Archive for February, 2012
A new survey released by Pike Research indicates that consumer support for clean energy declined significantly between 2009 and 2011. Biofuel took the biggest dive with a 17% drop. Pike released their report days after President Obama renewed his pledge to pursue an “all of the above” strategy that develops every available source of American energy – oil, gas, wind, solar, nuclear, biofuels, and more.
Lumping biofuels together as a category is a bit misleading. The most prevalent biofuel in use today is ethanol, a product which consumers are understandably feeling conflicted about. That said, the drop in consumer support that Pike reported is very significant: 17%. Coincidentally, this is the same percentage President Obama referenced last week when he predicted the US could replace up to 17% of the oil we import for transportation fuels using algae.
It was a big week for the humble green stuff. As Obama pledged another round of R&D grant funding for algal technology development, California-based OriginOil announced a new study indicating a potential production cost as low as $2.28 per gallon for gasoline or diesel using a blend of algae and other biowaste. At about the same time, during a speech in Ohio, presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich jeered openly at Obama’s commitment to algae, calling it “weird” and inferring that the technology will take too long to develop.
Algal fuel technology may be a long way from commercial viability, but according to market research group Global Information Inc., more than 100 companies worldwide are working to develop algal fuel. They speculate that the algal fuel market, worth $271 million today, will be worth more than $1.6 billion by 2015.
Major issues do need to be addressed before algae-derived fuel can be commercially viable. The technology could indeed take decades to mature, and development is costly. Pundits are quick to point out that over the last 50 years, taxpayers have already paid tens of billions to support algal fuel R&D.
During this election year, developers of algal fuel technologies would be well-advised to work to understand consumer perceptions specific to this emerging industry and be ready to demonstrate the public’s support to policy-makers in future. A big boost in consumer PR and education plus an ROI calculator would be a good idea, too…according to Oil Change International, the US taxpayer bill for fossil fuel subsidies is about $10 billion annually.
Some may cringe at the thought of “This e-textbook is brought to you by…” as it connotes academia selling out, or inferred influence on editorial. However there may be appropriate opportunities for marketers’ or advertisers’ presence that actually enhances the learning process and the quality of the e-textbook.
There are three conditions that must occur for this co-existence of academia and marketer, in order:
- The marketer’s product or service must have direct relevance and provide enhancement to the e-textbook subject or course work.
- The marketer’s product or service must have a direct and obvious benefit to the student/reader.
- The marketer must respect the learning environment. No hype.
Let’s explore these conditions a bit further to start some conversation and gain agreement for this seemingly at-odds arrangement.
The properties of the modern e-textbook device includes a wifi connection. As more e-textbooks become more like a web page than a static reproduction of a textbook, more opportunities for embedding, linking and downloading via the internet exist. This was more fully explored as a ContentHub in 2012: The Year for e-Textbooks. The marketers’ participation in this is as subject matter experts lending their proprietary knowledge and expertise through the dynamic content of an e-Textbook. As more marketers provide true thought leadership through research and practice, their data and analysis become real-time, up-to-the minute research or case studies shared as webinars, white papers, videos or live guest-chats.
A mechanical engineering class may benefit through the use of a company’s video demonstration about a product or process they are studying. An online chat with that company’s engineers would supplement the professor’s expert opinion – an online guest lecture of sorts. From a marketing perspective, the student’s one-to-one exposure to a leader in the industry creates a meaningful and lasting impression that could lead to a variety of future actions, including that of supplier, employer, or partner. And in this era of high competition in all business sectors, this gives the participating company an advantage.
Students studying marketing or advertising courses could be exposed to the latest successful case studies inclusive of all media in use: newspaper, magazine, radio. TV, banner ads, outdoor, etc. In an industry that breeds change, the student would see tremendous value with readily available samples, data, videos and links that static e-textbooks could never provide. Agencies providing this information have a huge opportunity to not only advance the industry but also be viewed for their expertise. Those agencies participating by providing unbiased expertise may see a future Chief Marketing Officer select them for future work based on this educational relationship.
Looking to the future, as e-textbooks evolve they will act more like websites, a ContentHub of activity around a topic, and education-savvy marketers will derive direct branding benefits by becoming suppliers to the e-textbook market. Animated demonstrations, white papers, community discussion, expert online chats, archived presentations, webinars and guest lectures. The reference section could be a listing of active links to those information sources cited within the content sections which would provide ongoing value.
And I suppose there may be room for one relevant “ad” that could appear as the last page in an e-textbook. Headline: “Back-up batteries available at…”
Marketers, do you see the opportunity? Weigh in on this and let us know you’re approach.
That’s a pretty bold declaration considering e-Textbooks have been around for a while and the adoption rate by professors and learning institutions has been very slow. So why this year should be any different is directly traceable to one event, an event that similarly altered the mobile phone market and the portable computing market.
Heretofore, e-book readers offered little difference to that of traditional textbooks. They are certainly lighter. And some offered highlighting of text. Publishers offer no real cost savings. In fact, many don’t sell the e-textbook, you rent them. And therefore you can’t “sell” them back to the bookstore or distributor. This was recently documented in a Daytona State University study over four semesters. The average student savings over traditional textbooks was $1.
Apple has changed the world and will likely be responsible for changing the functionality and adoption of e-textbooks as well. Just the mere announcement of their e-texbook spiked search engine activity higher than ever previously recorded, according to Google Insights.
The unique interactive capabilities, ease-of-use and portability of the i-Pad are well documented and supported with rave consumer reviews. So moving this platform into the e-textbook arena providing an exceptional experience is not a dream. Inclusion of 3-D animation, demonstration videos, dynamic content, links to outside sources of research, information, and photos.
Interestingly, that very much describes a content-driven website so much that the term e-textbook should likely give way to “ContentHub.” Previously, textbooks were dated the minute they were printed with newer research and evolving thought constrained by the printing process. A “ContentHub” would not only provide access to updating this information easily and more often, but more importantly, providing a dynamic learning environment that more deeply engages the thirst for knowledge by students. Imagine a student studying the solar system and with the swipe of a finger (s)he can alter view, zoom in or out, set in motion, and go back or forward in time. These are obvious benefits to learning not available in a static e-textbook or printed textbook.
Small sample tests have shown a higher comprehension and retention rate of those using the iPad in a learning environment than other types of textbooks.
Aside from the technology advantage, Apple put the writing and distribution of e-textbooks into the hands of professors and academic authors. This could translate to huge cost savings as they bypass the print-oriented distributors and push this dynamic content via Apple’s low cost alternative.
The one-two punch from Apple is making 2012 The Year for e-Textbooks.
If you are a student or professor or fellow tech marketer, I welcome your comments to start the conversation.
Last week, I was one of 7,000 visitors at an open house for the new Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox, Illinois. After 5 years of planning, through construction to moving in, the hospital will officially open for patients February 26, 2012.
Every best practice of event marketing, starting with the theme of the hospital, Designed for Faster Healing, was employed to ensure that every visitor felt more like a guest at a housewarming party than a participant of a walking tour. It seemed like every member of the staff was on hand with a smile and personal greetings to welcome the community, show off the sparkling, gleaming state-of-the-art facility and woo us all into becoming new patients of this vast healthcare services family. From there, all along the way, cheerful informative signage was used to deliver facts and reinforce benefits.
“Every facet of the new hospital was designed with one goal in mind – to provide an extraordinary experience for patients and visitors,” said Paul Pawlak, President and CEO.
At the heart of the new hospital’s concept is the desire to incorporate family members into the healing process. One sign informed visitors that studies have shown that patients who are surrounded by loved ones throughout their hospitalization have a better experience and heal faster. So, starting with the waiting rooms, visitors will receive real-time updates keeping them informed of the patient status through every step of a procedure.
The uber-large, family friendly rooms are acuity-adaptable, which means that each has the space, supplies and staff to deliver the appropriate level of care to the patient rather than transfer the patient between units. The headwall is equipped with electrical and data ports as well as gasses allowing more procedures to be performed at the bedside. Doctors and nurses can also chart in each room and view images and test results with patients on bedside computers.
Patients and family members can also take advantage of a few other comforts including Café 1900 brewing Starbuck’s beverages, a 2-story dining room complete with brick oven pizza stations, charbroiled grill and bakery. There is also a walk-out patio leading to a serenity garden. And, most importantly, free wi-fi throughout the campus.
Everything about this event worked to promote this extraordinary facility. In fact, I was a little sad I was leaving so soon as I snacked on my cross-shaped cookie during the trolley ride back to the parking lot. But mostly I pray I never have see any more of the hospital than I saw today. You to, I hope. Good health always.
For those complaining about lack of creativity in TV advertising during this year’s Super Bowl, watching the Grammy’s the other night hopefully redeemed television as a creative medium. There were a slew of new full-length, 60-second TV commercials that were quite noticeable, engaging and memorable.
And it’s no accident these advertisers chose to forgo the Super Bowl and put their trust in the Grammy’s for their high-cost productions.
Cost: Grammy advertisers paid a reported $800,000 for a 30-second spot reaching 26.6 million viewers. Super Bowl advertisers paid up to $3.5 million for a 30 second commercial reaching 111 million viewers. Is it really double for 60 seconds? While the cost per thousand is fairly close – $30.77 CPM vs $31.53 CPM – committing an enormous budget for a one-time viewing likely appeals only to gamblers and deep pockets.
Environment: The Grammy’s is an environment built for rewarding creativity, ergo highly creative commercial executions will be noticeable with a strong likelihood of resonating with the audience and causing some word of mouth buzz.
Here’s my pick for the other night’s most memorable commercials:
Paul McCartney had just concluded singing his new “My Valentine” live on stage. The Grammys then segued to a JBL/Harmon Kardon spot “Hear The Truth” featuring Paul McCartney in an intimate setting placing a Valentine’s Day card propped against JBL product on his love’s night stand. Perfect fit. You can see it here
Target: This is one of those spontaneous but choreographed people-in-motion doing unexpected things. The music and the action are delightful. You don’t even sense this is a commercial. Then you’re hooked. “Color Changes Everything.” See it here
Chipotle: it just seemed appropriate for something cause-related to pop up. So listening to Willie Nelson sing “The Scientist” while thoughtful animation carried the story line of naturally-grown ingredients for Chipotle in “Back To The Start” was entertaining and also fit in. This has also seen 4.4 million views on YouTube. See it here
Which of these three spots did you like the most?
It’s been a year now since Illinois began allowing retail energy providers to serve the residential market, and a total of 261,000 ComEd or Ameren customers have “switched”. Almost 46% of those customers switched during the months of October and December, which is about the time that consumers began to see rate offers as high as 25% from companies like MC2, and when municipal aggregators won lucrative accounts in the ComEd region.
About 150 communities and counties in Illinois now have aggregation referendums on local ballots this spring, and we’ll see a big spike in the “switcher” numbers soon. However, competing for aggregation contracts is probably only an effective short term strategy. Competitors will really only be able to offer 20% to 30% savings on the energy portion of a consumer’s bill for another year or so. After that, the savings they’ll be able to offer may be quite modest. Winners of aggregation contracts in the future will be those who can sustain the biggest hits to their margin.
To date, the marketing we’ve seen from the competitive set can be characterized as “restrained parity.” Over the course of the next year, we would hope to see retail energy providers positioning themselves to appeal directly to the consumer based on brand differentiation, as well as value propositions that extend well beyond price. Forward looking brands who see the pitfalls ahead should be hard at work right now.
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