Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Not About Marketing 'Cause Groups You Can't Control Can Control the Conversation

John Moore of Swimfish blogs about social support communities. On October 1, he posted his early thoughts on the so-called SSCs, a phrase he coined to describe “discussion groups on steroids.”

As Moore sees it, SSCs incorporate existing social networks (blogs, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Pip.io, YouTube, etc.) as additional channels where customers talk to each other. Moore points out that participants in SSCs typically exclude the larger community, companies, partners, and competitors.

Bottomline: Customers are looking for -- and finding -- ways to talk to each other, get frank answers and unfiltered feedback, and even get and give mutual support.

Organizations and institutions used to control groups. Across industry segments, associations in particular were the meeting ground for people of like mind. Not long ago, if an association didn’t already exist, the only way to gather people of like mind was to actually form an association, which some folks with a cause did (MADD, is a good example, but there are thousands).

The Internet, of course, has changed all that. Today corporations, nonprofits, and associations struggle to maintain relevancy (and control) of the digital community hall.

At the Direct Marketing Association of Washington’s “Association Day” this week, one of the most popular sessions focused on social media. While talking about how to get associations involved in social media, participants noted that some of their members had broken away to form their own groups via Yahoo, Google, onlinegroups.net, Convos, and any number of the other “group formation” facilitators. This is challenging for traditional associations – not because members are necessarily unhappy, but because splintering is such an easy process.

Splintering doesn't always work, though. LinkedIn Groups – which began as a terrific example of comrades gathering -- are, in my opinion, floundering. The original concept was good, but in short order, many LinkedIn groups were over by people trying to sell something. That’s bad and will likely kill-off or make obsolete some of the (especially larger) groups that originally populated LinkedIn with good intentions.

The point is that associations, nonprofits, and corporations still have a chance to participate, but only if they are cognizant of how people genuinely want groups to function in today’s free-wheeling social media environment.

Finally, a personal case in point: Yesterday I tweeted about Mozy, the offsite computer backup company. I love Mozy because it’s affordable and easy. A recent collaboration with their support team sealed the deal for me. I wanted the folks who follow me to know about Mozy because, for me, it was a real find. I’ve got no skin in the Mozy game so my experience is impartial. I hope somebody out there will read my Mozy tweet and appreciate the news.

That’s how people are finding and sharing info today… from each other. John Moore calls it social support communities. I call it long overdue.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Information Sells: Hitwise Gets It, Shows It, Does It

I was struck this morning by an email from Experian Hitwise, a nifty global brand that is an information powerhouse in fun-to-read format. Experian acquired web Intelligence firm Hitwise in April 2007 for $240 million, but just got active with its outreach in September.

What struck me this morning was the usefulness of information the company is giving away in its newsletter. Not only were there thought-provoking stats (Top Fashion Websites Visited by Men Aged 25-34, most popular keywords related to “costume,” tips for leveraging competitive intelligence, etc.), the newsletter featured a worthy downloadable pdf titled “2009 Holiday Marketer: Benchmark & Trend Report,” plus links to three FREE archived webcasts about holiday content planning. Nice touch for a late October, pre-holiday communication.

There's a larger point. Hitwise’s first-class approach to communication underscores the allure of contemporary marketing that starts with education and training for current and prospective customers. E-newsletters, webinars, white papers, and videos increasingly replace "advertising" in the new social media "conversation" with customers. It's instructive to watch the formerly somewhat staid Experian master the concept.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 23, 2009

Technology Also Creates Jobs... Think About It

This week, the Wise Marketer featured a new position paper from Hawkins Strategic that dealt with the way retailers handle stuff as it flows into the warehouse and out the door in a shopping bag [or not]. "..what happens between products flowing into the warehouse and shoppers leaving with them is the retail equivalent of a black hole," Sterling Hawkins writes. "In fact, at best, retailers are able to measure only the periphery of what actually happens in-store."

Apparently, technology manages many retail functions – transactions, checkout activity, inventory, restocking, traffic measurement, etc. But when it comes to actually getting products onto the shelves, guess what? That takes people. The people point is where technology can go no further. Technology is good with numbers, but it's not so good with creativity or decision-making. For that brain work, so far we still need human strategists and executioners.

Marketing Brillo mulled over this thought and, yes, it seems accurate. For example, we have Adobe Creative Suite, but without a marketing genius to envision it and a graphic designer to execute it, CS4 just takes up space on the hard drive. It’s the same for website design. And for variable data printing (managing VDP takes an expert and an innovator). Even list ordering won't return a favor unless some creative soul connects the digital dots. Somewhere, someplace -- between the technology and the customer -- a human being still needs to gets involved. And that, my friends, is where the jobs are.

Technology does replace jobs, but it also creates them. As the Hawkins’ article noted, “Many retailers have tried to fix this problem, and several firms now provide promotional compliance services ... In the end, most of these are manual, labour-intensive processes (such as a person photographing certain categories, shelf sets, or displays).” Hawkins goes on to lament that, “While these [promotional compliance] services deliver value today, the whole area demands an automated solution.” Well wait, Sterling. Maybe not.

What's wrong with a redefined job for humans? The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager, for example? As technology takes over some of the more mundane human endeavors (like counting beans), apparently it leaves gaping holes that only human ingenuity can fill. That's certainly true for the new marketing favorite: Social Media Manager.

To wit (and as Hawkins put it): "Retailers also invest huge sums of money in store design and research to maximize the number of shoppers exposed to high margin products during their shopping trips but, at best, this is simply good guesswork ... The industry has no mechanism by which to accurately measure traffic flow around the store and conversion rates within aisles and categories on an ongoing basis." Meet The Promotional Compliance Creative Manager .. hello-oo!)

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Your Work IS Making You Crazy and You ARE Too busy

In an article on his Salesopedia blog, Lee Saltz scoffs at “full-plate syndrome” (where prospects appear too busy to place orders). Saltz says full-plate syndrome melts in the face of a the right sales pitch. No marketer can argue that targeted marketing has tremendous merit, but – in the current saga of overworked Americans – something more serious is going down.

Case Study One: My friend works for a direct marketing consultancy that has been laying off staff since January. The workload hasn’t diminished, however. It's simply been dumped on my friend, who hasn’t lost his job (yet) .

Case Study Two: This horror story is so dramatic you may not believe it. Believe it. A young man with blue chip undergrad and postgrad degrees is working for a large financial services firm in New York City. He’s being paid $40,000 a year. If he can make it through this freshman year, he’ll “very most probably” get a $100,000 bonus. The real question is whether anyone – even an energetic 28-year old -- can survive what this ageploitation Wall Street firm is putting him through. Recently, he worked from Friday morning to Monday morning on a single hour of sleep he grabbed under his desk. That weekend was extreme, but he does -- routinely -- work from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning, every single day, seven days a week. And his boss verbally abuses him.

Anonymous Employee is a website devoted to problems in the workplace from the employees’ perspective (imagine that!). The site says about half of all employed people feel so overworked they’re suffering from headaches, fatigue, extreme tiredness, regular sleepiness, continuous irritability, and even panic attacks.

Another website, overtimepay.net decries the 2004 regulations that classify certain employees as "exempt administrative, executive, or professional employees." We all know what that means: lots of overtime for no extra pay.

High-stacking of work onto desperate employees is one aspect of this recession's unemployment that's getting little attention. Think it's temporary? It's probably not. A 2006 study confirms that the U.S. slashed middle management jobs in the 90s. The saved salaries were dispersed to top management. People laid off back then thought things would get better, but many of those jobs were never replaced. Some people went to work for themselves, some sent spouses to work, some took lower paying jobs. In the long run, things added up to working longer hours.

Joel Cutcher-Gershenfield, Dean of the Institute of Labor and Industrial Relatons at the University of Illinois, doesn’t see a lot of hope. “In the 1990s, layoffs shifted in many cases from a last resort in a downturn, to a strategic choice aimed at increasing the value of a company’s stock. Given this recent history, there is a real risk of massive layoffs happening today without careful consideration of the alternatives or options.”

It’s a little bit easier to put this one over on Americans, with their strong work ethic. The Europeans chortle at our misery. Writer Rick Steves reports that Europeans work roughly 25 percent fewer hours for 25 percent less money. Writing on TechCrunch, Michael Arrington reported that a conference he attended last year drew jeers from Europeans at the American notion that success takes a lot of hard work and not too much time off.

No wonder we have road rage and substance abuse. People are living in fear and losing their minds. So let’s be clear about stress in the workplace. It’s real. Stuck in a rock ‘n hard place, many of our colleagues are understandably irritable, missing deadlines, finding it difficult to concentrate. In this wicked time -- when there's little else to be done -- awareness, coupled with a little patience and kindness, can go a long way.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 16, 2009

Can Our Precious Digital Media Be Saved Or Will It Disappear?

This morning, I ordered two photos from Shutterfly. The shipping chargers were $1.79 for two prints, but I didn’t mind. I remember when it cost $7.00 to “develop” a roll of film -- and only two photos among the 24 were useable. I figure I saved $5.21. A tidbit, but not the point of this blog.

The whole Shutterfly experience got me to thinking about all the trillions of photographs being taken hourly (in June 2009, 3 billion 600 million photos were archived on Flicrk.com). What will happen to all our precious photos when current digital storage devices/practices/options become obsolete?

Oh yes, they will.

You may have forgotten, but Wikipedia remembers the Iomega ZIP drive.
If you were a graphic designer in the Y2K years, you needed this “disk” to transfer files to the printer (more common today for file transfer, of course there's the ever-convenient, if insecure, ftp.) For storage and back-up, we now have behemoth terabyte external drives (Iomega itself sells a 1TB external for about $100), not to mention ultra-convenient “key drives” that will pack on 2gigs for $10. Thirty-two or more gigs can be stored on the new “wallet” style flash drives.

Problem is, both devices use USB technology. USB 1.0 is already outdated, replaced by USB 2.0, and about to be replaced by USB 3.0. The 3.0 version, boosted by fiber optic cabling, is promised for 2010 and should be mostly “backward compatible” but, just like computer operating systems, USB upgrades can’t go on forever. At some point, technology will trap something new and better that won’t work with our older and slower computers.

Will we store “in the clouds”? Organizations are skittish, the rest of us less so. Archiving stuff “someplace else” is a hurdle already navigated by sites like Mozy, Delicious, Flickr, etc. Even TypePad /Blogger /WordPress are “out there somewhere.” And yet ... this week Microsoft and T-Mobile somehow lost a gazillion bytes of user data stored on the Sidekick smart phone. Some observers blame Microsoft’s information management practices and not cloud computing. Others say data isn’t safe in the clouds.

Interestingly, two days ago Iron Mountain introduced cloud storage worthy of a radiation shelter. Are we actually regressing in efforts to protect our stuff (which increasingly seems to have become us)?

Me? I worry… and I order a few precious print photos. At least if my photos or files get destroyed by fire, flood, or civil disturbance – unlike Sidekick users who are wondering “where the data went?” -- I’ll know what happened.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Think Your Business Is Into Social Media? Chances Are You’ve Barely Begun.

If you think your business is into social media, you might want to check-out some of the many lists of social networking sites.

1. The Inside CRM blog has a list of 50 Social Sites That Every Business Needs a Presence On. It's an awkward title, but it’s a useful list, though a trifle outdated (late 2008).

2. Wikipedia has its own list of social networking sites. This is a mishmash that also includes hang-outs like dating and genealogy sites, but the participation numbers posted here are illuminating.

3. In February, David Wilson blogged his list of "Top 25 Social Networking Sites." The appearance of blackplanet.com and asiantown.net on this list demonstrates that social networking has a powerful ethnic dimension. Cafemom.com brings lifestyle to the social media gathering place. Expect more of the same.

4. Top Ten Reviews lists the usual suspects, but also surprised me with the internationally-inclined Zorpia, described as "the largest social network we never heard of."

5. eBizMBA lists its "Top 20 Most Popular Social Networking Sites." The list carried no date, but who knew Friendster still has an audience or that the big badoo even existed?

A couple of observations:

Ning -- the create or find your own social network site -- keeps popping up as a popular gathering spot .. which could mean that human tribal instincts may well fracture out of Facebook into millions of discrete social gathering spots.

• Any corporation that thinks it doesn’t need a Social Media Manager should read some of these lists. Nothing gives the marketer a clearly notion of what it means to have an "internet presence." Yes, it's a full-time job.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, October 9, 2009

So They Call It Augmented Reality, Do They?

Americans went from TV shows in the 50s that framed our attitudes about family … to Friends in the 80s that effortlessly defined how a generation of twenty-somethings would view personal relationships … to this decade's “Housewives of Everywhere” that keeps us entertained by the rich and becoming-famous. So where are we going with our increasing personal involvement with MeTube?

No doubt we’re heading to a situation where all of us can virtually “get into and onto” any TV show we want: sports, home decorating, cooking, travel, Flav o Flav, dog rescue, or food orgy – you name it. Participation in reality TV is the next logical step, as couch potatoes clamor to become the entertainment they seek.

There's a name for this techno fantasy: It’s called augmented reality, and a survey by Infegy.com says people in general are very psyched about it. If my 10-year old friend can play Wii simultaneously with her pal down the street, Marketing Brillo can't be too far from joining the gals in Atlanta for a smack-down ... right?

Want to see what augmented reality looks like in its infancy? Check out this provocative -- though still extraordinarily primitive -- YouTube demonstration. Or watch how the World Wildlife fund is already using the technology in its marketing/fundraising efforts.

See you soon on Flipping Out.

- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Twitter Training Grows Up and Looks Like A Million Bucks

TWTRcon DC09 is happening next Thursday, on October 22. Unfortunately, the registration fee is $595. Not saying the fee is out of whack, just that this event is obviously geared to corporate pocketbooks.

The rest of us can do a hashtag tune-in on Twitter (#TWTCON). The one-day conference at the Grand Hyatt features a line-up of respectable Tweeple like Joe Trippi, Craig Newmark, Laura Fitton, Rohit Bhargava, and Sharon McPherson. I'm expecting some good stuff. If nothing else, the speaker line-up is a great list of people to follow.

Whether or not Marketing Brillo scrubs it, TWTRcon confirms that Twitter is huge business. The question of whether we should get into social media has been closed. We've definitely flipped into doing it right/better.

The stats are there. Hot brand Zapposacquired by Amazon in July -- takes Twitter very seriously. CEO Tony Hsieh tweets @zappos and has 1.4 million followers. Zappos sponsors Twitter contests and posts an ongoing collection of employee tweets and retweets. Econsultancy blog reports that Dell is using Twitter for loyalty marketing. In late June, Bloomberg reported that Twitter, Inc. was looking at Whole Foods and Starbucks to generate some ad revenue. Maybe that won’t be necessary since Twitter got its $100 million cash infusion last month.

All of which says: It’s time for TWTRCon. Enjoy!

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. The TWTRCon landing and registration pages are a learning experience. Intriguing third party applications like Cloud Profile abound. Have a look here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The National DMA Bunkers Down

Members of the national Direct Marketing Association received the following memo from former Board member, Gerry Pike, who thinks The DMA’s CEO is earning way too much money. Now Gerry is being sued for his role in organizing the insurgency. In the following email sent just a few hours ago, Gerry appeals for members to get involved and save The DMA.

From: Gerry Pike, DMA Board Director
To: [Name]
www.aBetterDMA.org
[Name], DMA does not want me speaking to you!

Dear [name],

For the past 10 days, I've shared with you my views on the state of affairs at DMA, and how your voting member proxy is a real chance for real reform. I have laid out my vision of a better DMA, and have been gratified with the response I've received. Clearly, DMA Management doesn't like our dialogue. Now they have threatened to sue me to stop. Read this article on their threatened legal action. As a DMA member said to me, they're using our membership money to silence us. And it does cost a lot of money.

Is this how you want DMA spending your dues?

Partners at DMA's law firm, Venable LLP, charge their clients betwen $500 and $1000 per hour. Their fees for a week could pay for a DMA staff person for a year. Read this.

DMA has already cut its staff in half this year. Read this. How many more staff will be cut out to pay the lawyers to cut you off?

It's time for members-first management NOW.

This absurdity highlights the serious disconnect between DMA Management and its membership.

Standing together for members-first management can reverse that. [Name], Send your voting member proxy to me so that together we become the force for much needed change.

Please act today. DMA's Annual Business Meeting is 12 days away.

USE THIS LINK to download your proxy. Sign, date and send it to me, Gerry Pike, by fax to: +1 (570) 676-5146 or scan and email to: gpike@DMSAinc.com.

Sincerely,
Gerry Pike
(201) 888-9281 or gpike@dmsainc.com

www.aBetterDMA.org Read the latest media coverage & industry news on the situation.
Learn how you can change your proxy, even if you have already sent it in.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

In Mobile Marketing Heat, Snappable Ads Snap Back

Occasionally late to the party, Marketing Brillo just learned about “snappable ads” this morning, in MediaWeek’s article. Here's what we now know.

Also called "web-enabled print" ads, these tiny touchables adhere to a page that readers can “click-on” to make something happen. That something might signal an advertiser to mail a coupon or send a free sample to the “snapper.” Magazines aren’t the only snappable possibilities. Also think direct mail, newspapers, apparel, brochures, in-store displays, packaging, etc.

To see how the technology works, watch this little slideshow from SpyderLynk, a top developer of snappables.

SpyderLynk’s CEO, Nicole Skogg, was interviewed on June 5 by the Denver Post. "SpyderLynk turns a brand’s printed logos into an image, or “SnapTag,” that people can take a [cell phone] picture of and send in a text message to a number listed in an ad. SpyderLynk sends back to their phones a brand’s promotional material offer, and starts a two-way interaction that a typical printed ad can’t."

Apparently, Skogg knew what she was talking about. Two weeks after the Denver Post article, A9 – a subsidiary of Amazon – acquired SnapTell, developer of SpyderLynk’s SnapTag™ technology.

I can see why magazine publishers and advertisers get excited. This is a really “cool” technology that -- given the chance -- most people can't resist "trying out." Apparently, it bombed when it first hit magazine racks about three years ago, though. For one thing, over-burdened magazine readers didn't know what to do so they fled. Also, street wisdom speculated that maybe the early effort didn’t give away enough value (read free stuff). This time around, consumers can expect better premiums and better directions.

"Mobile activation marketing" -- already well accepted in Asia -- is the end game for technologies like these. Multi-national LinkMe’s technology combines visual, voice, and audio recognition -- which means you can connect a print image to your mobile phone via voice and sound. All you have to do is say something like, “Nike Tennis shoes in November 3 issue of Women’s Day” and the image will appear on your mobile phone.

MediaWeek says current consumer response rates to snappables are about 2 percent. For now, those response rates won't pry marketing dollars from most tight-fisted advertisers. But that's okay.

In fantasizing how technology will meld the total “sensory” experience from every imaginable input device into exactly the display device we choose, “media” takes on a whole new meaning. In other words, we haven't seen that media yet.

For most marketers, laboring away in the direct mail/email/cross-media sweat box, little of this “amazing stuff” requires immediate action. Our essential challenges remains the same: a) To be fully aware of all options; and, b) to imagine how any or all of these explosive possibilities might be useful to our customers. In that sense -- as always -- marketers remain the link between technology and its customers.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Monday, October 5, 2009

Michael Moore and Simmons Make Fine Bedfellows

I saw “Capitalism” over the weekend. In further documenting the rumblings of left-wing progressives, Michael Moore went from offering social criticism and commentary, all the way to advocating revolution. I loved it.

His bottom line is simple: Capitalism is a viciously flawed system that’s lived since inception on a fantasy (not to mention an ethic) that will never, ever be shared by the vast (and exploding) majority of people. As soon as the duped wake up, they will rise up.

In the meantime, America will continue to create a precious few millionaires among people who trade in “paper,” produce nothing, and exploit everybody else to make more dollars. Today’s New York Times article about The Simmons Bedding Company underscores Moore’s point.

What happened at Simmons has happened here – and in other countries -- many times over. “Investors” have bought, leveraged, sold, leverage again, borrowed against, and finally bankrupted a 133-year old manufacturing company. The employees are now out of work, but the investors toodled off with millions “made” in some financial boondoggle than none of us can understand. If you haven’t read the article, you should.

Together, Michael Moore and Simmons have raised a serious question: How long will Americans – the union members, the struggling middle class and the beleagued working class, the health-care ruined, the un- and under-insured – well the 99 percent of us -- continue to be fooled and made “afraid” by the corporate/media conglomerate that cows the rest of us by throwing around scary words like “socialiasm”? How long will we be tricked into hating one another instead of helping one another? How long will we not see that -- in the vast, "them" is us, while in the narrow them is only them that uses us. In short, how long can we be tricked into voting against our own self-interest?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Because of his scathing critique of Wall Street, Moore reportedly fears that this movie will be this last. I figure if Michael Moore can risk using the "S"[socialism] and "R" [revolution] words, they bear repeating.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Friday Fable: Twitter and the Long Tail

Until Wednesday, the only long tail I followed was attached to my Maine Coon cat. Now I know better.

“The Long Tail” is a marketing – or more accurately a distribution – system for selling stuff. Apparently statisticians started examining long tails right after World War II. In 2006, Chris Anderson wrote a book about it, The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business Is Selling Less of More. On Wednesday, the ubiquitous Geoff Livingston live-blogged Anderson’s keynote speech at the GrowSmartBiz conference.

The long-tail theory demands some noodling, but one aspect is easy to grasp -- fundamental to Anderson’s theory are the concepts of small and free. A thousand thanks to Geoff for the following exemplary insights:

• Chris says he works in a big company, and he owns small companies. Small companies are fast, cheap and nimble and can address small markets of $ millions. The scariest competitor today has two, three people with laptops moving at light speed! Big companies cannot scale down to meet the threat. At the same time, small cos have a hard time scaling up.

• Giving away one thing in order to sell customers another thing is the core model of Free. The loss leader is the 20th century precursor of Free. The 21st century version of Free is the digital free. It’s the economics of bits.

Twitter would appear to be the very model of the modern major company. Founded close to yesterday in 2006 (the same year Anderson wrote his book), Twitter now manages The TwitShip Enterprise with just 352 employees. If that sounds like more employees than Anderson recommends, remember that Twitter has, maybe, 6 million-plus users, so each of those employees services more than 1,700 customers. And then there's the "free" part. In February, the company attracted $35 million in venture investment and another $100 million in investment money came in last week.

So what does Twitter have besides nimble and free? DATA DUH… names, contact info, connections, opinions, preferences – all the stuff that makes marketers salivate. Besides Chris Anderson and my cat, who knew?

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

p.s. Also noteworthy from the conference is Mayra Ruiz’ blog about how small businesses are using social media (hint: possibly not all that much). An interesting read that suggests opportunity for small folks who also get this right.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Seven Tricks That Made THIS Survey Experience Top Drawer

This morning, the ACLU emailed a survey asking me to “share my thoughts.” This turned out to be a top survey experience. Here's why:

1. Easy. The survey looked simple to fill-out (roomy, with broad margins and generous white space) and it was. I finished in 7 minutes.

2. Relevant. They had me at the first question -- the "three areas of civil liberties" most important to me.

3. Genuine. The choice of survey questions appeared to really want my opinion because: a) there was no apparent “assumption” of my views or questions leading me to water; b) the multiple choices were comprehensive; c) the survey offered the “I don’t know” option at strategic points.

4. Serious. The serious nature of the questions implied that – collectively -- responses actually will guide the activities of the organization.

5. Informative. In seeking to determine the ways (if any) in which I might be willing to get more involved, I learned about volunteer options.

6. Non-intrusive. The survey had only two personal questions (gender and age).

7. Helpful. At the end, the survey featured links to the ACLU Blog of Rights, showed how to follow the ACLU on Twitter (did that immediately), become a Facebook Fan, or sign-up for YouTube videos (bookmarked that).

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo