Posted July 25th, 2007 by Thomas Heed
In my last post – on a dare to evaluate an Al Ries video – I launched into a rather lengthy rant about why the internet would lead to the eventual obsolescence of traditional TV. Leave it to one of my colleagues (thank you, Justin) to make my point much clearer: “It’s not about the convergence of technologies, but the convergence of mediums.”
The main thrust of the Ries Report video was not really about TV-PC convergence, but used it as an example of convergence hype gone awry. He mainly employed the concept of convergence to predict the failure of Apple’s iPhone. “All hype, all hot air, no sales in the long run.”
Let me explain. No, there’s no time. Let me sum up. Al Ries believes that divergence is good; convergence is bad.
To demonstrate divergence, Mr. Ries uses several examples, including telephones: first there were regular phones, then cordless phones, walkie-talkies, and cell phones. He forgot two cans with string stretched out between them …
Convergence? “Well, with all the hype, everyone in the world is running around trying to put two things together that don’t belong together.”
As examples of the dangers inherent in the urge to converge, Mr. Ries – and this was hilarious – runs down a list of convergence failures: a Refrigerator-TV, Radio-Binoculars, Radio-Toaster, Camera-Printer, a Hamburger Hotel (a personal favorite), and MP3 Sunglasses.
Mr. Ries compares Apple’s iPod (divergence) with the iPhone (convergence). The iPod is a divergence device because it was the first high-capacity MP3 player unlike the original, low-capacity, versions. He implies that the iPhone is just another cell phone, and is thus doomed to fail. And here is where – if we use his own thesis – he is wrong.
With the iPhone, Apple has created an interactive user experience that surpasses other smart (cell) phones. Its large, touch screen user interface and internet browsing feature represents true innovation (divergence). Every iPhone feature is a simple touch away, and its screen does not offer a menu bar or other confusing buttons.
If Apple’s iPhone fails – as Mr. Ries suggests – it will not be because it is a “convergence device,” but because of flaws in 1-3 of the 4 Ps (no one can argue with how Promotion has been handled):
- The Product does not live up to its hype, or it is not substantially different than other Smart Phones.
- The Price is too steep (Up to $599 is a little pricey for a unique fixer-upper).
- Placement becomes an issue due to the exclusivity deal with AT&T.
Despite all of its recent marketing coups, don’t forget some Apple blunders: the Apple Lisa (1983), or the more relevant point, their refusal to share the Apple operating system with generic (or other) PC manufacturers, which opened the door for Windows and the explosive Microsoft growth that nearly buried them! The AT&T deal could prove to be equally limiting to the product’s success.
In my opinion, the easy to use, interactive experience with fewer features make the iPhone a divergence device not, as Mr. Ries insists, a convergence one. Look for it to be a big hit.
Posted in Conversion Rate Optimization
Posted July 17th, 2007 by Thomas Heed
An industry peer recently insisted that I view an Al Ries video on the subject of Convergence (http://riesreport.com/index.php?video_id=16), and dared me to dispute his contention that high-tech convergence does not work, and never will.
Before I start, let me first go on record stipulating that Al Ries is one of my personal heroes. In the video, his examples and opinions are funny, insightful, provocative, and in many instances – wrong.
“TV / PC convergence will never happen!” I watched Mr. Ries assert with conviction. In a sense, this is true. The PC will not converge with TV, but disinter mediate it. TV, as we know it, eventually disappears, and the PC becomes TV. Think of the computer as the modern day equivalent of the Model T and Broadcast & Cable TV as the horse and buggy. You get the picture.
Broadcast and Cable TV networks are distribution systems, and TV sets are merely receivers. Broadband, when it reaches its true potential, renders both moot, because it combines (converges) content with distribution. The internet becomes the distribution system, and the PC, in whatever iteration – desktop, laptop, wireless, or hand-held – becomes the receiver. What about screen size? Right now, I can plug my computer in to any flat-panel monitor in the house and watch streaming video on a big screen.
So, TV / PC convergence will never happen? It’s already happening. Need proof?
More than a million visitors watched streaming video of March Madness round one b-ball games on their computers during the first two days of this year’s NCAA Division I Tournament, and these numbers would have been far higher with greater delivery capacity.
I can visit AOL’s in2TV and watch episodes of classic favorites like I Spy, The Man From U.N.C.L.E., and Gilligan’s Island, all for FREE, and in Gateway 24″ Widescreen, Digital splendor!
Sony is now offering mini TV episodes on MySpace. The so-called “Minisode Network,” cuts down sitcoms, dramas, and talk shows into 3-5 three-to-five minute chunks (a sad commentary on the state of episodic TV when one can truncate a sixty-minute show into five minutes without viewers missing anything).
Production companies routinely post TV pilots on the web in an effort to generate enough viewer interest to get them placed on network schedules. I ask, “Who needs the networks?
Later, I discovered that TV Guide has a new online video feature, “What to watch on the web,
” and they boast that they have listings for 13,881 shows. After checking it out, I found thousands of shows on the web that I’d love to watch and will never have the time to. Brilliant!
When confronted with these findings, my peer grudgingly admitted that he never watches Sports Center highlights on cable’s ESPN, but watches them religiously at ESPN.com. Absolutely loves the videos and hates the pre-roll ads (hasn’t bothered to watch the last 50!). As an aside, and to recap: never watches on TV; never misses online; and, is immune to the push of pre-roll. My peer is not alone. A staggering percentage of internet video viewers either detest pre-roll ads or dismiss them altogether. Anyone in traditional advertising paying attention? Didn’t think so.
In the end, viewers are loyal to shows (content) not networks (distribution). Do I really need TV networks once image quality, image size, and interactive features catch up to my desire for what I want, how I want it, and when I want it via the web? As long as I can find the content, I don’t care how it gets to me.
Here’s how it might work: a production company posts a new webisode on the internet. A fan of the show, I have subscribed to their RSS feed, which alerts me when the new (original) content is available for viewing, and I check it out at my convenience. Interactivity allows me to pause the show at any time to pursue an interest I might have in a featured product. For instance, I could click on the car a character is driving to see a promotional video of the vehicle in action, or browse through a web-based version of the model’s catalog. I might even make an impulse buy, if I have enough dough and need a new car. And then, it’s back to the irregular, unscheduled webcast.
This scenario won’t play out overnight, but it is coming. Once distribution capacity reaches critical mass, the advertising / marketing community figures out a viable business model, and others develop simplified, menu-driven search, TV goes away.
Mr. Ries covers a lot of ground while discussing his 22 Disputable Laws of Convergence and Divergence.* In upcoming blogs, find out why I believe Mr. Ries has confused convergence with synergy and divergence with innovation; and, why he is mistaken about the future of Apple’s iPhone. Hint: one of the iPhone’s key features is an innovation that – by Mr. Ries’ definition – makes it a divergence device and not a convergence device as he insists.
*My apologies … couldn’t resist.
Posted in Conversion Rate Optimization
Posted July 9th, 2007 by Thomas Heed
“We get (fill in the blank) visitors to our website every month, but our conversions are horrible.” When I hear this, my very first question is always, “When your customers are ready to buy, are you primed to sell?”
A careful investigation of the site in question often reveals that the answer is, “No.”
Recent case in point – my sons absolutely adore dinosaurs. Friends told them that a local museum was showing a 3D Dinosaur documentary in its theater, and the boys requested, begged, pleaded, beseeched, and implored that my wife and I take them to see it. So, I set out to buy us tickets online.
Credit Card in hand, I wound up at a cool-looking site that soon had me hot under the collar. Clicked on Trailer (nothing like a sneak peek to get everyone excited), and received an invitation to try an interactive quiz. Neat feature; not what I asked for. Clicked Enter, and found myself presented with six different options to choose from (two of which were broken links), and still no Trailer. At this point, I was empathizing with the dinosaurs; I might go extinct before finding what I was looking for.
Next, I tried to buy tickets, and kept receiving prompts to do anything but. Believe me, I could go on and on and on, but you wouldn’t be able to take it anymore than I could. I abandoned the ticket-buying try.
If you’re not getting the conversions you think you should, ask yourself a few simple questions. What kind of experience have you created for the User? How easy is it for the User to navigate through the site or, if you’re selling something, how easy have you made it for them to buy? Does everything on your site even work?
In my museum example, everything was just too hard. Poor navigation, broken links, information labeled one thing on the home page and something else on the sub-page(s), and finally, when I did find what I was looking for and wished to act on it, I was asked to take A Click Too Far.
All of the above added up to a poor User experience and a lost conversion. I had been ready to buy, but the website had not been primed to sell.
Posted in Conversion Rate Optimization
Posted July 2nd, 2007 by Thomas Heed
Al Ries and Jack Trout once wrote that “Marketing is not a battle of products; it’s a battle of perceptions.”
A client or prospect’s perception is your reality. Thus, you must sometimes find creative ways to alter their view of the world in order to help them realize their desired goals (and your own). To demonstrate how effective this technique can prove to be, I offer the following:
During his march through the near east, Alexander the Great came upon a mountain stronghold known as the Soghdian Rock.
The rock itself was sheer-faced and – so its defenders believed – impregnable.
At a prelim parley, Alexander offered the occupants safe conduct if they would surrender their fortress.
The negotiators laughed rudely, and asked whether Alexander’s men could fly, adding that they would surrender to winged soldiers, “as no other sort of person could cause us the least anxiety.”
Alexander at once combed through his entire army for experienced mountaineers and found some 300. He called for volunteers to scale the sheer rock face (the defenders only guarded the one direct route to the fortress). He offered vast rewards for the first 12 men up.
Every man volunteered for the perilous operation. They made the ascent by night, an extra hazard, and 30 of them plummeted to their deaths.
At dawn, a flutter of white flags broke out from the summit above the fortress. Alexander sent a herald to tell the defenders that if they looked up, they would see that he had found his winged men.
The Soghdians were so taken aback by this theatrical rearrangement of reality that they surrendered instantly, even though they outnumbered the mountaineers by 30,000 to less than 300 and the rest of Alexander’s men still had no path to the summit.
What’s this story have to do with marketing? Plenty. It is not about a battle of products (Army vs. Army); it is about a battle of perceptions (My Army is better than your Army). Alexander sealed the deal because he was able to create the perception that his men could accomplish the impossible (fly to the mountaintop), and not the reality (no one saw them do it) that led to victory.
Listen to your customers and prospects. Understand what it will take from their point of view to win them over. It may mean altering your own path, but in some cases, they are simply waiting for you to show them your winged men to convince them that it’s time to close the deal.
Posted in Online Strategies