Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Take some time to listen...

Conversation. It happens naturally all the time.

The recipe:
2 or more participants, something of common interest to discuss, share or exchange.

The method:
Talk, listen, reflect, respond. Repeat.

If you are not listening it's not a conversation it's a monologue.

We've all been cornered by a bore at a party, more interested in their own voice than allowing us to interject or contribute. It's not fun.

Yet so many brands persist at shouting at us. 

Attempts to question, get answers, make suggestions studiously ignored or quashed by 0870 help lines, and automatic telephone systems. Press # to take you right back to that Mastermind-beating combination of menu choices none of which obviously meet your need or question. Grrrrr.

So fairplay to Eurostar who've had their share of bad press recently over the service disruptions caused  by the cold snowy weather we experienced before and after Christmas, but were being praised by some of my London based French colleagues who were caught up in the chaos as they tried to head home for Christmas. They were telling me that they'd received great service and answers to questions via the Eurostar Facebook page, at a point where they were finding it hard to get useful information via the website, nor via phone.

No prizes, for not having got the web or customer care centre service levels right, but at least being able to get case by case answers via Facebook turned a lot of angry rants into grateful thanks.

Why? Because they listened to the questions and answered them. That's how it should be in a conversation. A dialogue. There's a real mixture of comments  and queries on the page, but worth a look to see how they are using it. The tone is friendly, there's clearly a degree of "the official line is" but also trying to resolve problems as best as possible, or at least manage people's expectations which is clearly being appreciated.

To me, that counts rather more than this rather clumsy execution of a full page print ad that appeared in yesterday's Metro.

It is the thought that should count, but they should have talked to the Facebook team, and delivered a more human message.  The print ad, weeks after all the disruption occurred, feels a bit like an unrepentent child being forced to say sorry.

And where's the link to their Facebook page?  Doh.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Evaluating digital propositions the KPMG way

This KPMG tool designed to help you evaluate the strength of your digital idea's value proposition has been sitting on my "tabs to read" radar for a week or so now but I am glad I finally got around to playing with it.

Useful to have many of the many metrics you should consider stacking your idea up against in one place.
Not all of them will be relevant to every proposition, but it was food for thought I considered worthy of sharing, so here's the link to the working version for you to play with. 

Remember, that as is so often the case with ideas in the digital realm, it's choosing the right combination of ingredients, that are the secret to a successful recipe.  Too many and your offering becomes flavour overloaded, too few it's too bland and dull, too many expensive ingredients and the number of diners who can afford the dish drops.  Sometimes that's a good thing, sometimes it's not, it depends on your objectives.

Digital alchemy is a dark art but ask yourself some sensible questions, and base your answers on your knowledge of who you are trying to engage with and you stand a chance of making the "specials" board and then letting the diners rave to their friends and come back for more.

Nice image I found from Bristol restaurant the Olive Shed via Bing

Monday, 18 January 2010

My first mobile blog post - need driven

Grrrr. I have had no network connection at work for over an hour. No web, no email, no Twitter, no access to documents I was hoping to work on, no Spotify.

Then I remembered my iTouch was in my bag. That solved music, and given the office WiFi network is distinctly patchy near my desk I have had to resort too my trusty Hero for email and Twitter. And now blogging.

Yet strangely,the Android appstore doesn't seem to boast a decent Blogger friendly app. That seems a bit odd as it is a Google platform and the Hero integrates my gmail so seamlessly that I can start writing an email on my Hero, and continue it via gmail on my laptop still with the phone in my other hand. Ace for gmail, d+ for Blogger.

Maybe I can see the point of tablets after all!

In the interim I might just have to relocate to a WiFi enabled coffee shop with my laptop, as keyboards on phones are functional but not practical for fast typing.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Another genius winter -related product idea

Last week I mentioned how glad I was of my snow-chains-for-shoes, YakTracks. The snow started to melt at the weekend, but this morning I woke up to this again, so my YakTracks have been pressed back into service.

This weeks genius product are DotsGloves - toasty gloves with grippy finger tips which get around the fact that my multi-touch phone / devices don't work with gloves on as I posted about frustatedly before Christmas.  The notion of having to have a spare "snow phone" is a bit bonkers. Albeit having to buy special gloves to use your phone is notionally madness too.

My friend Mark, kindly just tweeted me this "how to customise your existing gloves" link too.  Needle and thread time!

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Believe in influence / word of mouth and power of social search

I offer you in evidence,  the following screengrab fresh from my Facebook newsfeed:

1) Someone asking his friends (not Google or Bing) for help / cake recipe advice
2) 3 responses, the first in just 5 minutes

3) Two of the responses cited / recommended brands (Mrs Beeton & Waitrose)

Think about the importance of that as a consumer behaviour, only likely to be amplified in the future: - No search engine used, no chance as a brand to intervene via paying for "sponsored links" , just the advice of people you know and trust.

That's why the time is now to build relationships between consumers and brands, based on product or service experience that delivers certainly, but far beyond that also allows the brand to nudge in a relevant way, on a regular basis to remain top of mind  (and not always necessarily based on product benefit / ad lead news).

Sure, you won't necessarily be able to control when those pearls of wisdom are passed on, but does that always matter? Have trust in your consumers, they can work out when it's relevant all by themselves.  The brand gets recommended, the sharer gets "friendship brownie points" for helping out / providing trust advice.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Consumer Electronics Show Take Outs & Misc case studies

Busy day, so here's a round up of interesting trends / technologies coming out of last week's CES.

On my other "interesting and useful" things to read today:

Twitter Case Studies

Interesting article from Harvard Business Review on Ford's use of bloggers / social outreach to launch the Fiesta in the USA.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Google "SuperPhone" good but still can't make tea!

The two big tech events of the week are

1) CES (the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas), which is basically one enormous santa's grotto for tech and gadget lovers, full of shiny toys and promises of things to come (more later on that).

2) the launch of the first Google phone, the Nexus One.

There was hefty expectation of what the phone would do, but in reality Google's first move into vertical integration (making and selling handsets direct to the consumers) didn't really deliver anything hugely surprising.  Well at least not to me, most of the leading smart phones, irrespective of the operating system they are based on do the same thing: provide pocket-sized computing services on the go.  And none of them can turn the kettle on yet before I get up /  home. I am sure that is just a matter of time

What does it do better than my HTC Hero?  Well it has a 5 megapixel camera with a flash  so that's an improvement but otherwise.... not much really that I can't do already.  For me the big thing Google / Android need to fix to seriously compete with Apple is to allow you to save apps to external memory (micro SD) +/or significantly increase onboard memory. I can add seemingly limitless numbers of apps to my iTouch/iPhone without affecting performance, but download too many on the Android based phones and they start running out of processor capability pretty fast.

The real "big deal" about this launch is the fact that you have to buy it straight from Google direct:

By cutting out the handset manufacturer that gives them a huge degree of influence / control over what they include as features.

Not to mention how much greater share of insight / data they get on usage behaviour in addition to all the other things the reveals they know about your online behaviour already.  I think it's also interesting from a directional point over the entire Android developer community. Developers for Apple iPhone apps are all working to the same handset, whereas by making the Android operating system open source there are already strands developing that fragment towards Motorola Droid / HTC phones and so the presence of a Google phone on the Google owned operating system potentially leads direction amongst the pack. Throw in the increasingly direct and tangible relationship with the consumer via an object that is on hand 24/7, 365 days a year and it makes for interesting times ahead in the battles between [inherently, should be invisible] technology provider and consumer  to brand relationships across multiple touchpoints.

All that notwithstanding I think this is going to be a really year for mobile and the Android platform in particular. We shall see.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Brand advocacy via (e-)word of mouth can occur at any time...

Many Marketers are slowly beginning to get their heads around the power of word of mouth brand advocacy (or seeing every consumer as an OTT (Opportunity to Talk)).  Great!  And whilst it's easier than ever before to get some sort of handle on what consumers are saying via buzz monitoring / listening tools (of which there are many), it's still a real struggle for them to understand that you can't deliver predictable reach within a given time period like you can on TV.

Which is not to say that reach can't be achieved by Word of Mouth. Wrong. It's harder to predict and to be exact in the measurement but if you are stressing about that you've kind of missed the point.

Consumers will only talk about things that are relevant to them or they believe are relevant to their potential audience when it suits them. And they'll do it in their own way.  Which doesn't necessarily mean repeating what's written on the pack / voiced in the advert.

So to make the point (whilst I am on a snow-related blogging theme)... Yesterday I spontaneously posted this shout out about what I've called "snow chains for shoes" (which is not what they called them on the limited cardboard insert packaging) on Facebook...

Utterly genius product idea, from a brand called YakTrax,that I happened to have tripped over before I headed for the mountains at Christmas, found to be brilliant, and never thought I'd be needing to wear in London anytime soon.

So why did I post it!? Because I was happy to share my brilliant find with my friends, who equally might find them useful especially now that yesterday's snow has frozen and turned a lot of places into lethal skating rinks.  Yes,  I might get some vague intangible recognition / friendship brownie points from my friends for sharing but mostly I did it because I think it's a great product that deserves to be shouted about, and it was contextually relevant.

I also emailed a pile of people (mostly older people not on Facebook), so it was more than just a shout out in one channel to one audience.

Will YakTrax ever be able to attribute an actual value to my promotion of their products. Unlikely. Will they nonetheless have gained awareness from my action.  Certainly.

Full marks for contextual relevance...

Yes, it's snowing (yet) again in London, and my newsfeed on Facebook is covered in pretty pictures of snowmen, tobogganing fun and snow-laden trees.  Like many I worked from home yesterday.  This was the view out my window at lunchtime and it snowed for 5 hours after that.

Full marks to UK ladies underwear (r)e-tailer Bravissimo for being on the pulse with their paid search activity - a colleague spotted this yesterday...

Applause owing too to book retailer Waterstones for making the e-shot they just sent me relevant too.  Good stuff.  Timely, and contextually relevant.

But will the Postman make it through!?

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

iPhone App downloads hit 3 billion, Google launch Nexus One handset

Apple announced earlier today that app downloads by iPhone and iTouch users have topped 3 billion. They didn't specify how many apps are now available but it's believed to be 115k+.

I rustled up a quick graph of how quickly those big milestones are being surpassed.

But with the imminent official launch today of the Google "iPhone beater", the Nexus One, plus the aggressive marketing efforts for the Motorola Droid I saw whilst I was in California over Christmas I reckon the Android platform should be an interesting one to watch this year.  There's more to apps than Apple, and if you are ignoring BlackBerry, Android and the other platforms you are missing tricks.

Enough already, I am bored of "best of 2009's"

Gosh, every third Tweet I've seen in the last few days / site I follow seems to be obsessed with end of year round ups.  Yes they have a place of course, but let's learn from 2009 and look forward people!

Predicting the future is a tricky business, especially with the pace of technological change showing no signs of slowing, but if I have to nail my colours to a post for 2010 it will be the year that mobile marketing (finally) makes it to the mainstream.  Dammit, I'm only just getting my head around my HTC Hero and iTouch and now there's the Google Android Nexus One mobile on the horizon. Maybe that will fit in my pocket a little better!?  Can't wait to get my hands on one of those to have a play.

But on the subject of futurology, I have to tip my hat to the 1981 book Tomorrow's Home by Neil Ardley.  Have a read of the text accompanying this image here - scarily accurate.

How fast is your broadband?

Lack of available connectivity drives many of us nuts these days (even my parents now have a 3g Dongle so they can Skype from anywhere) but the quality of service delivered varies dramatically across not just individual location, rural v urban, but also internationally.

Check this graphic out:

The Big Buzz brand charts of 2009 & some thought starters for 2010

Vitrue publish a chart every year on the "noisiest" brands in social media, ie, the ones that get most blog posts, videos, images posted etc as opposed to the providers of the spaces (so Google/YouTube/Facebook etc not included).

It probably won't be a huge surprise that in the top 10 were:
iPhone, Disney, CNN, MTV, NBA, iTunes, Wii, Apple, Xbox and Nike.

Adidas was the big mover and shaker jumping from #85 in the 2008 charts to #14 in 2009.  (Incidentally I read yesterday about a new Adidas campaign / concept where via a QR code printed on the tongue of certain new trainers/a webcam you can create an augmented reality games console/experience)

Find out who else was making a song and dance in social media last year here...

Then, the ever-interesting Springwise sent me a mail this morning linking to some interesting thoughts on areas of new business opportunity we might see more of in 2010.  Well worth a peruse.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Interesting presentation trivia (stats)

I spent an awful lot of last year writing or presenting Powerpoint, decks adorned with as many pictures as possible, because lots of people remember images more easily than lots of words.  So as a subject frequently on my mind (rightly or wrongly!) I couldn't help but click when I  found the presentation below via one of my blogger buddies (thanks Helge).

Being still full of seasonal goodwill I thought I'd save you the click and embed it here too. It's an interesting deck on facts and stats on presentations uploaded to the fantastic resource that is Slideshare.

Slideshare (if you don't know about it already) is a fascinating realm of interesting presentations on all manner of topics, generously shared by all sorts of people. If you've never explored it, I'd urge you to do so, it's an amazing resource.

SlideShare Zeitgeist 2009
View more documents from Rashmi Sinha.

It's pretty inevitable that I'll be writing presentations this year too, but I am planning on ringing some changes and having a play with the more dynamic format offered by Prezi.  I was intending to start playing with it over Christmas but somehow found other more diverting pursuits AFK (away from keyboard), exploring the techy heaven that is Silicon Valley.  I'll let you know how I get on.

Badging yourself with social media

Badges. Patches. Pins. Whatever you'd like to call them.

(Image courtesy of

Real or virtual they exist in many forms.

We all use them to make statements about ourselves, about things we like, things we dislike, things we like to associate with or be associated with: CND, Against Animal Testing, I [heart] NYC, bands, brands, causes, smiley faces. We use them to define status, prefect, sports captain, club ties, cufflinks etc.

As a teenager it was about badges on school bags or jackets, then there was that period which saw many of us wearing a rubber bangle, white for Make Poverty History or yellow for Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong campaign.

With most of us having at least one virtual identity these days in one or more digital spaces, be it Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, our badges are more and more likely to be digital ones, all saying different things about us to a given audience subject to the role of the space. (LinkedIn = primarily professional, Facebook = mostly personal connections/friends etc etc).  In fact, I  think the first digital badge I got (or in fact was awarded) several years ago now was a "1st million members" badge on LinkedIn.

We join groups in LinkedIn for multiple reasons, amongst them to add credibility to our professional profile; or, we choose to become fans of pages on Facebook or other social spaces for all manner of motivations. On Facebook in particular most of us do this to make a statement, serious, ironic or just downright silly, or to follow the crowd / our friends and virtually re-inforce our connections/feel part of the gang, just as we did in the playground at school.  Frequently, these actions are short term and a mere gesture, a click and a newsfeed item today, forgotten next week. Periodically I go back and do some housekeeping of the groups / pages I am a fan of: things I joined because they were relevant at a given time / context but no longer resonate get deleted.  Which is a fair analogy of where most brands sit in my life. Intermittent interactions based on need or context, some more frequent than others.

Yet most brands trying to get their heads around social media haven't figured that out yet. I am not obsessed by coffee/chocolate/shampoo/flight operators/gadgets or cars all day everyday.  Nor have brands (in the main) found the balance between being relevant and present in my digital life on a regular basis without all communication having to be product-feature based.  That's one of the reasons I like the Compare the Meerkat campaign so much. It entertains me regularly, subtly underpining the role of Compare the market in the insurance aggregator playing fields but without talking about premiums and excesses.

We can even makes statements via badging our Twitter icons via Twibbon, and as I posted about last year, the number of Twitter-ers sporting a poppy for remembrance day was an impressive 22k. I'm currently sporting an RNLI flag, as a cause dear to my heart.

People collect digital badges too - you often see them on blogs, re-assurance of credibility or belonging to a virtual community.  I just discovered an enormous collection of digital badges associated with my Twitter account via Osnapz.  Very pretty! In reality just another more attractive way of displaying data. But so often a picture tells a thousand words, much more interesting to see badges showing which countries I have followers in than for me to write a list....

So next time you go to join a group on LinkedIn or become a fan of something on Facebook think about what's motivating you to do it? Status? Tribalism?  Is it just click and run or do you intend to contribute and engage in a large or small way?  Then think about those answers when you are thinking about the role of social media for your brands.

Social media spaces are all about conversation and relationships. Deep and meaningful or one click stands. Your call.  Think about what you are seeking to achieve. Just numbers? XXX number of fans?  Lovely, if that's what helps you justify ROI, but is that really what you should be aiming for?  I'd rather have a meaningful, engaging ongoing relationship, even if at times when it's not relevant it's a relatively passive one. Sometimes less is more.

Top tracks of 2009 from Spotify

Those nice people at Spotify have kindly put together a playlist based on the most streamed tracks of 2009 across the 6 countries they are currently operating in. (Currently Sweden, Norway, Finland, the UK, France and Spain, although there might be a glimmer of hope for the US according to TechCrunch today).

Defer the what to listen to today decision by getting it here....

Starting the New Year with a meerkat movie

I've been mulling over all sorts of stuff over the Christmas break, particularly things of a mobile flavour, but for now I am going to content myself with starting 2010 with the latest from my favourite meerkat.

Yesterday, Aleksandr was teasing the launch of his new TV ad/film trailer and asking people to make an appointment to view it's debut on ITV.  Digital glue. Online driving eyeballs to offline. Nice.

The partnership with the London freesheet is still going strong, with this morning's paper featuring a prominent shout out for the trailer too....

The trailer is worth a watch - it's on the Compare the Meerkat site, just as if it was a studio release, and there's some great humorous touches in the way it's been put together, and encouraging people to sign up for news of the full release.  Smart. More people in the e-crm programme. Hints of more to come.

Go on, spare 60 seconds as you ease yourself back into work :-)