Web2.0 for marketers: This isn't your grandfather's business model

The number 2Yesterday I told you the history of Web2.0 and what it is not. If you didn't have a chance to read that, click here and catch up. For the rest of you, let's get going. We have a lot to cover today.

Web2.0 is all about innovation, innovation that drives value to the end user. When you think about how businesses operated even 10 years ago, it's markedly different than the way they operate today. Most of the changes that have taken place are the result of technology. Operations has benefited from automated, real-time inventory tracking and ERP systems. Accounting knows what's sitting in the warehouse and when it'll be shipped and invoiced. But these are not the innovations in business that I am talking about. I'm talking about the consumer-side shift that has happened.

Technology is an enabler first and foremost. It has enabled businesses to innovate on business models that, at one point in time, were considered untouchable. Let's look at some Web2.0 examples to get a clearer picture:


    paypal_logo-1.jpgPayPal: Western Union was at one point in history an extremely powerful financial institution. They transfered money all over the world by wire with trust and reliability. Somewhere along the way, however, they did not see the signals. They were lost in the noise. I'm sure somebody internally was saying something like "People don't trust the Internet to send money, it's too unproven". Enter PayPal. PayPal is an early example of Web2.0 thinking. They saw that people were looking for a way to transfer money quickly and reliably. They focused on security and had the right timing. PayPal was focused on giving people the value that they were looking for through innovating a hundred year old business model. By the time Western Union saw what was happening it was too late.

    netflixlogo.jpgNetflix: Netflix is a prime example of Web2.0 thinking. A couple of years ago if you wanted to rent a movie you had to go to a BlockBuster. There were other small chains around, but they never really lasted too long. When you went to the store you were locked into the current inventory on hand, if you returned it late they charged you, plus you had to drive to the store. BlockBuster obviously thought this was a good model, Netflix thought differently. They used the Internet to create an easy way for people to sign up, search through an emormous inventory of movies, keep those movies as long as they like and then used a pre-paid envelope to send it back. BlockBuster has had to scramble to keep up as I'm sure they saw huge amounts of customers switch over to Netflix.

    150px-Wikipedia-logo-en-big.pngWikipedia: If you think back to your childhood (and you are old enough to remember it) you may recall the encyclopedia salesman. This, I am sure, was a great job up until the late 90s. He basically went door-to-door selling the current year's encyclopedia volumes. He had samples for you to look at and flip through to show the high quality of the printing and binding process. The problem? It was outdated the second it hit the presses. Wikipedia came along and created a model where everyday people as well as experts are able to use Wiki technology and update the information as it changes. This uses one of the core ideas of Web2.0, the value provided by the community is greater than that of the individual.

iStock_000003209009XSmall.jpgIn each of these cases there is a winner and loser. The loser stuck their head in the sand and pretended nothing was happening. The winner came out of left field, hit a chord with people, used technology to enable change and innovated to add more value. Each of the new contenders knew less than the incumbent, but used technology to test, change and refresh ideas to make sure users were happy.

Great technology, as I've said before, is technology that disappears to the users. In this regard, Web2.0 is the Houdini of technology. The new generation is faster, more seamless and fluid than ever before. The technology is allowing communities of individuals to pop up easily and create their own conversations around companies and ideas. It's 24x7, less expensive and global. You're just as likely to talk with somebody in Dubai as you are in the town next door.

24x7, global conversation

Crowdsourcing sites (a community of product loyalists join together to generate ideas and design their implementation) are popping up all over the place. Dell's IdeaStorm is a successful implementation of this new model. The users on the site suggest ideas and then the other users vote for it if they like it. This site led Dell to offer a Linux operating system as an option on new computers. Had they not listened and actively participated that opportunity would have passed by.

Here are some ideas I would like you to take away from this post. We're going to build on this tomorrow when we continue with part three "Who let the tech out?".

  • Innovation done for innovations sake is a waste. Innovation needs to add value to your customers.
  • Technology is relatively cheap, timelines are shrinking and testing is a great thing.
  • Old models are all about short term results, new models focus on long term loyalty through value creation.
  • How are you looking for the next thing? Are you using your customers to help you?
  • Anything you can dream up is possible. Don't let technology (or technologists) intimidate you into being silent. Speak up marketers!

If you have questions, or would like to add anything to this, please leave a comment. Talk to you tomorrow.


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Web2.0 for marketers: History and what Web2.0 is NOT

two_birthday.jpgUnless you've been hiding under a rock for the past couple of years you have doubtlessly heard the term Web2.0. You've probably heard the term mis-used as much as you've heard it put to the right use. So, what does it really mean?

Let's start with a quick history. The term itself was coined in 2004 by Tim O'Reilly of O'Reilly Publishing. You know those books in the technology section with the animals on them, that is Tim's business. The term was created to show an improvement and shift in the way that systems and people interact.

O'Reilly was trying to show that websites were strategically moving away from being brochureware. Away from the "me-too" generation of early websites. You probably went through this yourself or as a company. One day early in your online marketing foray, you looked at a competitor site and said "Hey, they have a contact form and they let people request product literature...we need that too." You then probably called your web design company and asked for a contact form and a literature request form. Then you waited for the next competitor to innovate. This wasn't necessarily a bad thing, don't get me wrong. It was the way the internet iterated and grew.

The rest of this week's feature will focus on what Web2.0 is.


  • Tuesday: This isn't your grandfather's business model. If the model isn't broken, break it.
  • Wednesday: Who let the tech out? How Web2.0 has democratized technology.
  • Thursday: It's the community stupid (whether you like it or not)
  • Friday: What this means for you and your clients.

Before we go into what Web2.0 is, let's take a look at what it is not. I think this is the most enlightening way to frame what we're going to talk about this week. Some of what I am about to say will fly in the face of what you have been led to believe.


    calendar_small.jpg1. There is no line in the sand. Yes, Tim O'Reilly coined the term in 2004, but there is no magic date where websites left 1.0 and became 2.0. Pieces of what we will talk about have been around since the beginning of the Internet. Message boards, commenting, tagging have all been around since the start, they're just being repackaged to add more value.

    2. There is no Web2.0 hardware or upgrade kit. There is no special server that you can buy nor is there upgrade software to go from 1.0 to 2.0. As you'll see, Web2.0 transcends technology and is really about people. People connecting, talking and sharing experiences.

    pull_small.jpg 3. Push marketing is dying. The traditional marketing model, which most traditional advertising uses, is to push your message out to the user. This is done in 15's and 30's, outdoor ads, early websites and print ads. All customers were grouped into one basket, given one message and asked for one response. Web2.0 lets you customize your message to each individual user and ask each of them for the response that adds the most value. Web2.0 lets your customers pull you into their lives and Web2.0 enables that.

    4. There is a stereotypical look, but don't be deceived. I am sure you've seen "the look". It's shiny, reflective, plastic and chrome. It's so stereotyped that there is even a Web2.0 logo generator. In case you don't know what I mean...

    (reflect)This is the lookBETA.png

Going into tomorrow, here are some points to get you thinking about what Web2.0 is.

  • Old business models are dying. More value can be delivered by using the Web.
  • Providing more value to the user will lead to more revenue for you.
  • The collective thinking of the community is more important than the individual.
  • Measurement and ROI is harder to calculate, but it's not impossible. Rethinking metrics is crucial.
  • Web2.0 is personal. It's personal for your customers and contacts. The more personal you make it the more successful you'll be.
  • Social networking is one small part of the equation. Creating a MySpace profile is the gimmicky way out (unless your customers are there).
  • Innovate, innovate, innovate. It's the name of the game. Be curious and think differently

Until then, be thinking about what this means to you. Questions anybody? Anything else that you think I missed that falls into the "what web2.0 is not" category? Let me know in the comments.


Related Post: I gave a presentation to the Ad Club in Canton, OH a while back on Web2.0/user generated content for advertising folks. Click here to view that post.


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Web2.0 for marketers: beyond the hype

two.jpgJust wanted to give you a heads up that I am going to be running a special series called "Web2.0 for marketers: beyond the hype" all next week. I am bombarded with questions every day about what Web2.0 is. I also hear it mis-used WAY too often to describe some very interesting things.

This series will be 100% geared towards you marketers. No techno-babble, no smoke and mirrors. Just the facts and how it is and will impact you and your clients. Here is the content schedule I am going to follow:

  • Monday: History briefly and what Web2.0 is NOT
  • Tuesday: This isn't your grandfather's business model
  • Wednesday: Who let the tech out? (Please sing to the tune of "Who let the dogs out". Thank you.)
  • Thursday: It's the community stupid (whether you like it or not)
  • Friday: What this really means for you and your clients

Now, here is your chance to get involved. Is there anything you want me to address specifically? Any nagging questions that you or a client has had in the back of your mind? Let me know in the comments or you can email me directly. I'm going to have some fun with this, after all it's an amazing time in marketing.

Shift your thinking into overdrive and meet me back here on Monday to dive in and come ready to learn and participate.


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I Joost don't get it

confuseddog.jpgI've been writing this post in my head for some time now and it's high time I post it. There is a lot of hype around the new video service Joost. The problem is, after using it pretty extensively, I don't get the hype. I can't stomach the kool aid. The product has a contemporary, web2ish look about it, it has some good content in the channels, but some things aren't sitting right with me. Let me explain.

First and foremost, can anybody tell me why the service is delivered through a standalone application. This drives me insane. The technology driving the web has evolved enough that making people download another application to watch the content seems absurd. The chances of me installing the application are pretty good, but like many, many other apps I will soon forget about it. My web browser is becoming my hub for content. If you're not delivering through the browser you're losing me as a customer. Lots of companies are delivering through the brower. YouTube or course, Jalipo and blip just to name a couple, but Joost lacks the social networking options those sites have.

Second, the content is good, but I can get most of it on time-shifted TV through Tivo or through other video sharing sites or by going direct to the provider. Joost is signing deals with those content providers, but I think they're trying to position themselves as the cable company when they're really just a MTV. They're aggregating other produced content, but unlike MTV they're not adding new value. The content providers see Joost as another distribution point in their digital strategy, but it's not the only player. Where is the user generated content? Users are creating high quality content that, for the moment, seems to be locked out of Joost's model.

Third, the quality of the video in Joost is not that great. It's certainly not TV quality and is right on par with YouTube (see my first question). They're alleging themselves the new TV for the web. Why are they recreating the TV? This is the Internet. The TV model has issues. Issues which could be solved with some new thinking. This is just a re-package of what we've seen to date. Yes it looks shiny, but like many things web2.0 looks can be deceiving. My big question is how will I get Joost to the TV when I want it?

Finally, Joost is relying on a passé advertising models which users may be less inclined to accept. Paul McEnany and I seem to have BSP on this one. Technology allows for innovation. Innovation in content and delivery. It allows ad networks to get creative and add real value to their clients. So what is Joost doing? They're pre-rolling 15 and 30 second spots in front of video clips. Didn't they get the memo about the death of the 30 second spot?

We're still early in Joost's history and there is certainly room to improve. Room I hope they take advantage of before somebody else knocks them out. Don't take my word for it though, see for yourself. I still have four tokens that will go to the first four people to email me. What are your thoughts? Anybody have another opinion?

[Update: All of the tokens are gone. People are definitely interested. I'll be anxious to see their take.]


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The geography of ideas

geography.jpgWhat makes one city more successful over another when it comes to technology? When you think of innovation, where do you think? Mountain View/Silicon Valley, Seattle, New York, Boston? All the usual suspects. Those cities have lowered hurdles for established businesses and startups when it comes to recruiting talent, offering raw technology and money.

The tenets behind Web 2.0 are enabling a shift in this long held view. While the money and the raw technology are still centralized, something far more important is breaking free. Ideas. The open nature of the user generated content movement is based on open technology architectures. That means that, while the heavy engineering is still done in the traditional tech centers, many more people are able to capitalize in order to ideate and innovate. Information that was previously held tightly in Silicon Valley is not relayed in real time to the rest of the world through sites like TechMeme or TechCrunch. There is almost no geographic advantage as far as information goes any more.

Just tonight I attended an panel event here in Cleveland centered around emerging technologies. I talked to a lot of people at some really great companies who are doing some progressive and interesting things. More companies everywhere are able to get in on technology early and create solutions for their clients. This is happening in Cleveland for sure. Smart people are getting together and sharing great ideas and it's happening elsewhere too. Blogging tools are letting new voices be heard and the ideas are leading the way. Take Des Moines, Iowa for example. Up until a year or so ago you wouldn't have necessarily thought it to be a hotbed for great marketing thinking, but Mike and Drew have changed that.

Are you noticing this in your area? Have you see a city/region capitalize on this to make steps toward recruiting new talent to the area in a real, successful way? Do people in your area even know what's going on right next door? Let me know.

Viva ideas!


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The democratization of live broadcast video

How many of you have checked out Justin.tv? Come on. Admit it, you know who you are. I am one of the occasional voyeurs that checks in. The experience is extremely immersive and engaging and the power that Justin has tapped into is just the tip of the iceberg that is user generated live, broadcast video. More services are coming online that allow anyone to stream their lives, events, meetings, parties live to anyone who wants to watch.

largecamera.jpgNot too long ago, to stream live online you have to have a couple of things at your disposal. Most importantly you needed a lot of cash for the video camera (see example to the right). On top of that you had to pay a license fee to a streaming provider for the number of simultaneous users you wanted to be able to connect. Then you needed software and a video card to capture the video and get it to the service. Now, you would probably need a sound engineer to run cables and possibly a wireless mic back to the camera. What did this equate to? Extremely limited user-generated live broadcast video and, on the flip-side, few corporations wanted to go through the hassle and expense.

isight.jpgThe next video iteration, which has massive consumer adoption, is YouTube. Anyone with a web-cam could become a video star. The only fee was the purchase of a camera (if it wasn't built in) and taking the time to edit the video. This was, and continues to be, a fantastic outlet for consumers to self-publish video. 65,000 videos are uploaded every day and over 100 million videos are served each day according to the company. Why is it so successful? The concept is simple, there are great community features built around the platform allowing sharing and opinion and anyone can do it. The one downside to YouTube (right now) is a lack of live video feeds. (There are currently many rumblings of YouTube coming out with their Live platform.) YouTube isn't the only video hosting community either. Others include Veoh, Blip, MySpace, Yahoo, AOL, Grouper and many others.

Now we are caught up to the present era of democratized live broadcast video. The past couple days have been interesting for live video streaming service UStream.tv. The service allows anyone with a camera to stream whatever they're recording to the web. Two Valley internet trailblazers are giving UStream a swift kick into popular technology culture at Web2.0 Expo in SF this week. Robert Scoble (live channel) and Jeremiah Owyang (live channel) (both of Podtech.net) are broadcasting live from the Expo. They have taken the service and demonstrated a couple of very important points:


  1. Live video is easy to setup
  2. Live video is cheap
  3. Live video is fairly stable
  4. Game on!

Look for the YouTube's of the world to flock to this concept because if you thought watching motorcycle tricks was engaging, just wait until it's broadcast live. The technology from the user perspective is easier when it's live. All you need is a camera, computer and connection. There is no editing to deal with and the live chat/response interaction is extremely powerful.

Businesses can also harness the power of the live stream. Think about responding to customer inquiries via a live video rep. The person at home stays hidden, but can chat in text. They get to see who they're talking to and the connection is much more personal. Responding in real time when a crisis hits, when time is of the essence, is extremely simple. The possibilities are endless. The conversation is just getting started.


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Buzz Friday (week of April 13)

buzz_listen.jpgHere is a look at what is happening across a couple of sites I keep an eye on. Let me know if there is anything you would like me to add on.

Items I am watching:

Top Five Technorati Blogs


  1. Engadget
  2. Boing Boing
  3. Gizmodo
  4. Techcrunch
  5. The Huffington Post

View Top 100

Top 10 Technorati Searches


  1. imus
  2. re-publica (this is a german blogger conference)
  3. kurt vonnegut
  4. youtube
  5. duke lacrosse
  6. myspace
  7. sanjaya
  8. american idol
  9. joost
  10. habitaquo

Top Five Web2.0 Movers of the Week (using Alexa data)


  1. Geni
  2. 37 Signale
  3. Bolt
  4. Ze Frank
  5. Frappr

More

Top Five Web2.0 Sites (using Alexa data)


  1. YouTube
  2. MySpace
  3. Orkut
  4. Wikipedia
  5. hi5

More

Top Five Marketing Blogs from Viral Garden


  1. Seth's Blog
  2. Creating Passionate Users
  3. Duct Tape Marketing
  4. Gaping Void
  5. Marketing Shift

View the top 25

Top 5 "Viral" Videos This Week


  1. Alanis Morissette "My Humps Video"
  2. Otters holding hands
  3. 300 movie trailer
  4. Gangsta Happy Feet Remix
  5. Xbox 360 Spring 2007 Dashboard Update Video

More


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Twitter provides new answer to age old question

Robert Scoble.jpgYou've surely heard the age old question "if a tree falls in a forrest and nobody hears it, did it make a sound?". The other day as I was Twittering my status update and I dropped Robert Scoble a question through the service. I waited a while...no answer. Oh well I thought and moved on to one of my myriad meetings. Later I thought to myself and posted this tweet on the service:

If you Twitter @Scobleizer and he doesn't reply, did you really Twitter?

To which he quickly replied:

@mattanium: yes, but that probably means I just missed your Twitter. 2500 people go by very quickly!

Question answered. Scoble has 2710 friends on the service and 2579 followers, I can't imagine how he keeps up and I was delighted he replied back. Scoble's approach allows him to see the whole conversation that is happening around him, even if he misses a few now and then. Other users have a lot of followers, but less friends and since you only see tweets from your friends, people are losing out on the big picture. I've tweeted other people (David Armano, Loren Feldman) in the system, but since I am a follower of theirs and not a "friend" they probably never saw the message.

Twitter is still in its infancy and people are inventing new ways to use it over time expanding it from "what am I doing" to a multi-modal, micro publishing tool. The conversations happening on Twitter are fascinating. Are you in the conversation?


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Joining the conversation age

Drew McLellan (Drew's Marketing Minute) and Gavin Heaton (Servant of Chaos), two bloggers whom I greatly admire, are starting a conversation. Their idea, of which I am now a part of, is to have bloggers from all over the world contribute one page to a 100 page e-book. The proceeds of the book will go 100% to charity and the conversations it will create will spark new ideas and discussion.

conversationage_2.jpgIf you're a blogger and are interested in writing for the e-book, click the image to the left and let Drew know by April 11. Material is due back to him by April 30th. Some bloggers I have met are already signed up like CK, Valeria and Mark. Other bloggers whom I greatly admire are on the list as well as some new faces. It's an honor to be included. The topics are not limited to business/marketing, anything can create a conversation. Here is more about this terrific idea:

  • 100 authors. We're a few but need more.
  • The overriding topic is "The Conversation Age" -- where you take it is up to you.
  • The items are short - one 8.5" x 11" page -- it can be words, diagrams, photos (again up to you) If it is words - about 400, give or take a couple.
  • We write it quickly and get it out there. We publish electronically.
  • We make it available online for a small fee and we donate 100% of the proceeds to Variety the Children's Charity -- which serves children across the entire globe.

Here are the contributors to date:


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Marketing campaign shrouded in mystery drives fans online

Who says you have to terrorize an entire city to drive buzz around a marketing campaign? Kudos to John Booth at Crains Cleveland Business for pointing out this article on CNN.com. Cleveland's own, and Nine Inch Nails lead singer, Trent Reznor is rumored to be behind a cryptic marketing campaign which has used USB drives left in restrooms, phone message recordings of songs and rogue web sites to stir up fans.

Picture 1.png Picture 2.png

Nine Inch Nails' new album 'Year Zero' is due in stores and the band is using a mysterious, grassroots campaign to drive interest. The band isn't saying much at this point, their fans are driving the conversation. The discovery marketing tactics started with a T-shirt which fans realized led to a URL. Once on the site, fans were pointed to other locations, criss-crossing the Web to uncover the next clue.

Some of the site URLs are:

Fans also found cleverly placed USB memory sticks in restrooms at European NIN concerts that contained new, unreleased tracks. The files spread like wildfire though email and peer-to-peer file sharing networks. Yet another T-shirt pointed to a Cleveland phone number that played a recording of one of the tracks.

This goes more to prove that the group understands marketing and their fans. They're trying to reach people in new ways using a mix of promotion, technology and guerilla marketing. Fans get to experience the band's personality, interact in new and more personal ways and get to connect with the band before the general public. No matter what you think of their music, they really get the marketing side and their fans benefit in the end.

UPDATE: Spike at Brains on Fire has a humorous take on the RIAA's response to this campaign. Left hand, meet right hand.


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Forget the consumer?

What is going on in some marketer's heads right now? It seems like the consumer is the last thing running through their minds as people move to protect and segregate content away from the masses. I've posted about the Viacom/YouTube lawsuit and potential impact to each site, but in the end the consumer loses and that's unfortunate.

video_together.pngHere is what the video landscape looked like just a few months ago. Youtube was the quick starting, innovative new contender on the scene. Users flocked in record numbers and showed marketers that the days of users being limited by technology to create content are over. From a user perspective, YouTube was ideal, a one-stop shop. It combined user-generated content with normal broadcast video content published by consumers. Music artists took to the medium and published pre-releases to their videos. Consumers showed their love of some brands by creating their own mashups and sharing them with friends. Agency.com used the site to publish a forced "viral" campaign that got many people in the industry interested in the possibilities.

video_separated.pngBut, this was short-lived. Here is a representation of what it looks like today. Users have to criss-cross the net to find what they want. The interactivity and commenting is not as powerful, the numbers of people watching each is drastically lower than that of YouTube and there may even be a little self-censorship going on every now and then as properties protect their sponsors and investors.

Here is a quick overview of the video content space from my viewpoint. It shows where each entity is heading with their recent moves. Customers want control, they want Tivo not regular TV. They want all of the content in one place, on-demand and they want quality on top of all of that.

video_controlvcontent.png

The anti-consumer actions being taken in this space seems natural in the context of the internet. Think Napster vs. RIAA. How many more artists were people exposed to in that time period than ever see the light of day today. Again, Napster had the content in one place, the user had control and the companies broke it up. I wonder if the power of the citizen media can help out this time. Do you think these companies care about consumers or is it just the short-term dollar?

Loyalty breeds long-term profit. The more long-term they think the better off they'd be or somebody is going to beat them to the next new thing. But, I guess they'll just keep litigating and not innovating.

UPDATE: Check out Paul McEnany's post on the NBC/News Co. venture (dubbed "ClownCo" by Google) as well as Michael Arrington's post here. Make sure to read the last segment on Arrington's post, it's extremely telling of NBC's arrogance.

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Like giving birth

baby.jpgThere are some projects that you work on in your professional career that you invest yourself in a little bit more. You take them extra personally. You dedicate yourself to the project outcome being a success. The journey is rewarding and paved with tears, hard lessons and moments of pure, inspired innovation.

I had one such project launch a couple of days ago and I'd love to share it with you now. Disclaimer - I work for DigiKnow, an interactive marketer in Cleveland, OH, and one of our sweet spots is sports and entertainment. We've built sites and systems for some great sports teams over the years.

About a year ago, we came up with an idea for revolutionary venue marketing product and were extremely fortunate to partner with the Cleveland Cavaliers to get it done. The marketing team at the Cavs was fantastic and as driven as we were to come up with the best possible solution. The final product is a patent pending marketing system called SeatServer.

The product, located here http://seatviewer.cavs.nba.com, combines Flash and AJAX technologies to deliver a smooth, realistic experience. The solution shows real video views from each seat section, allows the team to add an up-sell message in each section (e.g.; "Did you know that for $10 more you could sit in the lower bowl?"), incorporates the team schedule and a lot more (check out the interactive 360 video in the seating chart pull down). On top of that, the team can showcase premium seating options and give you personalized directions from your front door all the way to your seat.


Picture 1.png


Sports teams are certainly becoming more aware of the fact that the experience is more than just what happens inside the arena. It starts when you come online, extends as you leave your house and concludes when they get back home. The more value teams can provide throughout that process the more successful their online efforts will become.

Do you have a project like this in your career? What did you learn?



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What's your first screen?

motorola_Q.jpgMobile devices are often referred to as the "third screen" (the television and computer are screens one and two respectively). I came across this article today which looks at the increased usage of mobile phones to access the web. According to the TNS Media and Entertainment study, 76% of mobile users in the US, UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy access the web via their devices.

Bob Greenberg of R/GA was quoted in the article:

"I always hear about the cellphone as being the 'third screen,' but I think about it as the first one. It's with me all the time."

I completely agree with Greenberg's point on a personal level, I've thought the same for some time now. My screen order is:


  1. Mobile (with me 90% of the time)
  2. Laptop (using 60% of the time)
  3. Television (Use via Tivo 10-15% of the time)

I have to temper my perspective, however, with the fact that I am a marketing geek. I need 24x7 email and net access, I Twitter a couple of times a day and I have an insatiable desire to have the latest gadgets even if I really have no use for them.

So, here is a quick poll. What's your first screen?


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It's the little things that add value

cont_logo.jpgI'm a huge proponent of giving consumers ROI when it comes to their personal information. There is nothing I hate more than going to a web site, giving that entity a bunch of personal information and then getting nothing in return. Yes, I add value to them. They can show management the number of orders, subscribers and conversion rates. But what about me?

One small example of a company using my information to add incremental value to my experience is Continental Airlines. I am flying to Los Angeles tonight for a new business pitch tomorrow. I don't know about you, but most of my business travel is crushed in between meetings, conference calls and normal work and there are a lot of things that I forget to do before traveling. One of the biggest things I forget about is to check the Weather. I always end up doing it the day I fly and by that time I can't change what I packed.

You can see in the example below Continental has used my personal information to add value to the confirmation email they send out. The top of the mail has all of the pertinent flight and time information, of course, but the tie-in with Weather.com adds the most value. I knew the forecast a couple of days ago, I didn't have to remember to go look it up and I've packed appropriately.

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If you're a customer, ask yourself why you give the information you do and if the companies you support use that info. to add value to your experience. If you're an interactive marketer stop and ask yourself if the information you collect is being used to add value to the customer. If it's not, look for new ways to leverage it. The benefit to the customer is great and the effort is relatively small.


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Crowdsourcing, a great customer conversation starter

ielogo.gifI posted a couple of days ago about Dell's new IdeaStorm site. On the site Dell is soliciting ideas from their customers and then using those ideas as a center for the rest of the Dell web experience. The site has been well received (outside of the usual Dell haters) and it's a great step forward to really engage their customers and leverage them to bring new products to market.

I just saw another, VERY similar site pop up through my feeds via David Terrar at BusinessTwoZero. SalesForce.com's IdeaExchange looked so similar that I had to go back to Dell to compare. When I clicked the small "powered by AppExchange" logo on the Dell site I was taken to, guess who? SalesForce.com. Dell is using SalesForce's completely branded third-party system. Kudos to Dell for using it, but more kudos to SF for creating it and offering to clients.

Here is a quick breakdown of the components:

Users post ideas

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A simple form lets users get started quickly. They can upload images of what they're suggesting and write as much as they need to get their point across.

Promote the ideas

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The users on the site promote ideas they think are valuable. This way the site owner gets to see the most popular ideas as promoted by the group. The promotion link is next to each idea and users just click to vote for what they like.

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Discuss the ideas

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This is the important part for companies. Once ideas start to gain popularity, users discuss them, find the logic holes, suggest solutions and start to build a more complete, finished plan. This allows companies to step in toward the end, take the idea, add technical architecture details and implement more rapidly.

See the delivery

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Another key to this system is to show the customers that ideas are being taken to completion. This module allows the company to queue projects which have gone through submission, voting and discussion and are in the final stages of being implemented. Credit to the user(s) who created the idea is key and the "fame" they gain through this process will encourage other users to interact.

The model seems great. I wouldn't be surprised to see more Wiki features be added to the discussion portion of this to enable more structured interaction, but the core system looks solid and customer-friendly. Ideas are crucial for success. It's great to see companies like Dell and SalesForce notice this and start engaging customers with a great use of technology.


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Let Virgin fly

va_logo.jpgWhen's the last time you said you loved your airline? I honestly couldn't say. The race to cut costs has led to cramped spaces, pay-per-bite airline food, longer delays as more people try to board less flights and seemingly (at least to me) overworked, underpaid flight attendants.

That's why when I recently read about Virgin America's plight to start domestic air service in the US it struck a cord. Here is an airline who cares and wants to shift the paradigm of domestic travel, but their being blocked from flying by the US Department of Transportation. Virgin truly wants to fly, give great service, make sure passengers are comfortable and do it all with a smile and for a fair price. All they want is to give a little love. (Hey it worked for Southwest didn't it.)

Compare this to the recent JetBlue debacles (11 hour runway standoff and subsequent mishandling of flight cancellations). They've even vowed to release a passenger's bill of rights to restore credibility to the once lauded airline. Tom Peters has a fired-up take on JetBlue on his blog. I couldn't agree with him more.

Virgin created a great micro-site at www.letvafly.com (seen here) to support their cause.


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The site showcases cool, contemporary plane interior photos and video, allows users to sign a digital petition to Let VA Fly, lets you write your congressman and signup for mailings as the fight progresses. The site is also chock full of information for people to learn more about the fight to fly and the airline. On top of all that, it showcases what makes a real difference...people, personal attention and bad ass in-seat entertainment.

Virgin could have taken a militant, aggressive stance on this issue. They could berate the DOT for their decisions and resort to all sorts of name-calling. But they didn't. That's not the Virgin brand. That IS, however, the kind of airline I would like to fly on.

LET VA FLY! (It can't suck as much as the rest.)

Sidebar: Here is a quick tour by the VA CEO, Fred Reid:




Sidebar: Nice ad positioning by Continental, by the way, on the NYPost.com site:


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Update: JetBlue's CEO responds via YouTube. Is it enough? Will it really reach those personally effected?



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Give users control over the right part of online advertising, choice

choice.jpgThe user generated advertising trend is hot. Attempts to make consumer created ads pay off is hit and miss, backfiring for some companies and mildly succeeding for others. Still, the best form of user generated advertising comes from people who really love you and your brand, not from a contest or other gimmick. So with all of the hype, does this tactic really create new customers and in the end sell more of what you have to offer? Usually not.

While the focus has been placed on the ads themselves, we're missing an opportunity to really engage users and create more loyal customers through User Controlled Advertising (UCA). I pitched this back in 2005 and the world wasn't ready for it, but now seems like the right time to put it out there again. UCA would allow publishers or advertising networks to serve up ads (created by ad professionals) to users and allow those users to decide what they want to see.

UCA choices could be based on any of the following:


  • Type or category of ad ("See more ads like this")
  • Brand-specific ads ("See more ads from this sponsor")
  • Ability to easily scroll through ads to see what's available
  • Choose not to see an ad or sponsor

Here is an example of how this would physically manifest itself in the ad enclosure:

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This creates new opportunities and solves some key online advertising problems. First, if users are choosing to see your ads, they're going to be more likely to click through or buy offline. They're opting in to your message. Second, using this system there is less waste on people who don't care about you (sorry, they are out there)...why should you pay to show them an ad they'll never click? Third, if you combine this system with user preferences, personalization and reporting and you have created the most powerful, accurate, waste-free, relevant ad system on earth. These technologies are all out there, but nobody has put them together. Fourth, the system serves as a vehicle to extend the ad beyond the typical banner. It offers real estate for promotions and other personalized engagement techniques to connect with the right message and the right time.

Imagine a user comes on to your local newspaper web site (where you advertise). Based on their registration criteria the system knows they may be interested in you, so when they hit the home page there is your ad. If they like you they select to see more ads from you. The site then serves your ads at a higher weighting through the system giving you more impressions. The user wants to see your message and the chance they'll click through is increased. Conversely, if another person logs on and sees your ad and doesn't have an interest in you, they can click to an ad they do like. They get what they want to see and you don't waste impressions serving irrelevant ads.

Taking this a step further, RSS driven ads could be used as part of this new ad system. The messages in ads can be updated by the advertiser in real-time and not necessitate new creative. For example, say you have a campaign to welcome users to your site. You could create an ad format that would take their head shot and name and create a custom ad to thank them for signing up. It would be integrated into the system and allow them to share the ad with friends to get them to sign up. How much more relevant can you get?

The idea here is to give users control over the context and content, not the creative. It forms a mutually beneficial partnership and could have a major impact in the world of online advertising.


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Tracking online trends and buzz

There are a couple of sites I use to track trends and buzz. One of those is BuzzMetrics BlogPulse which tracks keywords in blog posts across the Internet. I was curious, given Vista's recent launch, what the level of buzz was in comparison to the iPhone release.

It isn't even close. You can clearly see in the chart below the blue spike is the release of the iPhone and the orange spike is the Vista on-sale. This goes as much to Apple's tight secrecy on the device versus Microsoft's 3 year death march toward Vista's release.


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Trends like these can give you a window into your users and popular culture. You don't need an expensive buzz tracking service to get an idea of what's happening. Use the following sites (my favorites) to keep your fingers on the pulse of your business or industry:


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The bleeding edge: QR codes

img.pngAlthough QR (quick response) codes have been around since the mid-90s in Japan (born from manufacturing), they have only recently come into the mainstream consumer's focus. Japanese mobile consumers are using these codes along with special software and their phone's camera to shortcut having to type information into a mobile browser. (The QR code to the right is the URL for this blog in QR symbology.)

These codes are creeping up online, in magazines and newspapers and even on TV to allow users to quickly jump to their website or share a host of other information. All a person has to do is point their phone at the code and it knows what to do, taking the user to the end destination. See for yourself and create one using this generator.

Realistically, the success rate of something like this in the US is going to be equally proportional to the number of US mobile subscribers who use mobile web. Right now that number is low (but growing). Without a support base of subscribers who find entering information into their phones difficult, this could go the way of the Cuecat.

Here is a video of it in action, you may not be able to read what it says, but you'll see how it works.




Competition is out there (see this post on Engadget) and although QR is an ISO standard, it is not a universally agreed upon convention. Interesting to note, there are also 3D versions of these codes which are capable of storing 1.8Mb of data. That could be a document, small music file or short video clip. Imagine the possibilities. Walk into a store, see a CD you like, scan the code and possibly listen to a clip of the track right there.


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Mobile marketing 101: Geographic smart-targeting

This is the first of a two part series on mobile geo-targeting. Geography-based targeting is becoming more realistic as technology improves and consumers become more accepting of marketing messages on their phones. This post explores "smart-targeting" where the marketer knows (based on signup) who their customers are and what content they would like to receive. The marketer then uses the customer's real-time, geographic position to send them messages when they're within range.

To illustrate a smart-targeting campaign I created an example (see below) using my favorite purveyor of coffee. For a campaign like this, users would have signed up online to receive update messages and profile their interests. They also would have gone through the mobile confirmed opt-in process (read more about confirmed opt-ins).

Once activated, whenever a customer comes within a pre-defined distance from a store they would receive a message from that location based on their preferences. The power here is that the offer is relevant to their interest (coffee drinking and the brand) and it is geo-relevant as well. Each Starbucks location would have the ability to send out similar messages as a subscriber's device is detected with matching interest criteria.


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(Hat tip to David Armano for the inspiration to blog with my information designs, I've got a ways to go before I reach his level.)

There are three primary types of customers who could receive these smart-targeted messages. Green consumers in the diagram are true devotees. They welcome your messages and even get excited to receive them because it makes them feel more like part of your community. Geo-targeting to these users serves as a branding reinforcement and could spark spur-of-the-moment purchases through coupons or new product information.

Consumers in orange are on the edge. They're occasional users of your product or service, but they are close to moving to the red level. Messages to this person need to be more focused on product trial. The more they try and become devoted, the better chance they have of moving back to green.

Red consumers are the most crucial to deal with. They have either a) lost their affinity for you and your products or b) forgotten they signed up in the first place. Every campaign needs to have a mechanism built in to remove these users immediately and put them on a permanent do not message list. Most of the risk (legal, time and money) of any geo-targeting campaign lies in this group.

Other, non-mobile methods of contact should be sent periodically to allow users to adjust their interests or opt-out. Other questions should aim to provide more insight into the level of the customer for campaign message adjustment.

Despite the risks, the power of mobile technology combined with the hyper-relevant message is nearly unmatched in modern marketing. No other combination of resources is as relevant and personal as geo-targeted marketing...if done right. If not conducted correctly geo-targeted campaigns become pure spam, hurt the overall brand and limit acceptance for future mobile efforts. The technology to enable this type of geo-targeting is becoming a reality more and more as new geo-ready phones are released.

Part 2 will focus on always-on, proximity targeting. This is very different from geo-targeting and has its own set of risks and rewards. Check back shortly for that post.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:


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If you name it they will come

hello.jpgSometimes something as simple as a name can enable millions of people to share their ideas in ways which had never been done before. One of my personal favorite new names is 'photowalking'. Robert Scoble (blogger extraordinaire and leading Internet video guru) popularized the term and it basically means finding a group of people who like photography and then meeting to walk around and shoot photos. Simple right?

It is simple. That's the beauty. Personally, seeing Robert's first video with the talented Thomas Hawk changed the way I looked at photography. It validated something I already knew. Photography can be a social experience, and shooting in groups offers a collective sounding board to the people involved. Seeing how people physically position themselves to get shots, seeing the angles you never saw and looking at how they process those images in Photoshop has taught me a lot about photography. I've formed a photowalking group at DigiKnow, where I work, and people love it. Having an excuse to get out is all we need (even on days like yesterday when we trudged through the snow).

You can draw similar parallels to blogging. If you're reading this post, you're engaging in my blog. Had someone not given this a name I most likely wouldn't be writing this and you wouldn't be reading it. Yes it's a type of online diary. Yes it is a trend. But it is an enabler over all else. People are sharing their ideas at record pace and yes, most of the bloggers are talking about personal, local stuff. That's what a blog is all about. Some bloggers, however, have taken the medium to a new level. Tom Peters, Seth Godin, Robert Scoble, Om Malik, David Armano, Guy Kawasaki, Valeria Maltoni. These are thought leaders, artists, conversation starters and voices of industry. More bloggers are sharing ideas every day.

So, what is the next name that will enable millions to express themselves? What will publish the words of the next Robert Scoble? What platform will showcase the art of the next Thomas Hawk? A name is a powerful thing. A name can start new markets, empower millions and create thousands of new jobs. Long live the name.


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What am I doing? Twitter me.

I don't know if you've noticed, but in the right column of this blog I've added a small little note area called 'What I'm doing". It's driven through an online service called Twitter who's only function, at this point, is to tell other people what you're doing. Groups can be formed on Twitter's web site so you can check out what all of your friends are doing.

Twitter is currently being used by bloggers exactly like I am. The service is very easy to use, updates can come through an SMS message to a fixed number, updating your status through a form online or by instant messaging Twitter through any of four services. All you do is type in what you're doing in the message and send. Setup is a snap and updates are near instantaneous.

For developers, the Twitter API is completely open and flexible enough to leverage their messaging framework to feed in updates to any number of applications. While the primary use is personal, as I said before, more interest has surrounded Twitter's possible corporate uses. Liz Gannes at GigaOM has a nice post about this very topic.

Corporate examples could be allowing a customer service team to update system status in real time, pushing offers and specials on an e-commerce site quickly or recording billable time entries for later invoicing (the proprietary nature of this last point is a concern with the current hosted model of Twitter). As with any service like this the business case needs to be in place to make this a strategic benefit to the end user as well as the people who use it. It is time consuming, even if it just takes a couple of minutes, and you have to remember to do it. If, however, you're looking for an existing messaging framework which handle multi-mode input through existing device platforms, and you foster a community that cares what its members are doing right now, something like Twitter could be for you.

If you're wanting some type of big brother, what-is-Ted-from-accounting-doing-right-now, application either enable GPS tracking on their phones or implant RFID tags. Both options are more than a little creepy.


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Mobile marketing 101: Yes means no (until you say it twice)

yield.gifI am starting my series on mobile marketing today and one of the key points to lay out first is the idea of the confirmed opt-in. This has become the de-facto standard for gaining acceptance from a consumer before reaching them on their mobile device.

What does this mean you ask? Normally, say for an email newsletter, you complete a form, click a checkbox that says you want to be contacted and viola. You receive an email with a link to confirm your intentions to join the list.

The same is true for mobile campaigns. It's actually more important in mobile due to the fact that it may cost the user money (text message fees, airtime, etc.) and the juvenescence of this form of marketing in the eyes of the consumer. (Some mobile campaign creators will actually triple confirm their users. This is a little excessive, but possible.) This confirmation can happen through a website, text message, email, phone call or through snail mail (*gasp*), but it needs to happen.

So this is the first standard that any marketer should follow for any mobile campaign. This is a new touch point for your brand. Consumers are very protective of their mobile space and will defend it against unsolicited marketing more than any other medium. If done right this can be a nice asset in your toolbox. If done wrong it can be a PR nightmare.

The MMA has a code of conduct document you should check out before doing anything else.

Past Mobile Marketing 101 posts:


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Nevermind the iPhone, give me a video iPod+

Now, I truly thought I wanted the iPhone. I really wanted one. I would have killed (maybe not kill, but surely I would have gently maimed somebody) for one. Now that I've seen it and thought about it for the past week I realize that I don't really want it, I want part of it.

I keep coming back to one major problem. Cingular. Or should I say AT&T. Yikes, that makes it even worse! Let me clarify a couple points before I go on. I love Apple. I use as many Apple products as I can get my hands on. I love the design of iPhone. I love the UI. I love the integration. It's beautiful and I really want to hold it in my hand and never let it go.

So why do I say kill the iPhone? I, like millions of other people around the world right now, am accustomed to carrying around two devices. One does the phone/email/SMS and the other does video and audio. I don't mind carrying my Motorola Q and my 30Gb iPod. I like the functionality of my phone separate from my iPod because they are fundamentally different devices with different purposes.

So what do I want? I want convergence that makes sense to me. I want a widescreen video iPod in the same case as the iPhone. I want a camera in the device. I want Bluetooth for wireless sync and to use wireless headphones. I want Wifi and a built-in browser for surfing. I want to buy songs on the go. I want battery life. I want iChat built in for IM and video conferencing down the road. I want more than 8Gb of storage.

What I don't want is the phone. I want to watch video and talk at the same time. I want Verizon as my phone carrier and another device to handle my media.

Please Apple, release your iPhone to the dwindling AT&T users. I will covet thy iPhones in the meantime (I admit it). But give me the killer iPod I deserve as a loyal Apple evangelist and continue your (very deserved) domination of the mobile player industry.


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Multi-touch interaction, beyond the iPhone

I subscribe to the TED Talks podcast feed and I've seen some really great presenters covering a very wide range of topics. As Apple's Steve Jobs released the iPhone at Macworld earlier this week I thought back to one of TED's most impressive presenters as it related to applicable technology. That presentation was done by NYU researcher Jeff Han and multi-touch interaction.

Chris Anderson, TED's founder, thought the same and asked Jeff what his thoughts were. I agree with Jeff and I'd predict we see larger versions of multi-touch screens within the next couple of years. It's really fascinating and intuitive.



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