– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

A portmanteau is a linguistic blend of words in which parts of multiple words are combined into a new word. Common language examples include smog, which is a combination of the words smoke and fog, and motel which combines motor and hotel.

Some big companies used the portmanteau technique to develop their names. Microsoft is a portmanteau of microcomputer and software. Groupon combines group and coupon.

However, sometimes companies refuse to admit that their portmanteau name doesn’t work.

Consider this manufacturer of pool maintenance products.

Yes, I get that they slammed “pool” and “life” together to get their name, but no matter how many times you look at this name it is hard to not see “Poo Life” isn’t it? And who wants to live a “poo life” anyway?

Here is another one. Yes, I see what they did here by combining “smart” and “tours.” But step away from the page for a second and look at it…what the heck is a “smar Tour” (or did you mean “smarT ours)?

Portmanteau names can be very good when the combination makes sense, but you have to have some common sense (as in most things in life). Combining words together to make a brand name can work or can look very stupid. Don’t be stupid!

Mike Lindell, has built an impressive business around a pretty simple brand name and trademark:

We’ve previously written about the MyPillow trademark, noting the apparently narrow scope of rights it enjoys, as a result of the coexistence with some pretty similar marks, including this one:

Earlier this year, My Pillow filed a complaint in federal district court in Minnesota, against LMP Worldwide, owner of the above federally-registered and incontestable trademark registration.

The complaint alleges breach of a 2013 settlement, federal trademark infringement and unfair competition, Minnesota deceptive trade practices, Minnesota unfair competition, and asks for damages, lost profits, and cancellation of the above-referenced federal trademark registration.

The complaint is interesting reading, and it appears the notion of any peaceful coexistence is no longer an option if Mr. Lindell has his way, especially given the allegations regarding breach of contract, actual confusion, keyword violations, and false advertising.

Pillow talk about the settlement terms will be most interesting, as only cryptic passages are public.

Suffice it to say, when you’re spending $4 Million each week on advertising the MyPillow brand, as the complaint alleges, I’m thinking it’s hard not to believe LMP isn’t enjoying an enormous windfall.

–James Mahoney, Razor’s Edge Communications

Admit it, when you saw the headline, many of you finished the jingle featured in Farmers Insurance TV commercials.

Farmers has a great campaign going. Geico has a good campaign going. Both are entertaining. First, Farmers:

Their “Hall of Claims” series, developed by RPA, showcases weird situations that Farmers has paid claims on. RPA’s latest iteration on the “University of Farmers” campaign is terrific. It has a catchy jingle and a catchy tagline, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.”

Right off the bat, every ad is unmistakably Farmers, from the opening shot of the set to the friendly, matter-of-fact delivery of spokesman J.K. Simmons. A consistent and long-term campaign, it always offers fresh interest.

Geico’s ads, developed by the Martin Agency, take a different tack. You don’t know whose ad it is until the payoff line hits partway through, like “Casual Friday at Buckingham Palace? Surprising. What’s not surprising? How much money [particular customer] saved by switching to Geico.”

The Farmers “Hall of Claims” ads are stronger than Geico’s “Surprising” series for a couple of reasons:

First, Geico’s creative doesn’t relate specifically to insurance the way that Farmers’ does. That doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a weak campaign, but it does mean that they need to hammer harder and more often to establish the connection.

Second, there’s no immediately discernable Geico style since the scenarios are wildly different from one another. That raises the odds that, except for the more intriguing scenarios, someone will skip or otherwise tune them out with nary a thought of Geico. It’s also a factor that other companies are running campaigns that use the same “surprise” approach. That makes the competition for mindshare that much harder when there’s no obvious or intuitive link to the advertiser.

Our personal favorite Geico ad is Casual Friday at Buckingham Palace. As we fast-forward through commercial breaks, we’ll actually stop at that one to see it again. Funny stuff, well written and brilliantly acted.

Now compare that to any Farmers ad of the weird things they’ve insured. The difference is that one is entertainment sponsored by Geico, the other is indelible proof points, unforgettably Farmers, presented in an entertaining fashion.

That’s the difference between a great campaign and a good one. I like them both.

It sure feels like fall already. Apart from the fifty degree walk with my dog this morning, we’re now entering the second week of college football. Regular readers might have noticed that our blog has a couple of Iowa Hawkeye fans among the writers (Exhibits 1, 2, and 3). This week Iowa takes on their in-state rival, the Iowa State Cyclones. Without a professional sports team in Iowa, the college teams are the big draws throughout the state. While the rest of the country probably couldn’t care less, the game is a pretty big deal to native Iowans. For that reason, the rivalry creates some strong (and often pointless) arguments. The most recent argument involves two competing slogans around the state’s ties to agriculture that, at least according to some fans, borders on trademark infringement.

Although I’m sure you came here for an Iowa history lesson, I’ll keep the background brief. Beginning in the late 1970s running into the mid-1980s, farmers began suffering significant economic problems. Oil prices and interest rates rose while export volume and prices for farm commodities fell. Farmers’ debt rose, with significant numbers of foreclosures. It was against this backdrop that Hayden Fry, then head coach of the Iowa Hawkeye football team created the slogan “America Needs Farmers” or ANF for short. The ANF logo was placed on the Hawkeye helmets (image below):

 

More than thirty years later, the logo still appears on Hawkeye helmets, as well as in pretty impressive card stunts on select game days:

 

Like all “awareness” promotions, the ANF program has its detractors. The program is run in partnership with the Iowa Farm Bureau, which assists in the sale of a wide variety of merchandise. A portion of all the proceeds goes to Iowa’s food banks.

Some Iowa State Cyclone fans feel that the awareness and food bank donations are insufficient support for farmers. As one of the world’s top agricultural schools, the fans felt that Iowa State does a lot more to help farmers than the University of Iowa. A few years ago this led to one fan site to create the phrase “Actually Helping Farmers,” or AHF. It seemed that not much came from the phrase, until earlier this summer when second-year head coach Matt Campbell latched onto the #AHF acronym in a tweet, raising the ire of an Iowa Hawkeye fan site. Even making the Des Moines television broadcast.

Some fans have suggested that the dispute may cross the line into trademark infringement. I’ll set aside the importance of deciding which school helps farmers more (spoiler: there is nothing important about doing that), but I couldn’t not leap at a chance to spend my blog post writing about trademarks and my alma matter.

While there are only so many letters in the alphabet (26, to be exact), acronym marks are still subject to trademark protection. So does the University of Iowa have a case? It isn’t clear what exactly Iowa State is using the AHF acronym for, if anything. The coach’s inclusion of AHF as a hashtag in a tweet is unlikely to be actionable. The acronym seems to have been used for primarily for merchandise like t-shirts. For our sake, let’s assume Iowa State were to begin using AHF in the same way: a sticker on its helmets, widespread merchandising on everything from tree ornaments to window blinds. Would that create a problem, are the acronyms sufficiently similar?

Acronym marks are not given the same level of protection is non-acronym, inherently distinctive terms. However a party can assert an acronym mark against a third-party for use of similar acronym, even if a letter is different (they can even win, too!). For example, courts have found that VDS was confusingly similar to VCDS, both for video duplication services; CSC was found confusingly similar to CCC, both for electric wiring components; and I.A.I. was found confusingly similar to ISI, both for printed publications in similar scientific fields. As one court reasoned, ” it is more difficult to remember a series of arbitrarily arranged letters than it is to remember figures, syllables, or phrases, and that the difficulty of remembering such multiple-letter marks makes the likelihood of confusion between such marks, when similar, more probable.” Dere v. Inst. for Sci. Info., Inc., 420 F.2d 1068 (CCPA 1970).

As a result, the fact that ANF and AHF have different middle letters does not mean that there is no likelihood of confusion. The marks could, in fact, be confusingly similar depending upon the overall context in which they appear. But a lawsuit seems unlikely, as neither school likely wants to get dragged into a dispute over helping farmers. It’s not the best public relations event. Plus, we haven’t even touched on the possibility that Iowa State might prevail on an argument that the use of AHF is a parody. Although I haven’t considered the legal support for a parody claim, Iowa State has some experience in parody, having pretended to be a real football team for the last three decades.

Yet when the fourth quarter hits zero, I’d expect this debate to die down – until September 2018, that is.

Go Hawks!

 

The famous Coachella Music Festival is held every April in Indio, California. This year Beyoncé, Radiohead, Lorde and several DJs (including DJ Snyder, DJ Kahleel, DJ Shadow) performed.

Coachella

The Coachella Music Festival, LLC and Goldenvoice, LLC (collectively “Coachella Parties”) sued Urban Outfitters, Inc. (“Urban Outfitters”) and its subsidiary Free People of PA LLC (“Free People”) for trademark infringement, unfair competition, dilution, and violation of various state law claims based on the clothiers Urban Outfitters’ and Free People’s use of COACHELLA marks.  One of the allegations at issue was Urban Outfitters and/or Free People the use of one or more of the COACHELLA marks as a “keyword” to trigger the clothiers’ online advertising.

The Coachella Music Festival LLC owns eight (8) registrations for COACHELLA marks (including:  COACHELLA alone; COACHELLA VALLEY MUSIC AND ARTS FESTIVAL and CHELA).  The Coachella Parties sell their own apparel with the COACHELLA marks and also licenses the COACHELLA marks to the popular inexpensive fashion store H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB.

The Coachella Parties allege that Urban Outfitters and Free People should both be held liable under an alter ego theory.  Urban Outfitters and Free People have the same: (1) principal places of business; (2) headquarters; (3) consolidated financial reports discuss pooling finances; (4) legal department; (5) IT department; (6) construction department; (7) sourcing department; (8) production department; and (9) in-house attorney reporting to SEC. Moreover, all of Urban Outfitters’ subsidiaries are grouped together in SEC filings and are referred to as “brands” of Urban Outfitters rather than separate companies.

Parent company Urban Outfitters moved to be dismissed from the lawsuit.  Urban Outfitters contends that the Coachella Parties fail to allege facts that show Urban Outfitters exerts control over every facet of Free People’s business or that Free People is a sham company that exists only to protect Urban Outfitters from liability. In other words, Urban Outfitters is not the alter ego of Free People.

Will Urban Outfitters be dismissed from the lawsuit? Will its subsidiary Free People be held liable for trademark infringement, unfair competition or dilution?

Are you unaware of the difference between search engine searches and the search results? Do you believe that a search engine can read your mind and return exactly (and only) the results you expect to receive? Is this your first time using the internet? Good news! If you answered yes to these questions, the Ninth Circuit’s recent decision in Multi Time Machine v. Amazon, Inc. is made just for you. But on behalf of the remaining 98% of the public, can I just ask one question: really?

If you’re unfamiliar with the facts, we discussed the (then) soon-to-be-decided decision here a few weeks ago (links to oral argument included). Eric Goldman also had a nice article on Forbes.com Monday. The short summary is this:

  • MTM Special Ops is a brand of military style watches;
  • Amazon does not sell MTM Special Ops watches;
  • If an internet user searches Amazon with the phrase “MTM Special Ops,” the search algorithm will return a handful of products which, based on past searches/purchases, are related to MTM Special Ops watches, all clearly labeled as “by Casio,” “by Luminox,” etc.;
  • MTM sued, claiming that consumers would be confused by the search results, either being confused as to the source of the goods or suffering from initial interest confusion; and
  • The district court granted summary judgment to Amazon.com.

In a 2-1 vote with one judge dissenting, the Ninth Circuit reversed (decision here). The court essentially held that in order to avoid initial interest confusion, Amazon (and other online retailers) must state precisely whether a particular search returned any exact matches. The kindest thing that can be said about this decision is that the Court really appreciates the role of a jury. But kindness aside, I’m still stuck wondering, really?

The court identifies the use of the plaintiff’s marks that is at issue here. They appear in the search engine field (the blank form). The exact search terms appear in quotations below the search field. And then there is another line which states: “Related Searches: mtm special ops watch.” Really? That’s the issue? The user is the one who entered the search term in the blank field. That blank field is editable in case the user didn’t find they wanted and, in case they choose to edit, Amazon includes the search terms below in quotations for the ease of the user. the “Related Searches” is clearly labelled, too. Is this confusing to anyone out there?

MTM had provided an expert report that stated that the search results are ambiguous, misleading, and confusing. The Ninth Circuit found that “a jury could infer that users who are confused by the search results are confused as to why MTM products are not listed. Even assuming this inference is warranted, it establishes that customers were not confused as to the source of the goods that appeared in the search results. They recognized that the search results were for different brands, not for MTM Special Ops.

There was also evidence that Amazon’s vendors and customers had complained to Amazon because “they did not understand why they received certain non-responsive search results when they searched for products that are not carried by Amazon.” Again, the evidence confirms that customers were not in fact confused by labeling of the search results. They were annoyed as to why other brands were coming up and confused as to the algorithm behind the search engine, but the court’s characterization suggests that consumers were able to easily confirm that the search results were not related to MTM Special Ops.

The court acknowledges that consumers are not likely to be confused once they visit the product detail page. It is unclear to me though what additional information is available on the product detail page that is not available in the search results. Each search result is clearly labeled as “Brand, Item number by Brand.” For example, Luminox Men’s 8401 Black Ops Watch by Luminox or Chase-Durer Men’s 246, 4BB7 Special Forces Black Watch by Chase-Durer.

The court appears to conflate consumer confusion regarding the marks with consumer confusion as to how search engines work. A search engine is not a personal assistant. A search engine is a functional tool used to index and access relevant information and reduce search time and costs. A user can, if they wish, access Amazon like a more traditional store: Shop By Department, Clothing and Jewelry Department, Watches, and then can click “Refine by Brand.” But that’s a lot of work. Instead, a search engine provides a quick access point to gather the most relevant options, some of which may not be exactly what the user was seeking. For example, the MTM Special Ops searches returned two fiction books. Which are clearly not watches and are clearly not MTM Special Ops brand books.

These same facts in a brick and mortar store could not support a reasonable claim of confusion. Imagine walking into Wal-Mart, Target, or any other large retailer and asking the very first person where the MTM Special Ops watches are. They’ll likely say: “Well, our watches are over there.” If you’re lucky, they may even walk you there and point at the watches. But they’re not likely to affirmatively state “We don’t have MTM Special Ops” watches. In my experience, it is usually “If we have them, they’d be in this aisle.” If I walked out with a Casio watch, would anyone really consider that to be trademark infringement?

Practically speaking, this is a simple fix for Amazon. If a search does not match up with a specific product, then it can state “There were no exact matches for the search, but the following results may be of interest.” The court frequently points out that Overstock.com does exactly that. But if the same type of inquiry in a non-internet store isn’t actionable, why should Amazon be potentially liable?

Perhaps the issue is simply that “initial interest confusion” needs to be discarded, at least with respect to search engine/keyword cases. As the Ninth Circuit reasoned in Toyota Motor Sales v. Tabari, 610 F.3d 1171 (9th Cir. 2010):

[I]n the age of FIOS, cable modems, DSL and T1 lines, reasonable, prudent and experienced internet consumers are accustomed to such exploration by trial and error. They skip from site to site, ready to hit the back button whenever they’re not satisfied with a site’s contents. They fully expect to find some sites that aren’t what they imagine based on a glance at the domain name or search engine summary. Outside the special case of . . . domains that actively claim affiliation with the trademark holder, consumers don’t form any firm expectations about the sponsorship of a website until they’ve seen the landing page—if then.

The Multi Time Machine court discarded this argument (and Network Automation) on the grounds that this case involved summary judgment, rather than a motion for preliminary injunction. But this reasoning doesn’t involve weight of the evidence. It appears to be more of a legal conclusion regarding customer sophistication on the internet, which is directly relevant to the facts of Multi Time Machine.

Personally, I find Amazon’s search features very helpful. It is a convenient way to reduce search time, compare products, and find other potential goods for purchase. Do we really want to inhibit these advantages simply because a few users who rarely shop on the internet might be confused by the search results, even though they aren’t confused before they make an actual purchase? Really?

 

2015 was the 40th anniversary for the NBC comedy series, Saturday Night Live (SNL). After 40 years, a television show is bound to have a cultural impact. And one of the series’ most well known sketches involves Olympia Restaurant, where customers keep asking for Coke, but are repeatedly told, “No Coke, Pepsi.”

It is doubtful even the most ardent lovers of SNL would have expected that the show would have an impact on trademark jurisprudence. Yet in Multi Time Mach., Inc. v. Amazon. com the Ninth Circuit is considering whether to adopt a “No Coke, Pepsi” rule in the context of online shopping.

The case involves a trademark infringement claim brought by a watch manufacturer. The district court granted summary judgment for Amazon.com, finding that there was no likelihood of confusion as a matter of law. 926 F. Supp. 2d 1130 (C.D. Cal. 2013). The oral argument before the Ninth Circuit can be viewed here, with an audio only version available here.

The Ninth Circuit follows the Sleekcraft factors in determining whether a plaintiff has established a likelihood of confusion. However, in cases of internet advertising, and in particular, use of trademarks as a search term, the Ninth Circuit utilizes a modified approach first adopted in Network Automation, Inc. v. Advanced Sys. Concepts, Inc., 638 F.3d 1137 (9th Cir. 2011). In that decision, the Ninth Circuit added a new factor for internet advertising, namely, “the appearance of the advertisements and their surrounding context on search engine results.”

The plaintiff argued that Amazon’s display of search results created a likelihood of confusion as to whether the watches displayed as a result were somehow connected with Multi-Time Machine (MTM). Amazon did not carry MTM watches. Yet when entering a search, Amazon’s results did not say “no matches found.” Instead, Amazon uses an algorithm which displays products that internet users may be likely to purchase based on past consumer behavior (i.e., they searched for MTM and later purchased a Casio watch). The search results were not labeled as “sponsored ads” or “other items you might like.” However, each of the results clearly identified the model and brand of each product.

The plaintiff argued that this was insufficient. Instead, it reasoned that Amazon should have stated “No MTM, Casio, Luminox, etc.” Because the MTM brand still appeared in the search engine form at the top of the page, MTM claimed that there was a factual dispute as to whether an internet user might mistakenly assume that the results were sub-brands of MTM, or were connected in some other way to MTM.

In response, Amazon contended that under Ninth Circuit precedent, the relevant consumer was a “reasonably prudent consumer accustomed to shopping online.” Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc. v Tabari, 610 F3d 1171 (9th Cir 2010). Each search result clearly identified the manufacturer of the watch and, as a result, internet shoppers could not reasonably assume a connection with MTM merely because it appeared in the search bar.

Amazon could have its search screen state whether a user’s search returned any exact results. But from a practical perspective, what would this look like? If I search for Take 5 on Amazon, must amazon inform me that it does not sell Take 5 candy bars, even if I’m actually looking for a Dave Brubeck vinyl? And what if Amazon actually had the MTM watch, should it have been required to display only MTM watches? Or, what if a consumer is actually using the mark as comparative advertising, similar to walking into retail store and asking whether they have something like a Calvin Klein jacket?

The degree of care and reasonable expectations of internet shoppers continues to evolve. In my own internet shopping, I’m easily able to discern between Amazon search results which include competitors’ products. But maybe I’m more discerning than others in my online shopping. No decision has been issued in the case, though, so MTM will just have to wait and see whether the Ninth Circuit’s response will be “No Remand, Affirmed.”

As many of you know from Steve Baird’s post earlier this week – Ola Crapola! – we attended the FUSE 2014 Brand Strategy & Design Conference in the Windy City.   It was fun to hang out with creative design and brand people for the last couple of days.

The presentation from the Voice Lead from Chipotle was especially memorable.   One of the ad campaigns “Farmed and Dangerous” involved a soap opera type series promoting Chipotle.  There was a big “bad” company that was feeding its cows oil pellets (somehow resulting in more profits).   Not the healthiest choice.   In addition, there was an unfortunate side effect of exploding cows.  The good guy farmer named “Chip” (short for Chipotle – good marketing) was going to expose this unhealthy phenomenon; check out the video here.

In addition, Chipotle partnered with Oscar winning directors Brandon Oldenburg and Limbert Fabian, along with singer Fiona Apple to make a viral ad/short about a scarecrow with a similar theme titled “The Scarecrow“.

As the Huffington Post explains:  “The original ad left us feeling all the feelings thanks to one extremely sad scarecrow working in one extremely disturbing food factory.  Until he discovers the pleasures of fresh food, that is.”

My friends Aaron Keller and Kitty Hart of Capsule joined us at FUSE.  Throughout the conference, they blogged about the presentations.

Empathy and meaningful connections were themes in many of the presentations we saw throughout the conference.  The following quote from Maya Angelou resonated:   “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  This is an important quote to keep in mind when branding, selling, designing, and indeed, transcends most careers.   As a litigator, I know that it is important to connect with a jury and leave them with a good feeling toward my client.  How does empathy impact your career?

– Mark Prus, Principal, NameFlash

Back in the mid-2000s, A.G. Lafley (during his first tour of duty as CEO of P&G) championed the “First Moment of Truth” which represented the time when people are looking at the store shelf and trying to decide whether to buy the product.

Later, P&G emphasized the “Second Moment of Truth,” which is when people try the product at home, to rationalize why they spend oodles of money on Research & Development.

Google VP-U.S. Sales and Service Jim Lecinski jumped back in time to coin “ZMOT,” for the “Zero Moment of Truth,” which is the time when people research a purchase online before shopping for the product. By the way, if you have not read Jim’s book you must do so. It is a free download.

As a professional name developer I believe there is an even more important moment of truth. I call it the Minus One Moment of Truth™ and I believe it can help guide the choice of a name for your company, product or service.

What is the Minus One Moment of Truth? It is the very first time your prospective target customer hears of your company, product or service. If you are choosing a name for your company, product or service, please do the necessary research to understand the Minus One Moment of Truth for your key target customers, because understanding it will yield a lot of clues for your name choice (and your marketing).

For example, let’s say you are developing a new name for a plumbing service. You have done the research and discovered that the vast majority of new customers hear of your company through recommendations of other satisfied customers. In this case, your Minus One Moment of Truth is the instant that George tells Sam that his plumbing is leaking and Sam tells George that he should call “XYZ Plumbers” because they will do the work fast and won’t charge you an arm and a leg (or whatever your unique points of difference are). The conclusion from this example is your name had better be easy to remember because you are relying on Sam to convey the information to George and for George to remember it until he can contact the plumber.

How can things go wrong in this example? Well, what if George does not remember the exact name but remembers that the plumber was supposed to be inexpensive? He uses Google to search for inexpensive plumbers in his area and finds Affordable Plumbers, Discount Plumbers, Cheapskate Plumbers, and SaveMore Plumbers. Here is where failure in the Minus One Moment of Truth leads to a disaster in the Zero Moment of Truth. If George can’t remember the name from his first encounter with Sam, then XYZ Plumbers loses because Google will provide many alternatives. Clearly XYZ Plumbers needs a name that conveys its unique point of difference in a way that will make the Minus One Moment of Truth a memorable event.

Here is another example. Jenny is an artist who wants to rename her art business. She spends a lot of weekends at art fairs around the country and she also has an Etsy e-commerce store. What is her Minus One Moment of Truth? In looking at her business, she believes the Minus One Moment of Truth happens on her Etsy storefront as the Etsy store is her biggest sales volume generator. So she thinks that she needs a name that will search well and therefore she wants to include keywords that relate to her inventory. I’m not going to argue against that approach, but I will point out that she needs to understand the Minus One Moment of Truth for her business. Do the people who buy her product come from searches on Google or Etsy, or do they come from people who have met her in person at the art fairs? If the former, then yes by all means consider inclusion of relevant keywords. If the latter, keywords may not be that important because the Etsy sales are generated by people who met her in person. These people are likely to get her business card and be driven to her web presence by that connection, so perhaps the new business name can be something memorable about her as an artist.

I’m not suggesting that you should violate the fundamentals of developing a good name (and my “Top 5” fundamentals of name selection are shown below). But I am suggesting that you understand your target market and how they first hear of you and then apply these fundamentals:

Fundamentals of a Good Name:

1.  Is simple and concise (easy to pronounce, read and spell).

2.  Is legally available from a trademark standpoint and has domain name options.

3.  Is differentiated versus competition in the category.

4.  Is easy to remember.

5.  Delivers the idea or concept behind the product or conveys something real and specific about the product.

So don’t name your business, product or service without considering where your target customer first hears the name…the Minus One Moment of Truth!

– David Mitchel, Director of Marketing – Distribion, Inc.

During the recent LIMRA-LOMA Social Media Conference for Financial Services, one of the key points that keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuk made was that marketers & salespeople ruin everything. “Ruin everything” is a subjective phrase, and was meant in terms of various marketing channels. Is he right?

There’s a view that in technology, a channel gets hot first, then marketers discover it as a means of product promotion. Following the discovery of the channel for marketing purposes, the channel immediately loses its cool factor. In the late 1990s, it was cool to have a website and there were an onslaught of advertisers using TV ads to mention their company’s website. Now, that tactic is less frequently used. Email marketing is evolving, which is normal, as it has been a long time component of the marketing communication mix. Vaynerchuk’s cited that email open rates have dropped in the last 24 months. 2012 Epsilon data indicated otherwise about open rates, but didn’t paint the rosiest picture for click through rates. There’s also data that indicates that email still is a better option than social media for getting the sale completed. Email marketing is most definitely not considered the cool kid on the block anymore, but that doesn’t mean it does not have a function within the marketing mix. Vaynerchuk also noted that Google Adwords has experienced a 15% decline in click throughs in 2013.

Almost every history class includes some variant of the line that history repeats itself. Could we see history repeat with some current marketing channels? I certainly believe so. While we might not necessarily know for certain how the social media landscape will change over time, we do know that it is going to change and that change will impact the advertising model. For instance, there was a time where YouTube did not have pre-roll video advertising. An Econsultancy article cited research that showed 94% of people skip pre-roll ads. At first, pre-roll skipping was not as high that as that number cited, which would be a repeat of history, as in the early days of the Internet, banner ads had way more impressive click statistics than they do today. Banner ads today only get clicked a small fraction of 1% of the time today, and many of those clicks are accidental. Back in 2005 and early 2006, MySpace looked invincible as the top dog in social media, but MySpace’s meteoric ascent was followed by a hard fall to eventually just becoming a small niche player in the space. Facebook may not have the share of market and share of attention in 5 years that it has today. There’s growing knowledge that Facebook is struggling with the 21 and under set, and that demographic is very influential in charting the course of growth for social media sites.

Right now, some of the hotter names in terms of social networks are Instagram, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat, and Pheed. These individual sites are in various spots on the cool cycle. As distinct sites, they have their own distinct functions and audiences. More and more marketers are making their way to these sites. Over time, that will cause these sites to lose their cool factor, and new sites will form and will become the hot place to be in the digital space.

I believe that the arrival of the marketing and sales function to any medium permanently changes the dynamic of the medium. YouTube and Facebook were a different experience prior to marketers discovering them as a means of reaching people. Marketers and salespeople must be like hockey legend Wayne Gretzky. Gretzky was noted for saying that he would skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it has been. In the same vein, marketers and salespeople must know where the attention is going to be in the future and figure out how to create messaging that will best resonate in those future channels while applying certain fundamental truths.