May 27, 2007

Kudos to folks @ Sun: they reinvented the product page

Filed under: advertising, marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 10:14 pm

Chris at the Social Customer Manifesto has a brilliant post on how Sun has made the infamous “product pages” that any company website has a little less stupid.

Ever since I read Naked Conversations I started looking real close to Sun as one of the few companies that are fully engaged in the conversation (Jonathan Schwartz, Sun’s CEO, is an active blogger himself as well as thousands of his employees), but this fell under my radar.

Basically they link on the product page to a variety of post, coming either from the internal blogging system but also from external sources.

With Chris’ words:

The kneejerk reaction is “why on EARTH” would Sun link from its site to a customer site that contains paragraphs like:

“I want X4100’s, NOT M2 BULLSHIT. I want lots of them and I want them quickly. I want a SunSolve worth paying for. I want a that has been updated and more easily navigated than what we had 5 years ago. And most of all, I don’t want to keep hearing that Dell doesn’t have these problems!!!”

Why would Sun link there? Because that’s where the conversation is happening, and it’s where the “live web” part of the customer experience is being documented, in real time, by a passionate customer.

I totally agree. There’s no place to hide anymore. You have no other choice than embrace the conversation and ride it.

Uh, and just in case you’re wondering, the disgruntled customer above end up praising Sun for helping him solving his problem. There’s no ad agency in the world that can provide a commercial better than that.


Online Adv Trend Projection

Filed under: advertising, media — Simone @ 3:53 pm

I came accross this post from Read/WriteWeb on the search advertising that states that Google is making $1 per internet internet users.

Other than having to congratulate with folks at Google for the achievement (and guys, please stop telling me I should sell my – few – Google stocks), what really impressed me is the trend that Forrester is projecting for online advertising.

I’d like to know how much of that is search, but this makes a point on how much the market is expecting from new media. What I’m not sure is what these expectations are about. I mean, is this the “Advertisers will want to be where their consumers are” approach or does the stock market really understand the shift to a participatory culture that is going on? Having spoken to a few people on this my perception is that, even if everybody now knows MySpace or Facebook (btw, it really rocks), still most people can’t foresee what this means in terms of allowing an active behaviour in the relationship between people and media.

UPDATE: this post suggests the above trend may actually be underestimated (even if I doubt we’re talking about the exact same figures)

What do you think? Can internet keep up with the expectations (or beat them) or are we headed to a new bubble burst?

Dr Martens Punk Ads lead to Satchi & Satchi firing

Filed under: advertising, marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 10:49 am

Some days ago, an ad campaign featuring some dead punk-rockers (though I personally don’t consider Nirvana to be punk) wearing Dr. Martens boots leaked on the internet.

This got the attention of the blogosphere as well as of traditional media (lovely Courtney obviously had something to say), and lit up a conversation that culminated with Dr. Martens finally firing Saatchi & Saatchi (their ad agency).

The Daily Swarm has a full coverage of the facts.

This is, I think, a huge mistake for Dr. Martens.

I don’t want to discuss the creative idea (that I like) here, but let’s face it: how long since you heard something – anything – about Dr. Martens boots?
They still have a lot of awareness, but they’re definitely not today’s trend like Crocs, for example.
They had a chance to shake a fading brand, but chosed to close the discussion instead of riding it.

So what would I have done instead, you ask?
Well, I would have first blamed the agency for the leakage just to make lawyers happy. Then, I would fire up the discussion, saying that those ads (that – again – won’t ever be published by Dr. Martens) are nice and shouldn’t offend anybody. After all, those guys were really using those boots. This would of course boost even more conversation around this, focusing on something that is actually good for the brand (its link to the punk -rock generation).
Next steps would obviously depend on how the conversation would develop (I think you can’t control the conversation around your brand, you can just listen and take actions), but I can’t foresee anything bad coming out of it for Dr. Martens.

May 23, 2007

Links for 24.05.2007

Filed under: advertising, links, marketing, media — Simone @ 10:19 pm

Technorati relaunches
mmm… it smells like a teen seach engine.

Mentos Geysers: world record attempt
The Google CPG (consumer packaged goods) blog has a post on the attempt to achieve a world record for most Mentos and Soda Fountains. I think the way Mentos approached a possible PR threat and rode it as possibly the biggest online media success story ever is just revealing. They did nothing special after all: they simply didn’t hide, spoke openly to their users and to the general public, embraced the discussion they didn’t start and came away with great goodwill and a world online campaign for little to no cost. Was that luck? Maybe so. Would your company exploit its luck like that?

When Trains Fly (from Advertising Age)
Nice one from AdAge. Do you know which market are you competing for? I feel like current revenue streams may be a big obstacle finding that out (or a big incentive to lying to yourself).

Deprivation Day 2: No Problem
Another one from AdAge. Diary of a TV less life and tips on how TV can be substituted with various online services, YouTube in primis. I live a TV-less life since a couple of years (I KNEW I HAD TO MAKE A BLOG OUT OF THAT! I KNEW THAT! Damn…) and I’m pretty happy. I read a lot more, I keep more and more blogs active (er… sort of…) and, well, not much else that I can think of. Uh, and another thing: I’m making my folks marketers’ job a lot tougher 🙂
Oh, and I agree that wisdom of crowds is selecting (and – indirectly – generating) much better content than any editor in chief, I guess that most people sticks to online media because of that.

May 22, 2007

Links for 22.05.2007

Filed under: advertising, links, marketing — Simone @ 10:45 pm

You do’t own your brand, your customer does
Chris at The Social Customer Manifesto writes a quick and simple post on how social media is challenging the way marketers acted for decades. While I don’t agree on some points, I found this very inspiring:

If the customer truly is in control as a result of the advent of social media, the most important thing to do is to actually engage in transparent, authentic conversation.

Google adds Hot Trends [via the Google Operating System]
Google added a useful tool to the already cool Google Trends. It basically lets you see the 100 queries that had the biggest evolution in a certain day. For now data are only showing US searches but other countries should follow shorlty.

[More] or (Less)
Seth Godin suggests that human beings have an innate character flaw that makes them to always want more of something, not less. I kind of agree beacuse we tend to see things in positive (ie I want more spare time, not less working time).

How to change the world: Ten (nine) questions with Anastasia Goodstein
Interesting thoughts on how teenagers feel about new technologies

Joost opens to everyone
Nice review from Last100. I’ve been in the beta testing for a while. Choice is still limited and quality so-so. I’d buy choice over quality anyway, so no wonder I didn’t really fall in love with it.

AdAge post on new Pepsi ad
While it’s just part of the campaign (and Bob Garfield doesn’t like the inconsistency) I like the approach of the BBDO commercial for Pepsi:

Consider this 30-second spot, in which a wry voice-over — atop crude, hand-lettered onscreen type — “boasts” about new consumer-preference results: “In a recent survey, diet-cola drinkers were asked, ‘Which diet cola has more cola taste?’ Fifty-six percent picked Diet Pepsi over Diet Coke. That means everybody. OK, almost everybody. Mostly everybody. Fine, a little more than half of everybody. Diet Pepsi, the choice of a little more than half of everybody.”

What can you do to start a discussion when you’ve been seriously and competitive for decades? Just like in a pub, I guess that relaxing and making fun of yourself is not a bad idea.

May 20, 2007

Applegate and the power of blogs

Filed under: marketing, PR, talkmarks — Simone @ 12:21 pm

On may 16th, Engadget posted that the Apple’s iPhone and Leopard (respectively Apple’s new mobile phone and new version of the Mac OS X) were set for a delay. The post was originating from an actual internal email sent through Apple’s internal system that was subsequently retracted. Shortly after, the post was corrected by Engadget (have a look at Ryan Block’s post for details).

But what’s really important is what happened in the time between the post and the correction. From TechCrunch’s AppleGate post:

Four billion dollars in market cap was wiped off of Apple’s stock price in six minutes as the “news” hit the market.

So a post from a blog costed some people $ 4bln. Let me say it again: $ 4bln.

Now this really makes a point on how important is to have an open conversation with your users (something that unfortunately Apple still doesn’t do properly). This is – I think – the biggest news we’re facing today: you ain’t starting the conversation anymore and, even when you do, you’re not controlling it anymore.
To a certain extent it always happened (you could still go to a newspaper bringing your printed email) but todays everything is so much quicker (minutes vs weeks) and easier (huge newspapers and TV broadcasters become blogs, sometimes even personal blogs).

But let’s also make one point clear: this is not a crisis in a traditional sense. This is simply the ongoing conversation with your users (and general public) gone wrong. It’s not that something went wrong and you had to take action. This is somebody saying something and your company not responding.

So what should you do to avoid negative implications and make this new media scenario an opportunity? In my opinion it all boils down to 2 things:

  1. Quickness
  2. Transparency

1. Quickness

I already wrote on the inefficiency of current decision process to post an official company position (mostly needing a yes/no decision from the senior management and involvement of the PR agency), but this point is worth another couple of words. There’s NO WAY you will ever be able to respond to such an issue in less than 6 minutes. Don’t waste time arguing that this or that device could help, this is not a technological issue, this will NEVER happen in a big company. Actually, if this needed a formal position from Apple, it could have taken hours. Engadget vastly outperformed Apple on this.

So – again – you have to embrace Chaos and let go the decision making.

Does this mean that you run the risk of having important informations leaked? Yes, but you can significantly reduce the risk to almost zero by releasing a clear blogging policy. Does this mean you’ll have to sometimes correct your people’s post overtime? Well maybe (just make sure to understand that an open internal conversation could be healty for your company first), just remember that the price of not having to could be huge.

What would have happened then if any Apple employee had a blog? Simply, somebody would have posted a correction in less than 1 minute. Why would they do that, you ask? Well, simply because a correction to an Engadget post will bring you a shitload of traffic. And having a high-traffic blog is – at least – a pleasing feeling.


Transparency is not necessarily a good thing for a company in itself. If you ask most executives, they’ll tell you that being transparent means revealing stuff that may very well help your competitors, and who am I to argue such smart people’s opinions? I definitely agree that such a risk exists.

So why am I preaching transparency anyway? Because with transparency comes trust.
I can believe what you say only if I can see who you are and understand if and how you may be biased on something. And if you have to say that a blog followed by hundreds of thousands of people is wrong, you’d better be trusted.

So what is transparency? Well, if you trust Wikipedia more than your college teachers as I do, is:

Transparency (optics) is the property of allowing transmission of light through a material. It is the noun form of the word transparent (for example, glass is usually transparent.)

Now what does it mean for a company? In my opinion this is all about 5 simple rules regarding what people is allowed to do with you. In other words:

  1. I have to be able to reach you (possibly 24/7 but I can understand some exceptions);
  2. Pls let me know who’s speaking and how she could be biased on what we’re discussing;
  3. No bullshit allowed (marketing bullshit is no exception);
  4. If there’s anything you can’t say, fine. But pls explain why.
  5. If there’s anything you don’t know, fine. Either tell me who I can ask to or I’ll find it out myself.

I think that if you respect those 5 rules you can get enough trust to be able to handle a conversation with your users (and stockholders) and being trusted.

If you feel like it, listen to this podcast from The Social Customer about transparency, lots of food for thought there (btw I guess it’s the first time Talkmarks has been featured – ok, very briefly and at the very end 🙂 – on a podcast)

So what do you guys think? Is being quick and transparent (and thus trustworthy) enough to handle a situation like Apple’s?

What will gamers and mobile web early users teach us?

Filed under: advertising, marketing, media — Simone @ 9:50 am

I came accross this post on AdAge on who are today’s gamers and (something on) how they behave. Ideally I put it in the same mental category as this one from TrendSpotting on  mobile web early adopters (btw TrendSpotting is quickly becoming one of my favourite trend blogs for its orientation on facts and numbers).

Why am I interested on gaming and mobile? Because gamers and mobile users are trained to be very active groups of people for what concerns media consumption. They don’t just sit there and wait for the message to reach them but are actively involved with their media and actually they want to shape the media itself on their own needs.

If you think about it, gaming is always been a relationship started by users (you turn on your console and decide what to play depending on your tastes and the specific occasion) and is in itself an extremely active behaviour compared to TV watching, newspaper reading or even watching YouTube.
Maybe this is one of the reasons why even a game purchase is mostly driven by word of mouth between gamers.

Ditto for the mobile users (mobile has always been about helping people communicate), that are generally building small (mostly local) group-opinions regarding any possible topic (YOU: “hey man, did you try that new online game?” FRIEND: “Yeah, stay away from it, it sucks! Try Line Rider instead, that’s just gorgeous!” YOU: “Cool, I’ll go and check it out man!”).
Mobile web is even better because it builds an opportunity to actually make the groups bigger and less local (today high costs for international calls and the fact that normally calls are one-to-one communications keep the informations to flow efficiently on mobile phones as they do on the web).

Main results on these researches are not that surprising (biggest chunk of gamers and mobile web users are under 35 and about 60% male), but I guess we have to have a closer look at those 2 groups to get a real feeling on how media and marketing are set to change.

May 13, 2007

Salespeople Marketing

Filed under: marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 9:50 pm

Ok, let’s just assume you want to have a conversation with your users. Now what? I mean, even if the number of companies that are real on the whole conversation story is surprisingly low, it seems to me that it may still be tough to connect with your users.

Seth Godin points that out:

If you want to end a conversation with a teenager, just ask, “How was school today?”

If you want to end a conversation with a customer, just ask if you can help.

And this brings to my point of today: can marketing people and advertising people succeed in a world where users control the conversation?

I made marketing my job and I know a lot of cool kids from companies known for their excellence in marketing, as well as from the top advertising agencies. My simple question: can I and these people/companies still lead the way when the user is in control? This people could be very smart, bu can they handle a conversation without controlling it?

Most product managers live inside their brands, They see things in a very biased way. They openly criticize their competition. Geez, they even openly speak of killing their competitors. Would you like to have a conversation with somebody that is evidently biased on the subject of the discussion?

Advertising agencies are no different. Their very business model revolves around speaking for others (would you still read this if I told you that a starving elbonian writes these posts for me? – txs Seth for this as well!) and their operations on the fact that the consumer gets so many messages every day that your creativity has to stand out to be seen/heard/read etc.

So who’s left? Who – in a company – makes his/her living by talking to others, with no control whatsoever on the conversation? Right: salespeople.

Salespeople have to find their way to the client every day. They have to talk with the customer. They have to show they care, they’ll ask you about your son’s tennis tournament. If they’re any good, you will think they really cared, because they genuinely do.

So what do you think? Is sales the new marketing and advertising?

What Do You Want To Ask Doug Engelbart?

Filed under: links, talkmarks — Simone @ 6:31 pm

Chistopher at The Social Customer Manifesto is about to interview Doug Engelbart (he contributed inventing the mouse you’re using now and is one of the pioneers in networked computers and a number of other life-changing technologies). The discussion is going to revolve mostly on Collective IQ and how technology can lead to its increase. Christopher is asking for contribution on which question to ask (just leave a comment on the post): I guess this is a great opportunity to get a different point of view on how the picture is changing and is going to change: don’t miss out!

May 7, 2007

Let’s talk…

Filed under: marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 12:59 pm

…or we will keep on talking without you.

Just in case you don’t know, this key (as far as I know it should be a key to de-crypt HD-DVDs) was first published on Digg some days ago. Digg then removed the post after a cease and desist declaration.

Funny how MPAA (or, even better, RIAA) can give us many insights on how not to conduct a conversation with your users. At this stage I don’t want to argue if publishing the code was right or wrong in the first place. But MPAA doesn’t understand that we are discussing, and most importantly they don’t even bother participating to the conversation.

Well you can’t stop the conversation, as the link above clearly states.

So let’s have a look at what were the results:

  1. the code is still there;
  2. the volume of the discussion scaled up several levels, so a lot more people noticed it (I’m sure I wouldn’t have known such a code existed – I have no idea whatsoever how it could be used – if it wasn’t for the discussion that followed the removal from Digg);
  3. the whole thing was depicted as MPAA wanting to kill your freedom of speech (again I’m not trying to judge who’s right or wrong here);

On the bright side:
You may wonder what happened when Digg removed the code. Well, Digg users were so upset that the same code was posted again and again hundreds of times and repeatedly removed, until finally Kevin Rose (founder of Digg) decided to keep the stories, even if it meant facing legal issues.

Kudos to Kevin and the Digg crew, this really is talking (I consider talking as a listen + speak activity) to with your users at the deepest level. I guess they won’t let you down.

Is this branding or what?!?

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