Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Sign of the times: UK Digital adspend greater than TV for the first time

The IAB reported that digital spend now takes 23.5% of the media spend pie, a share that makes it a bigger player than TV for the first time.

Within that, paid for search (AKA pay per click (PPC)) takes 59.8% of spend. Good news for Google, and little wonder why Yahoo announced last week that they were embarking on a $100m global ad campaign, particularly given the Yahoo-Bing tie-up in the offing.

There might also finally be a glimmer of hope for getting digital planning and trading metrics moving forward again as UKOM  (UK online measurement)  have appointed Nielsen  to set up, manage and  run an Audience Planning System (APS) which will allow advertisers and agencies to plan online campaigns that target specific audiences, using an industry-approved system just as they do with TV (BARB), radio (RAJAR) and print media (NRS).


Tuesday, 29 September 2009

YouTube: A platform to celebrate diversity

The nice thing about the web is that there's a place for everyone.

A quote I read ages ago and unfortunately can't remember the source of, said something along the lines of "YouTube is just like a TV station, there's a few gems in amongst a heap of rubbish".  True enough, most TV stations have their peaktime gems and an awful lot of filler / repeat content, and indeed the parallels work well for YouTube.

I've just found this film that has cut together some of the popular YouTube hits and set it against a music track.  How many do you recognise?  Can't say the track particularly worked for me, but fair play to the band who have leveraged the video cut as a promotional platform.

iPhone network wars to come

Hurrah! 02's exclusivity period for the iPhone in the UK is to end, with Orange to offer the iPhone in time for Christmas and Vodafone to join in the fun in early 2010.

Some healthy competition in the market will be no bad thing for the consumer, nor for marketers embracing apps, as competitive deals are likely to mean the iPhone becomes accessible to more and more consumers = broader reach for those creating good apps.

That mobile marketing tipping point is finally creeping ever closer!

Clever cameras

Last week I spotted this video / nice content piece to support the launch of Samsung's first camera with a screen on the front so the sycophantic among you can take better pictures of yourself.....
Full marks for embracing the notion of providing useful content and getting a product message across without having to be hit over the head with it.

Then Nikon are taking the notion of photosharing to a whole new level by bringing out a camera that incorporates a projector.  Nice idea, I just hope it's a little more reliable than most of my experiences in trying to get a laptop and a projector to work first time. Plug and play isn't a concept the projector market seems to have embraced sadly.

I also noticed walking past the Getty Image gallery on the way to work this morning that they were pushing their Flickr collection.  Photography is incredibly accessible these days.

Friday, 25 September 2009

I do love the Did You Know? Fact / video series

Here's number 4.0  (or at least one variant of it currently circulating).(This one's been around for a week, and is actually based on the "shift happens" series. Well worth 4 minutes of your time.

And this one's been kicking around since July and is perhaps more true to the original Did You Know film, but still worth a watch.

Beware shortened links from dubious sources

Those of us using Twitter more and more will no doubt have used a URL link shortening tool in an effort to eek out those 140 characters as far as possible.  Since it released it's latest version, Tweetdeck even now has an automatic link-shortening option so you don't even have to choose whether you want any links you paste in to be squashed into format

It's a dilemma, to shorten or not to shorten?

In search (whether natural or pay per click (PPC)) smart link strategy (i.e what the URL string says) can make a big difference to your click through rate (CTR). In Twitter, link shorteners are great for saving characters but when presented with a tiny url, a or an url you don't get much clue as to where you are being taken, which requires a degree of trust in the person's tweet you are about to click on, unless they are good enough to squeeze into their message some indication of the type of content it leads to so you can form your own judgement. I am increasingly seeing [video] or [blog] styles evolving into good twettiquette. But that frequently defies the object of character squeezing your URL in the first place. Hmmmm.

The decision is muddled further with re-tweets. (RT). Should you click on a shortened link from someone you possibly don't know because it must have been considered sufficiently interesting for the person you do "know" to have been retweeted it in the first place? (Relationships being a relative concept in the twittersphere). It's a tricky one.

Via TechCrunch I found this Symantec video warning of the perils of dodgy links & I think it's worth sharing. Shame they couldn't run as far as a voice over because it left me jabbing at volume buttons on two laptops to check I wasn't going deaf.

Thanks to a great service from Topify I am able to manage the Twitter spammers much more effectively, and make much smarter decisions about who I agree to let follow me or decide to follow, because the service gives me more detail at a glance in the XXXX wants to follow you email notifications I get, so for now at least in so far as the ways I am using Twitter, I am erring on the side of trusting links within most of the tweets I am likely to click on.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Utterly awesome 3d augmented reality app for iPhone 3GS

 There's some clever people out there!  Check out this very interesting 3D augmented reality location based service finding app called Bionic Eye.  The future's here.... ;-)

Apparently it's already available in the Apple App store, and works in a few major US cities including New York, as well as in the UK, France, Tokyo.  It will also work on older iPhones and the iPod touch but certain features won't work due to the lack of compass.


From delights to disasters...

Microsoft now want you to host a party and get your friends around to discuss your new computer operating system? What?  Windows 7, it does this and this and oh, would you mind passing the carrot sticks?  Yeah right.

What a great example of how bad things can be when you try too hard

I think this approach to making Windows 7 seem like child's play was far better, and showed a human side and sense of humour, as well as following nicely on in the series of pieces showing children demonstrating how easy computing is!

Was this a classic example of one marketing team not talking to another?  Fail.

Rich pickings from the digital treasure trove

BIG digital treasure find courtesy of Google / Ad week conference this week. A veritable banquet of food for thought.

Yes, there's 80+ slides, but it does a great job of a round up of cool, quirky, interesting and inspiring things that have been done via Google, Android, YouTube and API's.

Well worth a look. Then a ponder about what sort of spins and twists you could put on any of those ideas or technologies to make them work for your brand.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Mutual value exchange & smart word of mouth campaigns

Flying around the web and the Twittersphere today has been a great example of the power of the people / word of mouth marketing.

Musician Jack Johnson has a new album out on the 27th October. He's started off a seemingly pretty effective word of mouth campaign via Twitter.

Smart thinking has gone into this too.  Word of mouth relies on people voluntarily passing on something that's interesting, fun or relevant. However, you can encourage word of mouth with incentive.  Like all good relationships it's about mutual value exchange Do this for me and I'll do this for you.

Which is exactly how, and quite probably why there have been so many people obligingly tweeting out to their own networks about the forthcoming album release. Why? Because by visiting his site & sending a pre-set tweet (but allowing for 20 characters of personalisation on the front, nice touch) in return you can get a free mp3 download of a track from said album. Everyone likes free stuff. Or sort-of free stuff 'cos you have to make a little bit of an effort to get it, but the value exchange stacks up enough to bother.

It would have been churlish of me not to oblige, so of course I did. Judging by the number of tweets I've seen personally on the subject today, so did many others and the whole campaign would appear to be working rather well, an opinion ratified by a quick Twitter search:

There's also a fair few people tweeting about articles they've blogged on the topic (like this one), so double whammy and well done to Mr. Johnson. He's successfully harnessed the power of the people (people being the best new media vehicle out), by creating OTT (opportunities to talk), and thereby propelling his sample & message (at very low cost, i.e bandwidth & releasing the track free, no media costs in a traditional sense) to audiences that might never otherwise have been reached by traditional advertising whether on or offline.

Good stuff.

The games people play: Or the simplest ideas are often the best.

Years ago I worked for Hasbro, one of the major players in the toy and games business, and owners of Monopoly and Cluedo amongst other brilliant games.  Way back when, we ran a campaign called "Get Together Games Night" which was designed to remind people how much fun it is to sit down around a table and play a game.  It's a sociable thing game playing. It can be ruthless, strategic or just silly and fun but it's a great shared experience.

Hasbro have done a generally good job over the years of embracing the transition of game playing from board games around a table to online games and last week launched Monopoly City Streets, a neat mash up of Monopoly and Google Maps. If you haven't already checked it out do.

Then a year or two ago Facebook App, Scrabulous, (nothing to do with Hasbro who own worldwide rights to Scrabble outside the UK) spread like wildfire and a whole new crowd of people started enjoying online game-playing. It was great fun, giving you the opportunity to play several games at once with different friends, all on your own time / terms.  The Hasbro legal team weren't quite so chuffed about the intellectual property infringement and the whole thing ended up in a messy legal wrangle that thankfully now has been settled. Scrabulous is now called Lexulous.

I've worked in I.P too, so I can see their point, but with such enormous global engagement with the concept I think they should have been smarter about how they went about it.

On that note.... I bet board game manufacturer Drummond Park are kicking themselves this week.  They make a great word-based board game called Articulate. If you haven't played it, then invest, it's great.

However, some other smart cookies have taken the notion of word-based games and crossed it with Twitter to create a fun game called Artwiculate .

The premise is simple: There's a word for the day and they encourage people to tweet something including it. The site then scrapes Twitter for the word and displays all the mentions making fun reading for those of you who have yet to join the twitterverse.

For those of us that like words it's a nice daily challenge to have, motivated by nothing other than stimulation of the grey cells, and perhaps just a touch of competitiveness amongst fellow word-erati.

Go play.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Digital miscellany of the day: Delight or disaster, it's up to you

I was just reading that Pirate's back as a Facebook language. 

Pirate English on Facebook had me, and heaps of my friends in stitches earlier this summer and then sadly it seemed to disappear. I remember evangelising at work at how such a small thing could create so much fun, and happiness and how fab it would be for a brand to have come up with something like that. What an amazing positive halo it would have thrown over the brand.

So I mosey'd over to Facebook to find that Pirate is sadly not back in the UK (yet at least), but English Upside Down is.

It's quite amusing - your posts and your friend's names remain the right way up but almost everything else is upside down.

Go play. It won't engage you for as long as Pirate but we'll give them marks for amusement value.  I hope we get Pirate rolled out to UK IP addresses again soon.

Engagement is child's play

I'm reading a very interesting book called Grown Up Digital at the minute. It talks a lot about the evolution of information and learning preferences, but particularly the huge differences between those of us that are digital immigrants and have adapted to the new digital world v the huge numbers of individuals who've never known anything different.  They speak different languages. They think differently. This has huge implications for organisations where there is frequently a huge void between the senior management and their new and upcoming talent; it has huge implications for marketers in how they engage with a broad spectrum of consumers; and most importantly of all it has huge implications for how we approach teaching in the future.

So with that in mind, here's a far better explanation of the elements and the periodic table than I ever got in chemistry at school. Credible band (They might be giants) + music + animation / moving images. So much easier to remember when material is presented in this fashion than having to learn by heart that Lithium was LI and had a valence of 1.  Can't belive I can still remember that, I didn't even have to resort to WolframAlpha, my favourite scientific knowledge engine.

Finding that video, then reminded me of another one that always makes me laugh, but probably more because of the amusement over the learning value of James Blunt crooning "a triangle, a triangle" to the tune of "You're beautiful".  Enjoy.

But now you are amused, relaxed and refreshed, step back and think. Are you still applying analogue marketing thinking to a digital world?

Digital Glue: It can work so well.

One of my other pet rant topics about digital marketing is against people who think digital is one of these:

I say NO to Digital silos. 

Digital should not be just another "channel" on the end of a media plan. Such thinking may have been true way back in 1999 but wake up people, it's 2009! The digital possibilities are much greater than the inclusion of some some banners driven by the buying / trading model.

Digital thinking needs to be integrated into planning right from the outset.  On the web your idea / message / product / service is available 24/7, 365 days a year.  It's there when people are actively looking for it, not just because at a given second you've interrupted them by shoving your message in front of them whilst they were probably doing something else.  So make the most of that opportunity.  Make the most of the fact that you can provide people with information  or an experience in a much more engaging / fun / meaningful way than you ever could in a 30" TV ad or a 25 x 4 print ad.

Whilst I may be passionate about things digital, I don't believe in throwing the baby out with the bathwater. (Luckily for the friends who trust me with their children from time to time!). I believe that established advertising techniques whether off or online will continue to play a role in the comms mix of the future.  Those roles might just be slightly evolved from those they've taken in the past. Change is healthy! I love seeing offline & online working well together. It's the old sum of the parts theory. Make the most of both and you'll achieve more in total than you will using either in isolation. Or ignore the online piece and find that the consumer will note your absence and talk about that anyway. You can't ignore the fact that digital interaction is part of most people's daily lives these days.

So, let's put that argument about offline and online into context:

Yesterday I was on the Tube. I saw a series of digital outdoor escalator panels with a whole series of appealing , colourful images on. Space hoppers bouncing everywhere. It caught my eye.  But I couldn't see the brand / originator. Hmm. Intriguing but slightly confusing.

On the way back up said escalator a little later, I notice the same ads, and this time caught the end frame. Again, no brand mention, but it did say " Search: Spark something".  I made a mental note to look it up later.

Above the line advertising driving me to a search engine.  [geek fact, 67% of searches online are purportedly stimulated by activity offline]

This morning I duly searched, prompting PPC (paid search) result to appear, giving me somewhere to go but not many more clues.

Still intrigued, I follow the link which takes me to the Spark Something / Hoppervision site.

Where I am presented with a video and this invitation:

Join the world's first online invasion.[...]  Be part of the world's first ever online flash mob, Start by creating your own hopper.[...] Set it free and watch the mayhem start (don't worry we'll tell you where and when). 

Still no clue as to the brand behind it... until I noticed this give away clue.... when all of a sudden the notion of bouncing hoppers made a whole lot more sense [scans brain for large advertising campaigns I've ever seen folder, sub folder, brands that like things that are colourful and bounce....]

Ah ha, for the eagle eyed, the mystery is solved: Sony Ericsson!  Yes, OK it's a bit close to the Sony Bravia Bouncing Balls ad, but hey, imitation is flattery as I remarked upon in another recent post.

Obviously I did create my own hopper (at time of writing there are 2786 of them), happily agreed to set it off on it's own adventure wherever that might be, and now knowing that it's Sony Ericsson, equally happy gave my email address to see what happens next.

Whether I'd have been intrigued enough to handover my email without knowing that, I'm not so sure.

What do I think they could have done better?

Well,  a little bit of paid for search (PPC) spend on Bing might not have gone a-miss (naturally I searched on Google and Bing, and found nothing on the latter, which is a bit rubbish given it is growing, and also this kind of quirky web mystery appeals to us geeky-types who feel bound to try new things out a lot).

Some sort of search engine optimisation (SEO) might have got their site showing up in the natural search results, potentially saving them paying for a few clicks. Instead they had nothing of relevance showing up above the fold.

Some clues on the site as to who was behind the initiative. Doesn't need to be glaring, just there somewhere, for re-assurance. Had I not noticed the clue I'd have been puzzled why I was being required to make decisions about signing up to Sony Ericsson's T&C's when I gave my email address.

Maybe I'd have made the outdoor creative I saw work a little harder by saying "search for" not just search, but also making that message appear mid-way through the creative rotations too. Quite a lot of people (including me) tend to run down escalators = less time to wait for the punchline = missed opportunity to engage.

I might also have bought the search terms "hopper ad" & ""space hopper ads" for the consumers that were sufficiently curious from seeing the ad but didn't catch the end frame.  They didn't, I checked. Instead I got this link up first to a marketing trade press article about the broader Sony Ericsson campaign. Fine for me. I'm in the industry, but would that really be what you'd want to expose the consumer to?

Points awarded for making on and offline work together in a cohesive fashion. Extra marks could have been awarded for greater attention to detail.  I was curious, I did search, find and participate, and now I've written this blog post about it = word of mouth/keyboard, even before I've found out where my Space Hopper's adventures will go next.

To be continued....

Friday, 18 September 2009

Google start selling display advertising too.

PPC, display, search, email, RSS, blogging, location, docs, diary... I could go on.

Google the one-stop shop for all your marketing and consumer needs?  Is it a good or a bad thing?  Tricky one.

Interesting article on the topic from the Media Guardian here.....

Use your Facebook vanity URL as a log in shortcut

50 million people signed up for their Facebook Vanity URL after they were released in June.

As of yesterday you can save yourself, oooh, seconds, by using it rather than your email address to log in to Facebook.

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Smartphone global penetration hits 17%

Just found some new data from Nielsen about smartphones. Cunning timing as I was hunting for it earlier in the week and finding numbers was proving tricky.

With most of us on 18-24 month contract renewal cycles these days there's a steady stream of people upgrading their handsets all the time.(Although I am increasingly thinking the future is in SIM only 30 day notice deals and buy the handset you want yourself as deals like that don't work with the pace of technological change if you want more from your device than just phone calls and texts).

72% increase in smartphone penetration Q1 to Q2 this year is pretty impressive, maybe 2009 really will be the year of mobile.  My real bet is on 2010, but there's some really cool things happening already in the mobile space, from augmented reality Layars to apps to new handset technology.

I was living and working in Italy in 1996, and remember being somewhat agog at seeing someone walking around a church with a phone clamped to their ear (maybe the big G is now communicating on a whole new level!?), so I'm not really surprised to see the Italians leading the way with smartphone penetration. They have always loved mobile, and many of them have multiple handsets on multiple networks because the inter-network call/text tariffs are bonkers expensive.  Thank goodness that's not quite the case in the UK as having to remember what network my friends are on would be a challenge.
What's interesting is that the in-the-grand-scheme small number of smartphone owners account for around half the mobile web browsing. 

Has your brand worked out its mobile strategy?

Cool visualisation of broadband penetration growth across the world

Geeky but cool, and you can play with the sliders to see progress unravel over time here.

4 million to over 400 million broadband subscribers in 10 years. What a difference that has made to our experience of digital as consumers. What a difference that has made to how we communicate.

Someone said to me recently that our generation wouldn't have much to show for themselves. No big wow inventions like the combustion engine.  Well, I would beg to differ.  We have a lot to thank Tim Berners-Lee for. The internet may not be perfect but it's evolving all the time and I can't imagine life without accesss to it's rich fount of information and entertainment.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Mashing is flattering

It's said that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

In the digital space someone wanting to play with your concept is generally considered to be a good sign of engagement and resonance with an idea.  The tweaked version is often referred to as a mash-up.

I've mentioned several times how great I think the Spotify / Fiat 500C partnership was, but today it's hats off to Peugeot.  They clearly recognise smart thinking when they see it.  Whether Fiat will feel flattered or not by a concept that so clearly ressembles their own I know not....

...but as with all good mash-ups it's a variant on the original: The Peugeot Drivesexy Spotify playlist adds a chart / voting element that goes beyond the Fiat 500C (original) campaigns notion of song nomination.

There are 20 tunes in the "Drivesexy Tunes Most Popular Today" playlist which is a little different from the 2.5k in the Fiat 500C Playlist but there's every reason to believe that it is a daily play list (I'll be checking tomorrow) unless the inclusion of "She's like the wind" from the Dirty Dancing sound track is entirely co-incidental and unrelated to Patrick Swayze's death yesterday.(Update: It does refresh, new tracks today 17th Sept, including the one I submitted)

In my humble opinion though they might be missing a trick: Fiat did a great job of combining involvement with the opportunity to build a relationship. Peugeot let you submit a track without any sign up (I had to try of course), only requiring you to submit details if you were bothered about winning an iPod (which I wasn't, I've got 2 already). Arguably no sign-up = less barrier to entry, but also less ongoing value to the brand as it's a wasted opportunity to build a relationship, in a world where relationships with consumers are becoming more and more desirable and valuable than ever before.  Fiat flagged their presence on Twitter and have been using it to talk to me on an ongoing basis.  Bravo! No Fiat pun intended. Honest.;-)

Facebook adds its' own version of Google Labs

Dig around the apps directory on Facebook, and you'll now find a "Prototypes" section with a few new toys to play with.

I liked the addition of the Photo Tag Search option enabling you to search photos for specific people / groups of people.Fun!  But yet another good reason why you should make sure that your are making sensible choices over what you are allowing particular groups of people to see.

Unsure about whether you should accept your boss as your friend?  Just limit what they can see!  I read this useful post recently, by Jeremiah Owyang, which has some handy guidelines in if you are unsure as to how to go about it.

Personal brand management, I keep mentioning it, because it's IMPORTANT!

Blogger celebrates 10th Birthday

Blogger (the Google-owned blog platform) turned 10 last week.

(Photo credit:

The site announced it has 10 million active users (i.e those who have posted something new over the last month).

The number of 7-day active users has doubled over the last 2 years, & Blogger-powered blogs (like this one) generate 300million unique visits a month.

In an average minute there are 270,000 words written on the platform. Wow!

Facebook users top 300 million

Facebook announced yesterday that they've added another 50 million users since July bringing them up to 300 million globally, and, with the launch of the less resource hungry Facebook Lite last week, that figure can only be set to grow further.

Only another 7 million to add then until the number of Facebook subscribers equals the entire population of the USA.

Zuckerberg also added that they've finally broken even / made it into the black, notably ahead of their forecast of 2010.

I'm a big fan of (unofficial) site for it's fun and interactive interface showing Facebook users by country / % of online population thereof amongst other random and useful stats.
However,  as with so many things on the web, take the numbers as directional not as gospel.

I read an interesting article yesterday about the UK Government's inspirational creative mathematics on illegal downloads. Impressive!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

The power of the people

Yesterday, the trailer to Michael Jackson's This is it movie launched on YouTube.

In under 24 hours it's already garnered 61k views, propelling it to #42 in the video viral charts. (I'll overlook the use of the word viral in the title but it's wrong wrong wrong)

Pretty impressive numbers, if not really that surprising, when you think of the global appeal of the icon that was Michael Jackson. In fairness, it's a pretty good cut (as you would expect) that gives you a nice bitesize serving of the creative genius that the world fell in love with (just in case you aren't suffering from Michael Jackson fatigue).

Apparently it will release in cinemas worldwide from 28th October for 2 weeks only.

Money on for a pre-Xmas DVD release then.

Shortcuts on the mind

I've just been writing about the Fiat 500C playlist on Spotify which is a brilliant shortcut to some tunes that make you smile, without having to go to the trouble of making a deliberate decision about what to listen to as filter to general office background noise.

It saves me time and mental energy in the morning. Great.

That started me thinking about other shortcuts in this busy world we live in, and how brands can provide services and build affinity by providing them in the right places, in the right formats and making them accessible at the right times. I've been pondering a lot this morning on the value of context-based marketing for brands (more on that another day).

So with context and shortcuts on my mind, into my Tweetdeck popped a link from a friend of mine to Google Fast Flip.

Shortcut #1: info coming to me in 140 characters or less from people I trust

Shortcut #2: GoogleLabs taking a leaf out of the book of the sadly now defunct / due to be revamped search engine SearchMe (which I loved), by bringing out an at-a glance visual look of the news by category. Have a play. Then think about what made you choose article A over article B. Design/layout? Copywriting? Source brand? Images?

Shortcut #3: Whilst listening to said Fiat 500C playlist as I wrote this post, up popped a track by The Specials which made an instant connection in my brain to the fantastic Walkers Crisps Do us a Flavour campaign from last year. Pretty impressive given that I only ever saw their online content, TV not featuring much in my life. (Although I confess I did write a case study on it as a brilliant example of digital glue in action).

Freaky. But proof that multi-sensory cues work.

Ongoing happiness thanks to Fiat 500C

Yup, as predicted in my original post about the Fiat 500c Happiness playlist on Spotify, 2 months later I'm still regularly listening to it, albeit I've also recently added some other "shortcuts" from I'm also looking increasingly fondly at the Fiat 500's I see around and about and whilst changing my Mini is on the cards, trading it for an even smaller boot really isn't practical so it's just going to have to be unrequited love, for now at least.

They ended up with 2498 submissions to their playlist (double click it and then double click within Spotify, & get in touch if you are in a Spotify market and would like an invite) which is not bad for a week long campaign. Then, having got people to engage with them, thumbs up for having twigged the importance of follow up in relationships. They emailed me just a few weeks later about their BIG SMILE event. Sadly I was away and couldn't make it, but they've been smart enough to put photos up on their website:

Then yesterday, I got a tweet announcing the voting is open for the Fiat 500C Top 50 feelgood tracks. More ongoing reasons for me to engage with the brand (I duly voted of course).

Shortcuts within shortcuts. Makes a huge amount of sense given Spotify's recent release of the iPhone and Android app. I'm looking forward to adding the Fiat 500C top 50 happy tracks playlist soon.

Bitesize is good on mobile. Especially given the purported short-ness of battery life for iPhone 3GS.

I'm looking forward to my next Fiat 500C smile-instigator.

Friday, 11 September 2009

More from my favourite meerkat...

I just can't help myself writing about my meerkate mate Aleksandr (again).

He just makes me smile.


Several times a day in fact.

I love the way he makes topical commentary AND actually responds to his fans on Twitter. I'd urge you to go and read the conversations. They never fail to make me happy. The creative team behind Aleksandr are clearly having a fabulous time and heaps of fun.

It is so lovely to see a brand which has grasped the value of dialogue with customers in building relationships.

I recently found some pretty impressive campaign results that speak for themselves too:
Read a full case study here. My car insurance is due in the next few weeks and I'll definitely be comparing the market, even if Aleksandr only compares meerkats:

Fancy Dress Fest

It's fancy dress music festival time with Bestival taking place on the Isle of Wight this weekend.
Photo credit to: louise-taziva via Flickr

For those of you going and who haven't quite got your outfit sorted, maybe you should take inspiration from this fun if gimmicky plaything from my buddies at Cartoon Network: Scooby-doo yourself.

Design Icons:the Tube Map

The first diagrammatic map of the Underground was designed by Harry Beck in 1931. It has become a design classic. Clear, easy to understand. Iconic. Which is perhaps why there are so many variations on it. I recently wrote about a mash-up that put pubs in relation to tube stations. Very handy.

Well, I've just come across this version which Vodcaster created based on the 250 best movies, as voted by users on the 19th of June 2009.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

From delight to disappointment; T-Mobile: FAIL.

T-Mobile: Fail. Badly.

Excuse the long post but I really feel the need to vent. The headline above says it all if you can't be bothered to read the whole sorry saga, but I do urge you to scroll to the bottom to read the last sentence.

I'm way out of contract on my mobile and have been debating my options for a while but there've been other things higher on the priority list. Last night I finally got around to starting an evaluation exercise on my actual mobile use in minutes / texts etc so I could evaluate the best deal/provider going forward.

You'd have thought that should/would be straight-forward. So I log in to my account, as I now get my bills online so I don't face the monthly charge of £2.13 (excluding VAT) to get a paper copy, to find that at a click I can get a breakdown of what I've paid by month over the two years or so (but not a total incidentally). Fine. But could I get the same for my usage? Oh no.

Still delighted by Caffe Nero

Last week I wrote about a Caffe Nero promotion that made me happy.

They're giving away a free coffee per week (for 4 weeks) at the Caffe Nero branch at my mainline train station to the holders of the mini-voucher-booklet they were giving out.

So having enjoyed my free coffee last week, I went back today wielding my voucher to be greeted by a smiling barrista who even tried to convince me that perhaps I'd like a larger size of coffee than the small one I ordered.

I enquired as to how redemption levels were this week (week 2) and he said they were good, and about level with last week. Good for them. That's a lot of happy people who might go back again after the end of the 4 week promotional period for the price of 4 free cups of coffee at cost. Rather a lot cheaper than a print ad, and very precisely targeted. Rather a lot of consumers who might tell their friends about Caffe Nero too.

Good stuff.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

New finds from the App-mosphere

The App economy is booming.

Apple report over $200m worth of sales a month. According to a presentation I found on SlideShare from Appsfire the average iPhone contains $80 worth of apps. 59p here and there is small change in the grand scheme of the price of a packet of peanuts in the pub but I can see how the totals soon rack up.

I'm already beginning to wonder whether there'll soon be apps that auto-position themselves on screen 1 or the last screen of your apps pages? Prime retail estate turf wars? Premier positions for the apps you use most frequently / are likely to use more regularly?

UPDATE Thurs 10th Sept 09: I was a day ahead of myself there, yesterday Apple announced a raft of improvements to organising your apps easily.

The Android marketplace now has over 10,000 apps available and is growing healthily. T-mobile's PAYG Android Pulse handset due for release in October can only help demand.

Creating a good app, irrespective of the platform it's destined for, doesn't require the brain of Einstein. You need all the usual ingredients of good content: make it useful, or fun as good starting points. If you are a brand looking to enter the app-mosphere then work out how your brand equity /territories can be creatively applied. Nor do you always have to spend hours wracking your brains and start from scratch. There's a HEAP of apps available (some free, some paid for) that can provide inspiration or in some cases white label versions for quick and easy customisation.

Have a search around uQuery for iPhone apps or Androlib for Android apps.

Be inspired. (Or just plain freaked out or appalled depending on what you searched for / find). It's not hard to deliver something valuable with a little bit of research and creativity applied. Failing which, listen to the crowd for insight on what consumers think of iPhone apps over at Appolicious. Social networking meets e-pinions meets appstore meets delicious. It's got a way to go to be really useful / comprehensive but it's a starting point in seeing progression and improvement in the dynamics of the app-economy where volume based Top XX lists have so far been the clearest indicators of success/ signposting.

Digital Top Trumps

This morning I found this entertaining if thought provoking hierarchy of digital distractions over at Information is Beautiful. I've put it in the melting pot of my current thinking around changing communication preferences.

What would your digital Top Trumps deck look like? Telephone calls trump tweeting? Texts trumps conversation? It shouldn't do but frequently you see people distracted by the allure of that flashing light announcing an unread message. Behave!

Monday, 7 September 2009

The changing face of quality communications

I've been thinking about evolving communication styles and preferences a lot recently. I have so many different ways to communicate with people now: face to face, phone, letter, text, IM, Skype, email, Twitter, Facebook... the list goes on. That's even before you add in other places I can share stuff whether that's here on my blog, photos on Flickr, KodakGallery, Posterous, videos on YouTube or Vimeo, or even just sound bites on AudioBoo (not that I've resorted to that yet).

I have some spaces that are deliberately open, me mini-casting to whoever cares to read or trip over my ramblings. I have some spaces that are closed networks with my musings only available to a limited number of dedicated or approved recipients.

I have some people that I only use a particularly communications method to stay in touch with. I have other people who I communicate with across a variety of platforms depending on context. Heavens, I even have some people I actually see or speak to, and others to whomI enjoy taking the time out to refill my fountain pen and actually write to! Such things seem old fashioned these days but at least you can express sentiment rather more easily in person or on the phone when a raise of the eyebrows or a hint of sarcasm can add depth to the words.

Sentiment is so often missed, or mis-construed in a world increasingly written-word centric. Mountains made out of molehills by the absence of a smiley. But is that a sarcastic smiley or just a happy smiley!? ;-)

What we are saying in all these different spaces is interesting too. Mundane mutterings. Self-promotion. Self-less sharing. There's a time and a place for all but frequently the lines are being blurred by time-pressure on our lives, and we start resorting to lowest common denominator behaviour. I can't be bothered to email x or y so I'll just stick out a broadcast post on my Facebook status. Fail. Facebook status posts are a useful tool in the repertoire but not a substitute for quality communication with your friends.

Years ago I was introduced to Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. He introduced the notion of the emotional bank account. Some of your friends / colleagues / contacts make positive contributions and others definitely just keep on debit-ing. Friendship is a two way street, and there are times when inevitably you'll make debits but they need to be counter-balanced by credit from time to time too. Think about it. Credit in pennies from Facebook status updates broadcast to all. Credit in Pounds for genuine efforts made. Then relate that to your brand communications. Are you flooding your customers with overwhelming emails / texts / tweets? Are you providing them with interesting relevant and valuable information? Credit v debit is a fine balance, particularly in our relationships with brands where we are likely to be less tolerant than we are with our friends.

My friend Fran kindly sent me this link to an interesting article on Facebook Fatigue from the Wall Street Journal. Interesting stuff. It also reminded me of this video on Facebook etiquette that I found months ago. Tongue in cheek but it makes some good points.

Sharing the easy way with Posterous

I tripped over Posterous via my friend and designer-buddy Mark a while back. It's great: easy-peasy to set up and use, a parking space and platform to share the interesting things you find on the web, ideal for those that don't have time or can't be bothered to set up and maintain a blog via Blogger, TypePad or Wordpress.

Set up your own personalised space in all of the time it takes to send an email, get given a unique email posting address and that's it you are off. Share your content just by emailing it, or easier still, add the Posterous button to your browser.

Too easy.

Mark posted an interesting thought on the originality of content. Check it out.

Spotify App for iPhone now available

At last! Premium Spotify subscribers can get Spotify on their iPhone or Android-powered mobiles

Friday, 4 September 2009

I make no apologies, it's Friday afternoon

My brain is fried, my politically correct sensor has been dulled and I found this quite funny. I don't speak German either so apologies to any readers that do if the effect isn't quite as good. I intend no offense at all.

This parody of it is even funnier, because it also makes a half serious point about intellectual property / copyright on the web. In this era of sharing, crowdsourcing and genorosity I'm a big believer in Creative Commons.

I can see the wave rolling ever closer

26 days and counting until Google Wave comes into proper, non-developer, beta status.
Can't wait. I hope I'm one of the 100,000 test invite recipients, having signed up forthwith in May. 30th September. I'll be ready.

Electronic communication is going to take on a whole new real time state. It might take some getting used to but I'm up for the challenge.

Music mash up

I've stumbled across a miscellany of interesting or quirky pieces of content this week. All of which I've been pointed to via personal recommendation (i.e influenced by people I trust). In one case someone I know, in another by someone I follow on Twitter because they have an interesting point of view). See, it does work!

I'm not quite sure what to say about this first piece of content. It's a collaborative music and spoken word project enabling you to compose you own music 2.0 piece via interacting with a selection of music / word related videos pulled from YouTube.

Go play

Then, mad as a box of frogs, is this site which if nothing else will hopefully serve to convince you that you should never let your creative ideas be limited by notions that the technology isn't there to deliver it!

Last weekend I ended up with a song lyric challenge that was driving me nuts, but happily was resolved speedily with a bit of help from Lyricrat. Bookmark it.

Making a song and a dance this week...

Hurrah! Apple approved the Spotify iPhone app. To be available soon (date tbc) for Spotify Premium users but you'll be able to cache music / playlists to listen to when you are not online/connected. Scratch the new iPod from the Amazon wish list then.

Spotify have also started to create a PAYG retail model for Spotify Premium in Sweden so it's bound to be in a newsagent near you before too long.

On the subject of PAYG, T-Mobile announced the launch of the 1st PAYG Android phone, (to be called the Pulse) with release date set for October. A princely £180 of the Queen's finest pounds to you. Dear Father Christmas.....

YouTube and the PRS kissed and made up (although there was purportedly a cash lump sum involved too) so all your favourite music videos will be back online again soon.

YouTube also LovesFilm (or thinks it might): YouTube are trialling a full length film rental subscription service amongst 10, 000 Google employees after securing deals with a number of major studios.

Whilst we're on the subject of movies, here's a nice film showing the evolution of visual effects in film over time. Once you've worked in animation you can't but help like these things!

Web based catch-up tv services will no longer be confined to viewing on your laptop after Sony announced that you'll be able to connect your Sony Bravia TV, Blu-ray player or Home Cinema to your broadband, and did a deal with Channel 5 for their Bravia Internet Video Service, so you won't have to ever miss Neighbours or have to watch it hunched over a laptop.

But conversely the need to be connected but not weighed down by a huge laptop has seen Netbooks take 22% of worldwide portable computer sales in Q2 this year.

And finally.... There are now 104 Twitter-ers who have more than a million followers. Amazon celebrated recruiting their millionth follower by giving away a free mp3. E-Crm - it's all about value exchange.

Search stats update

In July 2009 there were 113 billion searches globally says Comscore

Google snaffled 76.7 billion of them (giving them a 67% share of the market)

32% of all searches originated in Europe, with searchers on average looking up 116 things in a month. APAC accounted for 31% and North America just 22%.

I've decided that Bing's changing photos every day is like an advent calendar (the proper ones before it was just an excuse for a daily dose of rubbish chocolate!). It's become a daily habit to just swing by in the morning and check. I've also noticed that I am more likely to use Bing for searches throughout the day if I particularly like the picture that day.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Surprised and delighted

I'm a glass half full kind of girl. I try to see the good in everything. I love spontaneity and surprises. I'd much rather have good things to say about a brand than not. I'm a maven, a connector and an influencer on a wide and varied array of subjects.

In an increasingly inter-connected world 6 degrees of separation are often more than ample. Touchgraph have an interesting app that shows the inter-connectivity clusters of your friends on Facebook. The results are really interesting when you then think about the potential of influential reach from a brand / word of mouth perspective.

I'm a coffee snob and not afraid to admit it. As my poison of choice, I'd rather have no coffee than bad coffee. I'm not the biggest fan of chain coffee shops, albeit I love the fact that they provide an alternative to sitting drinking in the pub.

I like what Starbucks are doing in the social media space but dislike their take on coffee. Maybe it's having lived in Italy but in my world a cappuccino is a game of thirds: a shot of espresso, made up with an equivalent amount of hot milk, and the same of foamy milk. Not a half litre of warm very loosely coffee flavoured milkshake.

But if I had to opt for a UK coffee chain of choice it would be Caffe Nero. I don't go very often but I will go the extra distance to visit one if take out coffee is in order. I have a loyalty card tucked in with my train pass. I pass a Caffe Nero at the end of the train station platform every morning and evening. So I'm already a convert and an advocate to some degree. Yesterday morning they were giving out little cards with coupons for a free coffee of your choice once a week for the next four weeks.

Wow! That's nice. What a surprise.

So this morning I stopped to take advantage of the offer and was hugely amused to find the 2 people in the queue in front of me pro-offering their vouchers in a somewhat sheep-ish this is too good to be true kind of way. So British.

But I bet they tell a few people. I'd also wager next time they are in the mood for take out coffee at the station they'll head for Caffe Nero, not one of the many other options. Goodwill, influential word of mouth and future sales all for the cost price of a free cup of coffee. Smart.

Surprising and delighting your existing or potential consumers doesn't have to be complicated or expensive.

Cyberstalking - an amusing how to for parents

I've spent many years of my life working in America or with Americans (bless them) who for the most part have had a very under-developed sense of humour, or grasp on irony and sarcasm. I have been to Bentonville. 'Nuff said.

Luckily I also have a LOT of super-smart and well travelled US friends and colleagues so I know that there are plenty of people that buck the trend. I will forever thank them for having introduced me many many many years ago to The Onion. The Onion is a US satirical publication which I've been reading online fairly frequently since 1998. How's that for loyalty? Moving with the times it is doing more and more video content that frequently has me in stitches.

So as it's back to school/college/university season, they've done a take on cyberstalking for parents AKA idiots guide to social networks for the digitally uninitiated. In its own way I think it makes an interesting point about the importance for parents to join the digital revolution so that they can help their kids realise the potential consequences of sharing too much information.

Personal brand management is more important than ever.


Facebook, Twitter Revolutionizing How Parents Stalk Their College-Aged Kids

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Dealing with Pesky Twitter Spam

I do like Twitter. It's a useful tool fulfilling several communications needs for me. However, I have found that the number of pesky spammers wanting to follow me and then requiring me to actively go and block them has grown in recent weeks. Grrr.

So applause and cheers for the people behind Tweet Blocker that are aiming to do something about it. Fair play to them for having blocked 73k spammers so far.

Smiles to Twitter themselves too for having a sense of humour. I clicked on an email alert link from someone I believed to be Tweetspam this morning in order to check whether it was or not, and found that the Twitter spam blockers had got there first (hurrah, one less click for me to have to make) and instead were displaying this nicely worded message:

I do like smart use of error messages. 404's should be banned. I recall Digg being down at one point and instead of a boring 404 error they'd smartly stuck up a page saying oops, problem, we're trying to fix it ASAP, but whilst we do, here's a handful of sites we'd recommend you look at instead. What a great example of turning around what could have been a moment of negativity and frustration into something more positive. I was looking for an image to share with you on that one but along the way found this link to an assortment of other interesting examples , so I'll share that instead. Enjoy.