April 30, 2005
Forgive me - but I will no longer respond to email!
A recent study commissioned by HP finds that email, instant messaging and cell phone reduces your IQ by 10 points - twice as much as dope! (see article in Red Herring here)
Hopefully rss and blogs don't have the same effect...
...but wait, why would HP fund such research?
April 29, 2005
Innovation – what do you do?
A lot has been written up recently on idea management and innovation. “DON’T Ask the Users What They Want!” says Tom Evslin – arguing that "the very best ideas come from smart people realizing that a new use of a new technology can create a compelling new capability" (here and here). Only get your lead users involved says MIT Prof. Eric Von Hippel (see here). Get your ideas by using new technology (rss, search, etc.) to set up continuous environmental scans (and don’t forget internal sources) – says Dave Pollard (here)
The solution to ideation and innovation is much broader than that:
- Why limit yourself to getting ideas from a small subset of people? It is true that you may not get your category busting ideas from your customers, but considering that 80% of new products are new versions of existing products – why not listen to all of them for good product enhancement? It doesn't cost much anymore, and who knows, maybe the next “iPod-class” idea will come from one of those people you least expected it from.
- And don’t forget to include all your employees! A.G. Lafley, CEO of P&G had it right when he was quoted in Fortune last year for saying: “…P&G of five or six years ago depended on 8,000 scientists and engineers for a vast majority of innovation. The P&G we’re trying to unleash today asks all 100,000-plus of us to be innovators. We actively solicit good (product) ideas…”
- Environmental scans, especially continuous ones, for getting ideas are indeed the right thing to do. But unless you can increase your marketing staff by a factor x, you will need to leverage the people within your organization as well as those outside of your organization to make that work. Those communities need to help you make the best content (re)bubble to the top.
Today’s technology can help you achieve this in a very cost effective way – both from a technology deployment point of view as well as from a human resource point of view. And it can create huge side benefits – both on the innovation side of things as well as on the social side of things!
Interesting link - Trustrank helps reputation
According to Robin Good, Google may be working on a ranking system that gets rid of all the spam - thus bringing back a true sense of reputation and trust into the ranking system (article here). The funny thing is that one of the paper's co-authors is from Yahoo.
April 28, 2005
Gated online communities
Jennifer Saranow wrote a piece in the WSJ yesterday (The Gated Online Community – requires subscription) about the recent successes of exclusive online “social networking” communities. The most famous invitation-only community is of course Google’s own Orkut – although the company claims that the invitation part was meant to control growth and not to create exclusivity. Others mentioned in the article include asmallworld for people splitting their time between St Barts, London and New York; funhi – with “virtual” bouncers and everything; and closedsociety just to name a few. Those exclusive communities use the exclusivity as a way to lock in traffic and ensure repeat visits, which the more generic communities seem to have problems maintaining (e.g., less that half of Friendster’s 16 million users visit the site regularly).
The article also mentions open communities – like Myspace, Friendster, LinkedIn, and Ryze – noting a trend away from some of the older general purpose communities towards more business-like sites like LinkedIn.
I personally doubt that many of the smaller exclusive communities listed in the article have business models that will prove successful in the long run. It has been a long time since I seriously thought about virtual communities (I once tried to launch a startup in that space – ’96 – a bit too early), but I would have thought that the first key to success in getting a community off the ground was still to get to critical mass as quickly as possible. With exclusivity you can only do that a few times, after which it must be really hard to enlist enough people to invite others to reach that critical mass fast enough. Add to that some of the other critical success factors – such as a shared interest, shared goals, strong sense of belonging, large enough active user base vs. lurkers, etc. – and you end up with a lot of those communities that just have too small a membership and links that are too weak to succeed.
That being said, I am convinced that exclusive communities that can overcome some of those obstacles – communities with very strong bonds, those where a large percentage of the membership is driven to contribute, the ones with a strong sense of belonging, or those communities where reputation is important and peer controlled – can succeed.
Reputation engines vs. multiple persona's
There is a great article on Wired about the existence of the multiple versions of "us" out there in the datasphere. The article goes on to describe the differences between 20th century reputation engines like Experian vs. the newer, transparent reputation engines like eBay. (Via Smartmobs)
A reputation engine like eBay or Amazon works because it is a closed (albeit a transparent) system. But could an open, transparent reputation engine exist? Could it withstand spam or other "optimization" techniques?
April 27, 2005
Meetup insults their early customer champions...
This is hilarious. The VP of Communications at Meetup.com, which recently decided to start charging for their service insulted a group of early users on their web site - calling them "Belly Achin bloggers in Seattle." You can follow the saga here (via church of the customer).
On a separate yet related point, perhaps Meetup.com should have evaluated some alternative pricing schemes. Based on their user base and the most common uses of their service there are so many alternative revenue models out there that I am surprised that they went with the straight monthly fee.
April 26, 2005
Bypass interactive voice response hell!
Have you ever been stuck in a company's interactive voice response (IVR) system? I have - and not too long ago (see here).
Help is actually here! Today a friend of mine, Paul English, pointed me to one of his personal web pages where he keeps track of the codes to bypass the most popular companies' IVR system and talk to a human quickly (here). If you know of a company's code, you can help update the directory by submitting the codes directly into his Quickbase (large companies only, please...let's not spam this great service)!
Any self-defense against unwanted links?
The other day I was looking through my log and spotted a robot from linksmanager. Knowing that an online reputation is built primarily on “incoming” links – this is another way to “buy” an online reputation. And these are not the only kind of “artificial” links that get created – there is also trackback spamming, comment spamming, tag spamming, search engine spamming, and I am sure I am missing a ton of them.
That got me thinking. Is there any known self-defense mechanism in other large complex systems against these unwanted – at least from the point of view of the system as a whole – viruses (i.e., links)?
It sounds to me that if we can build self-organized libraries, encyclopedias, news sites and the like, we should be able to build a self-organized inoculation system against those viruses…
April 25, 2005
Marketing bloggers vs. Prof. Kotler
The guys at Brand Autopsy are running an interesting set of postings (here and here) comparing marketing bloggers' opinions to the views of marketing guru Professor Philip Kotler on various marketing topics in his book "According to Kotler".
Marketing voodoo and fufu juice…and how would you like a wiki with that?
Are you confused about which marketing technique might work for you? Join the club. Even as a marketer I get confused about all the mumbo-jumbo that is being touted as the best thing since sliced bread (and why is sliced bread the best anyway? Give me baguette and croissants any day ;-)).
I mean buzz marketing, evangelism marketing, guerilla marketing, influencer marketing, neuromarketing, open source marketing, parasite marketing, stealth marketing, viral marketing, word-of-mouth marketing, underground marketing, WOW marketing. And just when I thought I had a pretty good grasp on all the current techniques – I run into this post which talks about avalanche marketing, cascading style marketing, centrifugal marketing, exponential marketing, fission marketing, grass roots marketing, grassroot marketing, organic marketing, propagation marketing, referral marketing, ripple marketing, self-perpetuation marketing, self-propagation marketing, stir marketing, wildfire marketing.
So I figured I would go to Amazon for help – but no luck there either – there are 40,087 books on Amazon about Marketing (and I just realized that I must own about a thousand of those).
I guess you could expect that from a profession whose trade it is to come up with categories, new terms, and even verbs to help get people’s attention and sell stuff…
...but in this post-scandal era, perhaps all we need is “transparent marketing” – based on plain language and with a tone/voice that you would use with a friend.
As an experiment, I thought it would be fun to catalogue all those techniques. For that purpose I set up a Wiki (here) for people to add their categories as well as definitions. Check in and make the changes as you see fit to the Wiki!
April 24, 2005
Steve Johnson in Boston next Thursday
Knowing when to log off…
A friend of mine sent me an article which was recently published in the Chronicle Of Higher Education (“Knowing when to log off" – April 22nd – requires subscription – but I found other articles on the same subject like this one in the Seattle Times). Yesterday the BBC spoke of similar research done at some English University (update 4/25 - I found a copy of that here).
The bottom line, they claim, is that we are being bombarded with way too much information – most of it being SPAM of some sorts. The result is that we have less time for “thinking” and many of us are developing some kind of attention deficit deficiency. All of that, the researchers say, does not bode well for education/academia/innovation and even people’s health. They all call for “switching off” technology every now and again.
I am not sure what to think about this. After all – the speed at which information will be published will continue to increase exponentially (I think it’s one of those things driven by a power law!). And while technologies to help us sort through all this stuff will improve dramatically over time, I also think that people will have to develop new skills to scan through larger amounts of information.
All of that being said, I find myself reading less books and more online content – some more meaningful than others. Is this a bad thing? Am I less creative because of it? I am really not sure…
April 23, 2005
New Coke - 20 year anniversary
I just heard on NPR this morning that today was the 20th anniversary of the launch of New Coke. 79 days later the company discontinued the product because of consumer protests.
So I guess that consumers taking ownership of a brand is not such a new thing after all - just more widespread.
April 22, 2005
Steve Yastrow has a good post on the Tom Peters' Blog.
Recent recommendation to a client: "We need to start marketing to ourselves with as much care as we market to our outside customers."
That makes so much sense and is exactly what's missing in most companies. They do not consider marketing as the way the company as a whole behaves in marketplace - which requires everybody to be involved in the "marketing efforts". For most companies, marketing is a department that is in charge of advertising, PR and lead gen...(see also comment on previous posting in this blog)
April 21, 2005
The Verizon saga continues
So I finally got through to a live person at Verizon on Wednesday night (see previous Verizon "horror story" posting). As you can imagine, I was pretty animated, but civilized.
I told the "repair representative" that I couldn't understand why they could not fix my "no dial tone" problem before Friday - after all, it is their problem and it originates somewhere outside my house. He assured me that I misunderstood the web site and that what they really meant was that the problem would be fixed by no later than Friday 6pm (note that their web site gave me options to schedule repair for this Friday or for any day next week). When I asked him why I had to stay home all day he told me I did not need to since I had run the "NID" diagnostic myself. And when I told him that their web site was not clear at all on that subject, he said that I shouldn't pay attention to the web site as it was inaccurate.
So tonight I get another call on my cell (I still have no dial tone on my main home line) from another Verizon machine - telling me that a technician will be here tomorrow between 8am and 6pm - and that they are expecting an adult 18 years or older at the house to ensure that the "repair" can happen.
...who the heck is telling the truth at this company? The live representative or the machine?
Interesting - things need to change to keep people's attention
Seth Godin has an interesting observation on his blog (here) - things need to change to keep people's attention. Using the example of a clock under a bank's billboard and the available memory message on GMail - he observes that companies send email to customers more often than they change - thus training their prospects and customers to tune out their messages.
Marketers - take note! This is so true...
...and especially to the Kodak Easyshare folks (see screwing up a perfectly good thing), don't email me twice in one night (tonight) - I don't care that you are sending me a catalog!
Decision Analysts (a market research and consulting company) released a white paper titled “In the box innovation” (get it here – free but requires registration) – via Corante’s Idea Flow and also Innovation Weblog.
The paper posits that too little effort is spent on idea generation in new product development while too many resources are being spent on the idea-to-product process. With an idea-to-successful-product ratio of 1.5% (based on a Dunn & Bradstreet report), they suggest that companies should spend more cycles on idea generation. And when they do that, they should not just focus on getting out-of-the-box ideas from their creative employees – a common practice amongst companies that have formal idea management processes.
Instead, they recommend that companies use directed innovation methods to uncover new ideas. Directed innovation is when you ask a group of people to brainstorm within a fairly narrow focus area. The hypothesis, which they try to confirm through an online innovation project conducted late last year (and described in the paper), is that if you use directed innovation you will generate more ideas, more innovative ideas, more “relevant” ideas, and more actionable ideas. The case study which they use to make their point involves two groups of people who were asked to brainstorm on a new chocolate product, one receiving much more directions than the other. Note that the people they recruited were not your average consumer. Here is what they have to say about those people:
“Our Imaginators™ panel consists of everyday consumers who have been recruited based on their high levels of idea-centric creativity, their ability to come up with many original ideas for new products and services, and their skill in elaborating on those ideas as well. Potential panelists must undergo a creativity evaluation and score within the top four percent of the population before they are invited to join.”
First – I agree with the authors that most companies should spend more time on the idea generation and the idea-to-concept part of the product lifecycle. It is during that part of the lifecycle that you determine all the factors that will affect the overall life-cycle cost of your product. And it is also that part of the process where most errors that lead to market failure can be tracked back to (i.e., misread customer needs, bad ideas, bad market timing, etc.).
I also agree that if you rely on brainstorming sessions to generate ideas you will get more ideas in a directed way than in a non-directed way. For most people it is easier to react to something than to create something out of the blue.
But what I don’t understand is why you would limit yourself to brainstorming to generate ideas? And when you do use brainstorming why not allow for both directed and undirected brainstorms? And why keep the process to a select group of “creators” like that?
Idea management should be an ongoing activity that involves not only all employees but also customers, prospects and partners. If you treat idea generation as an episodic process that needs to be turned on and off only when you are ready for a new product, I contend you will miss lots of excellent ideas. And if you limit yourself to the creative types you will miss out as well.
Besides “directed” innovation there is also such a thing as “emergent” innovation – the water cooler type of innovation – which happens when a set of people share/critique/build upon ideas and thoughts with one another. Emergent innovation does not only benefit from the contributions of creative types, it also benefits from good “critics/reviewers”, and good “scanners” (those are the folks that can connect seemingly disparate pieces of information), just to name a few.
In the past it would have been too expensive to set up such broad idea gathering and management initiatives. But with the advent of the web, blogs, wikis, rss, discussion boards, tagging, customer-centric application software, etc. - it should be possible to have large, ongoing, multi-channel conversations in the marketplace at a very low cost.
Oh yeah...one more thing. If in the process you end up with workable ideas that do not fit your corporate objectives – sell them!
April 20, 2005
Another example of horrible customer service - Verizon
So I come home from a trip today and realize that I have no dial tone on my home phone. I go online, but of course, it's impossible to find a customer service number on the Verizon web site (somebody must have figured that it was too expensive in the last round of budget cuts). I finally do find a place to report the problem online...telling me that it only takes minutes to get someone on the case.
So I fill in all the information about the phone line that does not work, and just when I thought I was done with the trouble ticket the system asks me whether I checked the dial tone at the Network Interface Device (also known as NID). After clicking through a few help screens to help me understand what an NID is (and where to possibly find it), it tells me that I do not need to be a technician to figure this one out - I only need a screwdriver and an extra phone set to open that device up and test for an outside dial tone (this is called outsourcing customer service to the customer - aka let them do all the work! Might work for Amazon...but not Verizon.).
At any rate, after checking the NID and finding no outside dial tone, I conclude that the problem is not with my "inside wires" but with their outside line (remember... THEIR problem). As I finish the trouble ticket the system informs me that this will require the dispatch of a Verizon technician - and the earliest time that they can send someone out is this Friday anytime between 8am and 6pm. Wait a minute...I gotta stay home all day two days from now because their line into my house failed????
By now I am furious (and ready to chew up a live person), so I go back to looking for a number on their web site (its impossible that they don't have a number I thought...there must be a number there somewhere). While looking I get a call from a Verizon machine to tell me that my ticket was opened successfully. It also gives me a number to call should the line come back on by itself. unfortunately I did not have a pen to write it down, and there was no way to replay the message...goodbye. So I go back on the web and finally find a number. I call that number only to be struggling with another automated doodah that asks me for all the same info. I keep asking for a representative until the system finally tells me to hold for a repair representative. I hold...only to get a fast busy tone after about 30 seconds of waiting!!!! I guess the system discovered that I was calling from a non-Verizon phone (my cell) and therefore should not have access to their expensive in-person support staff.
Contrast that to my Vonage experience a few months back. I had a poor line with Belgium and reported it. The representative called the number herself, made the necessary adjustments to the network (don't ask me, that's what she told me)and called me back immediately to let me know that my problem was fixed.
Time to short Verizon and buy Vonage...or Skype!
Customer service going down the tube - where is marketing?
We went to a local restaurant here last night and had another one of those nightmarish dining experience caused by an abnoxious waitress. When I add this to the incompetence of the attwireless (I guess now Cingular) person I dealt with a few weeks ago and the absolute farce that I had to go through to get Adelphia's high speed internet access installed, I am seriously wondering about the state of customer service in this country.
I am saying this country because in a lot of other countries you kind of expect that. But in this country that was always one of the things that stood out for me - the high quality/friendly customer service.
Where has it gone? We cannot blame outsourcing! How come the marketing departments of those companies are not all over this problem. I am sure they realize that all customer touch-points influence the brand - not just the product line-up and the promotional stuff...
...but then again, maybe not.
April 19, 2005
POP!'s Jeremy Pepper is starting a new weekly feature on his blog - the cluelesstrain...
While I would not have been as harsh as he is on BL Ochman's posting on the lag between the blogosphere and the traditional media (I was somewhat surprised by the lag myself), it could be a promising column.
April 18, 2005
Why is it so hard to change?
The new edition (May issue - here) of Fast Company has an interesting article on change. The number is frightening - 90% of people resist change – even if it’s a matter of life or death. That number is the number of people that underwent coronary-artery bypass grafting who maintained a changed diet 2 years after the surgery. But that same number gets confirmed in other cases as well.
There are some really interesting lessons in the article – one being that using “facts” to convince somebody to change rarely works. What needs to change is the frame in which those facts are being evaluated. For example – most people think of a company as an army, with hierarchies, orders coming from the top, etc. If people were to have the frame of a company as a family they would know very different ways of working together. In order to change someone frame’s, you need a very simple emotional story that goes way beyond the facts –and you need to be able to evoke positive experiences.
Another interesting lesson for me as a marketer is that joy motivates people more than fear.
Research also discovered that people are more likely to change if the change is radical rather than incremental. That reminded me of some research at MIT (Wanda Orlikowski) that came to similar conclusions – that change (and innovation) in a company was more likely to happen if there was an unexpected disruptive change (i.e., an earthquake, a fire), than if there was not. I am on the road now but will look for that study when I am back.
April 16, 2005
Interesting read: The web's future is you...
For the second week in a row, business week has an article on a tagging service - this time Flickr. the article does not focus on the tagging part of things that much but rather on what the next period of the internet might bring:
"The first period involved shifting real-world activities such as shopping and dating into a virtual world, dominated by the PC. But in the Net's second act -- the era of broadband -- creative power will shift into the hands of individuals, who will be just as likely to generate and share their own content as to consume someone else's. Then, sites like Flickr could evolve into shared pools of real-time footage on breaking news -- the floods, funerals, and affairs of state that bloggers have already tackled in the world of text."
April 15, 2005
Open Source Marketing
This isn't exactly new and you may already know this, but I recently stumbled across this concept of open source marketing, conceived by James Cherkoff at Collaborate Marketing. Pretty interesting – at first I thought it would talk about free marketing services, a bit of what I am doing a lot of these days…but no – it goes way beyond that. It builds upon David Weinberger, Doc Searls, and Chris Lock's concept that markets are conversations (in the cluetrain manifesto) and talks about how to put the customer in charge of your brand (so not just in the middle!)
The open source marketing manifesto can be downloaded here.
Shel Holtz also has a great podcast interview with James on his blog (interview is here).
April 14, 2005
Product innovation - lead users vs the rest of them
Eric Von Hippel – one of the leading academics in product innovation released his latest book – Democratizing Innovation as a free PDF under the creative commons license. (book download here). If interested, there is also a great interview by Peggy Anne Salz with Von Hippel at the Feature (here - via smartmobs).
If you are not familiar with Eric Von Hippel’s work, it can best be summarized as follows. Within your user base, there are so-called lead users. Those are the customers that go all the way to modify your product so that it works perfectly in their environment. Von Hippel posits that if you could tap those people (and usually you can because those users are not really interested in doing product development for your product – they want something that will fix their problem), it is in essence as if you were outsourcing your product innovation process free of charge. Von Hippel has many books and articles on the subject and all are interesting reads if you are into this field (look at his bibliography here).
While I am a big champion of listening to and involving your lead users (if you can find them) in the new product definition process, I don’t think you should stop there. There are other sources of ideas that may very well lead to product innovation as well – think of all your customers, all your employees, all your partners, etc. In the past it was hard (and expensive) to engage into conversations with all those constituencies. But with today’s technologies (blogs, wikis, forums, tagging services, etc.) your cost of engaging a large number of people in conversations about your products and in engaging them in sorting what’s good and bad is virtually zero (ok - I'll admit - I am an optimist). In the process you will unleash other sources of innovation – such as context-shifting (when an idea from one discipline is repurposed for another), emergence, "new-to-the world" random ideas, and others.
And as a side benefit you may end up with a more “militant” employee base, customer base, and partner base from which to build your future business.
April 13, 2005
Follow up on viral ads
Worst practice - direct mail
I am getting pretty good at spotting unwanted direct mail, but yesterday I got one that stumped me. Although a little suspicious, I was totally convinced that the mail came from FedEx. Of course it didn’t…it just used the same colors and fonts as Fedex (see picture). When I opened I felt like I had been tricked…it was a “get rich quick” sweepstake announcement from TV Guide.
Now I call this a bad practice in direct mail. As a marketer I am all for direct mail (although I wish they would get better at guessing the context in which I am likely to respond to an offer). And I react well to creative pieces – even if they do not pertain to me. But I think that a deceptive piece like this does more to hurt the brand than to help it!
April 12, 2005
Goofing around with wikis makes me think of KM
I am looking at some technologies to enable a local virtual community of kids (teens and tweens) who love to develop Flash animations, write and play online games.
So as part of that project I installed TikiWiki on my server earlier this week. It's only one of many wiki apps that are available in the open source community (you can find a comprehensive listing here), but I picked it because my hosting provider has that listed as one of the wiki apps that I could auto-install on my server.
I was stunned by the richness of the application. Not only does this Wiki come with a blogging module (and a WYSIWYG editor), it also comes with a forum module, a chat module and a ton of other modules too lengthy to list here (here is their home page).
These experiences just strengthen my conviction that the combination of wikis and blogs make for a very potent community platform - both inside the firewall and outside. Combine wikis and blogs with a smart rss reader (note my affiliation with BlogBridge) which enables the discovery of content and the ability to tag, blog or "wikitize" some of that content and you end up with a great virtual work environment. Not only that, I think that you may end up with a functioning knowledge management solution.
Remember that? Knowledge management (KM) has been one of those IT holy grails that many companies spent tons of money on - often times in vain. I do think (if you still have the energy) that these new technologies may actually work for your KM initiatives. KM fell flat on its face because it was dictated from the top down and because it was not fully integrated with people's real work. With rss readers, tagging capabilities, wikis and blogs, we're turning that upside down. If deployed properly they can be totally integrated with people's work - which means people will use the tools. And a wiki/blog/rss reader based KM initiative would be grass roots instead of top down (think wikipedia inside your organization)!
April 11, 2005
Intelliseek/Edelman white paper on blogging in communications
I liked the report from the moment I downloaded it because of it's title:
Trust “MEdia” - How Real People Are Finally Being HeardSupposedly this is the first in a series on New Communications and Word-of-Mouth Marketing white papers.
Diverting for a second and while on the topic of Word-of-Mouth Marketing, did you know that there is a new Word-of-Mouth Marketing Industry Association? It’s called WOMMA (here is their web site). They are apparently pretty successful, and just finished their first conference. You can find comments and coverage about the event here.
Anyway…back to the report. It’s self-stated goal is:
“It’s intended to inform marketing and communications professionals about the who, what, where and how-to of blogging.”The overall report is educational in nature – a good thing considering the small group of people who really understand how this all works.
It starts by summarizing the recent results of an Edelman trust survey, which could point to one of the main drivers for blog and blogging adoption:
“According to Edelman’s 2005 Trust Survey, peoples’ trust has shifted from authority figures to “average people, like you.”In general, the report does a great job at explaining what you should do when incorporating blogs in your communications strategy. And it also has some great stuff on the nuances of blogging etiquette.
I downloaded the report from the Intelliseek's website (here - requires registration but free).
April 10, 2005
Interesting - Technorati announces related tags
Sunday morning musings on identity and culture
My son learned how to smith bronze and steel, and he learned how to fish with nets (and how to cook it too). He tells me that sometimes there is speculation in the coal market which makes it more profitable for him to sell coal outright rather than to mine it for smithing. He also plays with teams – sometimes with people from other states or other countries, like Australia, New Zealand, or Sweden. This morning he was the only American on a team full of Belgians – most of whom he never met. As the game progressed they were talking to one another in Dutch while switching to English when they wanted my son to do something. All along my son kept talking to them in English about his position, his recommendations and other things. The other day, there was a 45 year old woman on his team. And one of his regular team mates is a college kid in Europe. He is a member of a guild in one world and also a member of a clan in another. His friends go by names like doodleman, intelogix, shady, and chainsonic.
If you have not figured it out by now, my son, like millions of others around the world is playing in digital worlds like RuneScape, Halo2, Tony Hawk Underground and others. He interacts with other through chat or VoIP (I read somewhere that Xbox Live has the largest VoIP user base.)
Sometimes, I wonder how these new interactions will affect their sense of “self”, their identities, or what impact it will have on cultures…
It's easy to understand the benefits of virtual worlds like the ones sponsored by the Starbright Foundation, where severely ill children can play with others in virtual worlds from hospital beds – thus forgetting their ills for awhile and appearing like everyone else in those make-believe worlds.
We adults know that on the internet “nobody knows that you are a dog” (remember that cartoon?), and that is part of the fun. But what does it do to kids that are spending part of their formative years online?
About ten years ago I read the book Life on the screen: Identity in the age of the Internet by Sherry Turkle, a Professor of the sociology of science at MIT. She says it is good for them to experiment with different personae. I can see that, but are those virtual personae competing for attention with the real life ones?
Maybe now is a good time to go and re-read that book…or maybe I’ll go re-read William Gibbson’s books…any other suggestions?
April 8, 2005
DRM vs. social media?
Barb Dybwad at the social software blog writes a great post on Are DRM and social media inherently at odds?
Besides the question posed in the title she also asks "Going further: does a social component have the potential to add value to all media? What’s your take?"
I am not totally convinced that they are at odds. That being said, I do believe that in some (if not most) cases a social component can add value to media. But it can do that without infringing on DRM...
Viral ads anyone? How about "parasite marketing"?
Marketing Sherpa has a new study on Viral ads (free here – requires subscription after April 15th). They distinguish viral ads as different from “buzz marketing”, “evangelism marketing” and “influencer’s marketing”. The article quotes:
Campaigns may raise sales or otherwise help your brand as a byproduct. But, the main focus of the campaign is on the creative -- the thing that's so neat-o that people feel compelled to spread the word. They can't help themselves (just like sneezing when you pass a virus around...)
Makes me wonder why anyone would do this kind of marketing…if the purpose is not in affecting the brand or generate revenue…why would you do that? Geez – give me “parasite marketing” that delivers real $$ any day!
In all fairness, the article does point out that there are huge ROI’s to be had if done properly. It also lists a few interesting facts that we should remember as marketers.
- Don’t feel like all your advertising (all communications really) should be brand-centric. People are tired of ads. Have your brand be the sponsor of something that interests your audience. It’s all about putting your audience in the center…not your company or product!
- You should always try to see if you can reach the most innermost drivers of your audience – fear, greed and entertainment.
But then the article quotes Justin Kirby, co-founder Viral & Buzz Marketing Association (another new marketing association I never heard of):
"The reason you focus on the creative agents is because the product normally doesn’t have an uniqueness that can be leveraged to amplify and accelerate word of mouth. So you make the creative agent/communications sticky because the product isn't necessarily."
Now I am not sure that I buy that. If your product does not have enough uniqueness (as in…there are not enough compelling arguments why your prospect should look at your product), I fail to see how you will overcome that with a whiz-bang ad. You should probably think through your positioning first before you send out a viral ad.
Here are a few other interesting tips, surprises, and lessons learned from the article:
- asking people to forward the mail gives better results than just having a forward button
- the use of games and quizzes is especially popular with…adult women (wow…that reminded me of another stat I heard when I was working for a company focused on the hotel industry – traveling adult women are also the highest consumer of on-demand porn in hotels (not my research...))
- Use of microsites is expensive and not necessarily effective...
Every so often, Marketing Sherpa has real good articles. Sometimes I wish that they would keep their content up there longer (like they had an awesome case study on what works and what does not work at VistaPrint awhile back), but that is no longer available. I do understand that they need to make money.
I also wish that they would have an rss feed to syndicate instead of plain old email subscription (and for full discosure, I am involved with BlogBride, and rss aggregator - so I know I am biased when it comes down to how I want my news delivered...)
April 7, 2005
A friend of mine pointed me to StumbleUpon last night (I feel like I am becoming a bit of a tech lagard...it's really hard to stay up to date these days). I took a quick peak and it looked real interesting. A quick search revealed some promising reviews like on Lockergnome and on Robin Goode.
But somehow it also gave me flashbacks to the first wave of innovative web companies that had cool stuff and are no longer here – anyone remembers zadu, third voice?
I know…it’s not quite the same…and times have changed...and in the end it really is all about emergent innovation in action - and fun to witness one way or the other.
Young adults and how they spend their time online
Susan Mernit has a a great post on her blog with her notes from a talk she gave at the American Press Institute. It describes the online habits of the Millennial Generation (18-35 yo).
It was interesting for me to see how many well educated editors had never heard from services like LinkedIn, Bloglines, Technorati, Orkut, and a bunch of other things that young people use and that some of us take for granted. Adoption for all this new stuff is still pretty low...
One thing that I did not see on the list but was expecting is online gaming (both computer and online-enabled game consoles)...
April 6, 2005
Blogworking? Yes - but what about the potential barrier to adoption...
An interesting post on AlwaysOn (via Schel Holtz)defines Blogworking as the next evolution of social networking...
Self-governing social networks combine with interactive weblog publishing to create something people just call Blogworking. People have been Blogworking well before the term was popular, but whatever you call it, the trend is gaining momentum alongside social networking sites which do not provide editorial content.
I buy that - adding community features and participation capabilities (as differentiated from collaboration capabilities) to social networks would give me an added incentive to join and participate.
And as a marketer, these tightly focused communities, if indeed highly visited, would be extremely valuable!
There is, however, a potential barrier to adoption for these blogworking sites. The way that they are being described now, they are yet another "place" that we have to go to to stay informed. Now, most of us "belong" to multiple potential communities. I contend that if you have to start "going" (as in clicking) to multiple places in order to stay informed - you will eventually stop going to all of them!
It's a phenomenon that we witnessed at eRoom Technology - where we built a virtual workplace/group collaboration product. Once people started to belong to multiple projects (which were happening in multiple eRooms...i.e., different urls, they quickly stopped using eRoom and reverted back to the old hacks of getting a project done with a virtual team - email, fax, phone, IM, etc. We had to integrate whatever was happening in the different virtual workplaces with people's email (which is a person's personal workplace) in order to overcome that adoption issue.
I suspect the same will happen here. Whatever happens in those blogworking communities will have to be fully integrated with my personal "place" - which in my case and for this kind of stuff will most likely be my personal RSS aggregator.
April 5, 2005
Wow...the number of Blogs focused on PR just went up from 30 last July to 180 today (according to the organizers of globalprnews 2.0 - via Constantin Basturea's weblog)
While this event sounds like a pretty interesting event (I am a firm believer in virtual events), it raises the bigger question of how to deal with information overload. As a marketer - how do I get through to people. As an enduser - how do I find the right content without wasting hours online everyday, and without resorting to the same sources all the time.
The good news is that there are part-solutions that emerge every day - blogs, RSS, tagging, social tagging, feed discovery, syndication, trust-based solutions, new collaboration metaphors (wikis, trackback, etc.), networking sites, filtering, (smart) aggregators, commenting, podcasting, and many more that I have probably not heard of yet.
The bad news is that most of these technologies are confined to a very small portion of the population. Indeed, according to a recent CNN Gallup poll (via Washington Post) only 3% of the population reads blog everyday, and 12% once or twice a month. According to Jupiter, only 6% have RSS readers at home.
Now with speed of adoption for new technologies increasing with every new technology wave, one can only hope that soon most of these tools will be broadly used. So I guess we better get ready!
April 4, 2005
Technology enablement - tagging services
So I may be the last one on the blo(g)ck to talk about this. After all, Business Week this week wrote (Picking Up Where Search Leaves Off - requires subscription) about del.icio.us and other tagging services.
Awhile back I started using two social tagging services - del.icio.us and furl. For those of you who are unfamiliar with these services, check out John Udell's screencast on del.icio.us over at Infoworld.
The service is fairly straightforward...whenever you see something you want to save, you click "post to del.icio.us" or "Furl It!" in your browser's links section and up comes a menu that enables you to save the link, add additional comments to it and tag it with your own tags. Giving users the ability to develop a list of tagged links is very compelling all by itself...
But that is not where it stops. You can also see who else tagged the same thing as you did, and see what tags they used (and based on others' tags you may revisit your own tags.) You can also subscribe to a tag's RSS feed (so every time someone tags something with a tag you subscribe to, you get it in your reader) or to a person's RSS feed (so every time that person tags something, you get it as well).
I am finally getting to the point I wanted to make - which is that I am convinced that these simple services can be very powerful in your daily fact gathering, knowledge sharing and collaboration. You could subscribe to tags that represent your competitors - even small companies return tens or hundreds of listings! You could also ask your team to tag things with pre-determined tags whenever they see something of interest and then have everyone on the team subscribe to that tag's rss feed. You could even extend that to include customers - have them tag stuff with your company or product name when they run into something that they find relevant to you.
The other neat thing is that unlike with so many other "enterprise" applications, I do not think that you will have much of a barrier to adoption. The beauty of those solutions is that they pack enough benefits to the individual users. So they don't have to wait until the broader community uses it to derive benefits - a common barrier to adoption in group applications.
[Categories: tagging del.icio.us furl]
April 1, 2005
Screwing up a perfectly good thing...
Ok...so this may not be totally new anymore, but it got me ticked off enough that I wanted to write about it.
I have been a long time user (and champion) of Ofoto. The other day all Ofoto users received an email from the Kodak Chairman informing us that they were renaming the service to Kodak EasyShare Gallery. Kodak easwhatwasthatnameagain??? Here is another perfect example of how a big company can kill something so innovative...
Ofoto was not only catchy, easy to remember and above all easy to recommend to others. It also occupied a piece of "real estate" in my mind that was (mostly) associated with possitive attributes. Some corporate suit felt that this service would benefit from being renamed to the supremely bland "Kodak Easyshare Gallery"...I must be missing something...not only will I never remember the name of the service when I am at a party and want to recommend the service, but even if I did...the person I would recommend it to would never remember it (and I am not even talking about the fact that url is different from the name...a problem Ofoto did not have!) And that problem is of course exacerbated when I will try to recommend the service to my international friends (what the heck does EasyShare mean in French, Dutch or Urdu anyway?).
I am sure Kodak will spend a fortune trying to rebuild a brand around the new name. The problem with that is twofold...with a name like that it will not work (and in the process they killed a good brand)...and it is a total waste of shareholder money.
I was sufficiently offended by the stupidity of this move that I replied to the email (I thought I was responding to the Chairman of Kodak of course - since he wrote to me) and voiced my opinion on the subject...only to get an automated response saying:
"Greetings from KODAK EASYSHARE Gallery Customer Service. This is an automated reply to your response to our recent email; so a customer service representative will not be replying to your message.
1. To quickly find answers to your questions ..."
Sell your stock if you have any...some companies will never get it!