July 16, 2007

Talkquote: better honest than polite

Filed under: marketing, PR, quotes, talkmarks — Simone @ 4:35 pm

I’d rather be honest than polite.
jonathan Schwartz, CEO, Sun Microsystems

I’ve already praised the great job Sun is doing to be part of the conversation.
In this post Jonathan explains why too much focus on legal stuff is just that: too much.
I know this is true for my background is legal and there’s a reason if I turned my (professional) life around completely to become a marketer. He also makes a point on how important transparency has become in this world and how how far behind most companies (and departments) are on understanding it.

This decade states the end of the glorious marketing bullshit. Pls take note.


July 13, 2007

FaceSence: AdSense for People

Filed under: advertising, media, social media, talkmarks — Simone @ 10:10 am

Everybody and his brother is talking about Facebook advertising and how crappy it is (not to mention how crucial it is for Facebook’s future).

But the news of today is that Robert Scoble just had a great idea. Why not to have people-related advertising?

Imagine if advertisers could “buy people.” I just clicked on Ryan’s profile, hes into Running and Golf. Why don’t ads for running and golf gear get put onto his profile? Wouldn’t that make sense? He’s also a software developer. Where’s the Visual Studio advertisement? He’s into video games. Where’s the Halo 3 advertisement?

Translation: Facebook needs an advertising platform and it needs one in the worst way. I’m not going to even look at the ads until the ads are tied to the people on Facebook. Facebook knows what we’re into, put ads for those things onto our profiles and messages.

In my opinion this is just genius. Robert, you just invented Adsense for people, dude!

It’s damn simple: you have some friends, they like some stuff and – likely – they’ll talk about it. Just gather the discussed words and place relevant ads on people’s pages.

But wait a minute: is this any better than adsense? You bet it!

Adsense puts some ads on blogs and sites in general analysing the content being written. That works for 2 main reasons:

  1. extreme affinity: if I like basket, I’ll go to basket blogs. Put a basket ad on a basket blog and suddenly you don’t have an annoying interruption anymore but a useful information and – therefore – I’ll be more likely to take action;
  2. an unbelievable exploitation of the long tail: due to it’s low access costs and the fact that it works best with niches markets, AdSense brought into the game advertisers and content producer far below the tail, people that never even thought they could ever be involved into advertising;

Now, what does this FaceSense bring on the table?

  1. Affinity: it’s at least on par than AdSense. It could be a little more tricky to take the relevant stuff out of the clutter for Facebook pages tend to be less focused than (some) blogs on a specific subject;
  2. Long Tail exploitation: here you take evolution e step further. Most Facebook users never even considered blogs, nor they ever thought of themselves as Media. Now how cool is saying that you can get some money out of your Facebook page?
  3. Believability: this is where FaceSense really shines. Just think about this: your friend writes about her latest extreme sport passion, extreme ironing, and how good it feels to actually iron your shirt after you got to the top of the mountains. Now an ad about a gorgeous ironing trip to Tibet pops up. What will YOU do? Right.

Let me add my own little idea: why the hell don’t Facebook (or any smart app builder, for that matter) add a recommendation platform???
It’s a no brainer: you suggest stuff to your friends, they buy and you and Facebook (or the smart guy etc) get a chunk of it. Your friends would NEVER buy anything on Amazon (site) anymore. It’s such a better feeling to hand some money to your friend in the process. This will be even less annoying than relevant ads for people will share only the best to their friends, and it also adds to their social experience.
Also, you get the same cool claim about making money out of your social time. What is Facebook waiting for?

UPDATE: Mark Cuban just posted an interesting pov on Facebook adv opportunity:

I think the beauty of Facebook is that people for the first time have defined and opened up the “database of their lives”. Which if integrated into an advertising platform like Panama would allow advertisers to truly personalize ads, rather than algorithmically present ads. To me it was an interesting conversation.

I think it could change the way advertising is handled on the net. Each user could have the option to publish certain fields/objects which could be replicated/peered to the licensees of the API and then integrated Into the ad serving application. When the user showed up on the licensee site, say Yahoo Finance, the ad server could present a contextual ad chosen based on the published objects within the context of the Yahoo content.

Go read it.

June 30, 2007

Talking with YouTube

Filed under: media, PR, talkmarks — Simone @ 7:52 pm

You might not talk with me. I have people talking with on YouTube and plenty of ways to spread the word.

June 28, 2007

The road to a subservient company

Filed under: marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 6:28 am

Ok, today you can easily have a transparent discussion with your users (if you like to), but can your company really DO what your users say?

Mentos is again leading the pack of “conversational” companies in the FMG market. After the immensely popular Diet Coke + Mentos campaign (2,3 million views just on YouTube as I’m writing), where they made a great job of taking a potential PR risk and turning it into a huge brand relaunch, they decided to go a step further.

Meet Jason, a live Mentos HQ intern (or at least he introduces him as one) that  will do work that you schedule for him. This is subservient chicken squared! 🙂

Mentos Intern
Now of course this is an adv campaign, but what about you? Can your company be a subservient company?

Txs WOW Report for the link!

June 10, 2007

Zooomr 2 weeks downtime or how good conversation can change the world

Filed under: marketing, PR, talkmarks — Simone @ 10:16 am

Scoble posted what’s maybe his best post since I started reading his blog.

He starts off by linking to a Mashable review of Zooomr vs Flickr to tell a story about Zooomr, a photo sharing site from Kristopher Tate and Thomas Hawk (that’s really just the two of them), competing with the likes of Yahoo (Flickr) and Fox (MySpace).

I can’t tell the story better than Scoble, but I’d like to point out to a couple of things that resounded in my head. Now Zooomr experienced 2 weeks downtime. Needless to say, that’s a MAJOR problem if you host a photo sharing site.

To use Robert’s words:

After all, any other Web 2.0 business that had been down for two weeks would just have been written off. One reason we still care is because Zooomr did pretty well over their two-weeks of hell (they were down for two weeks) by staying visible thanks to live video streaming on

So, what happened? They basically kept on the conversation. Even in their worst possible scenario, they were transparent and open to discussion. Strangely, people cared.

Why? Because they were part of a compelling story. They weren’t actually experiencing a site downtime. Not at all. By simply being explained what was happening, people became part of the story. They became brave guys helping a 19-years-old kid keeping up his unlikely company against hordes of Goliaths. That’s a can’t miss story if simply you are part of it. I can see Yahoo employees cheering for Kris to succeed. Brilliant.

For the record, now the site is up again (on Zoho servers) and I’d like to know what happened to their registered users count. I’m much more likely to join Zooomr now than I was before the downtime. Of course, having the site up is not the point anymore. Not now that users benefit became heroism.

June 8, 2007

The blogosphere gets mad at UK Olympic Logo

Filed under: marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 10:01 pm

UK Olympic LogoThat… thing (I really don’t know how to define it) you see on the right side of this post is the new logo for the London Olympics 2012. A big discussion surfaced after it was unveiled (thanks to it £ 400K price tag it even made it to the Digg Homepage) following this declarations from Seb Coe, chairman of London 2012 organising committee:

“This is the vision at the very heart of our brand”

“It will define the venues we build and the Games we hold and act as a reminder of our promise to use the Olympic spirit to inspire everyone and reach out to young people around the world”

“It is an invitation to take part and be involved”

Seth takes the opportunity write a cool post on logos, where he basically sais that “great logo doesn’t mean anything until the brand makes it worth something” (ok I’m over-simplifying, go read it).

Now I don’t want to be part of the detractors of the design (I’ve actually found some lovers as well!), but my point is: isn’t it the same thing for the brand?
I mean, isn’t the brand a collection of logos, users (and non users) perceptions, images, experiences, words etc?

Wikipedia definition of brand is:

a name, logo, slogan, and/or design scheme associated with a product or service. Brand recognition and other reactions are created by the use of the product or service and through the influence of advertising, design, and media commentary. A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it.

Now is an Amazon recommendation part of the brand? Is your friend telling you that an indian restaurant is fantastic part of the brand? Is a link from another blog part of the brand equity of a blog page? According to the definition above (and to my opinion, for that matters), it is. For all of that “is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it

But what does it mean to say that your friend is part of an indian restaurant’s brand? He’s not on the fancy logo, the people running the restaurant most likely wouldn’t ever recognize him, you can’t even be sure that he’s ever been there. In my opinion he IS the brand because he’s the only one who had a conversation with you on that particular restaurant. Of course you may have a conversation with the restaurant itself if you had been eating there (via the food, the waitress, the furniture etc) or even just passed by (via the logo or the whereabouts).

Of course, conversating directly with the restaurant makes some sense (after all a direct chat is sometimes the best way to get things right), still bad marketing messed things up a little bit. As Seth himself writes in his book All Marketers Are LiarsThere’s a huge cohort of consumers that shares the worldview that marketers are lying scum“.

That’s one of the reasons I see the communication moving away from the directly involved people and getting into open conversation: believability is an issue today as it has never been in the past. Oddly, an unknown blogger may be more believable than a self-appointed “brand-speaker” (agency, PR, marketing department). Why? Because a blogger (generally) doesn’t hide himself. He reveals his name and speaks for himself. You wouldn’t trust somebody speaking while hiding in the shadows as well. That’s the reason why I like what Sun is doing (and even Microsoft is not that far behind), because they talk with users by putting their name and face into the discussion, whether they are being praised or blamed. In a world of liars, that’s all I can ask.

June 5, 2007

10 Questions with Threadless [Guy Kawasaki Blog]

Filed under: marketing, talkmarks — Simone @ 9:15 pm

Threadless logoMy favorite marketing author Guy Kawasaki has an interesting post on Threadless.

As Guy points out:

If you had told me that a company could succeed by running weekly tshirt design contests and then selling the winning designs, I would have told you that you’re nuts.

Threadless not only embraced the conversation, they actually made it their primary (only?) asset. So no more wasting time here, go on and read it!

Threadless homepage

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.

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 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?

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