Scenes From An Italian... Starbucks? (Sorry, Billy Joel)

Ever notice how quickly and subtly your habits change as a result of digital media and the Internet?

As I've said over and over, you need to look at things from the eyes of a consumer first before you put on your marketing goggles. Your marketing goggles allow you to see the myriad of ways that a consumer can be spoken to and messaged to, but looking at the world of the consumer first allows you to see the challenges they face and the ways they react to stimuli. It's this perspective that gets overlooked by most media planners and strategists and it's this perspective that is the most important.

As I write this article I'm sitting in a Starbucks, connected to the Internet through my wireless Verizon card. The connection is slower than I would typically like and my Lenovo ThinkPad X61 is reacting a little poorly -- which is either due to the Verizon card or the fact that I run Windows Vista, which is chock full of issues (I long for the days of XP). I am watching international tourists buck up $3 for their caramel mocha Frappuccinos, realizing that their $3 is really only about $1.50 for them due to the strength of the euro vs. the dollar. I am listening to Ryan Adams on the radio overhead, which if I wasn't sure who it was I would know from the large digital screen in the corner that's flashing all the relevant information about the artists emanating throughout the shop. As I listen to the sounds, I realize, "Wow, I haven't been in a record store in three months, even though I still buy an album every week or every other week." As this realization strikes, I remember that it's Tuesday and Tuesday is new release day -- so I open up my trusty iTunes to see what albums I might want to check out!



Across the street I notice an AT&T store with a large window display featuring the new iPhone and just as I take note, my iPhone rings to alert me that I have a meeting in 15 minutes. How would I live without that constant ringing reminder to call me to attention and force me to live in the present, or at least the present 15 minutes!

The behaviors that are different in just that short little span of time are amazing to me. The globalization of the economy and the interdependence of tourists and local commerce. The instant gratification of knowing what music is playing in the coffee shop and being able to act on that immediately through my Internet connection. The fact that I don't go to a record store anymore, which was a weekly habit for me in the old days. The fact that I now even know what a Frappuccino is!

The habits all point towards a sense of immediate gratification and the brand-ability of the goods and services around me. Apple and Verizon, as well as Starbucks, all provide a commoditized service in my mind, but I chose them for differing reasons -- reasons that I attribute to the power of a brand. I react to their messaging and become an active customer, but none of these are brands that have presented me with an online ad unit that I was expected to click on to become a customer. No; this is old-fashioned marketing 101 in action! Build a brand, differentiate yourself in the eyes of the consumer and retain them through ongoing service. For those of you running "brand campaigns" online and reading click-through, please reread the previous paragraph. Now please read it again!!

Even though our world is moving faster and media has become fragmented, the fundamentals of marketing still apply. I read, I watch and I interact with content in an effort to identify with and consume brands.

I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same!

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