Tuesday, August 09, 2011

PART 2: Absolut-ly Expanded - The LongTail of Absolut Vodka

Who ever said that vodka has to be plain or flavorless? Absolut took a page from Chris Anderson’s Long Tail and applied it to vodka. The demand phenomenon of the blockbuster mega-hit of Absolut Vodka was huge, but they understood early on that constant consumer engagement could not be had unless there was a vehicle for the obscure and the niche products to come out of the woodwork, profitably. Enter the Absolut Vodka Long Tail…the ability to market their Vodka to the outliers…people who were looking for more than just a buzz from their alcoholic beverage of choice.

As marketers, there is an influx of new and old niche products that have the potential of being marketed to the end consumer. These campaigns need to be very narrowly targeted to the individual’s interests and tastes. The recommendation can both “drive demand along the Long Tail” and give a voice to the smaller, less mainstream flavors.

The line-up according to Wikepedia…
Absolut VODKA
is available in many varieties. These varieties are unflavored beyond the standard process:
Absolut VODKA (40%, blue label, launched in 1979)
Absolut VODKA, Red Label'(50% alcohol is 100 proof, instead of 40% of the 'Blue Label' one). Its production has ceased in 2006
Absolut BRITTO (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition design by artist Romero Britto, launched in 2003)
Absolut LEVEL, a super-premium vodka, launched in 2004)
Absolut BODY ART (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition design by artist Jean-Luc Moerman, launched in 2005)
Absolut 100 (100 proof, black bottle, launched in 2007)
Absolut DISCO (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition disco cover, launched 2007)
Absolut C'N'C FASHION ANIMAL (limited edition by Ennio Capasa, launched in 2007)
Absolut GREENSAVER (limited edition, launched in 2008)
Absolut BLING-BLING (normal Absolut vodka, limited edition golden bottle, launched in 2006)
Absolut CHROME (1 - 2 - 3 - 4) (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition design, launched in 2006)
Absolut COLORS (40%, blue label) Limited edition celebrating 30th anniversary of the Rainbow flag, launched in 2008)
Absolut MASQUERADE (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a sequinned red sleeve, launched 2009 with the slogan "In an Absolut world every night is a masquerade."),[5] launched in 2008)
Absolut ROCK (normal Absolut vodka, limited-edition bottle with studded leather cover, launched in 2009)
Absolut GLIMMER[6] (normal Absolut vodka in a limited-edition bottle that mimics a crystal decanter, launched in 2010)
Absolut 72 BIAN (Transform) (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition design by artist Gao Yu, launched in 2010)
Absolut ZENG FANZHI for Joyce (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in a special edition design by artist Zeng Fanzhi, launched in 2010)
Absolut ELYX (a super-premium edition, launched in 2010)
Absolut WALLPAPER I (Alessandro Guerriero the limited edition are available only in Italy since March 2010) Both of them had designed the famous wall during 2009, Absolut Vodka has chosen these two Absolut Wallpaper for the new editions.
Absolut WALLPAPER II (Gio Pagani the limited edition are available only in Italy since March 2010) Both of them had designed the famous wall during 2009, Absolut Vodka has chosen these two Absolut Wallpaper for the new editions.
Absolut ILLUSION (normal absolut vodka, blue label, in special bottle where the label is an illusion)

Flavored varieties, in chronological order:
Absolut PEPPAR (Roasted Jalapeños, Green Tomato and Dried Herbs flavor – the first flavored Absolut Vodka, launched in 1986)
Absolut CITRON (Lemon flavor, launched in 1988)
Absolut KURANT (Blackcurrant flavor, launched in 1992)
Absolut MANDRIN (Orange and mandarin flavor mix, launched in 1999)
Absolut VANILIA (Vanilla flavor, launched in 2003)
Absolut RASPBERRI (Raspberry flavor, launched in 2004)
Absolut APEACH (Peach flavor, launched in 2005)
Absolut RUBY RED (Grapefruit flavor, launched in June 2006)
Absolut PEARS (Pear flavor, launched in January 2007)
Absolut MANGO (Mango flavor, launched in 2007)
Absolut FLAVOR OF THE TROPICS (Tropical flavor including orange, mango, lychee pineapple and melon launched October 2009)[7]
Absolut BERRI AÇAÍ (blend of açaí, blueberry and pomegranate, launched in 2010)[8]
Absolut WILD TEA (black tea, elderflower, launched in 2010)
Absolut WATKINS (Travel-retail exclusive, with notes of ground coffee, almond, caramel and chili, launched in 2010)[9]
Absolut ORIENT APPLE (red apple and ginger flavor, launched in 2011, the same taste as Absolut BROOKLYN only that is not a city limited edition.)
Absolut SVEA (Apple and ginger flavor, limited edition launched in 2011)

City series, in chronological order:
Absolut NEW ORLEANS (Mango and Black Pepper flavor, launched in August 2007).
Absolut VANCOUVER (City themed bottle series limited to 60,000 bottles, launched in 2010, different to all other city series this one is a normal absolut vodka, blue label)
Absolut LOS ANGELES (Acai, Acerola, Pomegranate, and Blueberry flavor mix, launched in 2008 and rebranded as Absolut BERRI AÇAÍ in 2010).
Absolut BOSTON (Black tea and Elderflower flavor with Clear bottle, green label, launched in 2009 and rebranded as Absolut WILD TEA in 2010).
Absolut BROOKLYN (City limited edition; red apple and ginger flavor, launched in 2010 and rebranded as Absolut ORIENT APPLE in 2011)[10]
Absolut SAN FRANCISCO (grape, dragon fruit, and papaya flavor, launched in 2011)

RESOURCES....Thank you for helping me recover these treasured memories:
My memory



Absolut-ly Fabulous

Reading Sophia's post title "An alcohol brand that knows how to engage young people..." reminded me of when I was younger...a time when you needed a quarter to make a phone call….a time when the library was your main source of information…a time when a former actor lived in the White House…life seemed simpler then….

This is a two part posting about Absolut Vodka of Sweden. The first part deals with the advertising campaign and the second speaks to the product variety.

PART 1: Absolut-ly Engaged: Engagement through Media Campaigns of Absolut Vodka

Absolut Vodka is a longtime believer of simplicity, ingenuity and innovation, as it related to the product and its process of continuous distillation and the bottle which resembles a 19th Century Pharmacy Bottle or its campaigns and artistic vision – by focusing on the bottle through art, fashion, music and everything else…Absolut worked with creative thinking people in all fields creating an “absolut world’ including Andrew Warhol >> Hirst >> Britto >> Blecker >> Ford >> Gaultier >> Newton

Absolut Timing
In 15th Century, the vodka distiller industry was growing and maturing.
In 1879, Lars Olsson Smith invented a new distillation method that is sill in use today.
In 1979, Absolut began exporting their vodka to the US after their improving and refining the vodka..
In 1981, Absolut began it longest and non-stop running campaign, selling 20,000 cases annually in the US
In 1985, Absolut is No1 in US, selling 444,000 cases in the US
In between, although I was not yet old enough to drink, I was old enough to initiate my collection of ads ripped from the magazines.
In 1995, Absolut was selling more than 3,000,000 cases annually in the US, by this time, I was able to contribute to their success.
Today, the Absolut trend of Ad Campaigns continues. One can keep up with the latest limited edition releases by visiting http://www.absolutads.com/.

Over the years, http://www.absolut.com/us has evolved with the changing landscape while staying true to its core in creating an “absolut world’ through an expanded reach online and across the world. With its website and mobile apps rich with drink recipes and links to their limited edition bottles and flavors, as well as a host of stories – whether a TV show, a short film or other worldwide engagement to the customer. The graphic above incorporates the current variety and creativity of Absolut’s media arm....To Be Continued....


Impulse Buying - TV model being applied to Facebook and Social Media - NY Times

Impulse Buying on TV Enters an Even Faster Phase

TELEVISION pitchmen for quirky products like Pajama Jeans and lighted slippers once tried to get viewers to place their orders by phone and then shifted to getting products into retail outlets with labels that screamed “As Seen on TV.” Now, they are trying to make impulse buying even easier by experimenting with new technologies.

“Because we come from the world of video and TV, who better than us?” asked Kevin Harrington, founder of a direct response marketing company, TVGoods.

Mr. Harrington, one of the “sharks” on ABC’s “Shark Tank,” where entrepreneurs pitch their ideas to direct response executives, bought AsSeenOnTV.com and its corresponding telephone number in June. The company, which says it has more than two million customers and 700,000 e-mail subscribers, is embracing technologies that use cellphones and remote controls to enable purchases directly from a television set.

Daily Web videos with product demonstrations are also being produced, and Facebook pages where users can buy products directly are expected to start rolling out before the end of the year.

“We anticipate most of our vendors being excited about this as a whole new way to generate products and profits,” Mr. Harrington said. AsSeenonTV.com lists 650 products from multiple vendors.

In the online videos, spokesmen like the former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan and the entertainer 50 Cent will host product demonstrations. “It’s much like what makes a home shopping network work — it’s a visual, it’s storytelling, it’s presenting and bringing the products to life,” Mr. Harrington said.

The videos will also be pushed out by e-mail to subscribers to the site. Mr. Harrington hopes to use former hosts from home shopping channels in addition to celebrity endorsers.

Some of the newer products being pitched by celebrities include a nonabrasive household cleaner product line called PumMagic, which is made of finely ground pumice and includes a spray, scrubs and sponges. The product will be endorsed by Hulk Hogan, whose physical strength is meant to mirror the strength of the cleanser, Mr. Harrington said.

“Hulk, as a celebrity and a famous athlete, was always talking to us about endorsing products, “ Mr. Harrington said. “It just made sense. Hulk really fell in love with the pumice pitch.”

A high-end set of wireless over-the ear headphones that is being promoted by 50 Cent, who is no stranger to product pitches after being a spokesman for Vitamin Water drinks, will sell for $300 to $400.

“He’s a pretty aggressive entertainer,” Mr. Harrington said. “He’s been a great businessman.” When asked whether that price was a bit too rich compared to the usual cost of an infomercial product, Mr. Harrington said, “It’ll be three easy payments of $99 when we’re done.”

Streamlining the way consumers buy these products is one a crucial goal. Mike Fitzsimmons, the chief executive of Delivery Agent, the company providing mobile and television commerce technology to AsSeenOnTV, said it is clumsy for television viewers to have to jot down an 800 number or go to a Web site.

“Our whole business is taking friction out of the processing,” Mr. Fitzsimmons said. “Were placing a big bet on that industry that we think is in need of innovation”

This fall, the company will roll out technology it calls audio fingerprinting, which will enable cellphones to decipher which infomercial a user is watching after the phone is held up to the television. The user will then be sent to a mobile Web site where the product can be bought through the cellphone.

Another development will let viewers use ordinary remote controls to buy products off a television screen by clicking a button that opens a purchase window. Advertisers will also be able to track which commercials elicited purchases. The goal, Mr. Fitzsimmons said, is to have a “ubiquitous transaction mechanism for television.”

Direct response marketers say they are closely watching the new technologies.

“If we have the opportunity for them to see a commercial and to react that quickly, the chances for us to make a sale increase dramatically,” said Kevin Vick, a partner with Boston Ideas, which owns Bright Feet, a product that combines fuzzy house slippers with LED lights so people can see as they walk in the dark. “This takes several steps out. In our society today, we want it now, we want it faster. “

Sonia Makurdsik, a marketing consultant for Hampton Direct, which owns Pajama Jeans, said 70 percent of nonstore sales came from online purchases as opposed to over the phone. “Flipping through the channel is not enough,” she said. “Your brand message needs to be present wherever the consumer is.”

Data from Nielsen shows that direct response marketers spent $2.1 billion on television, radio outdoor and print advertising in 2010, and $550 million in the first quarter of 2011.

John Yarrington, the publisher of Response Magazine, a direct response trade magazine, said that while these marketers are going to the Web, television is still critical for establishing a brand’s presence. “How would you know to go look for the Shake Weight, if you’ve never heard of it before?” he asked.

Once online, however, marketers can sell products more cheaply since they eliminate the need for someone to take a phone order. “Television marketing fuels consumers to go to the Web and make purchases online or make purchases to their phone,” Mr. Yarrington said.


A Call to Rethink Internet Search - NY Times

A Call to Rethink Internet Search


“We could soon view today’s keyword searching with the same nostalgia and amusement reserved for bygone technologies such as electric typewriters and vinyl records.”

So declares Oren Etzioni, a computer scientist at the University of Washington, in an essay published Thursday in the science journal Nature. (Available online to subscribers or for a single copy purchase of $32.)

The missing ingredients, he writes, are mainly the necessary investments in money and science by leading technology companies and universities. The better world of search, according to Mr. Etzioni, will be services that field spoken or typed questions and generate useful answers. Or, as he writes, “natural-language searching and answering, rather than providing the electronic equivalent of the index at the back of a reference book.”

Many people have lamented the shortcomings of Internet search, but Mr. Etzioni’s critique is provocative and informed by his own research, and he describes the way ahead and the technologies needed to get there.

One threat to progress, Mr. Etzioni writes, is the keyword search box, an innovation-retarding trap that “exerts a powerful gravitational pull.”

That observation echoes one heard for years in another field of computer research — user-interface experts who have long bemoaned the “tyranny of the desktop metaphor” (document and file icons strewn across a “desktop” screen) as locking in the past in personal computing.

The impetus for change, Mr. Etzioni said in an interview, comes from two sources. On one side, he says, is the rise of the smartphone, which people increasingly use to search for and find information. “The device of the future is the smartphone, and the 10 blue links of traditional search don’t cut it anymore,” he said.

On the other side, Mr. Etzioni said, is the rapid progress in software that can essentially read text and infer its meaning.

The big companies engaged in search — Google and Microsoft — have taken steps toward delivering smarter search, Mr. Etzioni concedes. But, he adds, “most of what Google and Microsoft have done so far is to take traditional search and play with it around the edges.”

I.B.M.’s “Jeopardy!”-playing Watson computer, he said, is a signpost of what is possible. It was an impressive question-answering machine, though it is uncertain how far it could go beyond playing “Jeopardy!” And, by the way, there were three players, including Watson, in the “Jeopardy!” games, while Google fields billions of queries a day.

“I’m not claiming that Google should turn on a dime,” Mr. Etzioni said. “My pitch is that we should put more energy into this research, that we’re under-invested in this technology of the future.”

Mr. Etzioni’s pitch, it should be noted, is not disinterested. He is an artificial intelligence researcher working on a key technology needed for the kind of smart search he describes — software to read and decipher the meaning of phrases in Web pages. Other universities and corporate labs are also pursuing that research.

Supporters of the University of Washington research team include the National Science Foundation, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, the Office of Naval Research and, yes, Google.


Sixth-Sense Technology - Augmented Reality

During our last class on augmented reality, it became clear that the User Interface (UI) is a major factor in molding social media format and content in the future. The appeal, and consequent adoption rate, of a UI is strongly related to its utility for the user.

The seamless integration of these UI's from Mobiles to Table-Tops, to Fridges, to Bathroom Mirrors and Auto Windshields is not fiction anymore, and will probably not be that expensive in the near future. The ever-increasing precision of location based technology and of a device's ability to detect its orientation(Vertical, Horizontal, etc.) place current mobile devices second only to head mounted devices in providing a 360 degree integrated experience, which as shown in class, was foreseen in fiction as early as 1991 with Schwarzenegger's Cyborg in the blockbuster Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

It was mentioned that these devices have an inherent cost to the user, such as lack of aesthetics or fashion. We should be reminded that similar issues were thought of the blue-tooth headsets that would cause discomfort because people would be thought to be talking to themselves in public.

It is, however, consensus that these user-centric devices provide a superior experience with greater potential for user-targeted content than mobile phones or tablets, what makes them a more effective marketing channel.

Bellow is a TED Talk about the "Sixth Sense", which is a user-centric User Interface still in development, but shows that this reality is not as far as it seems.



Luxury Goods & Augmented Reality

The Potential Marketing Opportunities in Augmented Reality

by Elizabeth Schofield for Fashion's Collective: A new-age marketing resource for fashion and luxury brands.

Defined as a view of a physical real-world environment whose elements are augmented by virtual computer-generated imagery, the term augmented reality has been making its way into digital marketing vernacular over the past couple of years. As yet another element to consider in a marketing strategy, this begs the question, should augmented reality be part of a brand’s budget, and what are the benefits and concerns involved?

The most recently launched augmented reality initiative making headlines is Boucheron. In partnering with augmented retail specialist, Holition, a company established n 2008 and based in London, the all-new Boucheron website allows users to try on watches and jewels through their computer screens from the comfort of their own homes.

How does this work, exactly? The user prints out paper models of the product (in this case a watch and a ring), and wears the paper versions. The user then accesses the application and the webcam is activated causing the computer to essentially act as a mirror, communicating with the paper models through the webcam and allowing the user to try on different products through their reflection in the computer screen.


Augmented reality is rather fascinating and there’s a sense of awe and amazement people experience when interacting with it, a definite benefit for brands. However, augmented reality does require the user to work a bit for the payoff of this interaction, which ultimately means that augmented reality campaigns are generally only engaged by a minority of users. This makes it especially important for these campaigns to allow for sharing, thereby exposing the brand and initiative to a wider audience and multiplying the reach of the campaign. Holition has incorporated this sharing into the Boucheron application, which will undoubtedly amplify its success.

Another way the company has overcome the challenge of garnering a significant user-base has been to showcase the application in a Selfridges window display for Tissot, where pedestrians interact with the augmented reality display, generating quite a buzz. For this initiative in particular, Tissot was targeting a younger, more tech-savvy demographic, and they were triumphant in increasing in-store sales at Selfridges by a whopping 85%. In addition, within the first two weeks, YouTube views of the campaign were up to 50,000.

At present, Holition is one of several players in the augmented reality space within the fashion and luxury sector, however their technology seems to offer a more realistic experience. Currently, the ability to virtually try on jewelry, accessories, hats, scarves, and glasses can be done in 3D. Getting the fit to be right for clothing is a bit more challenging, something that can be seen in other platforms, where the end result still appears to be a bit of a “cut and paste” showing garments that sit on top of the body. Holition has the ability to try on clothing in 2D, while they are working to perfect this for the rollout into 3D.

Augmented reality costs can range starting from $40,000 and up, and the current advantages include press, exposure via social media and increased interactivity with customers. To add a bit of perspective, the costs are generally equivalent to a couple print ad runs in publications like the Financial Times or Vogue.

As augmented reality grows in prominence, brands should start to explore ways to add in components of this personalization to their website experiences. An example so far is Revlon, a brand offering the ability to test different makeup products and shades through their virtual makeover tool by uploading a picture and then mapping facial features, resulting in a very lifelike experience. This serves as a great way to bolster interaction with users while also providing them with a reason to continue visiting the site regularly, as new product becomes available.

Advancements in technology are not only innovations for developers, but for marketers as well. It’s how marketers choose to employ and utilize these new technologies to benefit the customer and to enhance the brand that will ultimately move labels forward online.


Best Practices on Corporate Use of Social Media

Best practices for developing a social media policy

www.socialbrite.org - Socialmedia.biz founder J.D. Lasica is a senior fellow at the Society for New Communications Research.

These social media policy guidelines are available as a downloadable PDF.

sncrThe Society for New Communications Research Best Practices committee has spent a year researching corporate social media policies. The project included gathering case studies on companies’ blogging policy development and implementation for companies managing internal and external corporate blogs and other forms of social media. From this research, the committee developed a set of SNCR-endorsed best practices. We now present these 27 best practices and policies for developing and implementing corporate blogging policies and guidelines.

From our research, six factors emerged as the highest priority in the successful development and implementation of a corporate blogging policy. These include:

Culture: Foster a corporate culture of openness. Listen to and respect the opinions of employees, customers and other constituencies.

Trust: Employees should be trusted to communicate and develop relationships with customers. Do not review blog posts prior to posting. Trust your employees to be good communicators and to use good judgment.

Training: Provide complete training about how to blog, and review legal issues with employees. Give employees the option of training rather than requiring them to participate.

Transparency: Disclose connections with customers in blog posts. Reveal any commercial or personal connections. Transparency and authenticity are key.

Accuracy: Check facts. Check with colleagues before publishing content that will affect them. If you write about private conversations, ask for permission before publishing.

Comments: Develop and clearly communicate your organization’s comment policy. Set expectations and clearly communicate what is and what is not allowed on the blog. Allow negative and positive comments, but restrict inappropriate comments. Write to the person who commented first.

Best practices for developing & implementing a social media policy

The following best practices will also help organizations to successfully develop and implement corporate blogging policies and guidelines for their employees.

Legacy guidelines: Use existing human resources and communications policies. Start with the employee communications agreement that is already in place in your organization as the foundation for your new policy. Provide guardrails for employees so they can safely and successfully engage in social media practices. Employees often seek help and guidance when they are considering launching a blog. Provide them the resources they want and need.

Developing new guidelines: Include company bloggers in the process of developing corporate blogging policies and guidelines. Think ahead in your social media policy development. Develop policies that will extend to other new and emerging communications technologies such as podcasts and video, etc. Once published, distribute guidelines widely. Companies that have facilitated wider distribution had their guidelines shared virally.

Legal Department: If you have a legal department, include them in the process but don't let them drive the effort. Seek input from legal when developing blogging polices.

Employee Communications: If you have an employee communications department, partner with them to develop these new polices.

Whose views?: Clearly define if the blog reflects the employee(s)’ opinions or the company’s perspective.

Allow constructive criticism: Is it permissible for your employees to provide a differing point of view from management's position? A culture of open communication will provide the strongest foundation for the successful rollout of a social media program.

Responding to comments: Set up a mechanism for responding to every comment that requires a reply.

Acknowledge mistakes: Acknowledge mistakes and fix errors on your blog in a timely and open manner.

Deleting confidential information: If information needs to be deleted because it is confidential and was posted in error, delete the information and state why the information has been deleted.

Podcasts and videos: Make sure employees understand that the mp3 files associated with podcasts are permanent and that it is not possible to remove mp3 files in the same way it is possible to take down blog content. The same permanent nature applies to video files.

Social media: The policies developed for blogging and company websites apply to employees using other types of social media.

Protect privacy: Consider, define and clearly communicate to employees what information is appropriate or inappropriate to disclose.

Respect your audience: Respect your audience's privacy.

Respect competitors: Do not write about competitors in a negative way. Be respectful of others in your industry.

Consider the impact on revenues: Consider this carefully, and remember that that if you talk about a new product, service or feature as a public company, you are required to account for the revenue in the quarter that you announced it.

Disclosure: Make sure you identify your relationship with the company.

Customer feedback loop: Let customers know you listened when they post feedback. Respond appropriately.

Citations: Cite material included in your articles, and provide links to original sources where possible and appropriate.

Don’t break confidentiality: Don't write about confidential conversations.

Communicate this policy clearly to employees: Err on the side of caution. Recommend to employees that if they believe a conversation might have been considered confidential, check with the person/people prior to publishing.

Platform: Companies that choose to encourage all of their employees to blog can either provide a common blogging platform, or invite their bloggers to select the platform and domain of their choosing.

Pace of adoption: Realize that adoption of social media does not have to happen all at once. It is a process.


Monday, August 08, 2011

Visual Artists are Loving Google+

Here is a quick list for why so many visual artists are loving Google+ (summarized from an article in The Atlantic Magazine):

  • Allows for instant feedback on work - Circles helps share 'works in progress' to a select group – allowing for feedback without exposing the work publicly
  • Visibility and traffic exceeds both Facebook and Twitter and artist’s personal web sites
  • Google+ image display (transparent black background) helps artwork shine
  • It’s a balance between the pros and cons of Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook it’s not the norm to follow strangers, however, eventhough this is okay on Twitter - Twitter is not the best platform for displaying pictures or larger albums of work.


Daily Deals Bring Mixed Reviews in the Art World

Just like all retailers and businesses, the arts want repeat visitors, so many are mixed on the popularity and use of daily deals, such as Groupon.

Because Groupon gives people a sense of urgency, performing arts organizations have enjoyed larger audiences for opening nights and the first week of shows. Additionally, Groupon has helped to promote performances via word of mouth – an especially useful tool for promoting longer running shows.

On the other hand – although the use of Groupon has worked well for larger arts organizations, it has proved to be more of a challenge for smaller organizations due to Groupon’s steep discount expectations. Once a ticket is discounted by 50% and then Groupon takes 50% of the revenue from the reduced price, there’s practically nothing left. Furthermore, it is challenging for arts organizations to engage these one-time only attendees in further business since Groupon will not release the names and contact information for the people buying the offer. As a customer, I enjoy this privacy setting when purchasing deals through Groupon, but have experienced the adverse effect it has on smaller organizations hoping to build a larger audience base.

What’s the solution? How about a follow up email from Groupon (written by and approved through the arts organization or business) asking for a review of the customer’s experience at the performance – maybe a little survey or list of yes/no questions – simple and to the point. This could then be the place where the organization asks for an email or point of contact in order to let the new customer know of other upcoming shows and events. If the one-time coupon-crawler patron provides this contact information, then boom – the arts organization can add them to their own database. In the end though, whether or not contact information is gathered, the feedback rates and comments will inform the arts organization on how to better serve these hard to catch audience members – what’s working, what’s not – and whether the organization should use Groupon again!


The end of social interactions?

Today the WSJ published another article prizing the immense success that Google+ has had so far (up to date 20 million visits in just a month since its launch!).

The article also states that the new Google+ social network in build so well and it adds so many innovative applications, that this social network has been redefined: "Real-life sharing, rethought for the Web". Apparently interactions in Google+ increasingly try to emulated offline social interactions in life.

The question is: how successfully? Is this platform combining exchange with friends and companies through diverse media really and offering games and other applications really going to replace our the social interactions that used to be so close to our hearts?

I think that this replacement will never occur: on the contrary I see social media taking the place of non-interactive passive media, not of social life! Social media only boost our networks expanding its horizons to new continents and to people that share our interest.


FBI Releases Mobile App To Help Locate Missing Children

As I was researching information on the mobile web and its future influence on apps I came across this article.

The FBI has just officially released a mobile app that can help report a missing child. Child ID allows a parent or caretaker to quickly share pictures and information about the missing child in order to more efficiently physically identify a child without wasting time. The app also includes a checklist for what to do within the first few hours that a child goes missing as well as some proactive messaging promoting preventative tips for child safety.

Although the app is in its infancy it sounds useful, timely, and relevant to people’s everyday lives. My hope is that the FBI can creatively expand the app and continue to update it to include more features. Here are some ideas:

  • Real case studies proving how specific methods and reaction times can help locate a missing child
  • Statistics covering times, locations, or events that children are more likely to go missing
  • Weekly safety tips/safety shares
  • Easy navigation for quickly updating a child’s profile
  • FAQ sheet about laws surrounding the issue

Unfortunately, the only downside to this new app is that the FBI is not storing any of the information entered in the app. Why not? That doesn’t make sense – or am I missing something?

As I read the article and now as I reflect on this new app, it seems a bit morbid to complete a profile on your child in anticipation that this horrific event may happen – or is it? Can you never be too prepared? Thoughts?

Lastly, I wonder how we can capitalize on the popularity of apps in order prevent or better react to other emergency type situations. Would people be more likely to assist a homeless person if there was an app for it? First the app could identify your location – you could then input identification/descriptions for the homeless person – or maybe the app helps you locate a nearby shelter or food bank (including hours of operation and capacity), and so on. The potential seems endless.


Apple chooses Twitter over Facebook

Apple recently anounced that it will integrate Twitter into iOS 5 and not Facebook. This is an interesting decision by the company given the fact that Facebook users number in the tune of 700 million compared to 200 million Twitter users. It also has some implications for advertisers who use the micro blogging site Twitter as a forefront of their marketing strategy. With the launch of the Quickbar this, Twitter advertisers will be able to get a better exposure to the iphone users and deliver a better experience. The iOS platform will allow its users to tweet easily and also include their location. This will allow the advertisers to do geographically targeting. This is huge as mobile web/purchasing becomes bigger it will deliver valuable data to Twitter.

A main reason could be that Apple considers itself a competitor of Facebook in terms of content. Apple wants their users to put their content to the device, whereas Facebook wants their users to transfer their content to their gated ecosystem. I can't imagine Facebook's collabartion with Microsoft endeared them to Apple. Also Twitter is more open from the perspective of APIs and design as compared to Facebook's closed system. Bascially it becomes a question of who controls the user experience and the user generated content.

The real loser in the deal becomes the iphone, ipad users, many of whom have a Facebook account and not a Twitter account...

Source:Apple chooses Twitter over Facebook


Semantic web and your identity

John Markoff of The New York Times is a storied technology journalist who has broken a number of stories, including the first mainstream media stories about the Internet. He has laid yet another marker in the ground with the so-called “semantic web.”

The idea is simple: Web 1.0 is information coming at you, Web 2.0 is two-way participation with the web, and Web 3.0 / the semantic web is about information conforming to your interests. In other words, search engines become less relevant, because the information you want it already coming to you. An early example of such an idea is RSS feeds (really simple syndication), where content that you subscribe to gets funneled down into your RSS reader and comes to you automatically. But you have to subscribe to RSS feeds, and true semantic web means that content will come to you automatically.

There’s a huge chicken and egg issue here, though. For services to be aware enough of your interests to offer you relevant content proactively requires a huge amount of information about your interests, raising huge privacy issues. Even as people get more comfortable with their lives going online (and the associated reduction in privacy), this is probably too high a bar to climb.

That’s why I see a huge opportunity in identity management companies. Currently, they are fragmented and offer a number of niche services: single sign-on for corporations, reputation defender services and anti-identity fraud services. But imagine a company – who you paid, say, $30 a year for – who manage all of your online identities, allowing you to use the same login and password everywhere, who know all your likes and dislikes, who manage your relationship with advertisers (i.e., can give or take away information about you as needed) – and who are ultimately responsible to you. If you want to delete all your information, great – it’s your call. I believe this kind of a service is a necessary precursor to the semantic web, and it will be a huge opportunity for those who figure it out.


Mobile: what matters is NFC

I missed the mobile class because of a recruiting event in midtown, which made me sad – because I spent the last few years of my life working with mobile technology. So let me share some quick thoughts from my experiences in the industry.

The dirty truth about mobile advertising is that nobody wants it. When you look at the numbers from Nielsen (who acquired Telephia, the top mobile metrics firm around), it’s simply true. The vast majority of paid downloads come from games, but even they drive relatively little revenue because the per-unit prices are so low. What used to drive revenue was location-based services (which basically means mapping subscriptions), but revenue from this market has been decimated by Google Maps, which is free.

In terms of who is leading the race to unlock mobile marketing value, foursquare is in the lead simply because they are used so often and they have a way for advertisers to reach their audiences. But the market is still immature and there will be many more lead changes before things mature.

To me, the key is NFC (near field communications), which allows people to purchase items with their cell phones. These are already used in Japan and other countries to pay for subway trips, convenience store buying, and other purchases. Once people get comfortable with using their cell phones for commerce, I think they will be ready for mobile marketing.


User Generated Content != Social Media

Social media and user generated content (UGC) overlap, but they shouldn’t be confused – the former is the passive result of people living their lives online, while the latter is an explicit participation in online communities. And that difference makes a big difference.

For starters, intentional participants have an incentive to build reputations among the communities in which they participate. This is most well known in Wikipedia, the largest UGC site in the world, where contributors vie to build their reputation and eventually become an editor. By contrast, social networks are self-contained among a specific user’s network, and there is little aspirational benefit.

To date, UGC sites have been fairly limited: Wikipedia, Digg and Yahoo Answers are among the most well-known. This is largely because people need incentives to participate, and they don’t want to participate on sites that will have little lasting value (since UGC sites have notable network effects – i.e., the more people who participate on them, the more valuable they get).

It’s easy to imagine, however, a site in which customers are invested to http://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifpartihttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifcipate because they want to. Dell’s IdeaStorm invites customers to contribute product development ideas, and then vote on them – with the cream presumably rising to the top. Tcho chocolate does the same with formulating new products. There is considerably more opportunity here to mine.


Beware the Social Media hype cycle

Social Media is new and exciting. No question. And it should be approached as a massive and growing opportunity. But social media has matured to the point in the lifecycle where it makes sense to ask some hard questions about assumptions we’re making. My favorite example is eMarketer, who in January 2011 proclaimed that spending would grow like this:

2009: $0.74 (all numbers in billions)
2010: $1.86
2011: $4.05
2012: $5.74

The data did not disclose which numbers were actuals, and which were estimates. But obviously 2011 and 2012 were estimates, and 2010 is questionable. Note the extraordinary growth predicted from 2010 to 2011. But the point is not to bash fishy market research estimates – it’s to figure out what’s real, and what’s not.

For example, many social media marketers have taken to the idea of “customer networks,” in which your company can create a virtual army of social fans who will promote your product to their friends via Facebook and other platforms. This may work for some products or some industries, but ultimately it will reach a law of diminishing returns: social media users who frequently recommend products to their friends will have diluted recommendation value amongst their networks, while those who do so infrequently are not likely to generate a huge return on marketing investment.

Whenever a new industry emerges, there is always a rush to find experts. But these experts have perverse incentives – they need to hype the industry that they are employed to work in, to find returns where there may be none. Simply put, let the buyer beware.


E-mail: “By the Numbers” misses the point

It’s true that e-mail marketing is the unsung hero of digital marketing. It costs so little that even mild efficacy (1-2%) results in a healthy return on investment. Surveys of digital marketers support the view that e-mail marketing is under-hyped. But measuring e-mail’s impact via ROI misses the point: it’s a tool for managing relationships with your customers, not an advertising opportunity.

Back when I was a communications consultant, I had a client who could measure how many employees opened the CEO’s all-staff e-mails. He didn’t send these e-mails often, so when he did, it was typically for a major issue. Despite this serious context, over half of employees left the CEO’s e-mails unread. What struck me about this experience is the degree to which people are self-interested when reading e-mail. They likely get dozens if not hundreds of e-mails per day, and simply have no compelling reason to read your e-mail.

So when thinking about e-mail marketing, I think about my audience’s needs. The moment my customers feel there is no value in my e-mails, they will unsubscribe – likely never to return. The proper mindset is: I have one shot at this.

To that end, building an e-mail marketing program requires strong copywriting and buy-in from product management. It’s not enough to be catchy – there needs to be substance behind your offers. In my opinion, Zipcar does a fantastic job. Some recent Subject lines:

Foursquare and two seconds ago, Andy checked in.
Want to name a Zipcar, Andy? Join the fun today.
It's official, Andreas. Android is riding shotgun.

Note the fun language, the opportunity to play games, and the FYI that new services are available. This is e-mail marketing done right. It takes time and money – which will certainly dilute your ROI – but it’s worth it, because the returns are real and your customers matter more than anything else.


Google+ Brand Pages

In a few months Google will be launching "brand pages" on Google+ to rival Facebook's company fan pages. Mashable has summed up some of the possible benefits of using Google+ versus Facebook for a company's brand page:

1. The pages will be easier to find in organic search
2. Better integration with ads
3. More statistics and information about users will be available to businesses

If the predictions in this article prove correct, it might be possible for businesses to drive traffic to Google+. Originally it was assumed that consumers would be the deciding factor as to whether Google would beat Facebook in the social media game. But what if businesses had a say by offering incentives for users to frequent their Google+ brand page instead of their Facebook fan page? If the functionality offered by Google proves to be so much better than that of Facebook this could be a real possibility. On the other hand, Facebook may have the resources to compete at this level.

Do you think Google's ability to integrate its network with all of its other features (search, display, analytical tools etc.) will make it a more attractive offering to marketers than Facebook? And if so, do you think this preference on the part of businesses will drive consumers to the service?


Social media causing antisocial behavior in teens?

According to this recent article on Mashable, studies have now shown that heavy use of social networking sites like Facebook among teens can lead to antisocial behavior, lower reading retention rates, lower grades, anxiety, aggression and sleeping problems. While many studies have surfaced in the past with some similar results, the young age of social media has made it difficult to prove the real cause of these disorders.

I wonder whether the rate at which we, and our children, have begun to do most of our social interactions digitally will eventually prove to be bad for our health. As one of our accounting professors once said, "what is better than a product that costs a penny to make, sells for a dollar and is addictive?" He was referring to cigarettes, but the analogy can be applied to social media.

While working on the final exam for this class I realized that the interconnectedness of user generated content and the social graph is a marketers dream come true. But like cigarettes, products that seem to good to be true from a businessperson's standpoint can sometimes prove to go out of style as we learn of the potential risks they pose to the health of our society.


Smartphone hacking on the rise

While earlier we only had to worry about our phones being mysteriously lost on subways, or left behind in restaurants, there arise new ways to worry about your phone even when it is in your posession.

Last week, hackers targeted the Android OS and installed malicious code on smartphones, that not only logged details about calls, but also recorded these calls. Less than a month ago, there was a security flaw discovered in iPhones, that prompted the German government to issue warnings to Apple. With an estimated 40% of adults using smartphones in the US, hackers have a wide range of targets to choose from.

This is more concerning in light of new tech developements such as Google introducing the Google Wallet which enables making payments using smartphones. Phone infections, if detected will mostly be the owner's responsibility. This article has more in depth data and examples of the increasing digital invasions discovered since January this year.


Visitors don't always mean revenue...

I’m always surprised to hear that Yahoo still attracts a huge number of visitors to its website. I guess I never really started visiting it, but somehow this collection of information isn’t what appeals to me—if I want news, for instance, I’d rather go directly to NYTimes.com

But, apparently that is just me… Yahoo is second only to Google in terms of visitors in the United States. They have the #1 spot for news, sports, finance, real estate etc… clearly, Yahoo is a popular site.

Yet an article (in the NYTimes, of all places) says that despite this huge number of visitors, Yahoo has not been able to translate that into revenue. According to the Times, this mismatch between profits and visitors can be in large part attributed to display ads! The articles says how advertisers care less today about establishing a relationship or partnership with a particular website, but rather they are more interested in advertising based on behavioral characteristics. These are best bought through ad exchanges offering the lowest price for users who meet the buyer’s criteria.

Yahoo still says display ads at a premium place directly to advertisers on its most visible pages—what are called Class 1 Display. The problem is that its Class 2 display ads- which are being channeled into ad exchanges- are not selling nearly as well and are at much lower rates.

Of course it makes sense that any advertiser would rather buy based on characteristics rather than a broad display ad. The characteristic based ads are going to be more targetable and likely more effective. I find it interesting that in the end, you can build a web site that gets an incredible number of visitors, but still be unable to profit off of that success.


The rise of the tablets

I read an interesting article on adage about the rise of tablets and its effects on e-commerce. The article why tablets are probably going to be huge for shopping as tablet apps can display retail content in a way that resembles a catalog (far more attractive, with a fun interface), compared to smartphone apps and web sites.

The article also includes some interesting facts and projections on how tablets are affecting/will affect e-commerce, such as:
  • Already, 9% of the people who shop online have a tablet.
  • Tablets are taking off -- Forrester (independent technology and market research company)projects that 82 million Americans will own one by 2015.
  • The average retailer we survey says that 21% of the mobile commerce on their sites comes from tablets already.
  • According to a survey conducted jointly by Forrester and Bizrate, 47% of the tablet owners have bought something on their tablets, and another 13% have shopped with the tablet, even if they haven't bought yet.
  • Half of the tablet owners shop more on their tablets than on their smartphones (and nearly all of them have smartphones)

See full article:


Google's Email Intervention

Google launched a new campaign to add new users to its gmail platform. Its fun, customizable and probably effective.

Why would google do such a thing? analysts have had mix reviews of its effort: Some say its just an attempt to add more users (still lagging behind Live) while others mention its a way add google accounts and maybe G+ users.

I think the answer is more of the latter. Google is becoming more and more integrated, gathering bits and pieces of your preferences including location (maps), interests (search, email), friends and contacts (gmail, G+). Eventually, I think all these bits of data will be used to make its core search business more relevant and drive more advertising revenue.

Check out the campaign here:


Walmart Labs

A few months ago Walmart acquired Kosmix a company who is known for its tweet filtering product called tweetbeat. They renamed the company WalMart Labs. Walmart is beefing up to get to the next level in ecommerce using the two geniuses Venky and Anand who cofounded Kosmix.
Read the article and interview here


Retailers Standing in Their Own Way

M-commerce seems to be both a game changer and a no-brainer. The potential sales uptick that retailers could see as a result of the increased convenience could be huge and at the same time, someone has to be wondering, "Why didn't we think of this sooner?"

But, it seems like some retailers haven't asked themselves that question because they haven't even yet realized or embraced the potential of m-commerce. I'm thinking specifically of those who have yet to even take the simple step of building out sites optimized for mobile browsing. For instance, I tried to use my Blackberry to find the nearest Starbucks earlier today and I gave up because the site kept loading...and loading...and loading. How can they expect to facilitate more transactions if it takes forever to even get to the landing page?

Now, I'll admit that I'm not even a novice when it comes to building websites / apps, so I defer here to those who are. I just have one simple question - is it that hard or costly to create mobile-specific properties? If not, why haven't some of the nation's biggest brands yet come around to doing that? A massive world of m-commerce could await if they did...


Mobile Payments - A new Battlezone

Mobile payments is the arena for competition among credit card companies, banks and disruptive startups each trying to grab a chunk of this evolving payment channel.

American Express launched Serve, its new digital payments platform allowing users to make person to person payments (a la Paypal) via mobile phones. Its clear that the company is venturing into the mobile medium with full throttle as recent comments by the group's president highlighted the strategic nature of Serve and the will to invest in developing more features and launching internationally.

Mastercard is investing in NFC in partnership with Google, while Visa has partnered with Sqaure bought a payment platform (PlaySpan) and mobile payments company (Fundamo) to launch its own digital wallet platform.

Meanwhile, banks in the US, namely Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo, launched a new electronic transfer system dubbed clearXchange that allows users to perform online transfers via email.

All these new entrants want to take away from the digital payment's incumbent (PayPal) success which is at 100 million customers with 8 million mobile users.

As all these mega players compete, innovation is bound to happen. For now, keep your phones close!



Sunday, August 07, 2011

The Planet Zero

As Nissan launches its new electric car, central to its brand positioning is its use of all aspects of digital marketing like mobile web, online gaming, SEO etc. It has launched a new app that allows the owners to check vehicle status (like check charge status) and control elements of the vehicle remotely (like start charging, pre-heat the car etc.).

Along with a website it also launched an online game called ‘The Planet Zero’, aimed at high-school kids. The game allows players to take on an electric plug character that lives on Earth. The character can activate various levels in the game by discovering elements and interacting with icons like wind energy, solar power, and other elements of a zero-emission society. By doing this the company is not only publicizing its new product it is also associating itself with cleaner, greener energy sources. By incorporating all of these ideas in its game and its website it will have a better chance of (a) attracting the online and mobile but green demographic (b) building brand awareness with the next generation.

Source: Nissan Launches Sustainability Site


Tesco's Award winning Innovation in Korea : Virtual Stores in Subways

See Tesco's virtual store in Korean subways here : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJVoYsBym88

Tesco, a grocery & merchandise retailer, created a virtual store in a Korean subway, where they displayed groceries on a virtual wall - exactly similar to the way goceries would be displayed in a market, with the added option of shopping on the go by using your phone.

Commuters just scan the items on their phones, the items get added to the virtual cart, and Tesco delivers it to their home.

The results of the initiative are impressive also in terms of numbers: online sales between November 2010 and January 2011 increased by 130 percent, with the number of registered members rising by 76 percent.

We have iPad apps and other items that are advertised on our subways that we can just scan. A full fledged grocery store though, is definitely the need of the hour for busy commuters. I think this would work very well in New York too.


Job Recruiters Turn to Facebook To Find Candidates

Facebook is getting bigger and bigger each day. An article by the WallStreet Journal - Recruiters troll Facebook for Candidates They Like, talked about how recruiters are turning to social platforms to recruit candidates for jobs. According to Jobs2Web, Facebook hires account for less than 1% of the total hires companies are making. Matt Mund, vice president of product development for Monsters.com acknowledged that Facebook as a recruiting platform is growing rapidly. Granted Facebook doesn't really have a recruiting tool like LinkedIn, but they do allow companies to have their own page which the companies can post jobs on it. Sharing and referring a job to a friend is as simple as clicking the like button.

On the other hand, Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn doesn't seem to worry about this because he believes candidates will want to separate their professional and personal I think Jeff Weiner needs to be a little careful with his statement because we're not going to know what is going to happen in the next 5 years. If Facebook decided to get into the business of proving tools for recruiters, I think job posting sites like Monsters.com and possibly LinkedIn.com may need to fight harder to co-exist in this space. I see this as a win win for Facebook; continue to keep their community engaged while generating revenue from a different channel. I mean, if you like your job now, how often do you get on LinkedIn vs Facebook?


Disney : Social Media Giant?

The Walt Disney Company has managed to gain 300,000 Likes on Facebook, 29,000 followers on Twitter and 8.8 million views on YouTube in just under two years. Of course, already being a huge brand offline helps a long way. However, its interesting to note what their online social media strategy has been.

They key they say is to be 'informational' on the social media websites rather than 'commercial'. Rather than just repost advertising on their social media channels, they post, for example, behind the scenes videos of movies and other such information that will be pertinent to their target audience.

With Disney Baby - their baby brand launched in January 2011 - rather than focus on marketing products directly to soon-to-be parents, Disney creates a community and engages that community by sharing relevant information. On releasing a new product, they invite community members to talk about the product, its need and ask for any other suggestions they may have. Moms use the facebook page as a meeting place for other moms and discuss personal experiences and questions.

Source: http://mashable.com/2011/08/03/disney-social-media/


Bringing the Netflix model to theaters

While browsing through Mashable, I came across an article that spoke of bringing the Netflix model to theaters. Essentially it spoke of a new startup, MoviePass, that offerered unlimited movies at theaters for a flat monthly fee - $50 in thier case.

I thought this model would be quite interesting and tried to read up more. Sadly the model didn't kick off. The theaters in San Francisco where the beta runs were to be held said they were never informed.

I think though that there is a good market for this business. I feel that they should price more lower initially to get more people hooked on to this model, and gradually increase prices thereafer. The Future of Film has a good article about how this model can be improved with a few changes. And of course, they shouldn't forget to inform the theaters!! :)


Apple Gets Its Wings

Well, it finally happened. Apple is joining the cloud. This week the site launched the iCloud for developers. The company also unveiled its iCloud pricing, which includes 5 GB of free cloud storage, and additional storage at about $2 per GB per year. Developers and the media all seem to be ecstatic over the iCloud. My question is: isn't this so obvious? People are obviously always on the go, using many different devices and want to be able to access their things wherever they are. The cloud itself has been in existence for quite a while and used by companies such as Amazon. Why did it take such a long time for Apple to get on the bandwagon and why is it causing such a hoopla when this has clearly been done before?

This reminds me of a similar situation with Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Amazon was the first to launch an eBook reader- the Kindle. Barnes & Noble waited and iterated until it was able to release something to the market that it thought was perfect and could beat Amazon- the nook. Yet Barnes & Noble hasn't been able to catch up to Amazon's head start. The retailer hasn't been able to make up the ground it lost. Yet when Apple waits and perfects something, the company's seen as smartly waiting for just the right moment. This seems to be exactly the case with the iCloud. Apple will probably bring the cloud to the masses and become that much more popular when it launches. When launching a new product, timing is critical. And this of course, in additional to its flawless execution, is the key to Apple's success. Once again, it seems like Apple can just do no wrong.


Vaccine turned out to be a trojan horse!!

Remember the posting about

Remember the posting about hacking disaster in Korea? As investigation goes by, the shocking fact was revealed.. The number one Korean vaccine company was hacked and their server was used to create Zombie PC!

Police said the ESTsoft server might have been used by a hacker who stole the personal information of Cyworld's 35 million users. ESTsoft is none other than a security solution provider which offers popular antivirus software to corporate clients and general users.

The fact that the antivirus developer’s system was used for getting into the tightly guarded client information database came as a shock to the industry.

The newly discovered loophole also raised another issue that could possibly lead to a flurry of security fixes at major portal service providers. NHN, which runs Naver.com, is said to have asked its employees to remove any unauthorized ESTsoft’s antivirus programs at their PCs.

NHN’s move confirms the widespread doubt that the country’s major portals, which manage a huge database of users, might have be exposed to hacking attacks, just as illustrated by the latest onslaught of Cyworld.

Privacy in Internet is getting more and more fragile... I fear that one day, the massive crisis will happen in the crucial sectors... such as financial or security.. by some hackers who has no idea what they are doing.


The Age of No Boredom

I recently read an interesting article posted by the (in)famous Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert.
He opines that today, every minute we have to spare, we use instead to access Facebook, check our mobile phones, message friends, view photos and so on. Even when we watch TV, we skip the adverts. Gone are the days when we actually had time to spare; when we had simple toys to keep us entertained. Did this boredom lead to some creative thinking? Is there evidence that creativity has declined today?
Here is his argument –
We see movie sequels not originals, reality shows not scripted ones, best-selling authors repackaging predictable stories and economies flattening due to lack of innovation.

Does his argument hold water? I think so.


Emails get a new lease of life through mobile...

We have had quite a few discussions in this blog about how email marketing is on the decline due to advent of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. But how is mobile web affecting this marketing channel?

Research from Nielsen Company/Exact Target shows that while people might be spending less time on the email on their laptops/desktops, this is certainly not the case on mobiles. The chart on the right shows that we spend 41.6% i.e. majority of our mobile internet time checking our emails.

Also the research shows that majority of these emails pertain to our personal life and not to business. This might be because we are always connected either through emails/messaging to other people through our smart phones. The study also suggests that as social media actually complements email and increases our time on email. Twitter, Facebook all send out email notifications. Not to mention the emails we get from coupon sites like Groupon, Living social, all of which give marketers important information about our purchasing behaviour.

Email marketing could very well be getting a second lease of life. The studies also show that 50% of the online users check their email first thing in the morning @ 7a.m. It also shows that email usage is also on the rise during late night hours and even after sex…

Source: http://mashable.com/2010/08/12/mobile-email/


Twitting at the Philharmonic

We haven't talked much in class about Digital Marketing and the Arts, but it seems that more and more cultural organization are turning to methods of engaging audiences via the web or allowing the to interact online while experiencing the cultural events.
A great article in today's LA Times "Classical Music Waltzes with Digital Media" discusses the digital marketing initiative of the LA Philharmonic. For an arts organization specializing in classical music, the is not likely to attract young audiences, the LA Phil developed Facebook, Twitter and iPhone apps to try and engage and new kind of audience. It is also important to remember that today in the LA Philharmonic the average concertgoer is in her or his "high 50s". The orchestra is using these new media techniques in hope of changing that. Although it could be interesting to see what happens if the orchestra decides to approach her main audience and encourage them to also engage and participate on Facebook. As some studies show, more and more retirees are using these social networks, therefore it could be an interesting tool for them to also use to further engage their current audience.


New Currency

I was shocked to check my mailbox today and find that the bank which handles our corporate account (in India) has started offering promotions in a new currency – Google AdWords credits. If my company signs up for one of the bank’s new schemes, they reward us with advertising credits from Google.
In a country like India, where computer usage is only getting pervasive now, this is a step in the right direction. Marketers must realize soon that there are non-traditional ways to propagate their brands. And with a large retail bank helping push the envelope, Google is sure to be successful in India.


A social media rise for the Planet of the Apes

20th Century Fox new movie just opened in theaters on August 5. It’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes”, directed by Rupert Wyatt: a new origin story written as a prequel to the 1968 film, “Planet of the Apes”, of which Tim Burton did a remake ten years ago. Does it sound like rebooting a reboot? If it does, it’s because it is: 20th Century Fox is trying to turn the title into a franchise, like other successful or less successful stories like Spiderman, Superman, or Hulk.

And it’s trying to do it through a social and digital strategy that includes Facebook (of course), YouTube (naturally), iPhone App (for sure), and Twitter (yes). Let’s briefly look at them.

  • “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” Facebook page is aimed at fan engagement. The page structure and content is not much innovative or special, but a new features introduced is that the page asks fans to “Like” the page to unlock access to more features. Features include research videos, an iPhone app, and exclusive content. This seems a novel tactic, even if till now the page has only around 72,000 likes.
  • YouTube looks like the preferred way for “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” social media promotion. The movie channel on YouTube is great: it has a custom design with real-time updates, lots and lots of HD video, behind-the-scenes moments, TV spots, and various versions of the film trailer. Even though the movie channel on YouTube is only a few months old, it already has more than 320k channel views and more than 33M total upload views.
  • The iPhone App released by 20th Century Fox to promote the movie is named “Apes Will Rise”, and it is available on the Apple store as well as on the Facebook page. The app basically consists in a memory game and access to the channel on YouTube and information about the movie and online tickets. As always, the app is good but is limited to iPhone.
  • On Twitter, “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” has an account, @apeswillrise, and is also using the hashtag #apewillrise for promotion. The effects for now are inferior to other comparable movies (around 6k followers), as we said for Facebook, but things may change soon since the movie is just out.

As a conclusion, is this social media campaign effective? Movie was out two days ago and early reviews are positive. However, the efforts 20th Century Fox put in the campaign seem a bit behind the ideal: rebooting an historic franchise is hard work, and more robust social campaign would likely give the film a better shot at connecting with audiences.


adCenter improvements to come

Microsoft just declared that it is putting efforts to improve its adCenter performance, through new features aimed at increasing RPS in paid-search campaigns. Such improvements are needed since the search alliance between Microsoft and Yahoo has not met the expectations in the past year, resulting in poor RPS and limitations to rolling out the alliance internationally. The objective, as stated by David Pann, Microsoft’s GM for adCenter and Search Networks, is that “adCenter needs to enable advertisers to do in 15 minutes what they do on Google in 45 minutes", through better targeting capabilities, easier sign-up process for small advertisers, and better reporting capabilities.

So what are the main innovations Microsoft is planning to reach its target and improve adCenter performance?

Basically, they include a new user interface, new reporting features, better targeting, and enhanced core algorithms. Last Friday, adCenter rolled out some upgrades to broad and phrase-match type tools, but the platform also supports exact match and negative match keywords. This is expected to result in improvements in click quality and conversion rates for platform’s users; the system would automatically match campaigns to search queries for advertisers already using broad- and phrase-match features.

This has been done by Microsoft engineers working closely with Bing ones, to integrate Bing’s algorithmic results technology into the platform.

Since the company declared adCenter will roll out soon in India, let’s wait and see whether the stated improvements will work.


Why haven’t I invested in this?

More news on LinkedIn after it released last Thursday its quarterly earnings, for the first time as a publicly traded company since its debut on stock market in May.

The professional network is doing great: revenues were up to $121M from $54.9M in the same period of previous year (+120%), and profit went from $4.3M last year to $4.5M (4 cents a share); this all compares with analysts’ forecasts of $104.7M and corresponding loss of 3 cents a share.

How did the professional networking site achieve these results? The main source of growth was the sharp increase in users: 61% compared to one year ago, for a total of 115.8 million users today. This resulted in a huge increase in traffic (81.8 monthly visitors, +83% vs. previous year) and in page views (7.1 billion, +80%).

This resulted in a strong increase in revenues, since LinkedIn makes its money basically from subscriptions and fees generated by hiring services that allow companies to recruit candidates through the site: revenues from hiring solutions grew 170% vs. previous year, and are now $58.6M (48% of overall shares).

On the other hand, subscription revenues increased 60% to $23.9M (20% of total sales) and advertising sales more than doubled, increasing 111% vs. previous year and representing 32% of total revenue.

Company projections for the next (third) quarter are for $121-125M revenues, for total yearly revenues reaching $475-485M. New initiatives that will support the growth include a plug-in that will allow users to directly apply for jobs on third party sites using information from their LinkedIn profiles, in addition to the recently introduced Apply with LinkedIn button and LinkedIn Today, a sort of Twitter-style tool through which users can stay on top of trending news about particular industries or networks.

Since LinkedIn stock continues to trade more than twice its initial offering price of $45, it seems like the market trusts the professional networking site’s growth potential. I should have invested in that, too.


Saturday, August 06, 2011

Think Mobile First

Companies who lack a mobile strategy may end up being left behind. More and more people are browsing websites using their smartphones. People are impatience, we just want to see the relative content and not load the full website.

For example, if I browse a restaurant's site using my smartphone, I only care about checking the menu, making reservation or contact someone. This article, Why Mobile Design Should Never Be and After Thought, highlights some interesting points:
- Start by understanding your users and design an experience with their priorities in mind.
- Smartphone users don’t want to be overloaded by content.

If companies follow these points, I think the mobile browsing experience would be greatly improved and maybe companies would have a better conversion rate as well. Who would have thought, less is better.


Skittles a social media success story

Back in 2009, Skittles replaced its entire homepage with its Twitter stream. The only thing that was left was a widget-like navigation console in the upper left part of the screen: instead of pointing you to some company PR nonsense, it sent you to the Skittles entry on other popular social destinations: Wikipedia, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr. This initiative had a lot of negative consequences as the page got flooded with inappropriate and crude tweets from fans who were excited to see themselves on the homepage. It resulted in a lot of negative feedback for the company, as people suggested they were not ready for this. As a response, Skittles began restructuring their homepage and replaced the idea with a filtered Facebook page instead. Today, their homepage features posts straight from their Facebook page. You can click on them to read people’s comments. There are also links to all of their social networks scattered throughout.

Their emphasis on being social is strong and clear. Their facebook page has now more than 18 million fans and is one of the top 5 most visited business fan-pages on the web.

In addition, Skittles has decided to create one increasingly bizarre ad after another.

Check out the last viral campaign (Warning: The following video contains material that is inappropriate for audiences under the age of 17)