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June 2008, Week 4 Marketing Archives

Friday, June 27, 2008

ISPs Want You

We live in the age of electronic tracking. That's the reality of the world. Any time you step onto the information superhighway (yeah, I still love that term) rest assured there is a super cop sitting somewhere that knows exactly what you're doing.

Sleep well.

Despite knowing that our footsteps never truly go away, it's still disconcerting to have corporations blatantly tell you that they want to track you -- for your own good. It's even more disconcerting when it's the very companies that give you the entry ramp to the Web (I'm going to keep carrying this metaphor out).

Two cable companies continue to insist on rolling out a test to track users in order to provide more targeted service, so they say.

Which makes sense if their business is delivering advertising. We voluntarily allow websites to use cookies, little bits of code that give you an anonymous identity on a site, so that we don't continually have to re-input our username and password, for instance.

The cable company, though, shouldn't have reason for that tracking. They are a conduit for data services: Internet, cable television and voice. What I do and where I go should be of no interest to them.


I don't want them listening to my phone conversation (FISA aside, that is) so I sure as heck don't want them watching the sites I visit.

But we live in the age of surveillance.

ISPs Want You By Brad at 12:57 PM
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Blackberry: Ditch Your Thumbs, Use Your Voice

There's always been something weird about using my phone as an all-in-one device.

Not because it doesn't make sense. It absolutely does. I love having all of my information -- including email, documents, power points -- in one place. What was strange was that I used a keyboard and stylus to input information that was designed to use voice.

Two software companies have developed tools that are opening up the "smart" portion of your smart phone to voice commands.

Vlingo lets people search for text or addresses by speaking into your phone. It's simple and elegant.

Jott, on the other hand, offers more services -- but that comes at a price: complexity. Most of that involves setting up pre-existing groups -- such as all the members on your work team -- and then using the phone to call a specific number, designate "team" as your recipient list and then dictating a message that is either emailed or sent as a text.

Vlingo will probably gain the most traction with people because it seems easier to use. I know my friends who have tried Jott thought it was neat -- and then promptly never used it again.

Regardless, it's clear the age of the keyboard and mouse (or stylus) are quickly coming to an end. Or at least a lessening of the degree of importance.

Blackberry: Ditch Your Thumbs, Use Your Voice By Brad at 12:41 PM
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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Measuring the Effect of What You Heard

In my previous life, I ran an online news operation. Throughout the course of my job, I occasionally had to sit down with potential advertising clients and pitch our site.

Invariably, the question would come: "The site really looks great, but how can you measure what our ads will do?"


The quick answer was that we knew our readers and we had metrics to back up click-through rates and lead generation. And by industry standards, they were high.

That still meant single digits though. You can't expect to bankroll anything when you have a click-through rate in single digits.

Eventually we realized that we needed to look at measurements beyond simply counting banners. We needed to look at how we could create a vibrant community that would serve the customers and the advertisers.

We needed to look at the cumulative effect of that social media.

There's a move afoot to begin analyzing the related effects of social media, the lingering effect of listening to podcasts, watching video and reading and commenting on blogs and social networks.

Tracking these spheres of influence, as they are called, introduces a bit of chicanery into the process because it relies less on numbers and more on analysis; however, it does allow us to begin to track the advertising and marketing as users move across Web and mobile networks, through traditional media and finally towards a purchase.

Measuring the Effect of What You Heard By Brad at 02:00 PM
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Life With Sony (Playstation)

At the dawn of the console gaming age, the likes of Nintendo and Sony dreamed of having a conduit into millions of living rooms.

Personal computer sales were growing, but the feeling was they were too complicated for people to actually use for anything other than, well, computing. Forget streaming television, recording shows, listening to the radio.

The computer was for spreadsheets, email and games.

The console, though, was designed with ease-of-use in mind. The best designs had simple controls (or easy to figure out controls), solid functionality and built-to-last.

And it hooked up to the television in the living room.

Since then, game companies have been adding features: Internet connectivity, Web surfing, voice chat. Anything they could to create a more social environment around their machines.

Nintendo's Wii is the first truly successful platform. With its full-motion controllers and simple games, the system has drawn in millions of non-gamers.

Now, Sony -- with its next-generation Playstation 3 console -- is trying to follow suit at least in terms of building a community. The Life With Playstation software just launched with very basic features: a weather map.

But it's not just any weather map. The software uses a 3d representation of the earth using satellite weather maps that allows users to scan the globe for emerging weather patterns.

Why weather? Ask any newspaper with a good website: weather draws a crowd. We're rubbernecking the Earth looking for disasters.

For console makers, that's just one more way to bring people into the living room.

Life With Sony (Playstation) By Brad at 12:38 PM
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Competitive Walls Breaking Down

Publishers have traditionally tried to keep and protect their readers as if they were momma gorillas defending their young. But the web world of free content and being able to quickly click to a competitor's site has forced publishers to change behaviors.

PC World, one of the venerable tech publishers, is throwing open the doors of its site to link to competing product reviews. Product reviews have long been the bread and butter of tech publishing as magazines touted the superiority of their testing experts (he says, speaking from his experience as one long ago). But they recognize that this is no longer a viable strategy when information such as product reviews has become a commodity.

PC World has partnered with Retrevo, a consumer electronics search engine that organizes and analyzes both professional and user generated product reviews. Retrevo's special sauce is in its algorithm that tracks retail prices and product reviews, according to vice president of products Robb Lewis. Lewis says they "add structure to unstructured data" by parsing the reviews to understand if the community of reviews are positive or negative. "We're doing what would take tons of editors to do with machines," he says. The information is distilled so that mainstream buyers can get past the tech jargon to understand the value of a product.

PC World recognized that people will read multiple reviews online anyway before buying, so they might as well try to hold onto them by partnering with Retrevo and becoming a destination for aggregated information.

This new philosophy of recognizing the value of competitive info has already been popularized in the news business, where journalists' blogs routinely highlight the best articles from their competitors. When you add technology that can automatically extract and organize relevant data, the web becomes an even more powerful vehicle.

Competitive Walls Breaking Down By John Gartner at 09:27 AM
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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Generation Y: Want Me to Buy, Find Me Online

I am a card-carrying member of Generation X, the slacker, opt-out, fix-the-world-on-our-terms group.

In all deference to the people who built the Internet and Web and Generation Y or the Millenials, we are the reason you are reading this online. Before us, computers and social technology were confined to niche areas. Today, the Web exists because we adopted and built up these vast networks.

Unfortunately for my brethren and above (re: the Baby Boomers), that doesn't actually mean much.

The rules and establishment we made, loose as it was, has been eroded by a new generation of users and emerging software tools that make communing online much, much easier.

Counter-intuitively, that has made it much harder to reach your audience because they aren't looking for you. In fact, they don't care much about you all. But they have big buying power.

Generation Y or the Millennials expect you to actively court them, but not through banners and billboards. They want the courting: the social networks, the communication systems, the widgets, the ring tones. They want the whole nine yards. Then -- if they feel up to it -- they will help you promote what they do.

And there's a really good chance you haven't heard about the places they hang out. You can't just hit Facebook and expect to score big. You need to dig into their world, which increasingly exist on the Web and on mobile devices. You have to find their network, listen and figure out what you can give them.

Generation Y: Want Me to Buy, Find Me Online By Brad at 03:31 PM
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Widgets: Taking You Where the People Are

Stop trying to reach people.

Please. Seriously, I am begging you. Just stop.

The information age means never having to blast people with a million messages to get them to know who you are. The information age means never having to spend millions to develop a 30-second television spot and countless print layouts. It means never having to build a brand one million people at a time.

"But it works," you say.

Meh. Not really.

In a digital world, the power of your brand comes in two areas: your URL (how people find you) and what you do (functionality of your product). You get to determine both of those, but the conversation online determines the success -- and ultimately the stickiness -- of your brand.

So stop tracking people down one million at a time. If you do and you fail, you've started quite a conversation. It goes something like this: "You suck."

I wrote yesterday about Nike's marketing strategy, promoting its brands through community. There is a more fundamental element to that outside of social networks: software widgets.

Widgets are pieces of code that your community can add to their individual sites, which allows you to update information instantaneously across your entire network. It also enables them to promote your brand.

There are countless case studies from people studying how widgets both aid the brand awareness and ensure that as it goes viral, it comes from a trusted source.

It's scary to start (I guess), but few people who actively engage in widget promotions end up regretting it because you galvanize your most important asset: your customers.

Widgets: Taking You Where the People Are By Brad at 02:38 PM
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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lowe's Sales Decline: A Lesson in Marketing

The housing bubble has absolutely smacked the country.

When I was working as a freelance business writer in Austin, I interviewed several economists who said the housing market was difficult to predict because things like rising gas prices and the cost of Canadian timber, for instance, had a big effect on the price of homes (think trucking).

But the ancillary markets are a concern as well. Take Lowe's, one of the largest home outfitting stores. The company announced its sales would likely decline by about 7 percent in the coming year, not quite a disaster, but not certainly concerning.

And there's nothing they can do about that. People are buying fewer homes, so they're spending less time fixing them up. However, there are always levers a business can pull to help boost sales. One of those is a robust, online operation that gets people what they want, when they want it.

What's Good: The company has already set out to market its good specifically in localized areas, tapping into the individuality of each locale.

What's Bad: Many people these days price-shop first online before they head to a store. That means having a good, robust website is important. If people can't easily find -- and buy or reserve -- what they want, they will go somewhere else. Like Home Depot.

When I read Steve Woodruff's blog, which chronicled his attempt to purchase a gift certificate through Lowe's website, I can see why the company's sales declined 18 percent in the last quarter.

You can't make people spend money. We cling to the green with great veracity. But you can make it easier for them to spend money when they want to.

That's what the Web is all about.

Lowe's Sales Decline: A Lesson in Marketing By Brad at 05:10 PM
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Nike: It's not Marketing, It's Lifestyle

Groundswell, a book about digital marketing, lays the foundation for engaging customers as partners in the brand not simply wallets with money.

The message is simple, but the implementation is revolutionary (and tricky). While the book doesn't use Nike for any of its case studies, it's hard to deny that the company has turned its brands -- and particularly its Jordan brand -- into a lifestyle necessity for the hip.

In that sense, it's no different than Apple, the computer electronics company that carved its niche by convincing its users they weren't just buying a computer or an MP3 player, they were buying into a community.

Of course, not every innovative campaign has worked. Nike's Presto fiasco failed. But the idea behind it was to promote the idea of the what you do with shoes -- not the shoes themselves. If you formed a community of active people, eventually they will talk about what types of footwear to use. With some prompting.

For Nike, prompting that conversation has been less about selling shoes and more about giving, say, runners the tools they need to train, compete and excel. Out of that online training utility, you can begin to create a social network of others who think like you -- all brought to you by Nike. Soon, the Nike brand isn't simply about your next shoes, it's the idea that personifies what you do.

And emerging technologies allow companies to reinforce the brand message -- that Acme IS you -- which creates a subconscious loyalty.

My name is Brad King, and I'm a Nik-aholic.

Nike: It's not Marketing, It's Lifestyle By Brad at 03:59 PM
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Monday, June 23, 2008

Facebook attracts more new users than Myspace

A new name sits atop the social networking leaderboard.

Myspace, the reigning champion of social networking was knocked from its throne, as Facebook dealt its first major blow by attracting more first-time visitors in the month of May.

Facebook's final tally of 123 million new visitors in May marked a 162 percent increase since May 07, compared to Myspace's 114.6 million and  5% growth during that same span.

The impressive milestone was reached in  the midst of major personell changes at Facebook, including the departure of chief tech officer Adam D'Angelo and the addition of Cheryl Sanberg, who will focus on increasing revenue.

Facebook's user base, which originally consisted of only college students and alumni, has rapidly grown since it opened to the general public in 2006. The ultimate irony is that the growth came after Facebook ditched its niche, college only format, which was one its most appealing aspecs to early subscribers,myself included, who saw it as a nice contrast to the Myspace "crowd.", but they've managed to block unsolicited spam messages that Myspace has become notorious. for.

CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his staff ignored subscriber complaints about expansion and enterprised to prove what we already know - social networking can only thrive if it's available to the entire audience.

Here are three reasons Myspace was caught sleeping:

- Adapability:In  four years, Facebook's  entire format has been renovated and revised and enhanced with  in-depth applilcations and other features added on a regular basis. Meanwhile, Myspace users were stuck with the same overall layout and the same tools they started with.

-Specifity and Simplicity: In addition to social groups,  Facebooks sophistacted interface easily connects users through every  word listed in each personal profile category.

In other words, John Doe can find a fishing buddy, a member of his political party and a fellow fan of his favorite team in his school and/or city, simply by clicking Fishing, Republican, and New York Mets his profile.

 - Unique applications: Interactive games,election updates, fantasy football brackes are among the hundreds of applications available to each subscriber, so they can enjoy almost everything the net  offers without leaving their profile


Facebook attracts more new users than Myspace By Matt O'Hern at 03:47 PM
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Your Brand is What Google Says

I was having a drink last week with a friend of mine who comes from a traditional marketing background and she was explaining how she'd come up with the marketing logo for her company.

She spent a great of time discussing what the image portrayed and why people would associate it with her company. It was quite compelling; however, I told her I disagreed. Her brand was her URL first and what people said about the functionality of the website second (they are Web company).

Now, there's lots of reasons why the icon is important (syndication, for instance), but ultimately, the success of her company is going to come down to two things: how easy is it for people to find you through Google and how are you going to communicate with those people in the blogosphere who are engaged in your product.

It's impossible for her -- or other companies -- to control the marketing message. The people will decide. The most important area she should focus on: tapping into the conversation and becoming a partner with her clients.

It's a never-ending job; however, the game industry has the right model. They hire community managers who attend to, seed, answer to and advocate for the people who are using their products. They are known entities, actual people speaking in plain language.

Of course, not every product will have a community, but that doesn't meant that you can't build communities around lifestyles associated with a product (although in her case, the community should form rather easily).

And that's where her efforts should be: creating a dynamic community that becomes associated with her company (and her URL).


Your Brand is What Google Says By Brad at 03:23 PM
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Forget Your Product, Market to the People

Last weekend, I plowed through 2 1/2 books: The Wisdom of Crowds, Groundswell, and The World is Flat.

While the subject matter is the same (technology and aggregation allow a more collaborative environment without geographic and monetary constraints), each takes on the concept from a different angle.

But the reality is this: companies are looking for ways to aggregate communities even if it's not directly tied to their core business.

Chris Brogan points out that American Express is doing just that with its OPEN Forum, which aggregates blog and business information in one place and encourages conversation in a sponsored area with the hopes of subtly marketing to people who have an interest in business information (e.g. potential American Express users).

When you think about it, the concept is a no-brainer. We trust people more when we don't feel like they are selling us on something. It's why we hate ads -- and marketing.

The current thinking amongst digital marketers is that it's better to create a community-driven site around an interest -- say business news -- and provide less up-front marketing later.

Procter & Gamble did something similar, which I read about in Groundswell. They wanted to market tampons to girl -- but quite readily realized nobody wanted to join the tampon social network. Instead, they created Being Girl, a website dedicated to pre- and early teen life.

The result: once you get the community going, it builds on itself -- and if you listen closely (and helpfully participate), you have access to a cadre of willing customers. Of course, that means sometimes you're going to hear things you don't like; however, that's the point. If you respond well (by say, fixing a problem), you've gained trust.

Forget Your Product, Market to the People By Brad at 02:04 PM
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« June 2008 Week 3 June 2008 Week 5 »

  • Week 1 (10 entries) June 1-7
  • Week 2 (10 entries) June 8-14
  • Week 3 (10 entries) June 15-21
  • Week 4 (12 entries) June 22-28
  • Week 5 (0 entries) June 29-30

Widgets: Taking You Where the People Are
Brad, right on with your blog post. Widgets and t...
by Justin Thorp
ISPs Want You
Hey James, thanks for reading and commenting. I a...
by Brad King
ISPs Want You
It isn't the surveillance so much that distur...
by James Thomas
Blackberry: Ditch Your Thumbs, Use Your Voice
yeah, I've had too many people tell me Jott w...
by Brad King
Blackberry: Ditch Your Thumbs, Use Your Voice
We also are familiar with Jott but only tried it o...
by Search Engine Optimization Journal

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