Shop Smart: The Cheap, Value & Luxury Spectrum

Those that know me well know me as “cheap”, and while there is some truth to that labeling, the reality is that I tend to belong in the middle of what I call the “cheap, value and luxury” spectrum.

My hypothesis is this: people fall, by and large, into one of 3 categories of consumer spending — Cheap, Quality and Luxury.

Those that fall into the cheap category do everything in their power to pay the lowest price for everything, with little to no regard for quality and other factors. Though they may not act this way for all purchases, they do so frequently.

The luxury category is the exact opposite. These people tend to spend much more than the other two categories on most purchases, placing a large emphasis on quality and branding. These individuals tend to make purchases based on implicit, rather than explicit value and favour intangibles like brand value and perceived popularity points. While they value quality, they lean towards legacy brand perception rather than outright build quality and reviews.

Finally, there is the value category, comprised of individuals that tend to spend the most time evaluating purchases and striving to strike a balance between quality and price. Value consumers perform additional research to find an optimal price vs. quality” point.

The value category is concerned with explicit benefits of one product over another. Some qualities they may focus on include: build quality, specifications, availability and price.

The reality is that few people fit perfectly into one section of the spectrum but tend to fall into one category more often than the others. I consider myself to fall into the middle category most of the time, spending a lot of time researching products and throwing branding and popularity out the window, but for smaller or less important purchases, I certainly lean towards the cheap category.

Where do you fall in the spectrum and why? Let me know in the comments below.

Shout out to 20somethingfinance for the inspiration for this post.

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Social Media = Social Justice

Social media easily one of the biggest technological advancements to-date, especially (and obviously) in regards to socializing.

What is so great about it? Plenty:Twitter Social Media Justice

  • It allows you to keep easily message and keep up with hundreds of friends (even if we actually only keep in touch with a subset)
  • You can connect with people you would otherwise not be able to connect with (e.g. celebrities on Twitter or people around the world)
  • It enables business to connect with new customers
  • It is a great way of interacting with others (starting conversations around a status)
  • It enables true global social justice

Each aspect combines to make social media a far reaching technological advancement with tremendous implications for everyone. Perhaps my favourite aspect of social media is the fact that everyone is held accountable.

Social media holds everyone accountable.

Social media gives everyone a voice – true universal justice. No matter how “small” you are, if you have been truly wronged, you can find justice via social media. This social justice is usually most effective when leveraged against businesses, organizations and government, however it can also be used to directly help the individuals that have been wronged.

Social media makes everyone accountable for their actions. Take, for example, a rude Twitter user behind the Kansas City Chiefs. The story in short: an angry fan tweeted about a poor management decision and was shot back at rudely by the person in charge of the NFL team’s Twitter account. The story gets tossed around via social media soon the story goes viral – a ton of bad press for the Chiefs.

Perhaps the biggest story to emerge recently was the pizza shop owner bear hugging Obama. As a result of giving a spontaneous bear hug to the President, Scott Van Duzer found his pizza shop receiving a lot of attention. At first, the attention was extremely negative with right win nuts pouring in leaving horrible reviews on Yelp, trying to ruin his business. The good news is, however, that eventually other people caught on and came in to save the day. His shop then began to receive thousands of positive reviews, more than counteracting the negative reviews.

Over the last several years, I can think of several instances where someone was left victimized and social media allowed people to give donations and help them in their time of need. The ability to tap into  the hearts of millions of strangers is truly an incredible phenomenon.

Whether it is people correcting for wrong doing caused by others or simply holding the jerks of the world accountable, social media allows for the first ever form of global social justice for the individual.

The Future of Marketing is Virtual Currency

For many years now I have been a huge supporter of the movement away from cash, towards more convenient payment methods such as credit cards. Despite the fact that “plastic” payment methods have existed for many years, the industry and the world as a whole has taken a long time to accept to the notion of ditching dead trees with ink. Google Wallet has made huge strides to replace cash with convenience and the extended notion of virtual currency translates well into the world of marketing.

Traditionally marketers have tried to entice consumers to action with various discounts, coupons, giveaways and other means of promotion. Virtual currency may be one of the biggest soon-to-come revelations in the world of marketing. As consumers become increasingly comfortable with making purchases and dealing with money online, the opportunity for virtual currency promotion grows incredibly.

Virtual currency – differentiated from online payments – refers to a monetary equivalent of real-world currency that is used to purchase virtual goods online. The popularity of online payments has evolved hand-in-hand with the popularity of virtual currency as consumers become more comfortable purchasing goods (virtual and otherwise) online. Virtual currency is currently used predominantly in the gaming world to purchase upgrades or items but it has potential applications in many areas – especially marketing promotion.

Marketing promotions can be extremely costly, particularly when they involve deep discounts or cash payouts. Virtual currency may be the way of the future – allowing marketers the ability to incentivize activity such as watching a video advertisement or perform some other desired action in exchange for virtual currency. Depending on the platform, this currency may be of negligible cost. Of course, the benefits to the advertiser are huge; namely, the ability to motivate specific actions and measure this activity while maintaining a high ROI.

The world is already being dominated by gamification – the idea of motivating particular actions by making an activity seem like a game with some sort of reward system. Virtual currency is the perfect extension of gamification, allowing for relatively cheap, yet still motivating rewards. Users get roped-in to their favourite games and in order to unlock new levels, abilities or costumes, they can choose to engage with a brand to earn virtual currency to do with as they please.

This stuff works. I know because despite being very aware of the way marketing works, it still gets me. There is little avoiding it. It is not all bad, however, as both parties end up winning. Marketing and advertising has always been a way for consumers to receive free content. Now users have a choice: give your personal information to marketers in return for free stuff or perform desired actions. I discussed previously that online privacy is overrated, but those concerned about keeping their personal info confidential will gain a new avenue to free content.

Gamification and virtual currency, especially when combined, can be a powerful platform for marketers. It is a win-win situation (much like the exchange of personal information used to be before spam took over the world). Consumers get free virtual currency for their favourite online communities and advertisers receive levels of engagement they have not enjoyed since the internet rose to popularity. As a result it is only a matter of time before virtual currency marketing promotions become a common tactic. Forward-facing organizations that wish to remain at the front of the herd need to act quickly so as not to miss this opportunity.

Game on.

Inspiration from this post drawn from “Virtual Currency Is The Next Big Platform”.

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Cineplex Timeplay: New and Improved

cineplex-timeplay-new-and-improvedIn a previous post, I wrote about how terrible the new Cineplex Timeplay experience was. I am writing about it again because they have dramatically improved the experience and it is now pretty awesome! Perhaps I was somewhat critical of the initial experience because it was the first attempt of its kind. Before we take a look at the improvements, however, a quick summary for the uninitiated:

Timeplay is an advertising experience comprised of smartphone apps that interact with “games” onscreen in the movie theatre. Users perform actions like flicking blobs onto the screen from their smartphone to reveal or create images in order to win prizes. It is a bit hard to explain, but the main idea is to get users to engage in advertisement-driven games to win prizes.

Click here to view a video overview of Timeplay

Better Rewards

The single biggest improvement has taken place in the reward received for participation. Previously, movie-goers were given prizes like “10% off a Canon Camera”. For advertisers, these rewards were great because they were directly applicable to their products, however, for users they were not very motivating. After all, everyday coupons and promotions typically match or top these discounts. The rewards also had no relation to the actual movie experience.

Thankfully, they have made some great changes to these rewards. Namely, scene points (reward points for free movies and concessions) are now given for certain Timeplay games. For frequent movie-goers this is a much more motivating reward. I collect these points religiously and get many free movies a year so I am now actively engaging with Timeplay where previously I had stopped caring. Hopefully they continue to tie-in movie specific rewards like these.

Better Games

Some of the games available for Timeplay are fun, while others are terribly mundane. Ford, for example, had a game that involved voting for what scene you wanted to see next in the commercial. Yes, it is just as boring as it sounds – you are simply voting on what part of a advertisement you want to see.

Timeplay now seems to be distancing themselves from these “games”, that really aren’t games at all. They seem to be focusing on games that involve throwing blobs from your smartphone onto the screen by flicking the screen. These games are actually surprisingly fun as you are awarded points individually.

Personalization

Somewhat annoyingly, Timeplay automatically assigns you a username that you cannot, at this point change. While this makes sense because many users may abuse customization by using inappropriate names, it is somewhat disappointing. What is neat, however, is that recent Timeplay ads have begun to incorporate these personal qualities into the games. For example, in a recent game I played, I was able to launch graffiti onto the screen and next to each piece of graffiti was my username. I was also awarded points individually that were used to rank players at the end of the game. Players were then rewarded with 100 scene points (1/10th of a free movie). Awesome!

Fewer Games (ads)

Timeplay had been added on top of all previous pre-movie advertisements. What that meant was that there was another 5 minutes or so of advertisements, extending the time before a movie (there are already too many pre-movie advertisements!).

A huge improvement has been reducing the number of Timeplay games (ads) to 1 before a movie. This is a much more reasonable intrusion – although I’m sure movie-goers that do not have smartphones are still probably angry at the extra advertising they cannot even participate in.

Overall, I like the idea of engaging advertisements as long as they meet the criteria I mentioned throughout this post: good rewards, fun games, and a reasonable amount of time/ads. Have you experienced Timeplay? Have you noticed any improvements?

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The New Google Look And Feel is Simple And Awesome

Google's new look and feel is simple and awesomeGoogle has made a number of fairly dramatic changes to the look and feel of some of its biggest products. Gmail, Google Analytics and even Google Search have seen major look-and-feel changes lately. Some people feel the new Google look feels wrong but I completely disagree.

Google has long been loved for its openness and its simplicity and while it has taken a couple steps back with openness lately they have moved forward with simplicity and integration across products. Although I do not use Google+ (and think it’s a redundant service given everyone already uses Facebook & Twitter), I do enjoy its interface. The Google+ look is clean and awesome and is finally being applied across Google products. The result is a unified UI across products that is easy to use and looks and feels like the modern web.

Google Search has remained particularly simple over the years with few changes to its design so some decent changes are long overdue. The integration of products along the top bar is one of the nicest additions (although not the most recent addition). Google is of course desperately pushing Google+, which I’m not overly pleased with but as long as everything else becomes more integrated as well, then all is well.

The new Google look and feel

It is very convenient that you can now log into Gmail (or your default Google product) and be automatically logged in throughout other products like Google+, Google Analytics etc.

Back to the design discussion – the Gmail redesign was met with a lot of push-back but I suspect that most people were responding as a knee-jerk reflex and hadn’t given themselves a chance to get used to it. Very similar to the complaining about Facebook changes that are quickly forgotten about. By now, I’m sure most people have become comfortable with the redesign.

All-in-all, I like the changes. Everything is still simple, clean, modern looking and visually appealing. The integration between products is getting better and the look-and-feel helps reduce the feeling of fragmentation. Keep it up Google!

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Brand Shift: Achievers-Formerly I Love Rewards

Achievers, formerly I Love Rewards, a Canadian company based out of Toronto, has long since found a niche in the market, offering unique employee recognition and reward systems. Razor Suleman, Founder and CEO of Achievers, has earned numerous awards for the success of his business. They have found great success with the I Love Reward brand before becoming Achievers. I caught up with Rob Bianchin, Recognition & Engagement Professional, to find out why they went for the change.

What was the primary reason behind the name change?

We originally started as a rewards company and differentiated based on providing an extensive rewards catalog, online. But, when we asked customers what value we currently provided – it was software that helped increase engagement, change behavior, drive performance, and build a culture of recognition – not just rewards. Additionally, Achievers is aspirational – like us! It represents the values and philosophy that we use to help our customers every day to build great corporate cultures and Achievers.

Why was Achievers chosen? What message is it supposed to send?

Of all of the names that were brought to the table Achievers was selected as it provided a real representation of what our solutions focus on producing brand-shift-love-rewards-now-achieverstoday as well as in the future for the HR Marketplace. The common perception in the industry was that I Love Rewards was another “Rewards” company and that is the farthest things from where our focus is. Our mission is “to Change the Way the World Works” and being perceived as a rewards company would not help us achieve the necessary milestones to drive our business forward.

What is being done to ensure that reputation behind ILR is transferred to Achievers?

In terms of transferring the brand equity from I Love Rewards to Achievers there has been a detailed communication plan rolled out to inform our current clients, prospects and marketplace of the changes that were taking place. We communicated the change early to our customers at our Annual Customer Experience (ACE) conference, created email campaigns to notify our database and also engaged with a number of press outlets to get the word out into the industry. Moving forward, we will be heavily investing in marketing and events highlighting Achievers (formerly I Love Rewards) as represented in my signature below to strengthen the association until we are more established. Additionally, our plan is to expand in the United States, this was the perfect time to change our name because we do not have nearly the same brand recognition there that we have in Canada.

Achievers (formerly I Love Rewards) is passionate about employee rewards and Social Recognition. Their software helps engage employees and inspire performance globally.

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