Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blog # 4

Living in a Fantasy (Football) World

Every fall since I was in the 7th grade, I’ve been a complete addict. This addiction has taken my mind away from school, shifts my focus to other aspects of life, and worst of all keeps me coming back for more every time. I can’t help but to submit to this dependence and I wholeheartedly believe that this habit will never come to an end. But by simply reading the title of my blog, this addiction does not involve the use of drugs or alcohol, but something much more addicting…Fantasy Football.

To give you a basic idea of what fantasy football is, it comprises of a group of ‘managers’ (everyday people) who draft real life NFL football players into their fictional online team. Based on their players’ real life statistical performance, they score points and whoever has the most points or wins at the end of the season is crowned that league’s fantasy football champion. Fans from all over the world have the opportunity to connect with friends near and far to compete in building their own fantasy football dynasty and more importantly, in many cases, claim bragging rights for the rest of the year.

Fantasy football has become a constantly growing industry with increased users year after year. Now with the emergence of the internet and updates in technology i.e. cell phones with internet access, fantasy football has become a more accessible and mainstream industry. I now ask why fantasy football has become this active mainstream entity in recent years. Long before there was nearly no mention of anything fantasy football related, but now there are full length advertisements and commercials that feature fantasy football. Commercials like THIS combine the collective marketing of ESPN, a cell phone, and fantasy football at the same time, essentially ‘killing three birds with one stone.’

But why just fantasy football and not other fantasy sports? For some reason there's just more buzz and mainstream focus on fantasy football than other sports. Commercials and media are typically centered around football more than other sports. I would like to delve deeper and investigate why fantasy football has taken over as the benchmark of all other fantasy games.

I also would like to inquire why fantasy football is such an addicting past time (as noted in the opening paragraph). The article It’s First and Ten for Fantasy Football on Facebook published last August by the Washington Post delivers an interesting argument on the comparison between fantasy football and Facebook. We all know what kind of success Facebook has generated over the past few years and the article points out that people connect with each other in a common, online medium in both fantasy football and Facebook world. With the ever expanding creation of Facebook applications, it’s no surprise why companies have decided to blend the two ‘social networking’ devices together for added accessibility. In one aspect I hope to discover what similarities fantasy football holds with Facebook and what drives users to become infatuated with both devices. I would also like to research how fantasy football can connect with other social networking devices such as Facebook to provide a more worthwhile consumer experience.

To those who have never played fantasy football or do not care for football, this might seem overly ‘macho’ and merely a waste of time. However, to those who have played fantasy football and do care for football, they might understand that it is not only a game, but more over an experience. Many users are so engaged in their teams that they research their players’ historical data, analyze key match-ups, and constantly check game day statistics of their teams. By doing all these preparations and actions, games are more closely examined and passionate emotions tend to get involved. Emotions such as anticipation, victory, and sorrow are all common feelings that arise over the course of a fantasy football season, and the users tend to build a personal attachment to their teams you could say. HERE is a perfect example of how emotions and fantasy football can easily relate to one another. Finally, as an active and veteran participant myself, I want to discover why such a simple game could stimulate such intense emotions and attachment from users. When there’s feelings involved, it’s plain to see that it's not just a game anymore.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Journal 3

Buzz Marketing (What’s the Buzz All About?)

After reading about the article about the Alpha Moms pitching the Nintendo Wii, I immediately had to take a step back and think about what just happened. It took a while to process the fact that soccer moms were pitching one of the most highly anticipated, interactive gaming systems in the world. Mind boggling indeed. However, when I saw my 30-something sister get excited when she rolled a strike bowling on the Wii, it does seem to make sense to market an interactive game such as the Wii to this unknown group of social leaders (moms). Nintendo reached out to a whole new market, while at the same time creating buzz among their favorite customers…kids. Killing 2 birds with one stone never looked so fun. From this I’ve learned in many cases, such as the moms pitching the Wii, creating buzz by actual interaction and experience can gain much warranted attention better than any ad, billboard, or commercial could ever do.

So what exactly is buzz marketing? It is essentially creating hype or so-called ‘buzz’ around a product to stimulate a spread of word of mouth between consumers. It has been used as of late to spread knowledge about upcoming products such as the Wii in the Alpha mom example. Companies can also find other representatives that are already passionate about the product and ask them to use the product in public areas to attract other users, in return for free products and company ‘swag’ (accessories, decorations, etc...)

Buzz marketing is all around us, even when we don’t know it. Our peers, family and professors create hype about products (most of the time not getting paid directly by the company) which in turn builds interest about the product or service. By actually viewing or hearing about the service from ordinary people you see every day, people typically don’t feel like they are being deceived. By taking part of the product and experiencing it from these buzzing product users, you might personally get attached to it and eventually create product buzz on your own. Unfortunately, companies do resort to paying these ‘ordinary’ people to purposely display these products or services in public as if they were doing so with their own free will. I personally don’t have anything against this strategy, but there are many customers that feel deceived if they realized these ‘buzz marketers’ were a part of the company’s scheme. Unethical or brilliant? You can be the judge…

Does this buzz marketing seem to work? I definitely think that it does. Although this can be a time consuming process, the consumers companies do reach out to employ a personal, face-to-face experience. In my mind, as the consumer, you are more attracted to things you hear from your friends and this word of mouth definitely can spread quickly to reach a large number of the target audience. With the increased use of social networking devices and Youtube, buzz marketing can only spread.

Some companies however choose to create buzz in more of an open manner utilizing normal college students like me and appointing them as ‘Campus Ambassadors’ or ‘Company Representatives.’ There is definite merit within these positions, and I feel that it is an inventive approach of promoting the brand as well as gaining exposure through these mediums. We typically see these ‘Ambassadors’ playing with video games at study break sessions or eating and passing out free bags of goodies during student traffic between classes. All these scenarios are directed to create some sort of buzz throughout the student body. I feel this is more of an effective way to reach out to our generation, a generation that seems to 'know better.' I believe that by being directly hoarded with blatant ads from companies that don’t seem to care, their efforts don’t seem effective, but when I see ‘one of us’ gives me free, company umbrella on a rainy day, I feel that the company genuinely does care about their consumers. We are no longer a generation phased with direct advertising schemes, but rather a market fueled by word of mouth from our own ordinary people.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Blog # 2, The Choice is Yours

Turkey? Chicken Breast? Buffalo Shrimp Po’ Boy? As I stood in line in my favorite Sandwich store I was forced to make a crucial decision with so many options…well in fact TOO many options. I am a hungry consumer that needs to feel satisfied with the right meal, but with so many options how will I know if I made the right choice in only a matter of minutes? So after careful and long deliberation, I chose the Buffalo Shrimp Po’ Boy. Satisfaction here I come! But as I scrolled my eyes down, I began to see a barrage of toppings, dressings and cheeses and can’t help but to be unfortunately overwhelmed once again. By the time I placed my order, my two friends were already chomping away at their sandwiches while I’m still having second thoughts about that turkey on rye…

The mere availability of options gives consumers so much pleasure…yet so much pain as shown in the previous example. Although I feel like I am a pretty savvy consumer that knows what I want, when more than one perfectly viable option is presented, I am quite frankly, flabbergasted. This is when Barry Schwarz’s Paradox of Choice comes into play and smacks you across the face with his loaf of Italian, Wheat and White bread (toasted or not toasted is up to you).

Maximizing freedom = maximizing choice, or so we think. We as a society have a love/hate relationship when it comes to choice. When there’s not enough, we’re not satisfied and ask for more. When there’s too many, we’re still not satisfied and ask for less. How picky we are. The world presents us with an array of everyday choices that seem to please and confuse us simultaneously. Some hate the fact that they take a lifetime to select what shade of blue on a Polo emblem shirt will match their plaid pants better or what dry cleaning facility will offer better services. Alternatively some do in fact love the way they can order it their way and for instance, get a baked potato instead of their fries with their value meal (like me). So my next question I pose is what is the right amount of choices? Is it the size of the menu we see at McDonald’s or is it the selection of different sodas in a vending machine? That’s the job of us ‘Marketers’ to help find that perfect balance we desire through surveys, focus groups, and other types of marketing research. As more and more available choices open up and become discovered, it becomes more and more difficult for consumers to choose what they want leaving us marketers, still with jobs.

Another issue surrounding this topic is customization. We’re in an age of personalizing…um…everything. Oh how we love the funky colors on our Nikes and the iPods with our favorite quote inscribed on the back, and we definitely do adore those lovely Build-a-Bears. We are definitely living in the era of the Generation Y’ers where we can have selection and personal customization in the palm of our hands. However, for anyone’s that’s ever decided to customize their own items, how long does it take? There’s so many colors, so many patterns, so many…options. Customers may spend an eternity searching for the ideal color shoelace, and ironically when they see them in person they may have second thoughts of picking that other color. Cognitive dissonance definitely wanders in this realm of post-customization and rears it’s ugly head forcing unwanted returns and feelings of “I wish I wouldn’t have gotten this altogether.

I personally have trouble when it comes to making decisions about clothing and shoes; I am quite the picky one. I go through piles and piles of shirts and when I finally search two shirts I like, I sit there and debate over a long stretch of time. And when I ultimately do select the shirt I want, I am too tired to look through the stacks of slim-fit, stone washed, and boot cut jeans on the opposite end of the store and instead pay for the shirt so I could go home. This previous scenario has happened to too many of us; we find ourselves stuck on debating on a single product that saps away our attention and focus and ultimately leads to fewer or repeat purchases of the same product. In this respect, companies might lose profits down the road with customers buying less and spending more time debating on a variety of options. The ending scenario of this story as well as choice paralysis leave customers leaving with a sense of confusion, bewilderment, and second guessing, not feelings of joy, excitement and happiness like they’d want it to be. However looking at the big picture, in my opinion the option of choice does more good than harm by giving customers the freedom to choose their personal, ideal product that fits their personalities and lifestyles. The choice is yours and yours alone….