Archive for June, 2009|Monthly archive page

The 70-20-10 rule of marketing

For years, there was always a line in advertising (apart from the tagline) that separated mass media from everywhere else. Mass was above the line, everywhere else was below. Enough pundits have spent enough screen real-estate (ok I’m trying to come up with a more internet appropriate term to “spilled enough ink”) talking about the death of the line or the death of mass media and I don’t have much more to add to that subject here.

I would like to suggest an alternative for marketers as discussed with me by a former colleague:

70% of your budget should go to efforts with a fairly known ROI

20% of your budget should go to efforts that push the creative boundaries and have a lesser known or harder to callculate ROI

10% of your budget should go to purely experimental efforts

What do you think?

Why the NHL needs Jim Balsille

Last week’s court ordered setback on Jim Balsille’s quest for an NHL team is not just a disappointment to the city of Hamilton. It’s a disappointment for the NHL.

Believe it or not, Balsille’s experience with RIM might be the jolt the NHL needs. Let’s look back to the last time a tech guy bought a major sports franchise.

When serial tech-entrepreneur, Mark Cuban bought the Dallas Mavericks in 2000, the NBA was struggling to find its way in the post Michael Jordan era. Cuban brought a new energy and the best aspects of the dot-com thinking to the NBA. He sat amongst the fans in jeans and a sweater (or a Mavericks T-shirt) cheering with the rest of them. He encouraged fan participation giving out an email address (this was before Facebook) where he took suggestions (the 3-sided shot clock was one of the implemented ideas). He treated his players like high-tech employees outfitting their lockers with a flat-screen television, a DVD player, headphones, and a video game console. He did the same for the visiting team (after all they were potential recruits).

Now I’m not suggesting Balsillie will be like Cuban, the two men’s temperaments could not be more different. However, I do believe that Balsillie will bring some fresh tech-inspired ideas to the NHL at a time the NHL really needs it.

Old Philosophies, New Technology Part 2

Freud remarked that since the invention of the first tool, we humans have extended the functions of our own organs to the point that we’ve become “prosthetic gods”. Motor power extends our muscular abilities while modern transport lets us travel around the globe. Telescopes and microscopes extend our vision while photography and recording devices extend our memory of a fleeting visual or audio event.

So what about the shiny new tool of the present, social media? Does it extend the depth and breadth of our ability to relate to one another. Well…no but yes. The oft-quoted Dunbar number states that the average person can maintain stable social relationships with 150 people. Facebook’s in-house sociologist seems to confirm Dunbar’s theory, the average Facebook member has 120 friends.

Give it a few years and I bet that number grows significantly. When Facebook first opened to the public everyone’s first instinct was to find all their old friends. Once a sizeable number of the old gang from high school, university, camp, etc. was reconnected our networks didn’t grow as fast and we slowly started adding people we met in real life. But we were scrambling. The kids are just starting. As they move from elementary school, to junior high, to high school, university, and beyond they will keep their old networks intact. Will childhood friendships last longer?

Maybe not, but the ability to call up old friends, flames, and acquaintences is much easier now. So our prosthetic godliness has gotten better. Whereas photography and recording devices extended our memory of a fleeting event, the multimedia lifestream that is social media extends our memory and lets us keep tabs on all the people we meet.

Old Philosophies, New Technology

In a recent article in Wired, Kevin Kelly remarked that “the frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.” He’s got a point. Wikis, peer-to-peer file sharing, and creative commons licensing do seem to follow the “for each according to his ability, to each according to his need” creed. And it’s rather ironic that the fruits of entrepreneurial dot-com capitalism would spawn such collectivist eco-systems.

Or have they? I think the digital eco-systems to which Kevin Kelly speaks isn’t socialism at all but more like a hallmark of American democratic capitalism. Back in 1831, Alexis De Tocqueville observed that Americans displayed a peculiar fondness for civic associations,

Americans of all ages, all conditions, all minds constantly unite. Not only do they have commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but they also have a thousand other kinds: religious, moral, grave, futile, very general and very particular, immense and very small; Americans use associations to give fêtes, to found seminaries, to build inns, to raise churches, to distribute books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they create hospitals, prisons, schools…I have often admired the extreme skill with which the inhabitants of the United States succeed in proposing a common object to the exertions of a great many men and in inducing them voluntarily to pursue it.

(Democracy in America Volume 2, Chapter 5)

Sounds a bit like the meetups and tweetups we have today only the invitation comes electronically. So what motivates us to organize? In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky defined three ingredients to a successful self-organized group. A plausible promise, something big enough to mean somthing, but not too big that we can’t picture ourselves achieving it; the tools to connect us (i.e. social media); and and finally, an acceptable bargain for all participants that settles the tension between personal desires and group goals. For De Tocqueville the terms of that bargain is dictated by something he dubbed “self-interest rightly understood”. See, because we live in societies with other people, we all have to get along with one another, so it’s in our slef-interest for everyone else to also have their self-interests fulfilled.  “[Americans show with complacency how an enlightened regard for themselves constantly prompts them to assist each other and inclines them willingly to sacrifice a portion of their time and property to the welfare of the state.”


What we’re seeing isn’t a “new socialism”. What we’re seeing is old school, made in the USA, enlightened capitalism where we help ourselves by helping others. Social media has simply heightened our awareness of this principle.

The Future of Magazines

Back in university, I wrote a paper on online magazines. At the time, Slate and Salon were new on the scene, PointCast was a popular screensaver/newsreader and there was this web site called Pathfinder that hosted a lot of the Time Warner titles. The question then was how an online magazine was going to make money if they gave away their content for free. My how times have changed. Now the print publications are wondering how they can avoid the fate of some newspapers.

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