Wednesday, May 31, 2006

CGM: Just another Thing to do Online

Creating content is quickly becoming just another thing people do online, according to a new PEW study. We may be getting to the turning point on the CGM curve: the early adopters had to either invent their own methods of creating content, or seek out difficult to use tools. But now that 35% of people online are creating content, there is a marketplace for the development of sites, tools and opportunities. That means that getting from 35% to 70% will go much quicker that 0-35.
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Marketing to Avatars

I downloaded SecondLife a couple of weeks ago. There is now, currently, an avatar in that world named (creatively enough) "Gary Stein". I haven't done much with it. Actually, I haven't done anything with it. But the concept is very intriguing to me. In fact, I'm in the skunkworks with a concept to do some events in SecondLife for Marketers.

There's a good article in AdAge today about this whole concept. A senior editor at HBR has written an article exploring the idea of marketing to avatars; not to the people controlling the avatars, but to the avatars themselves. It all gets a little weird and philosophical, but the idea is compelling.

Word of Mouth is in there as well. The idea of going into a space and representing a product is very WOM, so the same rules apply. Worthwhile read.
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Fell off my bike this weekend, training up in Marin. I managed to separate my shoulder (from the rest of my body, presumably). I'm healing somewhat quickly! Otherwise: BIG THANKS to the WOMMA crew for the very cute t-shirt for baby Eliot. He'll look great, and I'll post a pic of him in it for sure. Maybe watch for it to be snuck into my speech at WOMBAT!
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Friday, May 26, 2006

I think everyone's gone home...

So, I'm going to talk about cycling...

It looks like Ivan Basso is going to win the Giro d'Italia this weekend. I couuldn't be happier. This guy has ridden so hard the last several years, it's great to see him truly come into his own. Go back to some of Lance Armstong's victories from a few years back. On practically every climb, you see Basso. No one talked about him, because they were so focused on his big rivals, but he was there, learning from the master.

Now, with Basso, we've got the chance to see bike racing move decisively past the Armstrong Era. In the AE, the whole season seemed to be focused on winning one race: The Tour de France. But Basso may have the legs to win both the Giro and the Tour. That would bring us back to an earlier time when a champion won freakin' everything.

Either way: it's going to be a great year of racing. Thank you, powers-that-be, for putting so much cycling online!
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Thursday, May 25, 2006

From the "Everything Counts" Department: The Unboxing Experience Blog

A new blog is up that documents the "unboxing experience", which is the experience of getting a new high-tech gadget out of the box for the first time.

First impressions? Last a long time? You better believe it. More reason to think through the entire product purchase experience.
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Yahoo, Ebay and (not) Microsoft

Well, the rumors have been confirmed: eBay and Yahoo! are joining hands in the Great Struggle (against Google). Looks like a pretty straightforward deal, in that the partnership is really a swapping of inventory and assets. It's sort of like a great big media buy. There's mention of them jointly developing a click-to-call technology, but I imagine that's probably only because both companies have been cooking up click-to-call stuff in the past.

So, in terms of a deal, this is fairly superficial. Not that it isn't important. I just mean that no one is buying anyone and the companies have not merged to form some mega-corp. I imagine that my Yahoo log-in won't do much for me when I go to eBay and vice-versa. In fact, the consumer probably will notice this not at all.

The significance, of course, is in the positioning and the making of friends. You can't not see this alliance in the context of a surging Google. ComScore tells us that Google grew its share for the ninth month in a row, seemingly at the expense of its rivals.

Put into the mix a very determined Microsoft and you see how the power has shifted over the last few years. Microsoft yesterday announced (yet another) delay to the release of their next operating system, plus the news leaked out that Redmond's overtures to Yahoo! were rebuffed by Terry Semel. Now, the news is out that they were not a part of this deal, you have to begin to wonder where the next move is going to come.

My position is that you can never, ever count Microsoft out of any game. Yahoo is in a good position because they are shifting the game away from pure search toward being a portal--a position that they are infinitely more comfortable in (look at their history). Microsoft wants to make it an OS battle, space they're more comfortable in.

To put it more clearly: we are very clearly in the middle of the story, not at the conclusion. Yahoo is moving toward social media (something eBay's done since its inception). Microsoft wants to move toward OS. Neither entity is in their complete comfort zone just yet.

Is Google? Shoot...its so hard to pin down that company. I still believe that they have no short term strategy, only a long term strategy. The moves that they make incrementally move them toward this strategy. The thing that makes all this interesting is that each player seems to have a war chest they can use to get them to their own, private promised land. The result for the consumer may, in fact, be three very distinct and uniquely valuable services.
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Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Smells like (teen) Synergy

Wow. Seems like a match.
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The Irrational Consumer

I worked a little on a project on retirement savings plan. In the process, I came across a few articles on a topic called Behavioral Finance. Nope, this is not a new targeting option from Revenue Science. Rather, Behavioral Finance is a branch of economics that specifically addresses one of the most vexxing issues for marketers: Why do people often act counter to their best interests?

It's not a trivial question. Classic economics is built upon the theory that, given two choices, people will choose the one that will bring them the most benefit. And yet, every single day we see people walk straight by the gym on their way to buying cigarettes, fried chicken and bad beer. What's up?

Behavioral Finance moves past this simple definition of humans as self-interest accrual machines. Today, there's an article in Business 2.0 that is on the same issue. It's a much richer view of human beings, that highlights the immediate stimuli that can affect a decision, resetting the decision meter away from a purely self-beneficial equilibrium. It helps us understand not only why people indulge, but also why they don't take care of themselves, by investing in their 401(k), go to the gym or even see the dentist regularly.
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Monday, May 22, 2006

More on CostCo

I'm continuing to work on my presentation for the upcoming WOMMA event. In my research, I've come upon CostCo. What an amazing case study in Word of Mouth marketing. They may just be the perfect company when it comes to creating evangelists.

Here are a few factlets that I've unearthed:
  • CostCo has a 17% employee turnover rate. By comparison, WalMart has a 46% turnover rate, and the national average for retail is 65%.
  • The CEO spends a chunk of every day scanning about 1200 customer comments. He also answers his own phone and wears a name tag.
  • There are 23 million members of Costco. Last year, they sold 22 million rotisserie chickens.
Want to know more? You'll have to come to the event!
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Friday, May 19, 2006

CostCo, Karl Rove and the Yankees

I'm beginning to put my presentation together for the upcoming WOMMA event (here in SF!). For reasons that will become very clear during my session (I hope), I was looking at the buzz around CostCo.

Man, oh man do people love that store. I think CostCo may just be the Sears of the 21st Century.

And here's the important thing: ever seen an ad for them? Of course not. Not only that, but they have this membership thing, which means that not just anyone can go in there and buy 200 ozs of pickles. There's clearly something worthwhile going on there.

So, I used BlogPulse to see if I could find some blog posts about the brand. I wanted to get some comparisons to see how much buzz there was. Ends up (according to BlogPulse) that People buzz about CostCo as much as they buzz about Karl Rove and The Yankees. OK--Those two get spikes, but if you average it out, its practically the same.
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Thursday, May 18, 2006

WGM: Whale Generated Media

This is cool. The Save the Whales project has a new contest going on: remix whale songs (using their online tools). The best remixes win various iPod prizes (pod--whales...I get it!)
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Tuesday, May 16, 2006

I got the whole Web...on a page!

Someone's captured the top stuff from a number of popular social sites and called it PopURLs. Pretty interesting dataset, I suppose. It certainly points to the one-up-man-ship that seems to come from aggregated services. That is, DIGG is good, but once you get used to it, you sort of want to see how it compares to other services.
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Monday, May 15, 2006

Snap! Interface Breakthrough

One of the biggest unsolved problems in search has been the interface. The last big breakthrough was the Google Blank Slate interface, and it hasn't evolved much since then. And now that the Google interface itself is starting get a bit crowded, the call for a re-think of how search is done is getting more apparent.

At least to some people, like the good people at Snap. I saw their new design this morning and I had that magic feeling when you realize that someone, somewhere is starting to get it.

I'm not an interface designer, but here's a short list of what appeals to me:

  • The use of neutral colors and a lot of open space
  • Putting the search box in the middle of the page
  • The one click way to bring in the headlines
  • The results page split into two sections: control and display
  • The thought put into sharing results
  • The immediate inclusion of suggestions
The biggest question to arise is the straightforward inclusion of ads into the resutls. Is this bold or obvious? I'm going to say obvious. People really don't have a problem with ads in search results, provided they are clearly linked.

The biggest breakthrough with the interface, though, is that the sponsored links also get previews. That is, when you click on the sponsored result, the display window shows the landing page, just as it would for a regular, algorithmic result. What an incredible branding opportunity. If I were running a campaign, I'd pay close attention to the traffic coming from Snap (or, the level to which other engines adopt this display model). This could be a huge opportunity to design the landing page so that it was a great big graphic ad.
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Friday, May 12, 2006

Nothing but baby this week

Eliot Stein takes a nap with his mom.

Next week, I'll start thinking about advertising again.
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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Good Morning, New Baby

Good morning!

New Baby Stein was born today at 7:22 AM. He's doing fantastic, and we've got the list of potential names down to 3 or 4.

8lbs, 20 inches long.
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Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Remember when the Web was cool?

we need a lot more stuff like this!
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Monday, May 08, 2006

WOMM as a Cooperative Game

While doing something completely separate from work, I started to think about Word of Mouth Marketing as a Cooperative Game.

A cooperative game, as opposed to a competitive game, is one where players are best served by forming coalitions toward a goal. The Wikipedia entry imagines a volleyball game where the object is to keep the ball aloft for the greatest amount of time possible. Cycling is perhaps the ultimate cooperative game, since success is very clearly tied to working together during the race.

In order for a cooperative game to work, players must recognize that the greatest possible value comes from having both a) as large a coalition as possible and b) a situation where no one player can accrue more value outside the coalition than in. That is, if one person decides to let the volleyball drop, he is not in a position to get any extra, personal points.

So, it occurs to me that purchasing things (cars, medicines, whatever) has become a cooperative game: consumers have formed coalitions which help them make better decisions. I think one could begin to put value on the WOM that is occuring around a brand by looking at those two factors: coalition size and coalition value.
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Friday, May 05, 2006

FM Publishing Launches Ad Platform: "CPM is the tip"

I ran into John Battelle last week at AdTech. He's the brains behind FM Publishing, the blog network that is today announcing a new suite of tools for advertisers. He and I were talking a bit about the idea of influencers, and his network. CPM is just the beginning, he said. Sure, you can buy ads by the thousands on BoingBoing, but so what? The more interesting thing is to somehow connect with the audience that is visiting that site, many times a day looking for insight from a few very influential people.

He's definitely thinking about blog advertising in the right way. You can think of a blog as simply another bit huge bucket of inventory, but that ignores the fundamental nature of both the audience and the publisher.

I've long believed that blogs generate a lot of frequency, but little reach. So, putting up the same banner over and over becomes a waste quickly. The people who are going to buy the t-shift have bought it, and the rest of the impressions are wasted. Instead, create a program that involves and evolves. The returning customer sees a growing message that they become involved with.
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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Nothing to do with Advertising, Media or Life

But here's a very cool movie of Titan landing.

..back to work. In training today.
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Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mac Blogger Widget

I just downloaded the Blogger Widget for my Mac. This, admittedly is a test. How do you do links? Hmm...well. I suppose this is a good way to keep the flow of content going.
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Do I care if my live help was

My home ISP has been pretty frustrating lately. I won't name names, but the service has gone out repeatedly over the last few weeks. Calls to tech support are all but worthless: 20 minutes on hold for them to tell me to turn the modem on and off. Yeeesh.

The connection went out again this morning. I got it back alive and decided to send an email, questioning the reliability. Going through the form, I was herded over to use the live-chat function. I tried it and, lo-and-behold, the customer service rep gave me some good advice.

My only question is...was that really a person? I'm not totally sure. The conversation seemed pretty standard, and the answers were clear. Twice, though, I asked if the modem could be broken, and the question was completely ignored. The talk could very easily have been handled by a 'bot: an automated chat application.

Is that a problem? I don't really know. I actually did get good advice. Do I need to talk to someone? Not really. I need help. I thought about asking if the person was actually a person, but (honestly) I worried that that would be seen as offensive.

Whatever, I decided. My connection is back again. Long live the Replicants.
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Yahoo and MSN: How is that better?

Google is probably happy to read news like this: evidently Microsoft and Yahoo are considering coming together in some meaningful way to better compete against an ever growing Google Internet presence.

I agree with Danny that this makes sense, but only in a sort of 'looks good on paper' way. Danny makes the point that a new brand--or new owner of the brand--would only confuse users even further. Plus, I have doubts that you would be able to take the technology and the audience of the two and add them up to 2 (let alone 3). That is, I'm not sure if throwing these two services together would net out anything larger.

Google, meanwhile, is sitting in a power position. They continue to grow not through acquisitions, but rather through development. They acquire, but only as it suits their big dreams and fancy.
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Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Mirror up to your Audience Strategy

Apple's got a new set of ads up. In the series, a 20-something hipster represents the Mac and a very Gatesian looking fellow represents the PC. They have a series of conversations about interoperability, file-sharing, and, well...coolness. The ads are very well done and very in line with Apple's style.

Plus: it's a great example of the Mirror-Strategy. One of the classics, the idea is to create communications which try to reflect your audience--not just who they are, but (more importantly) how they see themselves. Apple further underscores the approach by providing the polar opposite to the audience's vision of itself, standing right there next to it.

Good work, but the questions has to return back to the point of the ads. Is this a switch ad? Not really. In fact, this is more likely to solidify the feelings on both sides. Mac-people will say "Yes! That's me and that's him". The PCers will say "They are so damn deluded".

But Macs have always come at a price-premium. So, the approach of solidifying the resolve of those in the Mac-target is a really good idea. A Mac is going to cost more than a comparable PC, so you better make the buyer really feel like he or she is doing the right thing by buying it.
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Monday, May 01, 2006

Fun with Referrals

Every now and then, I comb through the logs to see what pages bring people to this blog. In particular, I check out search strings that people have put in. Here are a sampling of some of the more recent ones:
...I suppose all this puts me pretty deep in the Long Tail.
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D. Berkowitz Blogging his "United 93" Feelings

David Berkowitz, who is very familiar to a lot of us in this space, is blogging his reactions to the United93 movie. Definitely worth a read.
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AdTech Flashback

AdTech came to SF last week, which was great. I'm currently on baby-watch (we're expecting our second child any minute now). So, no travel for me, thank you. I even passed on a trip to Berkeley because I didn't want to be across any bridges.

The story is the same this year as last: it's getting...bigger. The thing that struck me this time out is that, in the past, if you had a friend who worked at a company, you could visit his or her booth and be pretty confident that you'd find them there. Not the case any longer. The booths have gotten big and complex, with full-scale marketing and sales staff. This is turning back into a business.

Back? Yes: the keyword is "back". Forrester hints that its Bubble 2.0, as opposed to Web 2.0. I think there's some credibility to this, but (honestly) not a lot. They point to the fact that there are a lot of companies out there with similar business models, but not much differentiation. The only thing they have in common is that they all seem to be getting funded! Red Herring is also pointing to the exhuberance on the floor.

Well, that's certainly an issue. A "bubble", roughly defined is an economic condition where a) there is easy access to capital; and b) there's a belief that there are parties willing to spend more on something than you would.

Do we have that? Well, capital is certainly freer than it was 24 months ago. But I have heard through the grapevine that no "ideas" are getting funded. You want money? You better have an actual application and (more importantly) a bunch of users. Before you waste time getting appointments out on Sand Hill Road, get your beta out!

The second part is a bit interesting. A lot of companies are eyeing Google and Yahoo! as potential purchasers, but Google's buying cycle is a bit of a conundrum. Yahoo! seems to have a clearer acquisition strategy: they are pursuing Terry Semel's concept of a social Web. Google? It seems like they may buy anything next. Hard to plot out a course under those conditions.

So, I am starting to believe that this isn't a bubble, so much as it is simply an energized marketplace where the means of production are highly accessible. Certainly most of these businesses will fail, but so will most restaurants, dry cleaners and (in my neighborhood) high-end children's clothing shops.
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