Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Obama Nails Osama. Now ReFocus on the Economa

Take pause to celebrate nation’s military (and social media) milestone. But smart marketers know real worries remain and are picking spots carefully. TV ownership falls in U.S.

Whether or not you’re a fan of the current Administration, the stunning events of Sunday evening’s purported rubout of USA’s public enemy No.1 in Pakistan should give you a sense of…hmmm….if not patriotic pride at least confidence that our legislative and military leaders can honor a highly ambitious and longstanding promise to their citizens. That’s good enough for us (as is the President’s birth certificate). We don’t need to see grisly pictures of the massacre and open-sea burial of al Qaeda's top motivational speaker to know that the job got done quickly, efficiently and with minimal collateral damage.

Well done USA! Now let’s get back to business.

Is the threat of terrorism over? Hardly. At this stage of the game, bin Laden was more of guru consultant than an operative and we should prepare for retaliatory strikes and another spike in fuel prices. Both threats will continue to impact business by making air travel, commuting, shopping and raw materials more expensive and less efficient. The high unemployment rate, lousy housing market and huge disconnect between the stock market and economic conditions aren’t helping.
Our take? Expect another surge in the use of online shopping by consumers and the use of webinars and virtual meetings and conferences by the business community.
Social media in the spotlight

Another facet to this stunning news event was the speed with which millions of ordinary citizens got wind of bin Laden’s demise via social networking—not via the “official” news media and the reassuring voice of a trusted network anchor.

Thanks to Twitter and Facebook, the mobile devices of 45,000 baseball fans lit up at Sunday’s Phillies-Mets game and chants of U-S-A reverberated throughout Citizens Bank Park before the scoreboard operators or players knew why. Unconfirmed reports — that turned out to be true — of Osama bin Laden’s death circulated widely on social media for about 20 minutes before the talking heads of the major broadcast and cable networks reported news of the raid at 10:45 p.m., about an hour before Mr. Obama’s address from the White House.

While social media is not always reliable and is not a great platform for insight and analysis, it’s the communication tool ideally suited for breaking and sharing news and information and thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices—it’s the “tool” most likely to be used first when someone wants to be in the know (or sharing what they know).

Several reports said Twitter saw the highest sustained rate of posts ever--with an average of 3,440 per second from 10:45 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. ET—and there were more than 5 million mentions of Bin Laden on Facebook in the U.S. Text messages and social networks did not only help people get and spread the news about Bin Laden’s death, but they are believed to be significant contributors to the spontaneous gatherings at Ground Zero in NYC and outside the White House in DC. Once the Prez made his announcement, users of Instagram, a photo-sharing application for the iPhone, flooded the service with photos of Obama speaking, snapped from televisions and laptop screens. Soon there were photos of American flags and then photos from the crowds gathered in New York and Washington.

Most of these digital natives are not eschewing conventional news media entirely. They know they’ll get the analysis, commentary and fact-confirmation over time. But, if your media plans are still not aligning your spending with where your target market spends its time, then now is the time to have a serious reality check.

Ownership of TV Sets Falls in the US

Speaking of historic milestones, The Nielsen Company reported yesterday that the number of TV-less homes in the U.S rose for the first time in 20 years and that will have an impact on ratings numbers for all forms of broadcast television. According to Nielsen, virtually every U.S. household (98.9%) had a TV set the last time it checked. Now the number is down to 96.7 percent. While some experts say the drop reflects rising poverty in which some low-income households can no longer afford the cable boxes and digital accoutrements required to watch most channels satisfactorily, a more plausible explanation is that younger people, who’ve grown up with laptops and mobile devices in their hands, are not purchasing conventional TV sets when they get out on their own as they’re so used to gaming and watching their favorite shows and movies from the web.

Our take? Not only will the number of traditional TV households continue to decline, but the number of multi-tasking, attention-divided consumers will continue to rise. Conventional broadcasters and their sponsors still have a long way to go when it comes to targeting their messages to consumers and presenting content at a pace, and uninterrupted form, that will keep them engaged.

The world’s not necessarily getting more complex. It’s just getting smaller and moving faster than we’ve been used to. You can’t possibly keep up with all it all. Trust your friends, colleagues and professional networks to help you out. And when they do, always make sure you return the favor.


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