Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Tech-Savvy CEO Explains Why All Large Companies Must Also Be Media Companies

Credits to Tom Martin, who posted the video interview with Tom Wilde on his blog.

In the interview, Wilde talks about why and how large companies need to deal with audience fragmentation and deconstruction of content. “It used to be [that people consumed] a complete magazine, a complete program, a complete newspaper.. the Web has made it possible for users to deconstruct that content and consume just the pieces they are interested in.”

Such content deconstruction puts pressure on media companies to assure that content is consumed in the right context, that brand is protected, and that they can monetize that content effectively. He emphasizes that all large companies are now media companies. "Even if you’re a B2B manufacturer, you need to be a media company because that’s how marketing is going to take place.”

Wilde emphasizes that, for media companies, the big challenge is:
• how to I make my content more discoverable?
• how do I include engagement once people are on my site?

RAMP works with such companies as Reuters and CNBC to process their video content through a workflow process that richly attributes the content with timestamp transcripts, automatic tagging, and other special features. For example, the content optimization platform allows insertion of hyperlinks in text to mark up the content in specialized ways.

Content as it now exists needs to be “normalized,” he says, noting that RAMP spun out of BBN Technologies, the Boston-based defense-technology firm sold in October to Raytheon. Wilde explains that BBN’s rich speech detects, natural language processing, and search technologies were developed for national security applications. “We took that technology and have been steadily building solutions for large media companies.”

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Video Snacking Will Starve the Mind. Long Live the Knowledge Center.

Lucy Kellaway's article -- "When Too Much Information Harms the Office" -- was published in the U.K.’s Financial Times in late November. Kellaway wrapped up a story that’s been obsessing Marketing Brillo for months, to wit: What are people actually doing about information overload? Answer: Stuffing the ears, closing the blinds, shutting down.

Kellaway offers anecdotal feedback that workers aren’t reading anything. “The first comes from a friend who works in communications for a large organisation. She has noticed that her staff are responding to the information overload not by digesting too much of it, but by stopping to digest anything at all. She tells me that, in her company, the written word has lost almost all its power. No one reads e-mails any more - with the exception of those from the boss. Messages from anyone else are either deleted unread or given a cursory glance and then ignored.”

Counter-offensive #2 also is pretty shocking. Kellaway reports that companies are dealing with too much information by closing down their libraries and knowledge centers. “In one big consultancy, all the people who used to sort information into usable chunks have just been fired, and consultants have been told that they will have to 'self-service their knowledge needs'."

The buzz that prompted Kellaway’s article came from Carol Bartz, president and CEO of Yahoo, who contributes to The Economists’s “the World in 2010.” Bartz notes that -- in the free flowing information waterfall -- managers are losing control of employees. “That’s why the greatest mandate for leadership in business is the ability to cut through the information clutter and make clear decisions without apology. More than at any time, employees need—in fact, desperately want—unequivocal direction.” As for Yahoo itself, Bartz talks about video “snacks,” calling video the “cornerstone” of Yahoo’s strategy.

That's confusing. Where does a a preferred diet of light weight video snacks square with a CEO's mandate to lead, manage information overload, and make unapologetic, unequivocal decisions?

Snack video may be able to effortlessly quell hunger pangs for "vital information," but factoids have little to do with thought and judgment, and not a whit to do with leadership. Marketing Brillo sincerely hopes that CEOs will remotivate employees to consume a full-course of considered, well-written, prudent content, no matter how long it takes to serve it. Long live the knowledge center.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

I Felt I Had Failed As A Mother. Here's Why.

Roger Dooley writes about applying brain science to marketing and sales. Pointing to the famous John Caples ad, Roger tweeted the following: “Sell with stories, they light up the brain #neuromarketing."

Marketing Brillo agrees wholeheartedly that there is much to learn from classic advertising and recommends for a treasure trove of copywriting genius.

In the 30s and 40s, copywriters were telling complete stories to pull in the audience. Even today, silly and dated as vintage ads might seem, who can resist headlines like these from the 1930s?

“He called me a waster, but took it all back afterward.” (1930)

“Will their Dream come True, or will Sex Ignorance Mar their Happiness?” (1930)

Take the "young mom" market segment, for example, and consider whether 1930s and 1940s vintage advertising to that group doesn't include a few rich lessons for copywriters today. Test yourself. Take a look at the headline below and see if you, too, aren't compelled to read the first block of copy in this faux comic-strip ad from October 1943. In fact, see if you don't simply have to read it all the way through.

“I felt I had failed as a mother!”

Block 1: Once when my husband was away, Little Harry and I were home alone. Ordinarily, we’d have had a lot of fun “keeping house.” But this time, Barry needed a laxative. I tried giving him the same one his Father takes, but he balked at the taste, as I tried to force it down him. Afterward, he cried as I punished him by sending him to bed.

Block 2: I kept telling myself I’d done it for the child’s own good, but I couldn’t help having an awful feeling of guilt. Just then, Aunt Margaret dropped in and I told her about it.

Block 3: “Goodness,” she said, “forcing a child to take bad tasting medicine can upset his whole nervous system and may do him more harm than good . Why don’t you give him Castoria? It’s made especially for children.”

Block 4: “It’s pleasant tasting, so a child won’t struggle against taking it. And, Castoria is gentle and safe, yet effective. It doesn’t grip and won’t upset a youngster’s delicate insides. Ask your druggist.”

Block 5: Sure enough, my druggist said Aunt Margaret was right. He told me many doctors approve Castoria for children. He also said that, since it works almost naturally in 9 to 11 hours, it doesn’t disturb sleep.

Block 6: And he suggested the new Family size bottle, containing nearly 50% more Castoria at the same price. So I gave Harry Castoria the next time he needed a laxative. He loved the taste and it worked wonderfully.

You may have failed as a Mother, my friend, but you were a heckuva copywriter.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Are You Among the Hopeless 20% of Business Executives Who Can’t Write A Decent Sentence?

Today I got an ad for a book called “Business Writing: 83 Tips to Keep You from Looking Dumb.” Maybe this is a good book. I don’t know. I do know it’s 20 pages long and costs $99, so there must be a market for executives who need to write stuff, have $100, and think it’s easy to buy a little book and get by.

If that describes you, good luck. Executives who are among "The Hopeless 20%" should definitely hire a professional. It's worth the cost to turn out cogent, convincing content that makes your organization look good. Otherwise, you are leaving a far worse impression than you imagine.

How do you know if you're hopeless? Even if you think you’re a good writer -- because some of the worst offenders sincerely believe they’re good (I know, because they tell me) -- you owe it to yourself and your organization to -- at least once -- ask an impartial professional for an honest evaluation of your writing. If, using the grading scale below, your writing earns a “C” or worse, hire a professional to write or, at least edit, your articles. Never mind protecting your own sorry reputation, this will absolutely, positively make a difference in how your business is perceived in the marketplace.

And now for the grades ... Over the years, I've been the editor of several monthly B2B publications, the content of which often is contributed by executives. I've seen lots of writing from non-writer folks in professional positions: department managers, PR people, even top executives. Here are the Business Writing 101 grades I’d give those executives.
  • About 15 percent of the writing is excellent: concise, enticing, useful, clear. Grade A.
  • About 20 percent needs a little work, but the thought-processes are solid and the writing is clear. A good editor can fix this up. Grade B
  • Another 45 percent is mediocre and needs considerable editing for grammar, spelling, and punctuation. This groups also suffers from the most common flaw of inexperienced writers: flubbed structure. The reader leaves with no clear takeaway and a bad impression. Grade C
  • The last 20 percent is God awful. Grade F. I read this failing 20 percent and shake my head. Maybe someplace in the article I can find a point, but when I do, the essential thought is so simple and obvious that two sentences would have been enough to say it. This writer has not only lost the audience, they’ve bored, perplexed, and irritated almost every reader. So what went wrong?
  1. The writer doesn’t have a point to make! No time has been spent thinking. They just know they need to write 500 words to get into print and they don't care how they get there. Advice: If this is how you feel, get someone else to write the article.
  2. The writer has no idea where to start, so he/she jumps into the topic and starts flailing in every direction at once. The result is an incoherent mess that no one wants to read. (Note: This sort of mess becomes brutally apparent by the third paragraph). Advice: Outline, outline, outline. The headline for a business article is the theme. The subheads are the points that support the theme. Arrange these in a logical sequence that carries the reader along and your writing will improve dramatically.
  3. The writer has zero concept of punctuation. Increasingly, people use dashes and ellipses in place of periods, semi-colons, and commas. Why? Because they don’t know how to punctuate and figure little bits of squiggly will cover up the inadequacy. Advice: Writers who find themselves doing this should spy a huge Editorial Red Alert: Danger, Poor Writing Ahead.
  4. The writer hates and fears writing. Marketing Brillo feels the same way about public speaking, so she can relate. Unfortunately, sometimes we can’t avoid our worst phobia. Advice: To make writing easier, always start with step two above. Then -- above all else -- keep it simple. No highfalutin words like “enterprise” where words like “company” will do. No jargon, few acronyms, zero adjectives (for example, delete all phrases like very useful, exceptionally good, really terrific, etc.) Kiss, Kiss, Kiss.
I realize these don't add up to 83 tips, but most stubborn business writers who refuse to hire professionals should be able to improve with these four bits of advice. Except for the hopeless 20 percent. You folks must hire a professional.

-- scrubbed by Marketing Brillo

Friday, January 15, 2010

Smart Phone Meets GPS, Meets Social Media, Meets Marketing

Last week, I saw a tweet that said, “I'm at Dupont Circle Park (Dupont Cir NW, 19th St NW & P St NW, Washington).” My first thought was, "Who cares?" But, then I figured it was time to learn a thing or two about the mobile GPS frenzy.

Some folks are playing “geo location games” like Urban Defender. Creepy, but not surprising. The serious push, of course, comes from the commercial side. Here’s how that can work.

Less than a month ago, on December 23, Twitter acquired Mixer Labs, the creators of geoAPI. This little smart phone app helps people find their sweet spots and – presumably – spend money.

Certainly, users want the purely informational stuff like GeoAPI’s Reverse Geocoder, which can take a latitudinal/longitudinal coordindate (that's a "lat/lon" to you) and convert it into people-speak (neighborhood, city, state, and country). Good to know. But that's not commercial yet.

GeoAPI also contains “deep data about 16 million businesses and tens of thousands of points of interest” (hours of operation, address, etc.). From there, customers can get seriously involved. Using GeoAPI’s “Entity Creation,” the user can annotate his or her own personal entries. For example, such citations as “awesome sidewalk art” or “best bargains ever,” enable the user to create a virtual world overlay to their own blocks and neighborhoods. Now we're talking customer-intelligence integrated with GPS. There's more.

GeoAPI’s “Media Layers” let the user integrate info from social media sites like Twitter, Flickr, and YouTube. This feature lets you check out tweets coming from Central Park in New York, or photos of the Native American Museum in D.C., or what New York insiders think about Magnolia Bakery (Lazy Sunday with 3.7 million YouTube views, proves that people will look).

GPS activity on smart phones will be big business, say experts. Referring to mobile GPS as a "new layer of the web, " Mashable's Pete Cashmore suspects location-sharing devices will be the "breakout services of the year." Loic LeMeur, founder of Seesmic, Inc., predicted that “Location will be one of the most widespread status update’s on Twitter." Max Gladwell calls geolocation "the trend for 2010," noting that a dozen companies already are in the space.

Can you hear me now?

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Saturday, January 9, 2010

The Future of Marketing (Sooner Than We Think) Could Have Us Waiting for the Customer

On January 6, I attended a talk by Stan Rapp, who co-founded Rapp Collins Worldwide and is now chairman of Engauge, the Atlanta-based full-service marketing agency with expertise in digital and interactive marketing. (Disclosure: I'm awed -- and probably swayed -- by the fact that Stan, courageously and with pleas from Morris Dees, managed the George McGovern presidential campaign).

Be that as it may, Stan's informal dinner presentation on Thursday made a strong case that, going forward, the merger of direct marketing and digital lies at the core of what marketing will be. Stan calls that intersection "iDirect."

In his view (and that of many visionary industry observers), traditional, Mad Men advertising -- which, unlike direct marketing, is a) non-measurable and b) has been dominated by what Stan calls the Media/Agency/Nielsen Complex -- has wasted some $2 trillion in the 20th century. In short, with no engagement, no brand-building, and no Internet connection, Stan describes 60 percent of print media advertising as “garbage.” At the presentation, he invited the professors in attendance to take last week’s edition of Newsweek and challenge their students to figure out how – by any measure (because there is none) – the ad dollars aren’t “wasted.” Pepsi's defection from Super Bowl ads to online is cited by many as further confirmation of the trend away from traditional advertising.

Stan noted that “iDirect is the future of marketing. It is the growth engine at the confluence of Digital and Direct that enables customer engagement to drive a better ROI than ever before.”

Stan acknowledges that, while iDirect is the future, nobody is precisely sure what it will look like, but the perfect storm would appear to involve merging marketing across all channels, from online to offline, together in multi-variate, measurable touch points: mail, email, web, mobile, social, CRM, etc. This isn't your Dad's "integrated marketing," though. That's old news.

If a January 8 post by Samuel Axon on Mashable is correct, the billion dollar gate from Avatar is probably a solid example of the social side of iDirect at work. Now how do we take this outreach to the remainder of marketing?

Stan no doubt tackles this conundrum in his new book, Reinventing Interactive and Direct Marketing. I haven't read the book (yet), but answers I'll be looking for include:

1. Are we talking about behemoth iDirect agencies, bigger than the Department of Defense, trying to do every single marketing thing that a company needs – and then, in real time, running the results, measuring, reacting, reframing? I mean that hasn’t worked out too well for DOD, has it?

2. Or are we talking about simply applying the lessons of direct marketing – namely, if you can’t measure it, don’t do it – to every imaginable digital effort like email, web, social media, and those yet conceived?

3. (My Choice!) Or are we talking about some evolving form of digital application that can bring the message to one place in the customers’ hands. I think that’s the one.

Case in Point One: My friend’s love affair with his new Palm Pre. I haven’t gotten beyond my Blackberry (which, frankly, I hate), so I’m no expert in smart-phoning. But my friend is and he's literally spent weeks fixing this gadget to the point where he can now carry his office -- even his life -- in his pocket. He checks email, of course.. but also retreives soccer scores, listens to podcasts, figures out where the restaurant is, reads movie reivews, follows blogs and Twitter, and gets whatever he wants on uStream. Last night, he announced with incredible excitement that the Pre has an app for his new Google Voice! This allows him – in some magical twist of technology – to talk for free, leaving Sprint pretty much out of the equation (extra points for screwing Sprint). The point is that maybe this is what we’re talking about when we keep saying that customers will drive the bus. This is not about what marketers will do, say, or contrive: This will be about what customers will choose to do. We won't be able to reach them unless they somehow allow that. Bottomline: Likely the contemporary marketer's job is to realize this difference and -- somehow -- respond. Very tricky.

Case in Point Two Makes the Case: In an energetic Q&A following Stan's remarks, one participant observed that, to the upcoming generation of iDirect users, "i" had an even more centric meaning -- as in "ego-centric." The commentator said, "To my 17-year old son, "the 'i' stands for 'I' -- as in, I get to chose the tunes I listen to, the video I watch, who I talk to, who my friends are." Me.

So, yeah… looks like our new job is going to be finding out where the customer is hanging out, nailing (not guessing) who might be interested in what, giving the customer a way to get back to us, measuring the reaction, re-evaluating (in real time, if possible), and then starting all over again. Technology can do it, but we have to dream it.

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Postscript: With Tim Suther, senior vice president, Global Multichannel Marketing Services of Acxiom Corporation, Stan co-chairs The DMA’s new iDirect Leadership Committee, whose mission it is to “usher in the next era for marketing, based on a new and emerging set of customer-focused actions and processes that can be powered by advanced data systems.” While a lot of what The DMA does has been less than relevant for quite awhile, this committee should be a good place to start.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Nano is the Real Deal, So Figure Out How To Think Small

David Falato, partner at Jack Nadel International, jacked a lot of folks on LinkedIn’s Marketing Search Group when he announced a USB drive made out of paper that can be inserted into a brochure or even a magazine ad. “It is definitely one of the more unique ideas to come along in the promotional product market in a while. Great for tradeshow handouts, brochures, company catalogs, sweepstakes. magazine ads. We can also gather valuable marketing data, for example we can tell how many people actually plugged the USB drive in and what pages they visited on the website that the webkey directed them to.”

Nano is an extension of the niche and local trends I blogged about earlier. Predictably, this year technology will push nano into new product areas and up its influence on marketing strategies.

In its strict scientific definition, nano is controversial – probably for good reason. But that’s a different nano. In the Marketing Brillo sense, nano means close-up, personal, tailored-to-fit, squeezed comfortably into small spaces, common-denominator savvy, highly pertinent, devoid of the extraneous, and relevant.

In October 2006, the ever-prescient Anne Holland, Marketing Sherpa founder, dubbed the term nano-niche." Anne’s talking about segementation on steroids. “Divide your marketplace into nano-niches. Only do two or three to start as a test. (I wouldn't test just one because it might be the fluke niche that isn't worth the work. You need to try several to discover what makes a winning niche.” Sound advice that worked well in 2009.

No surprise, nano is happening to our stuff, too. As the world gets more crowded, big products need to get smaller: cars for example. The Renault Twizy and the Tato Nano are ultra-small, ultra-cheap, and eco-friendly.

And then there's Twitter, wee words of marketing, news, opinion, and gossip. And smart phones, the big ALL in a palm shell. And SMS, the sales message without form. Powerful.

What’s on your Little Plate this year?

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