilities are endless for marketers, even those for small companies. This evolution of marketing also has some implications for marketers in terms of the types of skills that they will need.

A vlog is basically a video blog and as Lessson 6 in my class states “Vlogs can either be used as a small part of an existing Web campaign, or as the main feature. The number one reason to vlog? Publicity. Many video clips get press attention. Further, video clips often get linked to by bloggers – another great way to generate traffic at no cost” (Lesson 6).

The use of a vlog allows people to give their thoughts in spoken word where they can use emotion more than they can with a traditional blog. This form of media is great for public speakers and probably not so good for pure writers. It takes a different type of skill to produce an effective vlog vs. blog. It’s similar to the difference between a great public speaker and a great writer, some people can do one or the other very well but few people are good at speaking and writing. It’s a different mind set and skill set for both forms of communication. The best marketers will be able to utilize both

Video is becoming a must for businesses as Holloway states in the December 2008 issue of Entrepreneur magazine “Folks, it’s not just about You Tube anymore: Growing businesses must use video. Business websites with video directly translate to increased traffic, says Benjamin Wayne, founder and CEO of Fliqz, a provider of plug-and-play video solutions. “You unlock markets you never had access to.” (Holloway). The use of online video open many doors for small businesses who typically never had enough money to heavily advertise through traditional forms of media (TV, billboards, etc.). This helps level set the playing field somewhat.

Furthermore, the use of video marketing opens up opportunities for marketing agencies and on demand presentation software/services such as Brainshark ( which allows marketers to produce online presentations from their desktop while using their own voice. The days of the traditional media buy are probably coming to an end, and the use of written word will probably always be around but the times are changing and online video is driving the change. For marketers this means stay ahead of a curve that is curving very fast. The standards in video marketing aren’t quite known yet, but rather are being developed right now which makes it very exciting to be in marketing right now.

- Patrick

Lesson 6. IMC 619. West Virginia University.

Holloway, Lindsay. (2008, December). Trend: web. Entrepreneur. p. 68.

The Role of the Short Film in Marketing

This week in class we discussed the use of short films as part of emerging media. At first I thought not many companies utilized this form of branded media entertainment however after seeing all the examples that my classmates came up with, it has me realizing that short films are being used much more than I realized.

Based on our Lesson 6 in class, a short film is characterized as follows:
- Less than forty-five minutes in length.
- Contains elements of a hero who wants something, and takes action, but meets conflict, which leads to a climax and finally, a resolution.
- The characteristics of a good short film are focus, freshness, simplicity, conflict and it must appear to be a film rather than an advertisement.

Myself and each of my classmates had to find and review a short film used for marketing purposes this week. I noticed that the difference between the really intriguing short films and those that were just ok was that the good ones encompassed all of the characteristics mentioned above. Even when some of the films did a good job on the majority of the characteristics but were weak on one (particularly freshness), it significantly reduced the effectiveness of the short film.

So where does this position short films in the marketing mix?

• First of all, they are probably limited for use by very large companies with large budgets. The use of a short film by a small business is probably not realistic.

• The challenge for branded short films is how to measure the results. As an article in the New York Times by Nat Ives states “One big unanswered question is how much marketing money could eventually be diverted from traditional campaigns into branded films. While measuring the return on traditional advertising expenditures is difficult, gauging the impact of branded entertainment is even harder, marketers said. ''The measure becomes the buzz,'' said Anjali Lewis, vice president for marketing at DKNY, which is owned by LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton. ''Return on investment in terms of how much clothing we sell is going to be hard to measure,'' she added. ''It's really going to be about how many people are talking about DKNY.'' (Ives).

• I think short films are better for promoting products that have an emotional appeal to them. Products such as automobiles and clothing are good products for short films because they have an emotional component to them that can be tied in well with a short film.

•Another challenge of the short film is that it has to balance entertainment with selling power. As Ives points out “The motivation to entertain consumers, rather than persuade them through traditional advertising, stems from a changing media landscape in which consumers increasingly avoid, tune out or fast-forward through marketing messages. For my marketing purposes the short film is a hybrid advertisement, infomercial, movie and web site (if published online). It has to take the best of all of these types of media and roll them into one cohesive program that first and foremost entertains and then influences the customer through some benefit for the brand.

I think the short film is a good tool for the right company and the right product if produced correctly, however I think there is a lot of room for error with a short film and if you don’t know what you’re doing you might want to stay away from it in your marketing plan.

If you want to see a really good short film check out the link below, which is a short film from Mercedes-Benz that was brought to my attention by a classmate (Stephanie). It was the best one I saw from those that my classmates provided this week. It has a great blend of entertainment and advertising value.

- Patrick


Lesson 6. IMC 619. West Virginia University.

Ives, Nat. Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from

Monday, November 24, 2008

Is Mobile Marketing Becoming Primary Marketing?

Mobile marketing is still considered an emerging form of marketing however it is growing in popularity at a staggering rate. As Lesson 5 in our course states “In fact, according to research firm Informa, worldwide cell phone subscriptions recently reached 3.3 billion, which is just about HALF the world’s population! As such, cell phones have become a primary means of communication, not only for voice calls but also for digital services, email and digital photos. Published reports state that more than half of worldwide subscribers are active users of text messages (also known as SMS messages) and according to the Yankee Group, over 15% of these messages can be categorized as commercial (i.e., marketing)” (Lesson 5, IMC 619).

Still not convinced that mobile advertising is here to stay…..check out these numbers from the Mobile Marketing Association “Research from the Nielsen Company shows a steady rise in mobile Internet usage, with more than 100 million unique mobile subscribers and $1.8 billion in revenues for the second quarter of 2008. The 102 million mobile Internet subscribers represent 39% of all wireless subscriptions, and a 32% increase in year over year growth since Q2 2007” (Mobile Marketing Association web site).

With these statistics in mind, it makes me wonder if mobile marketing will become the primary form of advertising eventually. I can’t say for sure that it will, but here are some reasons as to why it has a chance to become the premier form of marketing:

1. Direct, Targeted & Measurable – It’s every marketers dream to send direct messages to the right audience and be able to measure it. Mobile marketing allows for this.

2. Cost – Mobile marketing is less expensive than traditional forms of advertising and with the way the economy is going (or not going) right now, marketers will inevitably have to look at smarter and more cost efficient means to get their message out in the public. Mobile marketing provides a good alternative to traditional forms of advertising. This is particularly advantageous for small businesses that may not need the reach of traditional advertising and also may not have the budget to support it.

3. Actionable – Mobile marketing allows customers to interact with a brand immediately when they receive a message. This is important because it allows customer to react on the spot rather than hoping the customer will remember to do something later on. Customers are getting bombarded by marketing messages more now than ever, therefore it is important to get the customer to act as soon as possible otherwise a marketer may lose the customer’s attention to another message within seconds. Mobile marketing minimizes the effort it takes for a customer to interact with the brand.

Time will tell if mobile marketing becomes king of advertising but from what I can see; it’s on the right track.

- Patrick


Retrieved on November 24, 2008 from

IMC 619 Week 3 Lesson. 2008 West Virginia University.

Mobile Marketing - Sports & Pizza

The focus of week 5 in class was mobile marketing and the latest trends. I can’t say I’ve ever opted-in to any mobile marketing campaign, then again I use my cell phone probably far less than the average person. Some people talk on a cell phone like they’re addicted to it – not me. But the truth of the matter is that in today’s society a cell phone is basically like a little buddy that people can’t live without therefore it’s a great way to deliver messages directly to customers.

Here are some areas in which I think mobile marketing will continue to grow:

Sports Marketing – Sports fans are very passionate and can’t get enough information about their favorite teams. Receiving information about their teams on their cell phone is an instant winner. As Cuneo states “Then one Sunday in October 2007, and ESPN has what may be seen as a watershed moment in mobile history: For the first time, it had more visits to the NFL content on its mobile phone site than it did to the same area on its PC website” (Cuneo).

Furthermore, athletic arenas are great places to to promote mobile media campaigns. Think about, what else do you have to do during a timeout but watch the Jumbotron?. The Jumbotron is a perfect outlet to promote mobile campaigns because it allows people to focus on the message without being able to change the channel. Companies can easily reach tens of thousands of people at one time and get them to opt-in on the spot.

Pizza – Yes, pizza. Ordering pizza seems simple enough but think about what a hassle it can sometimes be. First of all you have to remember the phone number. Then you need to find the menu. Then you get put on hold for a few minutes until they take your order. Then you have to repeat yourself a few times because the pizza place is so loud that the person taking your order can’t hear what you’re saying. Then you have to call back because you forgot to ask how long it will take to deliver or for you to pick it up. Now think about how much easier it would be if you could just order directly from your cell phone. I know some pizza chains allow customers to order online which is good, however who wants to get up from the couch during a big game to go log onto the computer? It would be so much easier to just reach for your cell phone and order it without any movement from the couch. Any true sports fan can relate to this.

The pizza industry can use mobile marketing to promote special offers and even craft the messages to indicate what big game is on TV and what a great complement pizza would be to the viewing experience. This shows that although mobile marketing is high tech it can be utilized in some low tech industries.

- Patrick

Cuneo, A. (2008, March 17). ESPN. (cover story). Advertising Age, 79(11), 58-58. Retrieved November 23, 2008, from Business Source Premier database

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Electronic, Everything & Ethics

Our assignment this week in class was to analyze and critique an article regarding ethics, data mining and direct marketing. Through this article and the class in general, I’ve learned a lot more about cookies and what they can store. If you think I’m referring to cookies that you can eat then click the following link to find out what I’m really talking about and then come back to read my blog.

In a way cookies on a computer are good because it helps the sites you visit deliver customized information. As Morse and Morse state “In summary, the first benefit of data mining and direct marketing is, ideally, that the relevant data allow marketers to better understand the interests and purchasing behavior of internet users” (Morse & Morse, p. 79). What I didn’t know is that companies can share the cookie information they collect with other companies. Similar to magazines who may sell their subscriber lists, cookie information is probably even more beneficial because it tracks more types of activity than a magazine subscription list can.

So this has made me start wondering if my personal information and privacy is basically gone in the age of e-this and e-that. Given this info, let’s take a look at the “E”s I mentioned in the title of this post.

Electronic & Everything
I do my banking online, I go to grad school online, I communicate with people online, I make purchases online, I check my 401k balance online, I book vacations online. I would probably even eat online if I could….maybe. The point is that with so many more transactions going to an online format, the days of personal information are becoming obsolete if they already aren’t gone by now. The social security number used to be a cherished piece of information that no one should know however the internet has probably destroyed that concept.

So what do businesses do in an age in which their competitors are using every piece of information they can in order to get an advantage? As far as I’m concerned a business can use any information I give them to try to sell me any of their products. I just don’t think they should give my information to anyone else. I think this is an angle that many companies can use to their advantage as a differentiator. I want to see an ad campaign that focuses on the position that “give us your info, give us your business, we’ll give you some privacy – period.” How refreshing would that be?

The chances of this happening are fairly low so I guess my only other recommendation would be – buy identity theft insurance, you’ll probably need it someday.

- Patrick
Morse, J., & Morse, S. (2002). Teaching temperance to the 'cookie monster': Ethical challenges to data mining and direct marketing. Business & Society Review, 107, 76-97.

Email Mania

This week in class, our readings focused on email marketing and permission based marketing. It was noted in our lesson that email is a heavily used marketing tool because of four reasons – cost, customization, response and control. The same reasons that make email great to use are the same reasons why so many people (including myself) are inundated with it, particularly at work.

I estimate that I receive approximately 50 – 75 emails a day at my job. Not all of these emails are sent directly to just me, many of them are part of mass distribution lists in which I’m one of many other people copied on the email. I also receive quite a few direct marketing emails from other organizations, some of which I gave permission for, many others in which I did not. It has gotten to the point that although I work in marketing and am a fan of using email marketing, I myself will rarely respond to a direct email offer. As our Lesson 4 states, “Like most other advertising and marketing techniques, the more organizations that participate, the less effective a method becomes. It’s a safe bet, however, that newer and smarter forms of online marketing will be arriving in your mailbox soon” (Lesson 4, IMC 619). So is email becoming as annoying as telemarketing??? I would say not quite, but it’s not too far away in my opinion.

Here are four of my own tips for creating an email campaign that has a good chance of getting the attention of the prospect. I give this advice from the customer’s point of view in that this is what usually perks my interest the most from an email.

1. Keep it short – There is nothing worse than reading an email that is written like a traditional direct mail cover letter. Keep the email short and to the point. Get to the offer as soon as possible.

2. Combine email and voicemail – Although no one really likes getting voicemails from sales people, voice mail does allow a salesperson to set the stage for the email. The voicemail can give the background information that is too lengthy for the email.

3. Personalize It – If you put my name into an email, you’ve already separated yourself from many others. Otherwise the email comes off as “Hey you”.

4. Links – Not Attachments – Many people are leery of attachments however links can be accessed easier and usually are perceived as lower risk. Links to a web site also can provide more dynamic content than a MS Word or PDF file typically can.

Here are some other sources which we read in class this week that give valuable advice on email marketing.

• Yesmail. (2004). Effective email marketing 2004: Ten things to think about this year. Retrieved November 9, 2004, from:
• McCloskey, B. (2004). Email worst practices: A must-read primer on bad email practices. email Insider. Retrieved November 9, 2004, from:
- Patrick


Lesson 4. IMC 619. (2008). West Virginia University.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Crowdsourcing & Health Insurance??

In week 3 of our class we studied the concept of crowdsourcing which is defined by Jeff Howe as “represents the act of a company or institution taking a function once performed by employees and outsourcing it to an undefined (and generally large) network of people in the form of an open call” (IMC 619 Lesson 3). Most of the information I have read about crowdsourcing applies to companies that produce tangible products. Crowdsourcing is particularly useful for gathering new design concepts for a particular product.

I work in the health insurance industry and although we say we market products we actually market a service. We sell the invisible. What we provide in the form of reimbursement is basically invisible. No one receives a box of insurance. We provide the security and peace of mind knowing that the costs of the medical services you receive will be covered by your health plan.

The health plan is the product (but really a service). Most health insurance companies conduct traditional research through both quantitative and qualitative methods (focus groups, online surveys, etc.). Alsever describes additional benefits of crowdsourcing including research as “Crowdsourcing can improve productivity and creativity while minimizing labor and research expenses. Using the Internet to solicit feedback from an active and passionate community of customers can reduce the amount of time spent collecting data through formal focus groups or trend research, while also seeding enthusiasm for upcoming products. By involving a cadre of customers in key marketing, branding, and product-development processes, managers can reduce both staffing costs and the risks associated with uncertain marketplace demand” (Allsever).

It has me wondering could crowdsourcing be used to create a health plan and if so how would it work? Here are a few of my initial ideas:

- First of all, don’t ask people to create a whole health plan because there are just too many benefits for people to try to figure out. Instead focus on the most popular benefits such as office visits, hospitalization, prescription drug coverage and preventive care.
- Health insurance in most states is very heavily regulated, so give the crowd some parameters to follow so they don’t submit ideas that won’t comply with regulatory guidelines. If a particular state has a minimum/maximum amount of visits limits or copay amount limits, let the crowd know in advance so they are not wasting their time with ideas that simply won’t pass regulatory approval.
- Ask the crowd to focus on what the level of coverage should be, the access to care (in terms of physician/hospital network size) and what value added benefits would they want (gym memberships, yoga classes, massage services etc.).
- Give the crowd some examples to work off such as you break your leg and need to go to the emergency room –explain the ideal scenario of what happens. Or you find out you need to have a tumor removed how does your health insurance come into play for this situation.

I’m not sure if what I outlined above would work with crowdsourcing however with health care being such a hot topic these days I think anything is worth a shot to improve what is such an important product (or service depending on which you look at it).

- Patrick


Alsever, Jennifer. What is crowdsourcing? Retrieved November 8, 2008 from

IMC 619 Week 3 Lesson. 2008 West Virginia University.

Blogging about layoffs

This week in class we had to find an unofficial blog to comment on. I chose the unofficial Crocs blog ( For the most part this blog was positive however there are also other unofficial blogs about Crocs which aren’t so positive such as I checked out the official Crocs site ( and there is no corporate blog on the site. Blogging is an issue which many corporations are trying to figure out if they should or should not have blogs on their corporate site which are open to customers to say whatever they want. After doing some research, I also realized that the employees themselves could post comments on their own employer’s site which can be equally dangerous to a company from PR perspective.

One of the hot issues that come up on a corporate blog site is the issue of layoffs and how to control the rumors about layoffs in the world of blogging. As Miller states, “Blogging about staff cuts is particularly prevalent in Silicon Valley, where tech gossip sites pounce on every rumor and Web-savvy employees broadcast their every thought on personal blogs and Twitter feeds. Companies feel pressure to break bad news on their own blogs so that they can better control the message” (Miller). I had never really thought about the potential for this in terms of the impact on the brand, on employee morale and with investors. This is an area in which public relations, human resources and executive management must truly all be on the same page.

When layoffs happen at large companies, there is usually some type of internal communication via email or on an intranet. Now with the internet that information is a mouse click away from being distributed to the rest of the world. Companies need to get ahead of the curve by being proactive, as is pointed out in Miller’s article “Today, whatever you say inside of a company will end up on a blog,” said Rusty Rueff, a former human resources executive at Electronic Arts and PepsiCo. “So you have a choice as a company — you can either be proactive and take the offensive and say, ‘Here’s what’s going on,’ or you can let someone else write the story for you.” (Miller).

Blogging is bringing a new dimension to public relations and the skills needed by a PR person. The days of just issuing press releases and developing key messages are coming to an end as Miller states “Unlike more traditional firms, many of today’s Web companies were built on the mission of creating transparency for users. Executives have lived that mission, blogging about company successes. Now that bad times are coming, some of them feel the need to make that public, too. A blog post also comes across as more heartfelt than a press release with canned quotations” (Miller).

Corporations are still trying to get their arms around the correct strategy for a blog as our week 3 lesson points out “While establishing a blog might seem like a no-brainer for most companies, there are many important questions that come with the territory. How do you keep an official company blog on-message while giving it a real and honest voice? Who should manage the blog? Is a corporate blogging policy necessary? And should a company encourage or stifle employees who spend time blogging? The answers to these questions are still being hammered out because the blogs of today represent new ground for marketers -- just as Web sites and e-newsletters did a few years ago” (IMC 619 week 3). The blog is definitely a tool that companies need to begin to master from many different angles. More than a traditional web site, a blog give companies the ability to let the public know what is really going on with the company. For a public relations professional this can be good or bad depending on what company you work for.

- Patrick


IMC 619 Week 3 Lesson. 2008 West Virginia University.

Miller, Claire. (2008, Nov. 5). In Era of Blog Sniping Companies Shoot First. New York Times. Retrieved November 8, 2008 from

Blogs of Classmates

I have listed below the blog sites of my other classmates in class. I’ll be following a few of these sites throughout the remainder of the class.

- Patrick

Sunday, November 2, 2008

New Media, Direct Mail & Senior Citizens

Our discussion question in class this week asked us to give our views on what type of traditional media would decline or be eliminated in the next 50 years. Some of my classmates mentioned direct mail which I disagree with. I think direct mail will reposition itself in the future but not disappear. If anything, I think direct mail will benefit from the evolution of new media because even online media vehicles can benefit from having offline promotion. Many people think direct mail is declining and not effective at targeting the younger generation but Tom Duncan makes me think otherwise when he makes the following points:

• “Young adults 18 -21 are more likely than any other demographic group to respond to a direct mail offer.”
• “Mail may not be as sexy as newer media such as the internet, but it is the third largest medium behind TV and newspapers, accounting for approximately 20 percent of all media spending.”
• “The average adult receives 22 pieces of mail per week.” (Duncan, p. 581 582).

I work for an insurance company in which we use direct mail heavily when marketing to Senior Citizens (65+ years old). Although direct mail is our primary marketing vehicle we do have our eye on new media, particularly the web, as well. We know that seniors currently are the lowest utilizers of the web but also the fastest growing. According to “According to recent findings from Nielsen//NetRatings, senior citizens age 65 and older were the fastest growing age group online, surging 25 percent year over year to 9.6 million Web surfers from home and work in October 2003. Additionally, within the senior citizen age group, Nielsen//NetRatings found that the number of female seniors online jumped 30 percent, while male seniors jumped 20 percent” ( This is going to pose an interesting marketing mix for marketers targeting the 65+ generation as the baby boomers who are relatively web savvy become older.

The use of new media with senior citizens will require marketers to explore new advertising methods in order to capture this audience. I believe direct mail will be key in the promotion of driving seniors to the web. Senior citizens will be more willing to use the web however I think they will rely on direct mail to tell them where to go rather than trying to take the time to search for themselves. This is a case where new and traditional media will integrate well together to target an ever changing and growing segment of the population. Online senior citizen marketing could be the next hot segment in marketing communication.

- Patrick

Duncan, Thomas. (2005). Principles of Advertising and IMC (2nd ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Retrieved on November 2, 2008 from

My favorites – web design & navigation

Our assignment for this week focused on analyzing a web site in terms of navigation and design. Prior to this class, this was something that I really didn’t think much about. I realized that in the past whenever I visited a bad web site I really didn’t think about what was wrong with the site but rather just moved onto another better site. This course is making me realize even more now how important having a web site is to a business but also how important it is to have a well designed site.

The following link is a great article we read this week for class which gives some common sense advice/thoughts on web site design - The author, Jason O’Connor, points out some very common mistakes with web sites that can definitely hurt an online experience.

Our work in class this week got me thinking as to what are some of my favorite web sites and why. I realized that I like most of my favorite web site due to the design and navigation as much as for the content. Here are some of my favorites and the reasoning behind them. – I’m originally from the Albany, NY area so I like to stay in touch with what is going on there. This is the web site for the all-local news station in Albany. The site is very simple and not overloaded with too much content and the advertising is limited to the top and right of the page and not mixed in with everything else. Furthermore, the left and top navigation bars stay consistent from page to page which is important to me. The left bar outlines the various news topics while the top bar shows the various geographic regions – it couldn’t be simpler. – I know many people like this site as well and for good reason. Amazon has mastered the art and science of customization. It knows who I am when I log on from home computer and gives me recommendations based on past purchases. The process of ordering online from Amazon is so easy that I don’t mind paying the shipping charges. The site sells many different kinds of products but the navigation is still easy no matter what I am looking for. From a design perspective it’s not the most exciting looking site but it doesn’t need to be. People are going to Amazon to purchase products not be entertained. They have used their web resources wisely and efficiently in developing this site. – I use this site quite a bit at work since I write a lot of copy as well as for graduate school. It has a dictionary, thesaurus and reference all in one site. It is very simple in the same way that Google is simple but effective. The site doesn’t try to do more than what it is intended for which is a mistake that I think a lot of web site developers make.

I’ll be keeping an eye out for more good (and bad) web sites throughout the course and try to make note of what I like and dislike.

- Patrick

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Banner Ads & Proximity Marketing (what I didn't know)

I’m finishing up week one of this course and I have already learned many new things about new media. I’ve learned more about some types of new media that I’m somewhat familiar with and I’ve also been exposed to forms of media that I really wasn’t aware of at all. I’d like to give examples of both. Banner ads are something that I’m familiar with but week one gave me some new insight into them. Bluetooth/proximity marketing is something that I wasn’t familiar with at all but I definitely see a lot of potential for it. Let me expand on both topics a bit more.

I chose this as the most effective type of new media, partially because I do think they are effective and partially because I simply didn’t know enough about the other forms of media (Bluetooth, widgets, RSS, etc.) to make a judgment about them. In terms of banner ads I feel that they can accomplish a lot from both a brand awareness and direct marketing perspective. Our professor Dr. Ramos, responded to my discussion post this week with the concept of floating ads which are basically moving banner ads. I’ve seen these before, I just didn’t know what they were called.

These types of floating ads have high click through rates which is great for direct marketing purposes. The question is – do people find them intrusive? I would say if used moderately then probably not, however if a web site constantly has floating ads flying around then I think that would be a turn-off to consumers. If I was a media outlet selling floating ads I would demand a high price for them and in return grant the advertiser some type of exclusive arrangement for floating ads for the particular time period. Floating ads do break through the clutter and generate a high click-through rate which is what many advertisers are striving for. Floating ads also create an additional revenue stream for media outlets since they don’t take the place of existing banner advertising space, they just add to it.

Some of my classmates ranked this type of marketing as one of the least effective forms of new media types. Quite honestly, I really wasn’t even sure of what it was until I started reading some of my classmates’ posts. As one of my classmates, Stephanie, described, “Proximity marketing is marketing communications that delivers content to a specified area. Communication can be received by consenting individuals and can be found in heavy tourist locations and some realtors even use the ‘talking house’ where drivers can tune into a specified station to hear recorded information” (IMC 619).

Although some of my classmates thought the lack of reach for this type of media was limited, I feel that for the right product this type of marketing can be very beneficial. The talking house concept is interesting because it allows home buyers to receive information about houses from their car radio as they drive by the house. From a marketing standpoint this is great, because you are able to deliver specific and relevant messages about the product (the home) to consumers at the opportune time. I see a lot of potential for this type of new media. Through my research I realize that Bluetooth technology is at the forefront of proximity marketing but also with some controversy regarding permission to send people messages. Some argue that Bluetooth marketing is somewhat like receiving spam that you can’t control. As Pearse states “Bluetooth marketing has become one of the most controversial aspects of mobile marketing. As messages are broadcast to everyone who has Bluetooth turned on within range of the transmitter, many believe it can never be truly opt-in” (Pearse, 2005). The issue of permission guidelines surrounding Bluetooth and proximity marketing is one that I hope to learn more about during the next nine weeks of my New Media course.

- Patrick

IMC 619 Discussion Board Posts Week One

Pearse, Justin. (2005, November 24). MMA Issues Bluetooth Marketing Warning. New Media Age.


Hello – My name is Patrick and I work in the Marketing Department at an insurance company in Upstate New York. I live in a suburb of Buffalo with my fiancé. I’m originally from Albany, New York and received my undergraduate degree from Stonehill College in Massachusetts.

I’ve created this blog as part of a New Media graduate course through the master’s program in Integrated Marketing Communication at West Virginia University. This is my eleventh course and I have two more to complete after this one. I anticipate graduating in May 2009.

I have no experience in blogging prior to this so I am excited to give this a try while learning more about New Media.

- Patrick