Archive for the 'Marketing' Category

What’s the real value of what you value?

I had an economics profession back at University in 19mumblty6. He was a jaded old dude, who used to ask us the most impossible questions about how value works in the world. Questions like whether you should dump nuclear waste in developed or developing countries. Whaaat? Questions with no satisfactory answers and that were like a match to the tinder of our inflamed youthful idealism.

He once asked why a Bles Bridges CD would sell for so much less than a Nirvana CD (that should answer which mumblty decade I avoided in paragraph 1). We all answered pretty much the same: because Bles is kak and Nirvana is rad.

He challenged us again, pointing out that the CDs are made in the same factories, using the same materials and often the same labour. The artists, arguably, put in the same grunt work. And their backup singers and musicians the same.

The difference in price lay solely in the perceived value to the listener.

It was my first lesson in brand economics. That dance all businesses do between what it actually costs to produce their goods or services and what the market – you – is willing to pay.

Marketers work extremely hard at making sure you will pay the maximum for something you perceive to be worth the money.

Think Apple vs Samsung. Woolies vs Pick ‘n Pay. Nike vs Asics.

Think about the number of hours you’ve spent arguing the merits of your brands of choice. This kind of post-rationalising is all about convincing ourselves that our willingness to fork out half our salary on a gadget or a pair of shoes is worth it. Shit, one brand even TELLS you you’re worth it.

Marketers know that most of our purchasing decisions are rooted in one part rational decision making and one part emotional yearning. Even the neuroscience backs it up. Brands that can tap into that emotional wellpoint typically strike gold. If they can make you think you’ll feel happier, more confident, cooler, more streetsmart, more badass, less afraid, they know you’ll come back for more.

Ka’ching. Sith-lord level mind tricks, I tell you. And before you know it, you’ve spent three times what you budgeted for.

So what’s the average human to do? Here are three thoughts…

Do your research
BORING!! I know. But honestly, that’s what Google is for. Google “brand name / reviews” and “brand name / complaints”. Ask your most sensible friend for their opinion (and really listen to their answer). I once changed my opinion on the car I was going to buy because I read the ‘service experience’ reviews on Hello Peter. Enlightening, let me tell you. Even a little bit of research might help you realise that while brand A is amazeballs, brand B is actually just as good (it’s just maybe not going to come with the admiring glances at the water cooler).

Make a want vs need list
So you want to buy that new thing? Why? Now be honest. You might genuinely need it and have all sorts of reasons for needing it, but in your want column make sure you really have a frank conversation with yourself about why you’re angling for brand A. Is it because all the cool kids in your circle have one? Is it because it reminds you of your wild youth? Is it because you think expensive = better? Now I’m not saying that you can’t have your emotional needs met by a purchase if you can afford it. But if money is tight, being savvy to your want buttons can help save a few precious ronts. Also, if there is more in the want column than the need column, then you might want to rethink spending the dosh at all.

Wait a week. Or three. Or 52.
The impulse purchase is the average marketers’ glee point. That’s why supermarkets have the aisle of doom – retailers make more ‘extra’ purchase money off that aisle than anywhere else in the store. You know the old saying “sleep on it”? It’s true. Take your time. Even for little sweet treats, but especially on any item that is going to cost the GNP of a small island country. I once bought an MP3 player before MP3 players were even a thing. It was awesome. It looked like an old Walkman – huge and clunky. And it held 20 CDs worth of music. TWENTY dude! I was sooooo cool for about 3 months. Then the first iPod came out. DOH! Tech is notoriously bad for becoming obsolete quickly, so that’s where your want vs need exercise is going to help you make a purchase you can live with. The more time you can live without the thing you covet, the more time you have to think about whether you really need it.

Of course, all of this is irrelevant if you’re rolling in it. Buy what you want. But if you’re wondering where all your money goes, maybe it’s time to rethink what you value.

Originally written for 22seven


I was exceptionally lucky to pop my conference speaking cherry at the WTF Media Conference last year.  I speak at lot at Universities, but haven’t actually done the formal thing before.  What a (terrifying) jol.  Held at Cape Tech’s Belville Campus, the conference aims to give the largely student audience a view on what’s happening out there in the wild and wired world of (mostly) new media.  The theme: A Smarter World.

The line up was fab and styled in the short-form TED-type format.  10 minutes to make your point before the next guy got the mike. So the intimidation factor was pretty high.  But kind folk like the seriously fab Melissa Attree calmed my thundering heart and made me laugh out loud.  Lots. And thank the gods, I didn’t have to go after Mike Sharman, aka The Sharmanator. And I only swore twice (sorry mom).

I’d been asked to speak largely because my twitter profile says “blogger, writer, lurker”.  And the organizers were intrigued about the “lurker” bit.  I absolutely love the word ‘lurker’.  I’ve lurked my whole life.  And the interwebs is the finest thing for a good lurk ever to be invented. Continue reading ‘Lurking’

How I became a fangirl


This is my own little social media FTW story.

I’m rather partial to books.  I collect them.  All over the house, it appears.  Mostly, I don’t remember authors.  Of course, if I fnd an author I like, I read everything they have ever written. Preferably in order, if I can manage it. And if I find something I like, I share.  With my coven, my bookclub, my friends…and now with Twitter.

Standard bibliophile behaviour, I think.

Earlier this year I tweeted that I’d just found a cracking book; Nick Harkaway’s The Gone-Away World.  To my astonishment, Nick Harkaway replied to say ta.

I think I shrieked like a girl.  The author.  Of that book.  Replied to *me*.

I promptly stalked him on every known social networking channel and he was gracious enough to reciprocate.  That alone impressed me enormously.  I cranked the fangirl recommendations up a notch, told the story whenever I did, and left a lot of people with a brain hook with Nick’s book hanging off it.

I thought that was the end of it.

Fast forward a couple of months.  I was sitting in Athens airport with a *very* long wait for my next flight.   Bored and frustrated, I was frootling around on the interwebs, poking people with sticks, hoping they’d play with me.  I sent Mr Harkaway a tweet implying that if I had his next book, I would have something which which to occupy myself .

And then a little personal magic happened.  Nick replied asking me choose five words at random and he’d see what he could do.  I gave him handbag, carrot, daisy, flagellation and hairnet.  For the next 4 hours he live tweeted and blogged a writing process to turn five words into a starter piece for a story.

The results, in three posts, are here…

I think it’s safe to say I was completely blown away.

The point of this little Twitter tale?  I will read every book Nick Harkaway ever writes.  Even if they are shite.  I will tell every book reader (and then some) to read The Gone-Away World.  (Which is, incidentally, very, very good).  I will be a Harkaway fan for life.

The fact that he’s a fan of our own Lauren Beukes is just a bonus.

This is the power of the social age.

This moment when acknowledgement and connection turns an ordinary and largely commercial relationship into something more.  That moment of warm fuzziness when a muggins like me feels like a contributor and co-conspirator to something more than just bond repayments.  Feels special.   Its the holy grail.

Marketing theory calls this the ‘surprise and delight’ factor.  And there are millions of every day moments on the social web to delight people.  Millions of opportunities to create connection.

My final thought on the matter?  Read Nick Harkaway’s book.  It’s freakin’ awesome.

Getting good head*

Who knew hair styling was such big business?

A girl sometimes needs a little help with her hair.  No, scrap that.  A girl sometimes needs a lot of help.  Especially when she’s a Capetonian and forced to give up “styling” after years of howling-abuse from both South Easters and North Westers.  There’s not much point in doing your ‘do’ if 20 minutes from your front door it looks like an Amy Winehouse special.

So when I was invited to the ghd Style Lounge for quick style fix on a Friday afternoon, I phoned just to check they had the right person.  ghd, short for Good Hair Day, are the makers of ceramic styling irons and styling products.  They are, according to my mates who know about this stuff, the über-gods of hair beauty.  The stylers use “thermodynamics” – or in layman’s terms, lots of heat and clever hair products – to straighten or curl your hair in nano-seconds and make you look like Gisele Bündchen on a runway.

ghd are clearly on to something.  Founded in 2001 by UK entrepreneur Martin Penny, the business has experienced rocket ride growth.  According to their website, the company’s business plans for the first three years anticipated revenue growth from between £3 and £4 million to £5 million. But by 2004 it had clocked £37 million.  Since then, the company has launched in South Africa, Spain, Italy, Scandinavia, Germany, France and the US, had a 2007 turnover of £115 million and had the likes of Madonna, Cameron Diaz and Gwyneth Paltrow on waiting lists for limited edition products.

Clever marketing has been part of the brand’s success.  The cool irreverence of the branding speaks perfectly to a generation of women raised on “Sex and the City” and Fashion TV.   Cunning celebrity and hair stylist endorsements, careful distribution through top salons and a premium price tag of around R1900 for the signature styling iron have ensured that the brand has become more of a fashion accessory than another tool in the beauty game.

The mobile Style Lounges are one of ways the brand is reaching out to South African ‘stylistas’.  The lounges are based on the concept of pop up retail, one of those fast fashion fads that have swept the high streets of London and the avenues of New York where brands have created temporary buzz spaces to connect with in-the-know brand fans. Fast indeed.  For my mini makeover I was whisked in and out of the pop-up salon in under an hour and transformed from drab to fab.  And the hair?  If I do say so myself; gorgeous!

“The gospel according to ghd” might just be a clever bit of advertising frippery, but it takes on a whole new meaning when you speak to converts to the products. From major celebrities in Hollywood to 16 year old cousin in Cape Town, people of all ages, styles and ethnic backgrounds literally gush at the mythic power of the stylers.

One student I spoke to got quite cross when I asked why she’d spend her entire discretionary income on a glorified hot plate.  She archly informed me that when a girl has good hair, she has good karma.

I can’t argue with that.

To locate your closest ghd salon, call (031) 717-2530.

Written for Moneyweb Life in January 09

*the orginal title, changed by the powers that be 😉

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