Wall Street Journal

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A front page article in today’s Wall Street Journal has my Irish up (and I’m mostly Scotch-German). It concerns the Washington Nationals organization trying to have it both ways — full stadium attendance when the Phillies come to town, but with those seats occupied only by Nationals fans. Currently, this is the work (and job) of one Andrew Feffer.

Feffer is outraged that marauding Phils fans have traveled south to take over the mostly empty Nationals stadium whenever the NL East rivals played. The article cites the usual predictable nasty anecdotes about how horrible the sports fans of Philadelphia are. In this case, vomiting on a local fan’s shoes when he took his father to opening day. Well, there are horrible Philadelphia fans, but they are in the minority. Also, they are in roughly the same proportion as horrible fans from other cities. Philadelphia fans are the polar opposite of fair-weather, they are knowledgeable about their teams and their competitors, and they are passionate enough to take their support on the road.

Philly sports fans are proud to root on their teams even in enemy territory.

Philly sports fans are proud to root on their teams even in enemy territory.

Last summer, I had the pleasure of witnessing this phenomenon while vacationing in Los Angeles with my family. We wanted to take in a Dodgers game that week and were thrilled to learn the Phils were on a West Coast swing. Our only concern was awareness that LA had gotten some serious bad press after Dodgers faithful had beaten a Giants fan nearly to death in the parking lot earlier in the season. Turns out our concerns were unfounded. Like the Nationals, the Dodgers were having real trouble filling seats and as a result Phillies fans turned out in force. It was a great atmosphere and a real kick to watch our team notch a win in someone else’s ballpark. During every trip to the concession stands, a sea of red was high-fiving fellow travelers.

Back on the East Coast, for the past few seasons, Phils fans have actually helped boost the Nationals’ revenue by selling large blocks of tickets that would otherwise have been empty seats. Now, Andrew Feffer is leading an organizational charge to, in his mind, keep the barbarians at the gates. Really sad and shabby idea.

The solution is to field a winning team. The Nationals have been so bad as to be nearly unwatchable in recent years. It’s understandable to not fill seats when your team is terrible. There have been times in recent years, when the Braves and the Marlins had good teams and were unable to fill their stadiums, even at playoff time.  This year, the Nationals have improved from those tough seasons and look like they might be more than competitive. Feffer should trust that winning baseball will attract people to the ballpark. I know there will be at least one. My friend, Glenn, has been a Nats ballpark regular when they were like watching paint dry. THAT’S a fan. Now, it’s thick. Glenn was also there through thin.

Competition is good for sports rivalries. You don’t build a fanbase by keeping other teams’ fans out of your own ballpark. I hope the Nationals new stadium is filled to capacity this weekend. With Nats and Phils fans watching some great baseball, cheering on their teams, and not vomiting on each others’ shoes. Go Phightins!



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Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

Conan turns to blimps and digital and tv to build his brand.

No wonder advertisers get confused about how to allocate media dollars. It is an absolute free-for-all. A day does not go by without another news item suggesting how one medium or platform is overtaking or supplanting another. I routinely remind myself of the progression that TV did not kill radio when it came on the scene, and likewise, the Internet did not replace TV. Every form of media is still in active use (papyrus scrolls and carrier pigeons excepted). I see latest Conan TV ads feature blimp advertising blended with mobile platforms. As a big fan of Team Coco, I am hoping for Goodyear associations, not Hindenberg.

A quick sampling of recent stories should give everyone pause about claiming superiority over another medium or about writing a competing medium’s obituary.

This intriguing story from Advertising Age suggests Facebook is voraciously eating the lunch of major magazine brands. It left me scratching my head about how Burberry, frozen in my own brain as a conservative British purveyor of fine raincoats, has attracted over 8 million followers on Facebook. I visited their pages and came away still scratching my head. This Google search revealed a few clues — fashion launches via Facebook and iPads, free samples of a new fragrance, interactive videos, and easy-to-follow followers like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. Still, that is a staggering number of followers, but more power to them. Whatever Burberry is doing, it’s working.

Next up, two stories from Digiday. One reveals how Google is preparing a full frontal assault on newspapers’ biggest cash cow — Sunday circulars. Imagine a digital version of a circular that gives a retailer all kinds of local control to customize content by store, pricing, and product category. Also from Digiday is a rather depressing, confusing  picture of the landscape of digital advertising tech companies. The bar is low for entrants. The result is a mixed bag of options and results for advertisers. Not sure who is being served by this.

This week, New York magazine devotes an extended article to Twitter and whether it is becoming too big for its 140-character britches, er tweets.

If you’re not completely boggled yet, here is video reporting by the print-based Wall Street Journal delivered online from their web site to explain how tv ad spending can be rising as viewership is dropping. Got that?

My next media recommendation? Burma-shave style billboards but delivered with a twist — constantly changing messaging on a series of digital billboards. The product? Attention-deficit disorder drugs.

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Startups on a Shoestring

Startups on a Shoestring

That headline is what we in the business call a grabber. Intentionally provocative and written to get you to read on. The subject of this blog post might also be called When Financial Media Overpromise. What prompted it was a special section of the Wall Street Journal entitled Start-Ups On A Shoestring/The tales of three entrepreneurs who launched companies for less than $150. At one time, the Wall Street Journal was considered a pro-business paper. You could say that the intent of this section is pro-small-business. However, the opening sidebar is A Guide to Online Marketing Tools and it shows you how to get marketing for practically nothing. So, since most marketing companies are small businesses, how is that helping them? As for the small businesses this piece purports to help, how is cookie-cutter DIY crap going to help them properly brand, market, and grow?
Get It On Paper tells you about web sites that can help you design and print marketing materials via templates. Who needs four years of art school and many years of learning this craft when you can download a design off the Internet? What’s next? DIY CAD sites for engineering your own products? Cranial mapping sites for performing your own brain surgery? Air traffic control for dummies?
Not bad enough yet? Enter Hewlett-Packard whose Marketsplash services enables users to design marketing materials on their web site and print out virtually anywhere. Cost? It’s free. I hope every designer who owns an HP printer will remember this valuable service. Of course, when they are put out of business, that’s a lot fewer buyers of HP printers anyway.
Making Pictures Perfect is a wealth of nonsense regarding photography, one of the most expensive costs of marketing. It explains how Google’s Picasa program enables digital imaging for amateurs who can’t be bothered spending hours learning Photoshop’s many complex features. And in the hands of amateurs, the results typically look as clumsy as when the Politburo would routinely blot out unpopular officials from historical photos.
The section goes on to suggest use of stock photo sites to buy or rent professional-level images. Of course, it does so barely touching on the distinctions between royalty-free and rights-managed, except to note the significant liability to improperly using a photo someone else owns (i.e., intellectual property) and that “legitimate sites generally aren’t cheap.” What a concept — paying for the product you are going to use.
Don’t Go It Alone introduces crowdSpring LLC, who allows you to get things like a logo design for $200. Designers submit designs (a.k.a. spec work) and you pick your favorite. Each project typically receives an average of 110 submissions, which means that one designer earns the below minimum wage honor of winning payment and 109 designers walk away with 100% empty pockets feeling used.
Things to Keep In Mind are some of the caveats to all this instant online marketing and graphic arts. Caveats such as templates need tweaking. Try to look unique. Don’t forget a coupon.
Shame on the Wall Street Journal and everyone out there selling solutions in a box. This is how to drive innovation and ideas and talent out of the business world, marketing businesses out of business, more people off the job rolls, and more money back into mattresses.

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