Monthly Archives: July 2009

To click or not to click….

Some hot debate about the importance, or not, of the click
has been had this week. We’ve been mulling over why when no other advertising
medium expects consumers to leave what they are happily doing in that moment to
interact with a brand, online continues to value the click as the key sign of
success. When you watch a TV ad you can still catch the second half of
Coronation Street without the media agency or client feeling that the ad spot
has been wasted. How then, within what is hailed as the most measurable of
media channels, can we make sure we are measuring the right things?

This question and that of a “universal trading currency” are
not new. Despite some important steps in the right direction, it seems as an
industry we are still some way from agreeing a currency that allows us to trade
and evaluate performance across all media channels with consistent definition
of audiences and insight into impact.

While this topic inevitably rumbles on, we need to continue
to work hard with clients to develop our understanding of digital channels in
context – whether that be by using engagement mapping reports through the
adservers to better allocate conversions to contributing channels, further
integrating analytics data with marketing or ensuring brand studies include
digital as a channel rather than an add on.

Alternatively we can follow Pringles lead and focus on clicks
for kicks!

(GakiAttack, not one of the) top seven Twitter apps

I’m still trying to figure out the point of GakiAttack, a Twitter application that allows followers to attack one another in a variety of exotic Japanese-branded methods… but I fear that would be looking too far into its inane simplicity.

According to its website, Gaki is: “not only Japanese for ‘spoiled child’ and the person who is ‘it’ in a game of tag, but it’s also a Japanese Variety Show that’s been making people laugh since 1989.

Four guys spend 24 hours locked in a gymnasium being terrorized by a group of ninjas. What’s your favourite attack? The big swing? The scorpion death lock? If you love ninja moves, samurai weapons and just plain old ninja stuff, then you’ll love watching these episodes of 24-Hour Tag available on Hulu.com.”

Unfortunately, being lowly UK residents, we are barred from using Hulu, but judging from other insane Japanese gameshows I’ve seen, this one could be filed under “pretty tame”.

The application itself informs your follower that they have attacked, without further explanation. For example, I attacked my Twitter-alter ego with an Ippon… I’m not sure what that means.

Not to be put off, there are plenty of useful Twitter applications out there, that actually do have a point, I shall list my top 5 7 Twitter apps (excluding TweetDeck because of its ubiquitous awesomeness).

TweetBurner: Tracks all the links you post on Twitter and provides statistics, also the ones posted by your friends.

TwitBin: Handy extension for Firefox users, puts Twitter right in your browser window.

Mr. Tweet: Follow Mr. Tweet, and it will recommend some more people for you to follow. Infinitely better than Twitter’s own “suggested” friend service.

TwitPic: Let’s you share photos on Twitter, also allows access from mobile phone pictures.

TweetStats: Let’s you know exactly how much time you’ve been wasting on the addicting website, giving you a handy graph of  Tweets per hour, month, reply statistics, etc.

TwitScoop: A personal favourite, creates a nice cloud image of what’s being talked about on Twitter, it’s mesmerising and is constantly updating itself right before your very eyes.

TwitterFeed: Allows you to feed your blog right into Twitter, brilliant.

Motivating the CEO

- I just had a call from a brand we’ve been after for a long time – they’re the world’s largest operator in a high profile leisure sector. We’ve been talking with them on and off for the last few months, but things had gone a little quiet.

Now, in a recession, new business prospecting is hard. In fact, as an eCRM agency we’re pretty much honour-bound to concentrate on retention, delivering more bang for our clients’ bucks and making sure what we do really works. The corollary is that (hopefully) word then might get around and we’ll win more business. The truth is that most of our new business this year has come from existing clients (with one or two notable exceptions), and previously having concentrating on winning multi-brand groups, that’s turned out to have made perfect strategic sense.

So it was very nice to find myself on the receiving end of a forty-minute phone call clarifying exactly what the first few steps in a relationship might be. One of the questions I asked during the conversation was what had prompted the call. Seems the CEO had got in touch and told him that retention was a highly strategic issue and that the brand needs to invest in eCRM. Client’s pleased, though I suspect he might have wished for the buy-in sooner. Agency’s happy, because as long as the client’s goals and the budget are right, who’s worried what the trigger is?

But I am. I’d love to know why, after 18 months, the CEO has had an epiphany about digital and retention. It’s slightly like the old days, when we could speak with marketers all day long but it was the CEO who bought the website (and when I say old days, I mean 1995). I’m fully aware that reducing expenditure and improving margins are highly strategic issues, and I’m also aware that digital can address these head on. But I’m wondering why the sudden awareness of eCRM. I’d love to think it was articles in magazines like Revolution, but I’m not certain CEOs read them. I’d be flabbergasted if this particular CEO was following my Tweets about eCRM.

However, I do know that digital has become a strategic issue amongst some business leaders, forced by recession to take a long hard look at how and why the world is changing around their brands. Social media is turning sales funnel-oriented acquisition on its head, Forrester Research are re-educating business strategists with robust models for initiating change – both through listening to what they’ve called the groundswell and by using different approaches to segmentation to drive customer engagement. Don Tapscott’s Grown Up Digital is showing up at CEO professional development organisations like the excellent Vistage. CEOs are really taking note of a (rare) opportunity to leverage the changes wrought by recession that incorporates a new marketing world view driven by customers in a medium that is digital.

Ultimately I guess it’s the CEO’s responsibility to ensure the senior team – and particularly marketing and sales – are on the right track to support the strategic goals of the business. And these strategic goals are not just weathering the storm, but preparing for the opportunities to come.

I’m hoping it means I might get a few more calls.

PS. If you are a CEO, and you’re reading this, that last sentence was a hint ;)

You should follow me on Twitter here.

I’m sorry Dad, but your viral sucks

My dad doesn’t really understand what I do.  He’s 64 (nearly 65) and no matter how many times explain the nuances of viral marketing, he still struggles.  Or so I thought, until he shocked me by creating his very own viral ad for his company the Alarm Monitoring Company – a company that specialises in “monitored burglar alarms”.

Check out his viral efforts here – viral genius, or viral suck?

I think I can say for certain that it’s really not very good, and kinda backs up my theory that he doesn’t get what viral is (or rather doesn’t listen to me – a life-long gripe).  Here’s my quick analysis of his efforts:

- OK, so the generally creative conceit isn’t too dreadful.  The idea of promoting an alarm by showing it in action (burglars breaking in etc.) makes sense. (that’s the positives over and done)

- But, then we come to the narrative.  I mean – sorry – what narrative???  Two blokes jump through a window, rummage around a bit, set the alarm off and run off with the beautifully scripted words “F*ck me, I’m off!.”  Come on – I’ve seen better in episodes of Prisoner Cell Block H  Sunset Beach.

- And then there’s the direction.  I’m not quite sure how many takes it took to shoot (I hope one), but if you’re gonna allow two of your employees (sorry – actors) to spend time jumping through your home window in a not so convincing I’m-a-burglar-breaking-into-a house-way you may as well shoot it properly – otherwise you’re wasting everyone’s time – including the people who have to watch your sorry ad (me).

- And to cap it off, there’s the music.  A bossa-nova keyboard version of Queen’s “Another one bites the dust”.  This for me is the final nail in the viral coffin.  I mean, why didn’t you go for the pan-pipe version???  Everyone knows Queen sound better in pan-pipe than bossa nova.  

So there you go.  As a founder of a viral marketing agency I’m ashamed of my father.   PLEASE NEXT TIME LISTEN TO ME DAD AND DON’T WASTE YOUR TIME MAKING SUCH PAP IT MAKES ME ANGRY AND MAKES ME WANT TO TYPE IN CAPITALS.  

Rant over.  Back to work.

Train Travel – An Out Of Tune Theatrical Production

It being the summer hols my family have decamped to less urban climes with the car, whilst I continue to run the gauntlet of the Kings Road on my bike.

At the weekend I took the train to Yorkshire to be reunited with them.  I tried to buy my ticket at the website on Tuesday evening last; ‘ah ha’ , I thought, a nice slick website with all the prices and options clearly shown. I chose the train I wanted at a welcoming cheap price but was stopped from the purchasing it because there were no seats available.

This is a web issue that I find regularly and it’s not only frustrating, it’s downright misleading as they’re saying that it’s for sale and if that’s the case then I want to buy it. Online clothes stores do this regularly as well, showing me items of clothing that I can buy, only when I try to select any size they are all mysteriously ‘sold out’ – like the maitre’d at an empty restaurant telling the unexpected man in the bad suit that ‘no sir we have no tables free this week’.

Eventually I purchased a ticket, I went for a first class option as it was only £4 more than the standard fare (though their dynamic pricing strategy is neither here nor there as far as this tale is concerned) and looked forward to traveling in the comfort of the executive class. I am proud to say that I am a big fan of trains and I have had the great pleasure of traveling on some of the greatest train journeys around the world. When Joseph Pine says that ‘Work is Theatre and Every Business A Stage’ he really hits the nail on the head as far as the train is concerned.

When the conductor makes his rounds there always seems to be someone near me who has a problem; losing part of their ticket, just having the email confirmation or not having the correct ticket. Always, after pleading and sometimes tearful negotiation the customer is forced to buy a new ticket at the full price. On this occasion a young lady had used the website incorrectly and had purchased 2 young people’s tickets and her companion was not with her. Thus she had 2 useless tickets. The conductor listened patiently to her story and explained that he knew the website had a problem and that it had happened before. He then professionally charged her the price for a new full price ticket.

Shortly after all our white paper table covers were removed and replaced with blue ones; with a cup covering each corner. The old ones crumpled and thrown into a bag of rubbish. An attendant soon followed with a rubbish bag and filled it with copies of the Evening Standard that she had previously distributed. When I asked if there was a policy for re-cycling she said there were plans to bring in a special trolley to undertake that task.

Whilst the staff were not to blame for these events they are symptomatic of an organisation that is out of alignment with it’s values. Why isn’t there a mechanism for telling the web people that there is a problem with the logic of the site so avoiding customer angst? Why doesn’t the business build on it’s environmentally sound basis to deliver a customer experience that they could be a positive re-enforcement of their values?

If their business is a theatre, it would be like a performance of the Krankies at the Albert Hall, beautiful but bloody annoying.

The Empire strikes back or the old order’s attempt to bring an end to the age of free

 They’ve had enough. Enough of all you freeloaders stopping by their sites and not paying. Enough of you ignoring the ads they’ve served up for you. And enough of you reading and sharing their stuff elsewhere.

 

‘They’ is traditional newspaper and media publishers who are now online. And their point of view can best be summed up by (New Zealand) National Business Review boss Barry Colman who told subscribers he was drawing a line under “the
crazy model adopted by newspapers in most parts of the free world in
which they pay the enormous costs of running professional newsrooms
only to give away their content away free.”

As a
result, the age of free, the ability to read almost anything, anywhere
online and not have to cough up for it, is something they now want to
bring to a close. And there’s a concerted effort going on from some of
the biggest guns in the industry, to try and make this happen. Consider
that:

1 – The Newspaper Licensing Authority, which represents Britain’s national newspaper groups, wants to dole out licenses before you can share links.

The
idea is that if you professionally monitor the websites of newspapers
(which most agencies and in house marketing departments do), you will
need an annual license from the NLA for the simple act of forwarding a
URL of a newspaper website by email….which obviously brings traffic
back to said site.

While focusing on the relatively soft
target of people like myself who need to monitor the media as part of
their jobs, the NLA doesn’t actually have the cojones to go after
Google News, under the rationale that Google doesn’t make money from it
(news to Google I’m sure). But the Associated Press in the US does.

2 – Last year the Associated Press got in hot water
when it announced it was charging bloggers for using as little as five
words of its content in posts. The AP kind of backed down, but now this
proposal rears its head again in a different form. However it’s not
small time bloggers that are in the AP’s sights but global search
engines like Google, (Microsoft) Bing and Yahoo!.

According to the New York Times, AP President Tom Curley said “if
someone can build multibillion-dollar businesses out of keywords, we
can build multihundred million businesses out of headlines and we’re
going to do that.”
And that I think is the crux of it. It’s not so much copyright as a case of, “we want some of what they’re getting!”

Though
the AP gets money for its content to appear on Google News and the
Huffington Post, it doesn’t get anything from general search results.
This is what it wants to change via – just like Britain’s NLA – a
system where it doles out licenses before you can link back.

A
system that sounds to me much like 18th century trade protectionism.
Buy a license to import or export goods – or in this case, buy a
license before you can send links around.

“The current days of the Internet will soon be over”

3 – And then we have the giant of the English speaking media world Rupert Murdoch planning to charge
for his portfolio of newspapers in the US, the UK and Australia with a
News International team in Sydney looking into ways that this might
work. Murdoch has put so much behind this that Wired in its latest
issue wondered: “Can Rupert Murdoch save online news?”

According to Murdoch,
“We will control the prices for our content and we will control the
relationship with our customers…the current days of the internet will
soon be over.”
So that’s that then.

Well maybe not. I wonder whether ultimately the attempts of the old guard are ultimately doomed for three reasons:

1
- For this to work everyone really has to be aligned. So ALL major
newspaper groups need to be in step and start charging. Otherwise, news
is news and consumers will carry on going to where its free.

The Daily Telegraph in the UK for one has already decided
that free is ultimately more lucrative as it allows it to sell loads of
other stuff onto its user base. And what the New York Times has in mind doesn’t really sound like charging for content either.

The
biggest gap in the charging wall however will come from online TV news
services like BBC and CNN online. With their websites being much like
online newspapers with added video anyway, they stand to benefit from consumers who simply just want ‘the news’ (as opposed to the news from The Times etc).

2 – As the Wired piece admits,
it’s all very well to charge for the Wall Street Journal, but looking
at other titles in Murdoch’s stable how about the tabloid The Sun (or
the New York Post in the US)? Will a subscription model really work
there?

3 – The Web is the hotbed of invention. Perhaps
charging will provide an opportunity for other services to emerge,
Huffington Post style, to carry on providing free content. And really
there often is a work around to a lot of these ideas. For example, I
mentioned the newspaper licensing agency here in the UK. The NLA
intends to charge for sending links by email but not via
Twitter….well fine, guess we’ll Twitter direct message the links,
which get forwarded to, um, email.

Ultimately what
publishers are trying to do is to turn back the tide of history and how
often does that work? I don’t think it can, especially since free is
now the norm, encouraged by none other than the likes of Rupert Murdoch
in the first place. Interesting times in watching publishers trying to
make this stick over the coming year though.


Image – Myrrh.ahn

Can Amazon learn to stop worrying and love the twitterbomb?

So, Amazon won’t pay commission to affiliates who use links
within Twitter to drive traffic. Is this fair? Is their policy right?

There are many different ways of looking at this problem.
Let’s take a look at Amazon’s position. They are paying commission to
affiliates who drive new customers through to their site. As part of this
process, they ask affiliates to agree to their terms & conditions of use
and these, at least from a legal perspective state that the traffic is related
to “Your Site”, referring to where the traffic comes from.

So from a legal standpoint, they would appear to be operating
as per these terms but how long ago were these written? Were social media and
the likes of Twitter such a big issue when they were last updated? When you
consider recent stories about Dell generating $1M of revenue through Twitter
alerts, you can certainly see that the medium has grown up but perhaps not
everyone has been in tune with this change.

The problem with the wording is that any smart affiliate
could simply start redirecting traffic from Twitter (or other community sites)
through their own short URL tool, sitting on their site and as such would be
sending this traffic to Amazon. From a legal standpoint this would appear to
meet their requirements but it still leaves an open question. Is Amazon happy
about that type of traffic?

Affiliate marketers are often the folks that are able to
spot an opportunity and take advantage of it much quicker than most brands. See
a gap, code it, get it live at 2am. If someone on Twitter likes talking about
rock music and inserts links to Amazon for the albums they are tweeting about,
is that so dissimilar to if they had a blog and these comments were posted
there? They seem pretty close to me.

From a brands perspective, they need to ensure that
consumers aren’t being spammed and that they only pay affiliates for genuine
activity rather than having a cookie pool covering everyone in the country. But
this is where working with your affiliates is key. Understand what they are
doing and you’ll be a little less nervous when something new appears.

Lawyers, time to update your affiliate terms and conditions
to help your affiliates know exactly what you are happy paying for and what you
aren’t. Be upfront about it and they’ll be a happier bunch, working on your
behalf and ultimately driving revenue.

Power to the people, United Airlines feels the power of social media

Lots of people always try to quantify the ROI of social media, how many extra sales will it get me? How much extra traffic will it get my website? Are these the right questions?
 
There are certainly ways to measure the effects of social media but concentrating purely on these measurements misses the point. Social media is much more than just trying to sell a few extra products. Social media is about connecting with your audience and if you don’t know what people are saying about your brand things can go horribly wrong, horribly quickly.

The latest company to find this out is United airlines. In spring 2008 Dave Carroll lead singer of the relative unknown band Sons of Maxwell was travelling to Nebraska to go on tour, he flew by United airlines. During the flight his $3500 guitar was damaged, he spent the next 9 months talking to United Airlines trying to get compensation but was refused at every turn.
 
So after becoming increasingly frustrated with United Dave wrote a song and recorded a video about his experiences.
In a world without Social Media this probably wouldn’t have mattered much, lucky we live in a world where social platforms are readily available. The video was added to Youtube; So far, this video has received:

Over 3.8 Million views

Over 26,000 people have rated it

Over 17,000 have left comments all supportive with a large number saying they will boycott United from now on

The Youtube video has now made its way onto traditional media including:

BBC

National News Australia

Rolling Stone Magazine

The Daily Mail

The Times

The song has also been released on iTunes and as of today is the Number 1 country track and if you care to do a quick Google search you should fine in excess of 6 Million other Websites, blogs, comments and links to the Youtube video. So if you are thinking about the value of social media think how much damage has just been done to United by its use.

Brands often spend enormous amounts of money creating and protecting there brand image, but often very little time money or effort is spent on the social media side of the brand. Social media is changing the dynamic between brands and their consumers. Never before have individual consumers had so much power and they are only just starting to exercise it.

Can any company truly say they get Customer service right 100% of the time? If they can’t then they need to engage with social media in order to try and prevent something like this damaging their brand.

Link to
Dave Carroll’s site for the full story

Link to the Youtube video

Online subscriptions the beginning of the end?

 

Over the last couple of months the newspaper industry has seemed increasingly desperate to generate new revenue streams in particular from the internet. If you take a look at the revenue figures for newspapers it is easy to see why.

News Corp who own one of the worlds largest newspaper businesses saw Q1 operating profit drop 47% and they are not alone.

Since Murdoch initially mentioned the idea that newspapers should start charging subscriptions for their websites in May there has been a growing sense amongst the newspaper industry that a subscription model for online access to their content is the way forward.

So is subscription going to save the industry or is it yet another badly thought out attempt by an industry that doesn’t really understand what is going on around them to grab revenue where it can?

You can probably tell from my choice of words that I don’t believe this will save the industry.

Newspapers have done well up to now for two reasons, firstly the convenience of the format. Traditionally there where three primary platforms for absorbing news: TV, radio and newspapers and each of these had a very different format which where used at different times and in different ways.

Newspapers provided the ideal way to transport news. They where sized to be comfortable to read on a bus or a train, lightweight, cheap and easy to dispose of. You couldn’t take a TV to work with you; you couldn’t take a radio of a flight so the newspaper was perfect.

The second reason was the control and flow of information. In order to report news particularly news from a foreign country you had to get a reporter there, have researchers available to check facts and figures and a way to broadcast the information. This kind of operation cost a lot of money and required a large infrastructure. Newspapers where perfectly setup to take advantage of this structure and there where very few competitors.    

Internet technology and in particular Social internet technology have been eroding away the need for large-scale organization and at the same time increasing the number of devices, that news is accessible on.

Think laptops, netbooks, iPhones, your computer at home, your computer at work, in fact for a good deal of people, they are never more than a few clicks away from huge stores of information.  These stores of data are called websites and pretty much anybody can run one.

As soon as information is available on one website, it has the capability to be available on millions through technology such as RRS. Added to this platforms like twitter allow near instantaneous transmission of messages to potentially millions of people, meaning almost no information is unique.

The less unique information is the less valuable it is and information is newspapers currency. 

Much like the music industry of the late nineties and early two thousands, instead of finding ways to use this new technology to their advantage the newspaper industry is mostly trying to either ignore the problem or threatening to sue anyone they can find, usually Google.

Now that it is becoming increasingly obvious neither of these strategies is working, they are trying to fall back to the offline model of subscription.

Why not try something new, how about add-ons to their service?

An example of where they might want to start their thinking is already here have a look at Techdirt a professional online blogging network that has come up with a range of add-ons to help their newsgathering and analysis business. I am not suggesting that mainstream newspapers follow this exact model but to me at least its seems a lot better than anything they have come up with so far.

 If you want to read some more insight it is on my company website Yomego
 

Sad day for Shiny Media

Today it is official that blogging empire Shiny Media has closed shop, leaving media lovers sad to see the death of this technology, fashion and lifestyle content network that attracted some of the highest traffic for a UK-centric website of more than three million unique visitors monthly.

News of Shiny Media’s demise first broke on The Blog Herald, and more details are found on TechCrunch, about this $4.5 million Brightstation investment gone bust. Not alone in the rise and fall of media brands, Condé Nast’s Men.Style.Com has folded stateside today as well.

Some say it is the big bite of recession for these online media outlets, others are pointing toward bad strategy for generating revenue for content. For in-depth insight to why this UK content publishing business model may have gone wrong, read a TechCrunchUK post by one of the Shiny Media’s former co-founder’s Ashley Norris

 

 

RIP Shiny Media,

-Lisa