Monday, December 10, 2012

The Marketing Organization

Most people believe that marketing is advertising. You take what the factory creates and sell it by screaming about it on TV or by emailing everyone. Frankly, many companies do just that. That's where they start, and that's unfortunately where they stay, right in the outer circle of this organizational chart. They guess at and implement these tactics and when their advertising doesn't work, they don't know why. But go in just one layer of this diagram and real marketing starts to happen.

This is where you realize that not everyone is a good fit for your product. You bring in researchers and strategic talent to define and find your users and followers. You start looking at your product through your customers' eyes. You and your team develop the product’s story. You examine and network into industries that would benefit from your product. You look at pricing. For example, maybe a subscription is better than a one-time purchase. You evaluate your ROI to determine which tactics result in profits and find out why. Most importantly, you take a hard look to see what the customer experience (with the product as well as the sales cycle) is all about. You understand it and you improve it.
Not surprisingly, the next layer in is about creating amazement; recognizing what your customers want before they know they want it. A great example of this type of product design in action is the intuitive features on a tablet; then, so is something as simple as a restaurant having clean silverware. Here’s where you use champions to focus on support and usability. These champions examine and measure customer relationships, and, based on data, improve the product.  They create and implement collaborative sales methods that educate and engage your customers. These methods also recognize and exploit regional and culture-specific opportunities as the world becomes your marketplace. 

At the center of it all is the Chief Marketing Officer. The CMO is responsible for the relationship between your customer and your product. This leader is the customer guardian and the product advocate. The CMO knows that for the product or service being sold to be remarkable, it has to have this organizational structure built in. When business practices are aligned with customer-centric research and focus, revenue opportunities are exposed and your team will change the marketing agenda.  

Marketing becomes easier because it is based on facts. It is no longer a shouting match at the customer, but a dance with the prospective customer while existing customers become partners and even advocates. When you build your business from the inside out, starting with the CMO and moving out to staff implementing tactics, a significant transformation happens. Your marketing team sees your customers' expressed and unexpressed needs, and these are the opportunities that are satisfied by your product.

Inspired by a blog post by Seth Godin, The Circles of Marketing
Motivation from Jay Yarow's The Org charts Of All the Major Tech Companies (Humor)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Warm Bodies and the Rise of Zombie Marketing

The recently released film, Warm Bodies, is a romantic comedy told from the point of view of a zombie. It's a story of a unique friendship between Julie, a young woman, and "R", a zombie and we should add it to a growing list of TV Shows like The Walking Dead and celebrated movies like Dawn of the Dead and the cult classic Shaun of the Dead, that film makers have used to encourage our curiosity with Zombies. Whatever is at the root of our infatuation, by tapping into it, companies are using the undead to breath life into an existing brand.

For example, look in your local toy stores for Zombie themed products, from Legos (check out the LEGO Zombie Apocalypse page on Facebook) to dolls.  The gaming sector is no exception. Resident EvilSirenHouse of the Dead and Dead Space among others have built their reputations upon some form of undead.  Late last year, the US streetwear brand, Rocawear, got into the act by introducing tattooed model, Rick Genest, also know as 'Zombie Boy' as the look to star in the label's Spring/Summer 2013 campaign.  His ghoulishly striking urban youth presence may challenge your personal perception of Zombies. 

Then there is the story about a government agency that is a great resource on survival information during a catastrophe but no one was visiting its website. So the Center for Disease Control decided to take all of its information for surviving in a disaster and wrap it within the context of how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse. The approach helped the agency to resuscitate its message and tap their existing fans to improve their online visibility
So Zombies are more than previously human, gory, stumbling, villager-chasing creatures; they're also part of a lucrative trend that over the past four years has generated $5.74 billion to the global economy.  Check out the infographic below from to see just how much they're worth.

Courtesy of:

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Americans Spend $8 Billion on Halloween!

That's right, Halloween retail shopping is expected to reach $8 billion this year. This discovery was a result of the annual survey from the National Retail Federation conducted by BIGinsight,  A record 170 million people plan to celebrate, the most in NRF's 10-year survey history.  

That 170 million translates into seven in 10 Americans who on average will spend $79.82 on the holiday with about a third, ($24.25 to be exact) being used to buy candy.  Interestingly, on candy purchases, men will outspend ladies by an average of $4.58.  Of course that doesn't mean the ladies won't be eating their share. Snickers and Reese's are the top rated candy favorites with the survey respondents exhibiting a great deal of psychological conflict over whether to actually give the candy to the treaters or eat it themselves.  Can I get an "Amen!"

The survey also found that 45 percent of consumers plan to dress up.  And the net average amount spent on costumes this year is up a few dollars from 2011 ($28.65 compared with $26.52).  For costume inspiration, survey results revealed that while retail stores, online searches and ideas from family and friends are still king, social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter are gaining an edge. 

Of the people celebrating Halloween, more than half (51.4%) will decorate their home or yard, up from 49.5 percent last year,  More than one-third (36.2%) will throw or attend a party and 33.2 percent will take children trick-or-treating. Additionally, 15.1 percent will ensure their furry friends are part of the fun too, by dressing their pet in costume.

Pet owners are projected to get into the Halloween spirit in a big way, spending $370 million on animal costumes.  That's a 19 percent increase from 2011. The top pet picks include a pumpkin, a devil and a hot dog.  Even Martha Stewart is getting in on the action. 

Despite record spending figures for this year’s Halloween holiday, one-fourth of U.S. consumers (25.9%) say the state of the economy will impact their Halloween plans. To compensate, most say they will spend less overall (83.5%), while others will make a costume instead of buying one (18.0%), and over one-third (36.1%) will buy less candy.  Good luck with that. 

Ever wondered how we got started with this holiday in the first place.  Here's a fun and quick animated explanation. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Accidental Heroes

When it happens you're in a conversation with friends, or attending a seminar, or reading a random article.  You're unexpectedly introduced to someone whose perspective changes yours.  At that moment you know you won't be able to see the world in the same way again.  I call these people Accidental Heroes or AH. Frankly AHA would be a better acronym since that's what you say when this hero brings you to an enlightened view point.  You know, the natural reaction is to say "a ha!".  You’ll see what I mean once I share a couple of personal examples.  

On my top ten list is Wilbur Schramm.  Often called the "father of communication studies," he continues to have a great influence on the development of communication research.  His famous model of "shared fields of experience" rocked my grad student world because in examining human interaction he diagrammed what happens when two people are talking to each other.

I've recreated it here and it may not look world transforming to you, but for me it was confirmation that the important action I can take in understanding another person is to find where there are common experiences and build the dialog on those "shared experiences".   

In fact, social networking services like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Google+, are based on this principal that shared experiences are necessary for understanding. (Where to you think the idea for those circles originated?) This is why it is so much easier to talk to a friend than with a stranger.  Your common experiences make it possible to comprehend each other.  The dialog with a stranger is more of an adventure as it starts with speaking the same language and then evolves as you discover you have similar interests, skills, or friends.  

Another of my accidental heroes is Hugh MacLeod.  He is a cartoonist, who succinctly reveals our true nature in an Occum's Razor kind of way.  His value to me is his daily work, where he offers up insights into human behavior and the psychology of marketing like this one for example (used with permission 

Good stuff, sometimes funny but always forcing me to take a look beyond my normal parameters.  In both AH examples, Hugh and Wilbur, their discoveries become part of my journey as I strive to solve my favorite riddle, the buying behavior puzzle.

Last thought is that you just never know where or when new folks with new ideas will surface.  You need to keep your eyes open, read things you don't agree with and look in places that challenge your comfort zone. Your Accidental Heroes are waiting, do me a favor and let them in,

Saturday, August 11, 2012

So You’re Looking for Investors: The Why and How of AngelList

According to credible sources like Forbes, Mashable and TechCrunch, if you’re an entrepreneur or if you’re an angel investor and you haven’t heard of AngelList, it’s time to get a clue. It seems that AngelList has single handedly dragged the back-room world of venture capital screaming into the light since its 2010 launch.
At first, people wanted to dismiss the potential, saying that only loser companies would want to share data and broadcast fundraising plans so publicly. Then, some Venture Capitalists said they’d never invest in an opportunity that didn’t come through traditional channels. Other VCs swore they’d have exploratory dialogs privately or not at all. They’d never do something as prosaic as leaving comments on a company’s profile.
But AngelList trounced those objections and found traction in 2011, with 500 start-ups and 2,500 investors who joined the community, resulting in a total of 12,500 introductions and subsequent fundings.  Trounced and then did the Happy Dance!
In fact, AngelList has proven to be a remarkably effective way for investors to connect with entrepreneurs. The hybrid social-network platform offers a greater degree of visibility to start-ups that might not otherwise have access to investors, and, on the flip side, has become an important resource for investors looking to boost deal flow and as well as connect with other investors.
After an afternoon of limiting my research to information published this year in order to stay current with upgrades to the platform, the definitive guide is Brendan Baker’s "How to Hustle with AngelList," updated this past April, 2012. This is a great article since in addition to the basics, it covers how to make it on to AngelList, how to set up profiles, and some proven tactics. If you have time to read only one article on AngelList, this is the one.
Two other essential articles are Raising Money On AngelList: 21 Tips From Two Active Angels by Dharmesh Shah of Hubspot creator fame and an article by a prolific angel investor, Joshua Bauer, co-founder of Otherinbox, entitled 9 Tips for Raising Startup Funds on AngelList
This brings us to my laundry list of articles on different aspects of AngelList. 

What I took away from doing this online secondary research, aside from being entertained on a rainy afternoon, was that AngelList has really brought another avenue to the way entrepreneurs can seek out funding. It can cut down on the amount of prospecting involved in raising funds and it’s an immediate confidence booster when potential investors see other prominent Angels/VCs investing in your company.  AngelList takes the limited time an entrepreneur already has and optimizes it to seek out funding, and it’s a great digital tool that VCs use to scan through potential companies quickly. 
Bottom line: It connects VCs and Angels and is an important method for showcasing your start-up company to investors. Also remember that my point of view is based on what I’ve read. I’m not an investor or launching a start-up (at least not yet). But if you are, share your perspective as the rest of us would love to know what you think.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Building a Marketing Plan? 10 Questions to Answer.

Building a marketing plan? Here are 10 questions to get you started.
  1. Do you have a clear definition of your target market?  Perhaps you're considering expanding your target market so you can close deals that otherwise would not have come your way. On the other hand, you might narrow your definition of a target, putting your focus on those prospects most likely to become customers, maybe in a specific niche where your company has good market share. Either way, your decision will drive your other marketing decisions.  
  1. Is your current marketing mix delivering results? Most companies measure results by the number of qualified leads generated and the amount of visibility gained for their company, brand, and products. For example, email or snail mail lists tend to score low on both lead generation and visibility because they push your message out at a single moment in time to people who may not be interested. Conversely, specialized search engines and banner ads on targeted websites provide consistent presence and engage interested prospects who are actively searching for products like yours.  
  1. How visible are you? While having a robust website is essential, it isn’t enough. Your audience uses multiple online resources to locate products and suppliers. Specialized search engines, online ads, presence on the right social channels, and email newsletters all are important considerations. 
  1. What are the benefits of your current media choices? By evaluating the advantages and disadvantages of your media choices, you’ll understand the true value of your marketing program. For example, trade shows help raise your brand’s visibility and generate press and leads. But the number of leads is limited and events can be expensive when you factor in registration, promotion, travel, and other expenses. The moral is: know the ROI of your programs. 
  1. Will you reach your target audience at the right time? Like selling umbrellas when it’s raining or bathing suits when it’s hot, you want to reach your target audience while they are motivated and actively searching.  Develop a calendar for what content you’re pushing out, how, and when. It will be a huge help. 
  1. How will you maintain frequency? If you disappear off your customers’ radar screens for any length of time they will forget about you. So a consistent presence online and off is key to being their choice when they need you. 
  1. How will you measure lead quality? Not all marketing programs deliver quality leads. As any sales person will attest to, the quality of the sales and marketing opportunities generated by your marketing plan is a better indicator of potential sales than the quantity. Look for programs that provide leads in a timely manner with contact information and area of interest, helping set the stage for your response and follow-up. 
  1. How will you ensure brand exposure? The concept of branding is often pushed aside during weak economic times in favor of lead generation, but if you abandon it, you dig a hole for your sales team, forcing them to start from the beginning with every sale, introducing your company and explaining your value proposition. Many programs offer both lead generation and branding. Sponsorship of industry e-newsletters, online banner ads, and reward programs are some ways to build your brand and engage qualified leads. 
  1. How do you measure marketing success? Before you commit to any marketing programs, you should establish metrics to measure performance. Direct and online marketing programs deliver impressions, clicks, leads, sales and customers which make measuring which programs are working easier. Brand programs aren’t so easy to determine. But in all cases, you need to create the valuation method as well as set the performance metrics before you launch.      
  1. What can you expect from your media partners? With every marketing dollar precious, it’s essential that you establish a trusted relationship with media partners who understand your customers and know how to help you reach new ones. They should continuously introduce you to a targeted audience and recommend new channels to market your products as well as provide comprehensive reporting. That reporting should show the number of leads, demographic information, and be delivered as close to real time as possible so you can determine the best channels for the most leads. 
If you’ve got these covered you’re in good shape to put together a viable and productive plan. In getting the best answers, don’t work in a silo. Make sure to involve your company’s key players. The benefits will be not only in a great plan, you’ll gain consensus, and enhance your own business credibility as well. Bet you’ve thought of other concerns. What are they? Share your thoughts here!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Build Your Personal Brand on LinkedIn

Remember Adrian Monk in his detective series? He was a tidy freak, but it was his obsessing over details that helped him solve those murder cases. Like Mr. Monk, I’m feeling persnickety, and just as Monk wisely points out that the dead guy in the dark room couldn’t have turned off the lights, it bugs me that people using LinkedIn don’t take advantage of the ability to have a personalized URL for their profile. To me it seems obvious and it’s so easy to get one!

When you sign on to LinkedIn, you get an elongated URL that’s automatically generated. You — yes, you — can customize this URL so it is simple to remember and supports your personal brand. In my opinion, claiming your name here is key, but my preference shouldn’t stop you from inventing something else. Like coming up with a personalized license plate, you just need to think it through. If you were a tattoo artist, you might use “inkbeneaththeskin” or if you were the CEO of a bakery chain, maybe you’re “dollars4donuts”.

For a straightforward solution, take my LinkedIn URL as an example. At the time I set up my account I was able to customize the last text to "marionguthrie", my name. If you have a common name like Tom Smith or Cathy Jones, you may need to add a middle initial or a code, or you may decide to go the customized route with a word that reflects on your competency. Then you can use your LinkedIn URL in your signature line or any place where you want to direct interested people to a summary of your professional accomplishments; i.e. your LinkedIn profile. It’s a value added! 

While we’re talking about LinkedIn, another pet peeve of mine is this: please try to get at least three recommendations. Three is LinkedIn’s suggested minimum. Recommendations are your ad; your third-party endorsement. They humanize your profile and make you more appealing and credible. Superman’s list of jobs outlining him as a reporter and sometimes superhero become so much more colorful and engaging when there’s a recommendation that says, “He leaps tall buildings in a single bound.” Don’t you think?

Also be “in with the in-crowd” and take advantage of the three website links on your LinkedIn profile. Include links to your personal website as well as your company’s. Be creative. Since I haven’t finished my company website yet, one of my links provides a list of my Talent Zoo articles written to date, which gives me a chance to showcase some of my writing. If you’ve joined Tumblr or Gust or any other community, you can use that URL too. (With Facebook, use with caution; ask yourself, "What would Mary Poppins say?") These links help build up your persona as a business executive who is participating in the digital age, not just standing on the sidelines.

Last but not least, there is great value in generating content on LinkedIn that can also be published (if you check the birdie box) on Twitter. Why bother? Aside from the fact that you might learn something (oh, I sound like my Mom), the updates you write and post in that little LinkedIn box at the top of your profile are a great way to stay top of mind with your LinkedIn contacts and it helps build your credibility when you share interesting news stories or blogs or opinions. In addition, when you check that Twitter box, your LinkedIn update will post automatically to your Twitter. And voila, you’ve amplified your message’s reach.

It’s not like Facebook, Twitter, About.Me, or Google+ (although I’m not sure any one has figured out Google+ quite yet). LinkedIn is a distinctive social media tool and it’s all about business. So use it to find opinion leaders in your field, to locate your next speaker for that association meeting, or to uncover the heads of those companies you’re targeting for your next sales effort. Or use it to discover who to network with to find that next project or that next job. Just do me a favor and personalize your LinkedIn URL. When you attach that URL to your communications, you’re creating a link to your profile where folks can see just how good you really are.

As far as being a bit compulsive, it gives me solace that Mr. Monk was far worse. Here’s some proof!  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Is Your Brand Like P&G or More Like Rubbermaid?

Before you start building your marketing plan for 2013, have you decided whether your company's identity is more like Procter & Gamble or if it's more like Rubbermaid?  It's an important distinction.  You see, P&G's attention is on their products and they have developed unique brand identities for each of them.  But Rubbermaid's brand approach defines all of their products as sturdy, durable, and the right solution for my storage problems.  So what about your company?

Another way to think of it is, if Apple equals Innovation and Disney is Magic, what is your brand? Is it unique products, each with its own identity? Or is it one name and what that encompasses? Just like the guy in City Slickers, before you go running off deciding which social media campaigns to launch and whether or not you need a mobile app, you’ve got to decide on that “one thing", and that is the voice of your brand and the focus of your strategy across every network, and in every channel.   

Now that I've got you thinking about your brand, check out this post by Greg Satell on The Brand’s New Open Architecture

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Mobile Phones - Salvation or Addiction?

Lost on a back road one evening in my 1997 Subaru, I turn on my smartphone’s navigation system to find my way home and realize that the lady in my phone, who politely tells me to turn left in 1000 feet, may (at that moment) be my best friend and that my phone is rapidly becoming my universal remote control to the world. When did this happen? 

I’m a bit surprised, as I start a laundry list in my head, by the number of activities that my smartphone enables. It has become my digital corridor to access pretty much everything when I need it. In addition to alerting me to messages and giving me the time, if I’m out for a walk, I take pictures of plants and text them to my gardening buddy to identify or share pictures of my grandkids with my neighbors.  

Of course, I have my online calendar synced and all my contacts integrated together so I can easily connect for that video conference call or find the phone number for my next appointment if I’m running late. In the evening when I’m watching TV, I keep my phone handy so that, during commercials, I can search for product information (you know, movies for my grandson and wrinkle cream) or check my emails.  

I’ve recently added another activity to take advantage of the “sensing capability” of my smartphone. You know you can download apps onto your smartphone that recognize the media that you’re watching or listening to. These apps then broadcast related content directly to your phone’s small screen. There are a bunch of social TV companies producing these. Here are a couple of the more popular apps, just to give you an idea of how they work. 
One is Viggle. It’s a loyalty program that gives people real rewards for checking into the television shows they’re watching.  Viggle automatically identifies what television shows its users are watching and awards them points when they check in. Users can redeem their points in the app’s rewards catalogue for items such as movie tickets, music, and gift cards.
Another is GetGlue, a social network for sharing with friends what you’re watching, listening to, or reading. You check in to rate your favorite shows, movies, and music; you earn stickers, and GetGlue also recommends other media based on your preferences and what your friends like.
My favorite is Shazam, which started out by enabling users to recognize any song by simply turning on this musical app and directing it to the source of the melody. Shazam has evolved from a basic song identification service to a portal to second-screen experiences combining innovation and entertainment with some of the world’s biggest television shows — even the Super Bowl! Turns out, according to Mashable, there are plenty of benefits for advertisers and TV shows alike to interact with viewers through Shazam’s interface, and people are responding to the added value that “Shazaming” brings to ads and shows.
I know it sounds like I’ve just made watching “True Blood” or “Covert Affairs” more complicated, but if you dabble in some second screen usage, you may find it’s kind of fun. You’ll also find, as I have, that there’s a dialogue emerging, thanks to this “sensing capability” in our smartphones, between us and our appliances (TVs, refrigerators, our home, our cars…well, not my car, but you get the idea). 
Using our phones to control our environment is an amazing trend. In fact, you’re carrying more computer processing capability in your phone than the Apollo program employed to put a man on the moon. Increasingly, we’re using this processing power as a “universal remote control for our environment,” as Greg Satell, in his article on Co-creation and The New Web of Things, points out. Imagine where this might lead us while you take a look at this video from IBM’s smarter planet initiative. It shows how “sensing” technology is giving the earth a “central nervous system.” 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Mr. Rogers Goes Viral!

In the week since it was released, “The Garden of Your Mind” has clocked over four million views on PBS Digital Studios' YouTube channel.  This instant viral video phenomenon features PBS’s own beloved Mr. Rogers in a skillfully edited collection of scenes from more than three decades of his popular children’s show, "Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood." While accurately capturing his kid-friendly focus, the remix advances viewers into the twenty-first century with an auto-tuned mash-up of the late Fred Rogers speak-singing about the power of curiosity, imagination, and discovery. 
This unique mix was created through the artistry of musician and video producer, John D. Boswell, (aka melodysheep). Boswell is best known for his Symphony of Science project, which he describes on his About Me Page along with the source for his creative muse. “Inspiration from The Gregory Brothers and DJ Steve Porter, coupled with my experience with remixing, composition, and auto-tune, led to experiments with remixing scientists, culminating in Carl Sagan's "A Glorious Dawn" in Fall of 2009…with results that are inspiring, humbling, and of course humorous.” 
Just to clarify, "auto-tune" refers to an audio processor that uses proprietary software to alter pitch in vocal and instrumental recording and performances. According to WikipediaCher's "Believe", recorded in 1998, was the first commercial recording to use the software to produce this altered vocal effect. In 2009, auto-tune was popularized by Boswell’s muse, Brooklyn musician Michael Gregory, and The Gregory Brothers band.
It helps, of course, that Boswell is a Rogers’ fan and when PBS discovered his work, it was kismet. PBS explains, “When we discovered video mash-up artist John D. Boswell, aka melodysheep, on YouTube, we immediately wanted to work together. Turns out that he is a huge Mister Rogers' Neighborhood fan, and was thrilled at the chance to pay tribute to one of our heroes.”
On the results of this collaboration, Kevin Morrison, COO of Fred Rogers Company, said, as Mashable reports, “I think that the thing we like about the piece is how it celebrates — we’re all different in terms of what we’re good at, but we can all make a special contribution.”
As for the strategy for promoting the video, Kevin Dando, Director, Digital Marketing and Communications for PBS, reported to the L.A. Times that it was pretty basic. They teased the video on Twitter Wednesday night and then published it to Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+ at about the same time. A few celebrities tweeted the video early on, including Neil Patrick Harris, Alyssa Milano, and Guy Kawasaki. Then the media took over. By Friday morning, it was on YouTube’s trending video list and on the front page of Reddit in addition to being shown on "Good Morning America" and the "Today Show."
"Garden in Your Mind" is the first video on the PBS Digital Studios channel on YouTube, and the first of many planned remix videos set to feature PBS icons. "There will be more, and there will be other kinds of videos," said Dando, although he didn’t say what was next. "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood" aired from 1968 to 2001. Rogers passed away in February 2003.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Second Screen? Second Sight!

For some time, television researchers have been evangelizing that having a mobile device available enhances rather than detracts from the TV viewer’s, experience and a recent Nielsen report, State of the Media: Advertising & Audiences, agrees. In fact, almost 50 percent of TV viewers are using tablets and smartphones as a “second screen” while watching their TVs. Wow! That’s a majority of us! What are viewers doing on their second devices? Well, many use this additional screen to check their email, refresh sports scores, or seek out more information on a show or a commercial. Highlights are:     
  • Men with tablets were more likely than women to look for information related to a TV program (39 percent vs. 34 percent)
  • Women were more likely than men to search for information related to a TV commercial (24 percent vs. 21 percent)
  • Teenagers were much more inclined to visit a social media site while watching TV than baby boomers and seniors (62 percent vs. 33 percent)
  • Adults age 25 to 54 seem to be very influenced by advertising; they are 23 percent more likely than the average US Internet user to follow a brand on social media and 29 percent more likely to purchase a product online that was featured on TV
And as a growing trend, it explains why we’re seeing the development of mobile device pure play second screen applications like Shazam, Miso, and Umami, which allow users to share entertainment content in some way.  With the functionality residing on the second screen, that screen can then:
  • Supplement the experience without cluttering the main screen
  • Facilitate reading details not suitable on the big screen
  • Enable text messaging and other types of sharing
  • Allow for personalized interfaces
This second screening is more than simply having another screen present while watching television. It opens up a new era of interaction what’s being called the rise of “Social TV.” This Internet-TV convergence now taking place has implications for a range of industries, from broadcasting to content delivery to advertising. American advertisers and consumers’ appetite for television is apparent, as TV holds the lion’s share of ad dollars and consumers’ media time. That second screen is gearing up to play a significant role in the convergence of a technology that started with three channels in black and white. I wonder what it will look like in two or three years. What do you think?

This behavior is what happens, as iMedia’s Dean Donaldson describes, “When you are sitting in front of high value entertainment and something piques your interest when presented imaginatively, the passion spills over into intrigue and sharing.” With a majority of TV viewers holding and using a second device like a smartphone or a tablet to check email or talk on Facebook, that second screen is becoming a habit. 

Also, if the communication between the devices is reciprocated, then the “big screen TV” can tell other devices what it’s currently playing and those devices can do useful things with that information. This could be as simple as enabling the user to say something about what they are watching using social media without having to look it up, or more complicated like automatically finding information about a specific program, or related programs.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Use Graffiti to Draft Your Marketing Plan

Whether I'm working with an individual client or a business team, I've always found that having an annual game plan — in my case, a marketing plan — is essential. With Memorial Day recently behind us, it means that in the corporate environment you have about three months before your plan is due (prior to fourth-quarter number crunching, you know).  So now’s a great time to start strategizing.

Over the years, I've gotten into the habit of building these plans on a whiteboard or a bulletin board. Really, any place where I can step back to take a comprehensive look, and where my volunteers, clients, or co-workers can get a gander and give their input as well.

Here are six good reasons why you should build your brand’s annual plan on a wall, just like graffiti, where everyone can see it.
  1. A strong marketing plan directs your focus and your team’s focus. It keeps you all on a clearly defined path that ensures that you make the most of the effort and the budget.
  2. A strong marketing plan forces you to articulate concrete, measurable objectives so you and the decision makers who make staffing and budget decisions know what you are working towards and make the right decisions on how to get there.
  3. A strong marketing plan provides a definitive means of tracking everyone’s progress against stated objectives.
  4. A strong marketing plan is an all-organization responsibility, but to engage your colleagues and leaders, you need to be able to show them where you’re headed, what you’re doing, and why.
  5. A strong marketing plan makes it easy to draft your day-by-day work plan. By breaking down the big ideas that comprise the master marketing plan into nitty-gritty execution, you clarify each element for the plan and define roles and responsibilities. As a result, you’re able to focus on priorities and capitalize on each member’s skill set.
  6. The Graffiti aspect is fun and encourages even shy players to provide input. For that reason I like a large whiteboard with markers in a variety of colors. 
Do yourself and your organization a favor. Take these simple measures to heart and make time to develop a marketing plan. As you're building it, post it on a wall (virtual or not). The input you receive from staff and leadership and the results ($) will be worth it!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

What's In Your Mobile Wallet?

I’ll admit it. I’m fascinated but anxious about using my smartphone as a wallet. Of course that hasn’t stopped me from checking my bank balance or looking for an ATM. I love the portability and the convenience but to go cashless, well — I’d need to be threatened with something like having my hair set on fire. Evidently I’m not alone. This month MasterCard WorldWide released a study that shows that the world’s consumers aren’t quite ready for mobile payments to become mainstream. 

The study examines the adoption of mobile payments globally. It produces a formula that indexes the technology preparedness of the country with their population’s eagerness to use it. They call this index the Mobile Payments Readiness Index (MPRI). This clever MPRI runs on a scale of zero to 100, with 100 representing complete replacement of your favorite plastic cards with your mobile phone.
The research sets a Mobile Readiness score of 60 as the point at which mobile devices account for an appreciable share of the payment types defined in the study. Think of it as the “hot and ready to adopt” number. Of the 34 countries that were indexed, not one received even a score of 50. In fact, the average of all 34 scores was 33.2. So according to this data, our world is not yet ready for mobile wallet prime time. But there are some interesting takeaways.
In terms of consumer readiness, 9 of the top 10 top scoring countries are located in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, with Kenya the top scorer of all of the 34 countries evaluated. This is attributed to Kenyan consumers’ extremely high levels of familiarity with and frequent usage of mobile payments, a result of few physical banks and the success of M-Pesa.
Of the 34 countries, the United States received the highest score in the environment component. This component measures economic, technological, and demographic elements such as a market’s per capita income and consumer access to the internet. The high score was a result of the household expenditure per capita in this country of three times the index average ($33k vs. $11k). This translates into we-can-afford-it, I believe.
Singapore took the top ranking in the infrastructure (can you hear me now?) component, as 100% of the population is covered by a mobile network, compared to the overall 94% index average. Within Europe, UK consumers demonstrated the highest levels of familiarity with and willingness to use mobile payments.
Why should you care? The mobile wallet represents the first major change in how customers can pay at stores since the credit card was introduced in the 1960s, and this study by MasterCard helps define those countries with the most promise for rapid adoption. Someone is going to get rich. The proof is that participation in building this digital venue continues to gain momentum and the players are some of the biggest names in technology, finance, and retail, like MasterCard, Google, Wal-Mart, AT&T, Visa, and PayPal, to name just a few. 
Smart businessmen will use this research to design solutions to make banking and the retail purchase process effortless in promising countries while creating profits for themselves and their companies. Success will be based on timing and innovation that addresses this MPRI, accurately gauging the consumers’ and their countries' readiness. So what will you and I do? Perhaps try to build on this lucrative technology while it is still evolving? Anyone besides me need the threat of a hairbrush and a match?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

LinkedIn Saddles A Dark Horse

A “dark horse” refers to a little-known person or thing that emerges to prominence, especially in a competition. This year’s Kentucky Derby winner, I’ll Have Another, is a perfect example. Sold for a paltry $11,000, ridden by a rookie jockey hardly anyone knew, and stuck in an outside post, this chestnut colt blazed past the favorite, Bodemeister, to win the Derby by 1 and 1/2 lengths. It seems last week was a week for dark horses, because in addition to the surprise Derby winner, LinkedIn announced plans to acquire SlideShare, sometimes known as the “dark horse of B2B marketing.”
Well, it does fit the definition. SlideShare lacks the size of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and its growth isn’t anything as remarkable as Pinterest. Certainly SlideShare’s typical content of corporate PowerPoint presentations isn’t capturing the imagination of the popular culture. So why has Mountain View, California-based business networking giant, LinkedIn, decided to shell out $118.8 million in a deal to buy this San Francisco-based company? 
The answer, I think, lies in SlideShare’s unique attributes that make it so popular with B2B marketers. First, it’s the users. SlideShare users have uploaded more than nine million presentations since it was founded in 2006. According to comScore, in March, SlideShare had nearly 29 million unique visitors. But it isn’t the number of visitors that’s the real differentiator, it’s the type. SlideShare gets roughly three times the traffic from business owners as is received by other social media sites, and it gets about 40% more traffic from C-level executives than LinkedIn. This means that SlideShare is the most heavily trafficked site for professional content and enjoys a unique demographic compared to the rest of the social Web. 
Then there’s the content. Moving away from boring slide decks, today’s presenters are influenced by their peers to prepare presentations that tell a story that educates and engages. As a result, this content-hosting platform, considered the world’s largest, is gaining credibility as a third-party provider of information. Here the opinion leader, like a journalist, for example, is willing to embed the SlideShare presentation into an article versus embedding the exact same presentation sourced from the business’s web address. 
Perhaps the most significant attribute is SlideShare’s premium services. These provide B2B marketers with the ability to view analytics on their visitors while building an online presence. For example, premium users can embed lead capture forms with customized fields within their presentations and then import those leads directly into their own customer relationship management (CRM) systems. This includes integration with third-party marketing automation tools like Eloqua and 
So we can see that as B2B’s dark horse, SlideShare is all about capturing a unique audience of users, specifically business owners and C-level executives. It offers the ability to upload and host video, customer design, and branding tools. It also facilitates lead capture, detailed analytics, and software integration, which means that SlideShare delivers one thing other social media sites struggle to provide — a solid return on investment. But how will LinkedIn utilize SlideShare to expand current capabilities? Will it transform or be transformed by this union? Do you love SlideShare or hate it? How do you use it? I’d love to hear what you think.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Is That Dick Tracy's Watch?

In a world where smartphones and even feature phones do everything from tell the time to the weather and your location, fewer and fewer people see the need for a watch. No surprise, then, that the global sale of watches has been steadily declining since 2005. But Eric Migicovsky and his team at Allerta may recently have changed all that. They’ve developed a watch reminiscent of Dick Tracy’s infamous two-way wrist radio that’s designed to be the best companion to your smartphone. It’s called the Pebble. You wear this attractive device just like a wristwatch and it connects by Bluetooth discreetly to your smartphone alerting you to incoming SMS, email, and phone alerts.

Other attempts at similar technologies in the past date back to 2004 when Microsoft introduced their Smart Watch, which retrieved weather, messages, reminders, and stock quotes. The watches transmitted over an unused portion of the FM radio band and users needed an MSN Direct subscription to download data. Well-known watch manufacturers Fossil, Tissot, and Swatch were involved in the production. The watches were discontinued in 2008.

More recently, other smart watches including the InPulse, the WiMM One, and I’m Watch have been reviewed, but as Chris Taylor explains in his recent Mashable article, “They were all powered by Android, or connected to Android smartphones only.  iPhone owners were out of luck until …the Pebble. It’s the first smart watch that can form a meaningful, long-lasting relationship with your iOS device, as well as Android.”

Besides being unique among smart watches because of its compatibility with iPhone and Android, Pebble has other noteworthy features. If your smartphone is lost in the sofa cushions or hiding in a junk drawer, you can use your Pebble to locate it. For those of us who’ve struggled with screen glare on sunny days, Pebble hosts a high resolution e-paper display that is readable outdoors. 

Pebble’s wrist-location makes it possible to glance at that text message or check to see who’s calling while still unpacking the groceries or holding onto your squirming toddler. It’s also water resistant. You can go swimming and run in the rain with it. And speaking of running, there are apps built in to the watch that allow you to track how many miles you’ve run (thanks to the built-in 3-axis accelerometer), control your phone’s music, and check the weather.

There’s also the Pebble watch app store, which will let you send watch-specific apps the company and third-party developers make to the watch. At its core, Pebble is a hands-free solution to determine why your pocket or purse is vibrating without having to dig out your phone. No wonder it’s become an overnight sensation. 

Of course the development has been longer than just overnight. Before turning to Kickstarter for funding to provide the dollars they needed for manufacturing, the Allerta team of high-energy entrepreneurs spent four years working on iterations. In Kit Eaton’s Fast Company article, Migicovsky compliments his industrial designer, Steve Johns. “(Steve) spent a lot of time looking at what people wear on their wrists, and how we could make something that could be customizable and beautiful, small and sleek."    

Here’s the Kickstarter video where Migicovsky succinctly explains the Pebble.

Next up on the horizon? People who choose not to go with the smart watch will soon have another option: a pair of Google-made glasses that will be able to stream information to the wearer’s eyeballs in real time. Stay tuned!

Here's some more information:
Pebble Kickstarter Watch at CES - press conference on January 9, 2013
Hands on With Pebble Smartwatch, the Most Successful Kickstarter Project Ever, Alexandra Chang, May 14, 2012