Moneyball Marketing.


This past weekend I went to see Moneyball. It is not often that my mom and I agree on a movie, but both of us wanted to see what all the hype was about. The movie staring Brad Pitt is a story about the Oakland A’s and how their manager, Billy Beane, sought to expand competitive gain through the application of highly developed data modeling techniques (with a budget of less than half of the A’s rival teams). Beane is credited with adapting Bill James’ statistical concepts into practical use through the implementation of sabermetrics. “Using on-base percentage (OBP, which measure a batter’s ability to reach base by hit or walk) was much more significant than mere batting average (BA, which only measures hits), relative value of slugging average (SLG, which measures a batter’s total bases per at-bat) and dismissed the more traditional baseball stats such as stolen bases and bunts” (The Atlantic). In essence, it is simply glorified market research applied to the game of baseball.

The movie got me thinking. If you can apply market research and strategy to baseball. Then certainly we can apply it to business in the same non-traditional sense. Hear me out. Obviously businesses use market research, some of us are even hoping this program directs us to that goal, but that’s not the type of market research I am referring to. If we follow the logic of the movie, players like A-Rod and Derek Jeter are somewhat discredited.

Billy Beane: “Why do people care about anything we do? We play in a crappy stadium, in a market that we share with another team, with one of the lowest payrolls in the game. Really, I’m not that interesting.”

The storyline repeatedly emphasizes that big budget players can be replaced with less well-known talent. It therefore discredits their talents and makes superstars somewhat replaceable. Now, let’s replace the players with CEOs. Following my logic, Ray Irani, CEO of Occidental Petroleum Corp., the highest paid CEO with an annual salary of $52.2 million, would represent the New York Yankees’ CC Sabathia, who besides Alex Rodriguez is the second highest paid professional baseball player in the league with a salary of 23 million dollars. While Beane looked at player’s OBP, could we not look at CEOs performance quantitatively? What is Irani’s batting average/company success via stock value, innovation, or annual earnings per-say. Is there not comparable replacement of talent willing to get paid a lot less? Billy Beane would argue yes. In fact, sabermetrics would argue that there are replacements for every top CEO.  This is personally discouraging to me because it belies everything I am working towards. If you and I are replaceable and only worth the lowest bid of our competition, then what exactly makes us valuable? Are there exceptions? Could Steve Jobs be replaced successfully? He only took a $1 salary once again in 2010 so its hard to argue a case for him. However, do you think the theory still applies or is it completely off base (pun intended)?

Another noteworthy issue surrounding the movie is how it was marketed. Sports fans are upset particularly with the add below shown on Facebook:

Many feel as though this is very stereotypical in nature. NBC Sports flips these sterotypes in the statement below:

“Fact: there are a lot of women who would actually want to see ‘Moneyball’ because of the story and couldn’t give a damn about Brad Pitt.  Fact: there are a lot of men who would actually want to see “Moneyball” because they think Brad Pitt is a hunk and, you know, screw baseball”.-NBC Sports

Fact: clearly the marketers of Moneyball used segmentation, but did they go too far?


Starbucks: “Significant Investment, Significant Return”

Starbucks, the number one consumer brand on Facebook, understands, “Traditional marketing is changing dramatically. You can’t push people. You have to engage them in a conversation and they have to trust the source”-Howard Schultz, CEO and Chairman.

The New York Times article shows how the company directly applied social networking and digital media to their marketing strategies. Starbucks recently unveiled new advertising posters and invitied its consumers to search for the posters. A competitive twist was incorporated by being the first to post a photo of one of the advertisements on Twitter.

With the economic downturn, those who frequent the coffee chain are having a hard time rationalizing a five dollar white mocha each morning. Especially when McDonalds offers coffee at a fraction of the price. After all, coffee is coffee, right? Wrong, according to Starbucks. It should not come as a shock to us students of Human Behavior, Starbucks doesn’t only sell coffee, they sell a third-place environment; not home, not work, but Starbucks. The article, however, is quick to emphasize the quality of the brand. “The full-page newspaper ads goes to some length to describe how Starbucks selects only the best 3 percent of beans and roasts them until they pop twice, and gives its part-time workers health insurance.”

What is really quite genius about the brand is how they studied the embedded habits of social media users and were able to integrate their marketing campaign around behaviors that were already occurring, not the other way around. “The idea for the Starbucks photo contest came from watching what people already do on Facebookand Twitter.” The  brand was able to capitalize on behaviors that their customers were already participating in.

“It’s the difference between launching with many millions of dollars versus millions of fans.”

True, Starbucks probably spent quite a chunk of change on the new poster advertisement, (the wouldn’t reveal the exact cost) but that wasn’t their most significant breakthrough. Instead, it was what it translated to, a conversation online. While McDonalds spent 100 million dollars are their marketing campaign against Starbucks and other top competitors, Starbucks realized their strongest campaign was to join the one that was already alive and well within social media. How can your brand join the conversation?

Coloring Inside the Lines, Psych.

Psychological and sociological theories explain much of we do as human beings. The MHB program aims to not only understand these often-subconscious behaviors, but also capitalize on them. Color psychology is a field in which we as marketers, advertisers, and future men and women of business, can directly apply to our own strategies. Research has shown that colors, and the connotations they imply, have the power to modify the physiological and mental status of any given individual.

A study by Wohlfarth and Sam found that both blood pressure and hostile behavior may be changed by altering the light spectrum within an individual’s surroundings.  First and perhaps most importantly, one must take an inventory of the product or brand they want to market. What type of impressions do you want the public to associate with your brand? Let’s examine this theory further by applying it to brands we already know:

Yellow is the color of hope and imagination. Bright yellows represent sunshine, joy and happiness. No wonder kids love the golden arches!

Red: color of heat, passion and excitement. It easily grabs attention and evokes speed and energy. Need I say more?

Pink: is the color most associated with youth. It exemplifies energy, amusement and excitement.

Light blue: Favorite among anxious and depressed people

The article points out that it is important to realize that in different demographics or geographical locations, colors are associated with different attitudes and perspectives. Therefore, it is even more appropriate to consider your target audience and their cultural associations than normal.

Brand aesthetics are an essential tool to market branding and advertising, but in the end, it is the quality and reputation of the product that will prove to be most useful. Although there is something to be said for color psychology and the associations it creates. The importance of color doesn’t lie within the lines, it lies within the meanings the color creates.

Right to Publicity?

In this day in age, I feel as though I ask how far is too far on a day-to-day basis. It is often arduous to differentiate between personal and public. High school reunions are being cancelled because not only are people able to stay in contact with whomever they would like, but they can also know exactly what their childhood friends had for breakfast that morning via Facebook status updates. Undoubtedly, times are changing, but so too are our boundary lines.

Recently, Facebook changed their privacy settings. One company, more than 750 active users, and an immense amount of vulnerability. The company had automatically set each profile on a non-secure setting.  As the article highlights, this left millions of users susceptible to being hacked. Facebook also has the phone numbers of everyone in your contact list uploaded to your account. I understand that both circumstances are perhaps shocking, but each and every one of those 750 million users (myself included) checked a box that confirmed that we had read and understood the terms of use when we initially set up our accounts. We cannot yell foul when we already allowed interference.

LinkenIn used its members’ photos and information for their campaigns. “It’s indicative of the huge lure these free networks must experience when it comes to advertising dollars.” As much as this frustrates me, it does not surprise me. This “evasion” of privacy is a consequence of social media. Every picture you ever post on Facebook (even after you have deleted it) is property of the company. Think about that. Now think about that party you went to.

Would George W. Bush or Obama ever have been elected if Facebook would have been around during their college years? Can you imagine how much money a future running mate would be willing to spend to get his/her hands on the opponents’ photos? Our world has changed forever and we can argue about our rights, which inevitably we do still have, or we can protect ourselves by projecting the image we want people to see.

Would you hire you?

Think Different.

How is the recession affecting consumer behavior?

“The biggest risk a marketer can take is to hope to survive doing business as usual.” This is an era in which everything that once was, is no longer. Word of mouth has been replaced by word of mouse, wedding invitations are now e-vites, and billboards are on the side of our facebook pages. The Unsolicited Advice of Marc E. Babej and Tim Pollak was written in 2008, but with the advances in new technology as well as the economic crisis we are yet STILL facing, their advice is still as relevant as ever.

As a student of Human Behavior, I play a dual role as both consumer and analyst. I am a victim and a culprit of my own craft. With that acknowledgment, I feel I can play the fence a little. Babej and Pollak note that when the economy is on a downward spiral so too is American optimism of their own financial state. Simple enough, right? It’s my job to capitalize on frugality and still make a profit. This, my friends, is hardly as simple.

Finding opportunity in the market place for a recession is not easy, but The Unsolicited Advice is quick to point out the silver lining, and in traditional American fashion, we justify trade-offs. “Put another way, fiscal sobriety doesn’t always mean literal sobriety. Consumers who are feeling deprived often seek solace in affordable entertainment alternatives. Beer, liquor, movies and home entertainment tend to do well in hard times.” What we think of as a “trade-off” is switching from an iced grande decaf soy upside-down easy caramel, caramel macchiato to a McFrappe at our local golden arches. You’re welcome.

My point is, there is a place for profit. Undoubtedly, the recession affects consumer behavior. The vitality lies in realizing how we as both marketers and consumers are able to capitalize on such fluctuation. We must market to the middle. The marketing battleground is the broad middle which both experts refer to. The middle class in America is shrinking, but those trying to stay afloat will still justify their upward spending while the individuals at the top may scale down to secure their position.

It is a compromise of economic proportion.