Archive for the ‘business’ Category

Some “Big Data” Musings

Wasn’t really happy with this post when I first wrote it because it didn’t really have a tight “so what” conclusion to it. I revisited it today and…still no big conclusion…yet, they work as musings so how about I just share them anyway.

1. Just as the Art Director / Copywriter pair are the key to great creatives, the strategist / analyst pair will be key to great marketing strategy where the analyst is the number crunching quant and the strategist knows which questions to ask of the analyst.

2. Social media has dominated the marketing punditry discussion in the past couple years but pay-per-click advertising uses, gives, and optimizes Big Data. Expect a more balanced PPC / social in marketing plans.

3. Infographics, standard issue in the PR and B2B arsenal, will go consumer and become more dynamic and consumer facing (e.g. more Infogrpahic billboards with real-time updates)

4. Expect to see greater use of ‘frictionless sharing’ and it’s cousin, something I’m calling ‘private IRL tracking’.

On the frictionless sharing front, Nike+ got the ball rolling years ago with people sharing their runs straight from their shoe device. Spotify and various news readers (e.g. Washington Post) are making their way into our newsfeeds. But there’s also broadcasting your electricity use and rewarding savings in an attempt to get households to use less.

On the IRL tracking, I’m thinking more stuff like that track foot traffic at specific locations, Mongoosemetrics which tracks phone calls, and someone ought to invent a device that sends your car’s trip meter info straight to an expense tracking app.

All Brands Need is Love

The other day a colleague pointed me to BBC’s 1 hour documentary on Steve Jobs called “Billion Dollar Hippie” (I’d send you a link but then the copyright owners might yank it. Google it for now). There’s a line around the 40 minute mark of the video where they’re telling the familiar story about the iMac and how its success was attributed to its unique design and how Apple managed to make a computer fashionable. Then came a line that not only captures the brand essence of Apple, a quote from iMac’s designer, Jonathan Ives, “We have to make this something people will LOVE![emphasis added by me]. “Love” according to my colleague, should be the thing to which every brand aspires.

Every brand? I wasn’t so sure. Don’t get me wrong, I love ‘love brands’. I’m typing this post on my beloved MacBook. I have a protective case and an InvisibleShield screen protector for my iPhone. I find Porter Airlines and the Toronto Island Airport (Yes I know it’s officially called Billy Bishop Airport) experience absolutely lovely. I think I’m falling in love with this (new to my neighbourhood) frozen yogurt chain from California called Menchies. As a professional marketer, I love to work on ‘love brands’. And yet, there’s a ton of no-so-loved brands that do perfectly fine if not thrive in the marketplace. Take a look at the top 10 companies in the 2011 Fortune Global 500…only one of them, Toyota, still going strong despite its massive recall in 2009 and the Tsunami, has some ‘love brands’ in its roster.

  1. Wal-Mart Stores
  2. Royal Dutch Shell
  3. Exxon Mobil
  4. BP
  5. Sinopec Group
  6. China National Petroleum
  7. State Grid
  8. Toyota Motor
  9. Japan Post Holdings
  10. Chevron

You see what I mean. While I’m uncomfortable to say it, the evidence suggests that you don’t have to be loved to be successful. So that got me thinking…maybe love and not-so-loved brands can co-exist in the same marketplace. While being loved can be a competitive advantage, there must be other ways to gain competitive advantage and maybe being loved is something a marketer can choose a brand to be or not to be.

Enter Advertising Age’s ad critic Bob Garfield, someone not known for jumping on the latest marketing bandwagons. In what I think will become a landmark cover story, Garfield writes, “Say goodbye to positioning, preemption and unique selling position. This is about turning everything you understood about marketing upside down so that you can land right side up. This is about tapping into the Human Element. [bold face added]”

Notice that branding was not in his goodbye list. That’s because branding and brand building is more important than ever before. “…you are being evaluated 24/7 in countless conversations that have zero to do with your ad slogan. On the contrary, they are about your brand’s essential self–which behooves you to think very hard about your essential self.”

“Your essential self.” In other words, we judge brands pretty much like we judge other people. We dislike insincere brands in the same way we dislike insincere people. We love those that we connect with emotionally and who we trust. Why do we tell brands to be authentic? It’s the same thing we tell people before their date…”Be yourself!”

Authentic, trustworthy, brands with whom we emotionally connect have staying power. The others do too…but they won’t get our love. Imc2’s “Brand Sustainability Map” charts out this brand universe where the love and not-so-loved brands co-exist.

Brand Sustainability Map

At the top-right are the familiar “love” brands but next to them and below them are brands that have enough to keep them going for a while. Emotional relationship brands aren’t maximizing that connection to its full potential or are missing something. In the bottom left are the reluctant relationship brands. These brands have traditional competitive advantages like high switching costs, high barriers to entry from competitors, patents, etc. which might explain why there’s a phone and cable company in that quadrant.

So love brands, not-so-loved brands, and even bland brands can co-exist. It’s the same with other people in your life. You don’t love everyone you know; some people are just friends and some people are that bland acquaintance who’s a friend of a friend who you see at parties but don’t pay much attention to ’cause they’re kind of…meh.  So here’s the thing. No one wants to be that ignored bland guy. Most of us want to be loved…or at least…not be bland. So how we get there? That’s for another post.

Well @MeshCon, It Seems We’ve Crossed the Chasm

Mesh Marketing 2011 did not disappoint. Eloquent speakers sparked intelligent conversation. The camaraderie of the geek community was deeply felt. And yet, there was something different about this year’s edition. It seemed…calmer…mellower… in a good way. And I think I know why.

I think we’re out of the gee-whiz-isn’t-this-cool phase of digital marketing and social media. The social media/web 2.0 whatever you want to call it revolution is beyond the new normal, it’s just plain normal. We’ve crossed Geoffrey Moore’s chasm into the early majority phase. Instead of chasing shiny new objects, we’re into  more sober topics…like how to operationalize social media communications into business processes…and what to do with all that data?

Joe Fernandez‘ influence rating service, Klout, sparks mixed feelings among many but his appearance at Mesh disarmed a lot of cynicism. He doesn’t want to recreate high school popularity contests, he’s just trying to show that a lot of people have more clout (with a “c”) then people recognize and he’s trying to do it with 20 terrabytes of data a day! And seeing him in a panel with the inventor of Watson, Rod Smith, was amazing to see.

But the show stealer of the day was Marcus Sheridan. If you need proof that digital in part of the DNA of everyman, read his blog and watch his videos. The Sales Lion injected some straight talking street smarts to a conversation dominated by geekspeak. Finally someone makes it clear that SEO is still immensely important and that digital and social serve to generate leads and sales. Sandra Gornall has an excellent summary of his solo talk here and I can’t wait to link to the video.

A big thank you to the @meshcon organizers and volunteers for a great event.

Do People Really Know What They Want?

With the resignation of Steve Jobs comes a plethora of retrospectives and many lists of quotes. This one really stuck out for me.

“It’s really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
BusinessWeek interview, May 1998

It’s very similar to something Henry Ford allegedly said, “”If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

I’m a digital and social media marketer. I don’t do focus groups. I do a somewhat digital equivalent. I do conversation audits. Rather than take a panel of a few supposedly randomly chosen people, pay them roughly $50 and ask them a bunch of questions about a product, I look at what people are saying online “in the field” so to speak and derive insights that can inform a client strategy or guide the big idea for a digital campaign. In one respect you could say that I’m trying to figure out what people want and in the Jobsian sense that might mean I’m crowding out the ability to come up with a truly creative or innovative campaign.

Except, when I look at conversations online, I’m not trying to figure out what people want. The conversations that people have online reflect an in-the-moment thought (Twitter, Facebook status updates) or an introspective thought (blogs, tumblr). They’re not answers to leading questions, they’re ‘real’ thoughts. I’m looking for patterns. Patterns in random conversations that will inspire a eureka moment, an insight, so named because you cannot see it until you dive in. If done right, it shouldn’t lead to an incremental improvement. Incremental improvements are somewhat obvious. It should lead to a discovery that sparks something innovative.

The Art of Marketing Recap

Last Monday, I had the pleasure of watching five amazing speakers at the top of their game at The Art of Marketing. Here are some takeaways.

Avinash Kaushik

We don’t like throwing around the G-word that often but Avinash is a true guru when it comes to web and social analytics. His blog Occam’s Razor, is a staple on many an analyst’s RSS reading list and he is an impassioned speaker that didn’t pull any punches. Fortunately, none of the companies that he pointed out needing improvements were Edelman clients J. Here were some key points from his talk:

  • The greatest thing about digital is that so much of it is measurable. The problem with digital is that a lot of the metrics we use are “glorious data puke”
  • We focus too much on the “what” of metrics (visitors, visits) and not enough on the “how” and “why” and “what else”
  • Separate the quality visits from the fly-by-night visits so separate out the behaviour of people who see 3 pages or more from the people who see
    less. Now among the quality visitors, how did they get to your site (top referring sites, top referring keywords by number of quality visits).
  • For the “why” look for mismatches between what people are visiting (why they’re there) and what you’re offering them.
  • For the “what else”, of course, look at conversions but look also at the visits that didn’t convert. What did they do? What were they interested in. This gives you an indication of what else you can offer.
  • On social analytics: Who cares how many followers you have, how many times were you listed since that means someone is sectioning you off for special attention (though there are a fair number of people who create lists and ignore them). Or number of retweets per 1,000 followers since that shows how engaged your twitter audience is.
  • At the end of the day it comes down to what interactions adds economic value…those interactions that have a clear line of site to net income. And what variables are those? Avinash then pointed to a slide by Queen’s University Professor Ken Wong.
  • There are four things every analyst should have in their heads at all times: Price, Cost, Market Share, and Market Size. Now map each metric you report to these four variables

Favourite Lines

“Why do I blog? Because I like irrational adoration.”

“To bloggers, RSS readers are relationships. Visitors are one-night stands.”

“Most web sites suck because Hippos created them.” (HIPPOS = Highest Paid Person’s Opinion)

“HITS: How Idiots Track Success”

“Bounce rate = “I came, I puked, I left”

Gary Vaynerchuk

  • Gary Vee is the Tony Robbins of business speakers; a high energy, mile a minute, tour-de-force presence who isn’t afraid to drop an f-bomb to accentuate his point. And here were some of his stronger points:
  • The future of business is that what was old is now new again. The small-town store where the owner knew your name and knew about your life, and might have started making your regular order just as you walked in? Social media allows that caring to scale
  • The technology is such that big marketers can do 1 to 1 marketing.
  • More content is created in 48 hours than in the entire human history from cave paintings to 2003 and you can tell a lot about a person’s preferences from that content. So imagine you were a chain of eateries and you got to know your loyal customers based on their loyalty card information. And you scanned their Amazon wish lists and bought them their favourite book on their birthday and shipped it to them. Wouldn’t that surprise and delight those customers? Wouldn’t they be praising you on every social channel they have? In Vaynerchuk’s vision of the future brands are going to have to act like sports teams and cultivate raving fans…and they’ll be doing it one customer at a time.

Favourite Lines

“Everyone in social acts like a 19 year old dude. They try to close to early”

“People who win in business are the ones that see what’s coming…More horses were bought before the car was invented. Guess who won?”

“Social media is scaled caring.”

“What is the ROI of your mother?”

Jeffrey Hayzlett

Jeff Hayzlett dropped almost as many f-bombs as Gary Vee. I think he was trying to one-up him on the volume. Hayzlett was hired as the CMO of Kodak to turn around the company whose bread and butter product had been rendered virtually obsolete by digital technology. He ended up turning the company from a B2C, to a B2B company. Kodak technology is still a big part of the captured images we see today. A passionate speaker Hayzlett had these thoughts centered on how to bring an “old school” organization into a “new school” way of thinking about marketing. Some talking points:

  • Kodak thought its main product was film and that their customers were interested in taking pictures. It wasn’t. People didn’t take pictures, they capture moments.
  • What Kodak needed to do was go back to its core. Kodak wasn’t a film company. It was a company that made emotional technology.
  • Tell your brand’s story. The first thing that people would take when they ran into their burning house…they’re pictures. They don’t want to lose their memories. That’s a powerful story about a powerful product.
  • Marketing used to be about eyeballs and ears. Get your message seen and heard by as many people as possible. Now it’s about hearts and minds. See above point.

Favourite Lines

“If legal says no, ask, ‘What’s the fine?’”

“HR and Legal’s job isn’t to drag you back. They’re job is to keep you from falling down”

“What’s ROI on social? I don’t know tell me what ROI is on IGNORING”

Sheena Iyengar

Dr. Sheena Iyengar has been devoting a good part of her academic career to studying how we make choices. It was a dense and fascinating talk and the following bullet points probably won’t do it justice. After reading this post, click here to see her talk at TED Global.

  • North Americans are acculturated to having lots of choices and are drawn to more choices. Paradoxically, the more choices we have the harder it is to make a choice. This results in less commitment, poorer decision quality, and lower satisfaction with our choice.
  • The exception to the above rule is experts. Experts have no problem with lots choice because they have the knowledge to understand and  spot the differences between choices. They set their criteria, categorize options, cut the categories that don’t apply to them and end up choosing among fewer options than given.
  • In North America, we often choose based on what we think that choice says about ourselves. And what we usually want to say is, “I’m unique, but relatable. I’m pretty much the same as you…just a little different.”
  • There are three ways for individuals to choose better. Marketers take note because you can use this to help your customers and consumers:
    • Cut the number of choices. Eliminate the options, flavours, models, that aren’t that different from the rest
    • Categorize the choices. Our brains can process more categories than choice
    • Condition your customers for complexity. For example, one of her experiments found that when car company that offered fewer choices per option category at the start and more choices per option category at the end (e.g. pick among 3 interior colours, now pick among 10 exterior colours) people would make more conscious choices. If given the more complex decisions first, they reverted to the default option more often.

Favourite Lines
“We’re born with an desire to choose but without the knowledge of how to choose”

“Despite the flavor explosion in ice cream, 50% of sales is still chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry”

“People may say what they want is more choices but what they really want is more control”

Guy Kawasaki

Guy’s new book is called Enchantment: The Art of Changing Hearts, Minds, and Actions. Enchantment goes beyond persuasion. is not about manipulating people. It transforms situations and relationships. It converts hostility into civility and civility into affinity. It changes the skeptics and cynics into the believers and the undecided into the loyal. Enchantment can happen during a retail transaction, a high-level corporate negotiation, or a Facebook update. And when done right, it’s more powerful than traditional persuasion, influence, or marketing techniques. Some highlights:

3 steps to being likeable

Step 1: Smile. Genuine smiles can be seen in the eyes and the mouth.

Step 2: Dress for a ‘tie’…not so down (lack of respect), not so up (too intimidating, says, “I’m better than you.”)

Step 3: Have a perfect handshake

  • Trust is a two-way street but the order goes one way. Trust others first. How? Be a baker, not an eater. An eater figures there’s only one pie and takes as much as possible. A baker knows he/she can bake another pie.
  • Great products are deep, intelligent, complete, empowering, and elegant.
  • Tell a story, the best stories are short, sweet, and swallowable
  • “The best answer to ‘Thank you’ isn’t ‘You’re welcome’. It’s ‘I know you’d do the same’” it accomplishes two things. It says, “I trust that you’re a good person who does good deeds” and it also seeds the idea of, “And I might need that favour reciprocated sometime in the future”
  • Presentation tips: Customize the introduction, aim for 10 slides in 20 minutes, and use at least 30 point font.

Favorite Lines

“A good speaker never goes off track. A great speaker goes off track and later shows you why the off-track part was relevant”

“Apple Computers were originally designed to do spreadsheets and word processing. It turned out that they were great at desktop publishing. What made Apple was…Aldus Pagemaker”

“The best answer to ‘Thank you’ isn’t ‘You’re welcome’. It’s ‘I know you’d do the same’”

Fame vs. Influence

Over the past decade, marketers have been obsessed with influence. The pedestal on which influencers have been placed is tantamount to marketing sainthood. Thousands of hours have been spent finding and cultivating relationships with these influencers in the hopes that our products will fly off the shelves after their ringing endorsements. Under this premise, an influencer is someone who can get people to take action (and generally the preferred action is to buy the marketers’ products though it could also mean advocate for a position or vote for a certain political candidate).

I have no quibble with this definition of an influencer, I do wonder, however, if we actually choose our influencers on the basis of their influence. The measures we use for whether a blogger makes a given list are things like number of visitors and Google PageRank but these don’t measure the influencer’s ability to get others to take action, this measures the reach or “fame” of the influencer. Under this model, a blogger piece pretty much acts like a cheap (or sometimes free) and minor celebrity endorsement and we know from Laura Ries that celebrity endorsements need to be believable in order to work i.e. the reader has to believe that the person would actually use the product in order for it to be effective and the celebrity would be perceived to be an authority on the product’s quality.  Hence, NBA players are good for endorsing basketball shoes and PGA golfers are great for endorsing clubs and golf balls but when they endorse cars and shaving creams, the celebrity effect is muted or non-existent. And so it goes with online influencers. A sports blogger may watch a lot of games on TV but he or she is still less of an authority on the quality of a given HD TV as a consumer electronics blogger. A mom blogger is an authority on diapers only if her kids are still in diapers and even then only if she’s experimented with different brands of diapers. As marketers, we have to be vigilant when we choose our influencers. Are we choosing them because they have authority on our product category and therefore real influence on their reader’s purchasing decision or they merely famous. Believe it or not, fame doesn’t necessarily sell.

Multiple Twitter Personality Disorder

The following is a guest post by @nonmom

Hi, my name is … well, it depends actually.

If you want to know about the latest big race (especially if it’s F1), then my name is BARC_OC, if you want to talk antiques and auctions then it’s AwesomeAuctions, business networking and growth, BCX_Oakville, trucking and transportation, Blower_Tech, real estate in the South West USA, ArizRealEstate and for all things else, and with a bit of a twist I’ll let you check out, Nonmom.

Yes it’s true, I (at present, more to come) have 6 different, but sometimes related, twitter personalities and I do in fact talk to ‘myself’ and answer ‘myself’ in order to grow both (or more) accounts and their presence. If it’s relevant and crosses the genre’s appropriately why not have a conversation with myself?

Is it hard to know which voice I’m speaking with at all times, yes, but like any condition, you get used to it and adapt. The prescription for this ‘Disorder’, I take 5 doses of ‘TweetDeck’ as needed throughout the day ;).

I was introduced to Twitter through the main writer of this blog and while sceptical at first, I admit it didn’t take me long to get hooked. I kept telling my husband, what a patient guy, who I was following now and getting all excited when they actually tweeted me back. I admit, I still get excited when I get a tweet-back and smile and pump my fist in the air when I get a coveted #FF.

Since those early days of more following than speaking, I have sent over 2500 tweets on my Nonmom account alone, and that’s likely to have gone up significantly as you’re reading this.

People often ask what is Twitter and how do you use it. I just tell them it’s simply answering the question, in 140 characters or less, what are you doing? I’ve also had clients and colleagues ask me about the importance or significance of Twitter in their marketing portfolio. My answer to those who aren’t familiar with social media is that Facebook is like a permanent trade-show booth and Twitter is like having a spokesperson with instantaneous updates and goings-on while your website is your company headquarters online.

There are a lot of critics out there when it comes to social media and especially Twitter. I really feel most of it is because they simply do not understand it and fear it. To them I say go onto the Twitter home page on the day of a big event and search tweets about that event, the Olympics was a great example of this, and just watch what people are saying and the interaction and shared experience of it all. I truly believe that part of the reason Canada got behind our athletes so much, and as Canadians we were at our patriotic best, was in significant part due to Twitter. People from across the country and Canadians were abroad were all able to speak and ‘hang out’ on Twitter together. It was a great feeling.

I define social media as the digitization, and indeed globalization, of word-of-mouth. An example of this is the shared experience of the recent Toronto earthquake. I know, a small one even by our standards, but I know that I wasn’t the only one who took to the ‘Tweets to find out if I was crazy or not and what was going on. Friends from across the province had had the same experience as me, at the same time, and we were talking about it like we were in the same room. It was really very cool.

Twitter and social media in general are really and truly the great equalizers. Anyone can Tweet, big companies or small or individuals and all it takes is an internet connection or even more basic, a cell phone. I look forward to tweeting with you all via one of my many personalities!

Why Doesn’t BP Crowdsource a Solution to the Spill?

While the LA Times and many others have written about this being a “public relations catastrophe”. I really just see the environmental catastrophe. BP’s PR problem is a direct corollary from that. Fix the environmental problem and you fix the PR problem. Now this is a BIG PROBLEM, one that would trouble a good number of scientific teams. So why leave the solution to just the inside team at BP? Why not get any accredited scientist willing to help?

Innocentive is a platform that allows for this to happen and they’ve issued such a challenge. What I don’t understand is why BP hasn’t stepped up with prize money to generously reward the group that comes up with the winning solution?

Tony Hsieh on Life, Business, and Being Happy

I was one of the fortunate bloggers to receive two free advanced copies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, he’s the CEO of the shoes and clothing e-tailer known to its customers for WOW-factor customer service and known to social media types (like me) for its amazing culture of openness.

While bookstores will likely stock it in the “Business” section, the book reads more like an autobiography with a bit of social commentary thrown in. The breezy, jokey style makes for an easy read but Tony’s storytelling brilliance really comes through when he turns anecdotes into fables. When he goes through his entrepreneurial exploits from childhood through university, we’re treated to the evolution of an inventive mind and lessons learned both through failures and successes. Along the way we also see an evolution in mindset from the boy who “always fantasized about making money, because to me, money meant that later on in life I would have the freedom to do whatever I wanted” to a multi-millionaire adult (following the sale of LinkExchange) asking the questions “What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” That’s when the epiphany hits him,

“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.”

And that’s when the Zappos ethos forms. Tony realizes that he’s happiest when he’s creating something and then even happier when the people around him are happy too. So the customer service WOW is about making customers happy and the company’s “Core Values” is partly about giving employees the ability and freedom to pursue their own happiness.

You’ll notice throughout this review that I haven’t mentioned social media once despite the title of this blog. And that’s because this book isn’t about social media even though Zappos is known in certain circles for embracing the technology. But I’ll leave that to Mashable and ReadWriteWeb to expound on that. What I took away was some whose taken some values shared by socially mediated culture i.e. radical transparency, openness, sharing information, along with many others and incorporated them into the DNA of the corporation, not only because it makes Tony and everyone around him happy (though that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself) but because it’s good for business.

Delivering Happiness launches today (June 7, 2010)
To learn more about Delivering Happiness visit