Monday, December 10, 2007

The computer is not personal again HP!!!


Let us all be professional and use PowerPoint to make all our presentations. We also need to use guidelines and ensure consistency in font size and location across all slides. Let us also have a department dedicated to designing the PowerPoint presentations so they all look consistent.
I would beg to differ. Consistent = Monotonous.
Here is a thought, why do sports coaches use pen and white board as opposed to PDAs?
When was the last time you saw a presentation on a flip chart or received a hand written letter?
I live in Dubai where people complain because everything is “perfect” and “neat” therefore impersonal. People miss the traditional old streets and buildings that are withering away.
Think of the spontaneity and passion in drawing a line on a flaw chart with the screeching sound of the pen as opposed to the click of a mouse and the appearance of that perfect line on a digital projector.
Just to clarify I’m considered a modern day geek, I love computers, the internet, and web 2.0 – but some things have a diluted effect when trying to make a point.

The way I see it is that you can either read a book to someone or tell a story, and the moment you click that mouse its like you are picking up a book – and no matter if you memorized the story, once you hold the book you are bound to read from it as opposed to tell it like a story.

Passion is what sells in a presentation, and when you are presenting you should be the presentation not the virtual image made on the white canvas by the projector. Whereas this analogy may seems a bit far fetched, but imagine a Yoga instructor showing slides on how to do Yoga as opposed to performing it! The most motivating person referred to in corporations is a football or basketball coach and I think us “suits” should learn more from them. Computers are good but not all the time, we need to show more spontaneity, improvise more and put more action into our presentations. After all there is a reason why paintings are more expensive than photos, and drawings are worth more than Photoshop generated designs. Another great example is black boards used by teachers, imagine class being taught over a PowerPoint (which is done in some cases).

My advice would be: when you have a meeting, think of how your performance can differentiate your presence in the room from an email, phone call, or even video conference.

Monday, November 26, 2007

The attention currency

Who does the money for advertising go to?
Traditionally advertising was intended to subsidize media. TV ads came about as a means for free to air channels to exist; they were sponsors of the TV medium. Similarly; press ads allow free or cheap publications, radio ads allow free radio channels or music, outdoor ads on highways allow toll-free roads, online ads allow free access to internet sites, and sponsorships make it affordable for us to watch live concerts in expensive venues by performs who earn more than the cumulative cost of all the attendees ticket costs.
This works, because as a customer you would accept someone force-feeding you advertisements in exchange for a free experience or a discount at least.

Advertising is considered a secure source of income, this is because it is a diversified investment from many industries (FMCG, Technology, Hardware, etc.) – and it is powerful to the extent that it can support an entire medium over generations, think of TV, newspapers and radio.

Something went wrong during this process as some people started becoming greedy.

Why does the municipality take the money for ads that target you on a highway, even when you pay a fair toll to get on it, and enough taxes to build roads? Or why do you have to see ads on airplanes when you clearly pay a lot of the money for airfare? Why are we forced to watch ads in taxis when we clearly pay the full fair? Why are we given branded boarding passes to planes that we pay for?

I presume this is because you the consumer are being sold. If you walk into a pharmacy, this pharmacy owns your attention and will then sell it to ‘dietary supplement’ brands and the like in the form of shelf talkers and display stands.

In these cases, entity X is taking money from an advertiser to get the share of attention that you may have innocently given to X. I would personally much rather get that money myself! To put it simply if my attention is worth $0.5, why should the pharmacy get that money instead of me? Will advertisers eventually develop their own media in which you view an ad and get a dollar?

In summary, it pays to be popular (literally), and the next time you say “now you have my attention” you should prepare an invoice.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Important figures about Facebook & Microsoft

- Facebook shows an estimated $150 million in revenue

- Facebook has recently been valued at $15 billion

- 24-year-old Mark Zuckerberg is now worth between 3 and 5 billion dollars

- Facebook has 50 million users today

- FaceBook’s revenue model today rests on banner ads and $1 virtual gifts.

- Microsoft was willing to pay $240 million for a 1.6 percent slice of Facebook

- Microsoft wanted to block Google from horning in on its advertising relationship with Facebook.

- Facebook is Microsoft’s largest advertising partner.

- Microsoft -- CEO Steve Ballmer has publicly boasted that
online advertising will be 25 percent of Microsoft's revenue within a few years -- it's currently a big disappointment, and is the only major division of Microsoft that's losing money

- Online Services Business, which encompasses online advertising, Live Search, MSN Messenger and Hotmail, among other things, showed a net loss of $262 million in the company's most recent quarter. Its revenues, $671 million, represented just 5 percent of the company's quarterly total.


All this information is available on wired

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Important Blogging Statistics


Here are a few statistics about blogging from the blog world expo taking place on November 8-9 in the Las Vegas convention center


- Over 12 million American adults currently maintain a blog.
- More than 147 million Americans use the Internet.
- Over 57 million Americns read blogs.
- 1.7 million American adults list making money as one of the reasons they blog.
- 89% of companies surveyed say they think blogs will be more important in the next five years.
- 9% of internet users say

they have created blogs .
- 6% of the entire US adult population
has created a blog .
- Technorati is currently tracking over
70 million blogs .
- over 120 thousand blogs are
created every day .
- There are over 1.4 million new blog posts
every day .
- 22 of the 100 most popular websites in the world
are blogs .
- 120,000 new blogs are
created every day .
- 37% of blog readers
began reading blogs in 2005 or 2006 .
- 51% of blog readers
shop online .
- Blog readers average
23 hours online each week .

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Virtual Reality (yeah right!)

We have been using the term virtual reality for a very long time, ever since the digital world existed, however with all our advances in the virtual world, very little was used to change / update our understanding of this term.
Here is the WikiPedia definition:
Virtual reality (VR) is a technology which allows a user to interact with a computer-simulated environment, be it a real or imagined one. Most current virtual reality environments are primarily visual experiences, displayed either on a computer screen or through special stereoscopic displays, but some simulations include additional sensory information, such as sound through speakers or headphones.

Is the best way we can link the digital world to reality through images, and movement? What about the virtual world interacting with the real one in terms of experiences?

Why can’t we buy real life stuff on second life, interact with brands on FaceBook (no I don’t mean web banners), or follow the progress of something real on twitter (other than our friends).

I am writing this article because I think there is a lot of potential on doing real things as netizens.

There has been several attempts to make people share their every minute thoughts and needs with everyone online or via SMS namely Blogger, FaceBook, Twitter, hi5, and ASW. All of these applications offer you a place to mention and constantly update your status, mood or needs. The issue with these programs is that they only link you to your friends (or friends or friends), but not those directly around you, and in many cases not to the people or items that you are looking for.

There is no conclusion behind this article.
Actually there is one that I would like to use as a premise to set up a company in the future.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Face Recognition for the lazy bastards


I bought a Sony camera a few weeks ago; one of the main reasons I chose Sony was because the camera had "face recognition" which allows the camera to recognize the people's faces in the frame and ensure that they are in focus. I thought this was a very handy feature in addition to "image stabilization", and the conventional "automatic flash" would allow my parents (whom I was buying the camera for) to take perfect photos under any circumstances, all they have to do is say "say cheese". But apparently not anymore, I just came across this article in the Economist:

Now face-recognition technology is getting even smarter. Next week, Sony is due to launch a digital camera that can be set so it won’t release the shutter until people in the picture are smiling. The software analyses the scene for facial expressions associated with happiness—including the upturn of the corners of the mouth, the separation of the lips, and the wrinkle of the eyes. You can designate which of up to eight people in the viewfinder to focus on, and select three different facial expressions: smile, grin or laugh.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Techtionary

Again, my affinity with wired is dictating my blog content. The below web2.0-influenced coined terms are sample content from Wired’s Geekipedia. All rights reserved.
I think they are a phenomenal representation of the latest trends and people’s adoption of them. You can vote for entries submitted by other readers on Geekipedia
here.

E-tard by Mike Smith
Someone, who despite repeat education on technology, are incapable of using it. Thus, Retarding (means to set back) the person even more as new technology comes out. These are the people who should be never allowed to us a computer; for all they will bring is headaches to those around them.


pry-vacy by TC

The "right" of your; boss, spouse, federal government to look at anything on your computer or cell phone. Warrant not included or necessary

Warcraftofile by Mike
Its what happens when girls in RL can't excite an otherwise healthy male who plays Warcraft.
When only jumping LVL12 druids can get the juices flowing.

Machinima by Paul Marino
A fusion of cinema, animation and video games, Machinima (muh-sheen-eh-mah) is the application of live-action filmmaking practices within a real-time 3D virtual environment - most often done using 3D video games.
Notable examples include Red vs. Blue (made using the Halo, Halo 2 and Halo 3), Person 2184 (Unreal Tournament 2004) and My Second Life (obviously, Second Life).

Wi-Five by Staphyl
The act of giving someone a high five without actually touching them, such as from across the room. Very useful if you cannot give physical contact, but would very much like to express your admiration or respect.

Blogologist by Jean Poulot
First recorded by Jean Poulot, September 19 2007 in Wired Geekipedia.
From blog, shorten form of weblog, from web and log, and logist, specialist.
An inarticulate person who has a strong opinion on things he or she does not know, who cannot spell or use punctuation properly, yet poses as an expert.
Synonym: One who rants, a wannabe, an alias user.
Antonym: An authority. Someone who does not respond to blog ranting.

Picnic by Dave
When responding to a desktop assistance help call the problem is simply user error and easily fixed. "P"roblem "i"n "c"hair "n"ot "i"n "c"omputer. "PICNIC" Thus it is as easy as going to a picnic.

mult-y-tasker by myerman
The uncanny ability of generation y workers to play WoW, IM their friends, listen to their iPod, write a report for the big client, and do none of those things well.

Monday, September 17, 2007

2014 as predicted by the Museum of Modern History

I don't feel I can comment on this, but believe that everyone should see it.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Web Trend Map 2007 Version 2.0

This post has been plagiarized from Stephanie the Web 2.0 guru.

The Japanese agency IA has released the 2007 version of the web trends:"The 200 most successful websites on the web, ordered by category, proximity, success, popularity and perspective. The original raster (the Tokyo metro map) has been substantially modified to fit the needs of an Internet Trend Map."LOVE IT!It just made me happy to see all my favorite sites gathered in one big funky map that makes sense (I'm such a web junky).Have a closer look at the map here.(the screen saver is really cool, but it's only available for Mac users)

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The telecom (re)branding lifecycle - Part III

This is part III of the article, please read Part I and PartII before:

Ad Agency: We need to prioritize the deliverables as they are unachievable by your launch date.
Some priorities are given but eventually the priority changes on a daily bases and many items are added to the list on a daily basis as the marcoms team find random stuff that need branding (from sugar sachets to the vouchers in the queuing machine)
Ad Agency: Here is the launch campaign we propose.
CEO: I do not like this campaign; I need something more grandiose that makes people cry and gives goose bumps.
Ad Agency: We need to talk to the customer on their level, we need to be their friends – our communication should not be very grand and give off the feeling that we are talking to them from our ivory tower, hence implying that we are unapproachable.
CEO: We have investors paying millions of dollars and they do not want friends, they want to see their accomplishments, you can do those friendly campaigns when launching products and services.
Ad agency: We do not recommend going with the selling line proposed by the CI agency as it does not make sense, and they are not the experts in this domain – here are a few proposals.
Marcoms (to agency): We need more options.
Marketing (to marcoms): We still need more options.
CEO (to everyone): I still need even more options, I want everyone to contribute to this process and involve all the staff.
After the final list and options are received no one likes any of the selling lines, and they decide to compromise by going with the one that they least hate.
Marketing: Let us have a big promotion for the launch, maybe buy a line and get XXX free credit in order to give the customer some benefit.
Ad Agency: NO! we cannot launch a new brand with a promotion it would cheapen the brand, and make the brand name seem week, we do not want to directly associate it with price reduction. If we are to launch with anything it should be a strong value proposition that is applied across the entire operation of the services.
A major debate across all the operations is held, and the CEO finally takes a decision on the launch promotion.
Marketing: We need to develop the campaigns for the products and services in line with the launch campaign.
Ad Agency: Here are the product and services ads.
Marketing: But these do not follow the same theme as the brand launch campaign.
Ad Agency: They cannot follow the same concept in the brand campaign in all ads especially since the campaign was too grandiose.
Marketing / Marcom: Then we need to develop a value proposition for our brand.
After many exercises to develop a value proposition going back and forth, they settle on a generic value proposition that has a very wide umbrella to fit all communications, along the lines of “better services” or “better prices” or “get more” or “live our brand”

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The telecom (re)branding lifecycle - Part II

This is part II of the article, please read Part I before:

Marcom: It is a very good we will give you the guidelines and you will need to develop all of the communication material. You need to become the brand guardians.
CI Agency: We need to remain the brand guardians and approve all of the work done by the agency.
Marcom (to CEO): We need to extend the contract of the CI agency beyond the logo development. As we need them to develop more collateral and ensure a smooth process. But we will ensure that everything is done according to guidelines
Marcom (to CI agency): You will be the brand guardians and we will send you all artworks to approve
Marcom (to Ad Agency): You need to be the brand guardians and ensure that everything is done according to guidelines
Marcom (to consultants): We need you to be the brand guardians and ensure that everything is done according to guidelines
The ad agency develops the first piece of communication according to guidelines, usually a very minor item i.e. application form
Marcom: No this is not according to guidelines we will send it to the CI agency to check
Consultants: This can work but please send it to the CI agency
CI Agency: No this is not according to guidelines
Ad Agency: The guidelines don’t specify anything about application forms, and this design fits everything proposed in the guidelines booklet
Marcom (to CI Agency): Can you please design the application forms for us
CI Agency: Sure, we will help you out with this. We will also amend the guidelines to include application forms
Ad Agency: Please we need a list of all the items that you need to (re) brand so that we assign the correct resources and give you a timelineMarcom (to Ad Agency): We have developed the attached list of deliverables here it is:


... to be continued

Sunday, September 9, 2007

The telecom (re)branding lifecycle - Part I

Here is a short script of a (stereo)typical telecom (re)branding lifecycle.

CEO: We need a strong human, emotional, and aspirational brand similar to Orange
Consultant: You need to build a monolithic brand to avoid having many sub brands which will be expensive to maintain and difficult to communicate with the blurring of boundaries that will result from convergence in the near future.
Marcom: But we have a lot of brand equity for our existing brand and sub-brands. Our prepaid name is very common in the market and people love it.
CEO: We will spend a lot of money on our launch campaign and will build strong equity very quickly.
Marketing: We cannot spend this much money on brand communications we have targets to achieve and we need to sell a lot of products. We should focus our budget on product communications and promotions, otherwise our competition will launch many offers and our customers will churn. Customers don’t care about the brand they are price sensitive and will go with the cheapest rates.
Consultants: We need to think long term, cutting prices in the short term would only get us un-loyal customers that will churn the next day, we need to have a long term vision and build a brand that would captures the heart and not only the pocket of customers.
CEO: I totally agree, change is the only constant, and now is the right time to do this. This decision is final.
Marketing: Yes Sir.
Marcoms: Yes Sir.
Consultants (internally): We do not have any experience in advertising, we need to recruit a few branding specialists from other local telco’s / ad agencies.
Marcoms (to advertising agency): We have a very large project, this is a test for you as an agency, if you do not do a good job we need to re-pitch. We need to build a very strong brand that stands out amongst all teclos in the regions (this is the brief).
The agency presents many logos that are not liked by the operator without any explanation
CEO: I do not like this agency, they do not have any telecom experience, “I can develop a better logo myself”
Marketing: I never liked this agency, it is there fault we are not meeting our targets, if it wasn’t for them we could have doubled our revenues this year
Marcoms (to Agency): Your contract is on the line here, you have made me look bad in front of management, your work is un acceptable
Ad Agency: It is not the job of an ad agency to develop a logo, you need to go to a corporate identity agency
Consultants (internally): This is true, we should have known this. Who did the corporate identity of the big telcos we need to recommend this.
Consultants (to telco): We recommend you give this job to a specialized CI agency. There are several good ones in London that have developed the biggest brand like BT, O2, Vodafone etc.
CEO: This is worth spending money on, we need to hire a CI agency from London, I want the best brand for this company.
CI Agency: We have developed one option only and think this is very good. It is the best logo we have made and it fits very well with the Middle East market, even though it does not include Arabic. Here is a 30 page rationale.
CEO: I love it, these people really know what they are talking about
Marketing: We love it!
Marcom: We love it!
Ad Agency: We HATE it!

… continued here.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Advertising 2.0

Advertising 2.0 is a consolidated hybrid of the following:
  1. Traditional advertising agencies
  2. Media Agencies
  3. Web development agencies
  4. CRM agencies
  5. Geeks

Similar to web 2.0, advertising 2.0 will also be heavily dependant on social networking. There will also be a ‘media neutrality’ debate similar to that of ‘network neutrality’ (whereby the internet is considered as a utility similar to electricity as far as ISPs are concerned). Should brands be consistent based on one media neutral execution; or should they let go and allow multiple messages, each consistent with its respective medium and relevant to the overall campaign objective?

Advertising 2.0 will give rise to a new breed of ‘creative geeks’ capable of working on TV ads, online communication, as well as offline print material and direct mailers. Copywriting will also need to converge with art direction. Eventually, the suits or client servicing people, who merely act as intelligent secretaries, will gradually be swept aside and replaced by strategic planners who may either be based within the advertising agency or even on the client side.

Moreover, advertising agencies will start to develop their own R&D departments to create new ideas that are beyond ads, creating fake brands for testing when brand equity for existing brands is too valuable.

Enter social networking. A communication agency needs to be more like a Wikipedia, whereby teams across all disciplines can add their input or understanding of different ideas and where each team has their My Space to share their knowledge, portfolios, or concepts in development.

Advertising 2.0 should be more focused on CRM and personalized communications, especially since web 2.0 is allowing for more individuality - making it much easier to track specific lifestyle patterns. This would allow television ads to be personalized to the extent of using footage you relate to: mentioning your name; using you as the main actor/hero. Online text can also change automatically, depending on electronic detection of your reading habits.

User generated content will become more and more subsidized through advertising. This will blur the boundaries between advertisements and real content, as well as the overspill on all media from water bottles to projection on the water flushing down your toilet.

Typically, advertising will become more interactive and calls to action on ads would become indirect sales channels (i.e. in line with the toilet flush media you will hear: “flush twice to order this product”). As this happens, feedback will become immediate, enabling marketers to target ads more effectively and evolve the same ads almost instantaneously.

Ads will become more discreet and become imbedded within consumers’ everyday life interactions, possibly having the Verizon logo on the Colgate tooth-paste (the actual paste and not the tube). The media landscape would also grow exponentially to include the branding of entire websites and potentially thematic content as opposed to lonely banners in confined places.

Advertising will become a much more intricate process for any company involving customers in the process of product development – from business plan idea to testing, development, distribution, and advertising – this will become more and more feasible with the increasing sharing capabilities of web 2.0.

Monday, May 21, 2007

2007 Advertisers’ Dream: Mobile Marketing

Image courtesy of http://www.3g.co.uk/ All logos, graphics and trademarks are the property of their respective owners, and subject to copyright.

Why not? Almost everyone with purchasing power has a mobile phone that is on him/her 24/7 and unlike email (where there are spam filters, or can be reviewed by PAs) mobile users usually check all their messages.

Typically all brands want in on this new medium that seems ideal at face value, here are the top 10 reasons for mobile marketing:

  1. Telecom companies have the profile of most (if not all) their subscribers
  2. Most telecom companies can track the location of their users (allowing for location based advertising)
  3. Mobile phones are personal (used by one person only)
  4. Mobile phones are an interactive medium (allowing users to request more information and purchase products directly)
  5. It costs very little money to send mass messages to mobile phones
  6. Mobile phones are multimedia enabled (allowing for audio visual communications)
  7. Mobile phones have low quality screens (allowing for low cost production unlike TVCs)
  8. Mobile phones allow for viral distribution of advertising messages
  9. Mobile advertising is considered hip and innovative for brands
  10. Mobile phones allow advertisers to alert their audience instantly (with zero media lead time) 24/7

But why should consumers accept it? If I paid to buy a phone line and pay for usage, what gives companies the right to send me spam SMS, and why should I accept them?

I’m not an expert with mobile marketing but have been working in the telecom advertising field for a while, so here are a few thoughts on why I would accept receiving ads (otherwise I would simply change mobile provider, or harass customer service with complaints).

  1. I would be glad to receive ads provided the advertisers subsidize my phone bill – By charging a small fee to advertisers telecom companies can make profit while at the same time subsidize phone bills i.e. customers can get 20cents off their phone bill for every advertisement they receive by SMS or MMS, this would make advertisers want to send more relevant targeted messages to ensure ROI
  2. I would not mind receiving ads that are un-interruptive, i.e. product placement in mobile games or downloaded content
  3. Sometimes I want to receive specific ads, including Bluetooth messaging that I may request in certain locations or visit sites on the mobile internet through services like qode
  4. Receiving SMS ads from your service providers are always accepted usually because users feel that these are notifications from the network owners – these typically include SMS messages informing users of certain offers or discounts on call rates, content, or data services
  5. People interested in specific services/brands can subscribe to mobile content feeds which can be based on SMS, MMS, or location based services allowing users to receive messages informing them of interesting shops/restaurants/bars in their vicinity
  6. I don’t mind viewing ads that do not alert me as incoming SMS/MMS messages for example operators can have a certain section on their mobile portal labeled as “latest offers”
  7. If I like certain brands I would download their content (video, music, or images) to my mobile phone myself

Yes mobile advertising has a lot of potential but can result in very negative brand equity if it’s perceived as spam. Brands should definitely utilize this medium, but they should do so smartly and looking at it from a ‘what’s in it for the customer’ perspective more than any other medium because they are literally stepping into people’s personal space and ethically they cannot do so unprompted.


Thursday, May 3, 2007

CRM: Customer Repulsion Management

Let us abuse you in order to serve you better.



Long gone are the days when you walk into a shop, pick up an item, pay for it and leave. Not without giving a full biography with full name, email address, telephone number, address, country of residence, hobbies, and the occasional tick box of ‘would you like to receive information about us or from carefully selected third parties’ – all of this is followed by a confirmation email that includes a link which you have to click on to verify.

How many times did you have to fill forms to register, sign-up, or subscribe for things on the internet in the past six months? And how many different usernames, passwords and PIN codes do you currently have?

CRM or what was known as Customer Relationship Management was intended to enable better individual customer management and personalization. In order to jump on the bandwagon all companies started to collect data and ensure that all customers submit all their bio details before getting what they want. Most of these companies only use this data to send you a generic mass produced letter merely mentioning your name after ‘dear’ on the top, and of course with a scanned signature of the senior customer relations director. Not only that most companies are now providing loyalty cards that you need to carry on you all the time just in case you pass next to their store and want to buy something (as if our wallets are not big enough already).

Some companies are now trying to play smart, and fool the customer by showing a simple sign-up form on the page and only after you fill that and give you a few more detailed forms.

Why not have one large database that all companies tap into through their back end system and all you have is one username and password to identify you? If all websites on the internet can interact with each other why do we have to interact with everything separately?

Google, Oracle, SAP, Microsoft… please do something.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Should your ads look like your brand?

A typical execution/idea killing comment is “if you remove the logo, you will not know that the ad is for your brand” or similarly “if you replace the logo the ad would work for another brand”.
These arguments have killed so many potentially good ideas, but let’s take a look at some campaigns that were able to overcome this obstacle and air without getting such criticism.
Here are a few examples of the most successful ads with different endings:


Imagine the Sony “Balls” ad ending with the signature of Skittles or even Samsung.

Or the Honda “grrr” ending with Green Peace or even Toyota diesel engines.

I recently had this argument with a client over a campaign that he claimed was very good, but “if you replace the logo with that of the competition or another brand, it would still work”. I was furious, my argument was as follows “if not for advertising all brands are the same, and the first brand to own a platform or idea emerges as the winner” and in my example I was not only referring to the positioning at the birth of the brand, I would argue that each service or ad can have its own positioning as long as it gets the message across, and entertains/engages the customer.

A typical example you would hear as an argument is Absolut and how all of its ads say absolute without the logo, but I believe that this is an exception and not the rule.

In conclusion, i think that an ad is designed to use a creative platform to sell your brand, and not to use your brand to sell a creative platform.

Friday, April 27, 2007

The future of technology - as predicted by Intel


Intel gives us a little taste of the potential of technology in the very near future... think of the advertising potential, and the possibility of having all of this for free in exchange for a bit of advertising spam.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Impulse Advertising

According to OgilvyAction Shopper Marketing
“A recent study revealed that 38%* of purchase decisions are unplanned, and that only 5% of consumers are actually loyal to one brand. In fact, 68% of consumers are perennial 'switchers', swayed by price cuts, promotions, curiosity, and even their mood.**”

I believe in impulse buying, and that when a person sees an ad s/he should be able to instantly access the service without having to write it on his/her shopping list or try and remember the ad s/he saw on TV when at points of purchase; the conventional remedy to this is shopper marketing. There are however, much more ways to promote impulse buying; yes a shelf-talker allows you to directly pick up the product communicated, so does a vending machine, but there are plenty of other ways for allowing customers to instantly get what they see.

I would say the next step in shopper marketing is something I would like to call ‘impulse advertising’ a new breed of advertising that allows instant access to the products communicated.

Several companies have already started to cater to this need like
shoptext which allows customers to buy an item instantly by sending a text message, and qode which allows people to take a photo of a code (on an ad) using their mobile phone and they are instantly directed to a certain website using mobile internet.

We also have the same problem online, for example when you click on a web banner or online ad for a book, you get directed to the home page of the book with details on the author etc, but why not be instantly be directed to the check-out page at
amazon where the item is already in your cart and all you need to do is pay. All marketers think that people want more and more information about products, when a lot of the time people just have the impulse to buy, and the more details and red-tape they are exposed to the more time they have to reconsider their impulse killing the spontaneity.

On the same note, why can’t you have products that you can instantly buy (with a click) in online games? For example why not have a bookstore in
Second Life in which you can buy books in both the virtual world and reality (amazon is already working on such a project, click here for details)?

Our ads should be more interactive to cater for impulse buying, and with telecom operators and the internet, it has become very easy to do so. A simple example would be linking the internet or a phone to ads whereby you can click a button on the ad and insert your location to order the product advertised (this can be done on a range of media from lightboxes in malls, to bathroom ads in clubs) you can prepay by credit card or cash upon delivery.“With the click of a button” is the motto typically used for advertising all online transactions when in fact you need to log into a website, type something like 50 words and 30 clicks to get to what you want. Instant

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Finally we have online TV: Joost

I just got my joost beta trial after waiting for almost a month and the half, and it was definitely worth the wait. Joost is interactive online TV created by Niklas Zennström and Janus Friis (founders of Skype and Kazaa).

Joost includes a small software that you download (free) allowing you to access a multitude of TV channels with hundreds of shows (free), all available in good quality full screen viewing; and yes it works on regular broadband networks (I have a 512k and it works very well). As opposed to YouTube it provides continuous viewing just like regular TV you can choose to watch a channel, or even search for a show and after you finish watching that show you continue watching the regular programs on the selected channel. The idea behind joost is that people watch TV as a continuously and sometimes just like to play it in the background. It also includes the conventional web 2.0 gadgets namely rating, search, chat and instant messaging, so you find shows, discuss, and recommend. Joost currently offers the following
channels.

My experience has been incredible so far, there are some very interesting programs, including bite sized entertainment that I watch during downloads or when I only have a few minutes.
The most intriguing feature I saw was targeted advertising. Just as conventional TV joost makes its money through advertising; what was particularly different though was ad placement, I was watching a short movie called ‘The Beautiful Lie’ in which there is a scene with a girl putting on mascara. As the camera pans on the girl’s eyelashes, the film cuts to a ‘Maybelline’ mascara TV ad. Other interesting placements included ads for ‘Garnier’ shampoo on hair shots. Other ads include still screens of ‘brought to you by xxx’ before certain clips or movies but I felt that those were annoying – as waiting 4 seconds or so on a still screen is somewhat irritating and feels like the brands did not want to put in an effort to advertise so they just supplied their logos.


Joost is the most advanced example I have witnessed on both convergence and and web 2.0, because it mixes TV and the internet seamlessly, and unlike most start-ups it has a very well studied business plan / business model. It also does not infringe on any copyrights which seems to be a major deterrent amongst such companies. At the same time unlike Skype, it does not use the infrastructure of the very industry it is replacing (skype uses the phone network to make internet-to-phone calls, whereas skype only uses the TV content and not the broadcasting network/infrastructure) which makes the setup much less bureaucratic/political.
As for radical transparency, joost has its own
blog.

Sign-up for a beta trial now!

Monday, April 16, 2007

Snacking trends vs. traditional content meal consumption


Web 2.0 added a real-life dimension to the internet; from reality clips on YouTube, to real comments at online forums, to Second Life. This has also led to the observation of multimedia interaction trends similar to those of human food consumption.

As opposed to the traditional consumption of content defined by reading a full article or watching a complete movie (synonymous with a complete meal), a new trend of content snacking is emerging; from RSS feeds that only display headlines/snip-its of articles, to mobile episodes of 24. The same snacking consumers do have occasional online meals, but mostly so when they have sampled the content through a snack and believe there is merit in consuming it. Content snacking is somewhat like receiving an executive summary on elements of interest.

Some examples of content snacks include:
Thumbnails, email headers, widgets on MACs/Vista desktops, 30second Nintendo games, SMS, MMS, YouTube (sports highlights and other), news feeds on Facebook, mobile porn, ring-tones (as opposed to songs), tip of the day, “previously on …” TV recaps (for 24, lost etc.), dashboards in general, and the list goes on…

Time has always been of the essence, and as we drive down the calendar more and more services are catering to time optimization. Snacking services are one example, they provide information overload in seconds and help people know a little about everything and the hyperlinks allow you to click through what you’re interested in for a full multi-course meal.
People’s attention spans are certainly getting shorter especially with the content overload one is exposed to online; an interesting snacking service I came across was Radio SASS (Short Attention Span System) a website that offers shortened songs allowing users to “get the memorable heart of each song, with an average length of approximately two minutes with no self indulgent guitar solos, no long intros, no repetition of choruses again and again.”
I first heard about this trend from the 3GSM World Telecom Congress 2007 in Barcelona.

Lesson learned: minimize content, or provide summaries for your readers allowing them to delve into only the content they are interested in.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Radical Transparency

I just read an amazing article in WIRED magazine. It spoke of a topic I have been trying to sell to clients over the past few months. It’s about exposing your organization beyond the general “letting go” of brands everyone is talking about. Below are a few quotes that attracted my attention.

- “A single Google search determines more about how they're perceived than a multimillion-dollar ad campaign”

- “The Internet has inverted the social physics of information. Companies used to assume that details about their internal workings were valuable precisely because they were secret. If you were cagey about your plans, you had the upper hand; if you kept your next big idea to yourself, people couldn't steal it. Now, billion- dollar ideas come to CEOs who give them away; corporations that publicize their failings grow stronger. Power comes not from your Rolodex but from how many bloggers link to you - and everyone trembles before search engine rankings.”

- “Radical forms of transparency are now the norm at startups - and even some Fortune 500 companies. It is a strange and abrupt reversal of corporate values.”

- “Venture capitalists now demand that CEOs be fluent in blogspeak.”

- “Microsoft now encourages its engineers to blog freely about their projects.”

- “Google is not a search engine. Google is a reputation-management system.”

- “When you type in a term, the search engine puts the site with the most links pointing toward it at the top of the list. That means bloggers and discussion boards are extremely powerful in influencing Google's search results, because bloggers and discussion-board posters are promiscuous linkers, constantly pointing to things they love or hate.”

- “It's hard to trust anyone who doesn't list their dreams and fears on Facebook.”
Read the full article here

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Technology Incest


Let’s look at the semi-conductor as the mother of all our technological advancements today that has given birth to the computer who in turn bred the internet and procreated the likes of You Tube and Skype.

Would we be considered hypocrites if our society considers incest a taboo while praising the act of the TV coming on our mobile phone, our Palms Hot Sync-ing with our laptops, having Second Life unload on the internet, cameras shooting their flash through the shrinking mobile phone, fixed lines plugging in to the internet, or even online anti-virus applications checking out our laptop when in sleep mode?

Just as homosexuals started becoming accepted in some societies, the inter-relationship of technology is becoming more legitimate and liberalized. What used to be copper is now bursting out of the closet and seeing the light of fiber optics. What started off as a civil marriage between AOL and Time Warner to breed content for the online world has turned into a giant orgy of technology leading to the convergence of telecom on a bed known as the IP platform – and the only person enjoying the orgasm is you, the consumer.

This ongoing orgy has been getting more and more intense over the years and has resulted in several off-springs until today. Similar to the evolution of mankind, the evolution of these offspring is continuously adapting to suit our needs and allowing the survival of the fittest.

What started off as ICQ and mIRC has manifested in what we all now know as Skype, and what was once known as a website developed and edited by a programmer is now known as an amateur’s blog, and Google Video has evolved to You Tube and Joost.

More and more gadgets are being developed to feed the fetishes of these technologies, ranging from the basic USB memory stick, to iPods, PDAs, digital cameras, smart phones, and media centers. The mating was heeded through different calls, from GPS and RSS to Vlogs and Vod-Casts. Many Viagra-like applications were also developed to sustain this activity and eliminate potential impotence like You Tube, Google Earth, Google Desktop, My Space, and Flickr to name a few.

This incest has led to the blurring of boundaries, not only those of TV, Internet, Telephones, and mobiles; but also the boundaries between people and industries. Examples of this include having the person who takes your order from the McDonald’s drive through based in a call center miles away, or tutors for children in the states based in India.

Many different technologies have been developed over the years and each has spun off on its own route. As the internet gained market share every technology wanted to use it for leverage. Such industries include TV and Radio (streaming), telephones (VOIP), the mobile industry (WiFi and WiMax), newspapers and magazines (online news, RSS etc.), the government (egovernments) credit card companies (online payment) and even life (Second Life), this list can go on forever. Convergence is the use of the internet to create one linking platform between all of these different technologies and making them talk to each other eliminating the need of humans (data enterers, programmers, operators etc.) to do so. Convergence definitely brings the spotlight on the internet, and calls for major reform to accommodate all usage, and a lot of standardization to ensure compliance among the different usages of the net and ensure compatibility across the board.

In summary convergence is intended to leverage the wisdom from each individual technology into one platform. This would eventually make everything smarter, and is giving rise to the smart phone, the smart car, the smart home, and eventually as the whole nano and biotech industry kicks off the smart you. This would require a smarter lifestyle and a change in everything we do from the alarm that wakes us up and the machine that makes coffee to how often (if at all) we visit the doctor. (An example would be a global clock linked to your workplace working hours, that generates your coffee in the morning with instructions from your barista in Italy, tests your DNA as a morning medical check-up directly consulting with your doctor, and syncs with your mobile phone generating your diet of the day.

Convergence is giving rise to user generated content which is becoming the hottest commodity today according to TIME magazine who named ‘YOU’ the person of the year, and Ad Age who named ‘The Consumer’ as the advertising agency of the year. With convergence consumers can access all the tools necessary to create their own content as opposed to receiving it from someone else. An example would be you and friends making your own movie since you have access to the most advanced movie making tools and movie making experts through online forums; as opposed to watching a Hollywood production.

Monday, April 9, 2007

A Conversation with Robocop



Tone of Voice: “Our brand needs to sound human, and our copy should read as if you are having a conversation with someone over coffee”

Brand Values: Approachable, Honest, Humble, and Friendly.

If your dreaded brand guideline booklet does not have any resemblance to the above, I’m sure you have come across many brands that do. As trivial as it may sound it is the sole yet high rising and mighty pillar that holds up marketing managers’ false sense of hope. Everyone wants to have an approachable brand that is friendly and human-like; but is setting strict communication guidelines and adhering to preset values the best way to do it? Do you actually set guidelines, values, and conversation parameters before you go out to have coffee with your friends? Imagine that, human beings with tone of voice guidelines…I believe the closest we can get to imagining that would be a cup of coffee with Robocop.

In reality conversation is not a science, and therefore advertising cannot be one either. To give justice to the tone of voice statement above (mentioned in most corporate guidelines); a brand should not have preset values and tone of voice guidelines. When one goes out for coffee or to a bar s/he change conversation topics more than 10 times, and as one does s/he changes tonality, facial expressions, and attitudes so how can brands stick to preset characteristics and be human? A person who speaks in the same way all the time is considered monotonous and boring, whereas a brand that does that is praised for its consistency.
Nic touched on this point a little with his post on karaoke brands.

I believe that brands should communicate in different ways and have constantly evolving values, from friendly to frustrated, honest to sarcastic, and non-fiction informative to fictional entertaining. Similar to the human stream of consciousness and the constantly evolving conversational topics that pick up on ‘values’ from previous ones, brand communication should narrate a story linking all of their communication together. As with human conversation, there need not be an overarching theme, but there needs to be continuation or a trail. Here’s an example of a human evolving conversation: Hey did you watch the game yesterday, that referee made a really bad call; he certainly did I wonder how the NBA would treat such an offence. At work if I make a bad call on my inventory shelf-life I get a 20% pay cut. Yeah I hear you, at home if I don’t notice that my wife changed her hair color I get to sleep on the couch. Speaking of your wife, are you free for poker next Monday?”

For brands to be human and friendly they should not be what the industry labels as ‘consistent’, they should create conversation and build on that conversation; also contrary to old school advertising rituals a brand should not have the typical smile and friendly attitude in everything it says – unless you want it to sound like
this.

On the same note and somewhat building on transmedia planning, when a addresses you (similar to anyone else), it should not have the same tone when talking to you over coffee as it does when you are at work, or having a drink in a pub. Humans naturally change moods, talk about different things, and have a general dynamic personality; therefore if brands want to become more personal, human, and engaging they should do the same.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

The Human Element


They say to include humans in all telecom ads to make them more emotional, and make the product/services resemble the lifestyle of the audience.
The reason given behind this request is technophobia; people are afraid of technology, not afraid in the sense it will invade their countries and kill their children, but in the sense that they will not know how to use it or it would make their lives more complicated. Given technophobia howevr, would it really make a difference if one reads “you can now make calls at half the price” on a plain background, or if s/he sees a person on the phone somewhere (with or without the phone) and reads “now you can talk twice as much with your friends and family”?
What I’m trying to say here is that portraying the human element, be it in terms of showing human imagery or adding a humanizing twist to the message does not necessarily make the ad better.
Personally I’m pro simplicity, and believe that the less number of words and the less unnecessary elements; the more effective the ad would be and the simpler the service would be perceived.
This does not typically apply to all communications, as in certain situations an image can help clarify the product/service for example Video calls, MMS, or in some cases mobile internet. But why focus on the human element specifically the over-used facial expressions that are splattered across all image banks showing either a person with his/her mouth open in awe or with a cheesy smile to represent the comfort this service has provided – why should we show the people how they should feel, as opposed to making them feel it as a result of viewing the communication.
Shouldn’t telecom advertising be simple, especially when the product is good enough to sell itself? Why should all services be oversold in an ad with a twist that takes the reader to mars and back? In many cases creativity can be illustrated through a metaphor but what most ads try to do is play on the metaphor more than the actual service, only to follow it with very high level talk about the offering as if it’s god’s gift to mankind.
In conclusion having humans in an ad do not make it more emotional, and definitely not simpler. Most importantly it should not be a mandatory for all ads.

Thursday, April 5, 2007

Communication Blasphemy


In my five years in the telecom industry, I have developed quite the allergy to certain words.

I sit in a briefing or a brainstorming session and I cringe at the sound of certain words used across all products, services, product managers, marketing people, even ad agency reps (who think they understand the industry). These washed-out words should be banned from the telecom industry; and more so in telecom advertising.

Some words have embedded themselves in the jargon of telecom services advertising and have become synonymous with vomit-inducing headlines like ‘the art of’.

Among these words are:
1. Efficient
2. Convenient
3. Get more (as each telco considers this as a soft blow on competition)
4. Innovation
5. Peace of mind
6. More for less
7. Customer experience
8. Better value

Here is an example:
“Mobile email is a very efficient service because it lets you access your email while on the go, whereas it is also convenient because you should not be stuck in one place; it allows you to get more things done at the same time and it is extremely innovative. Wouldn’t you like to have peace of mind, and not worry about being at your desk all the time? Mobile email offer better value to customers, and enhances the overall customer experience

Did you understand anything about the service? These ‘filler’ words are used by telecom people to make briefs have more text and look descriptive mostly to cover the ignorance of the people writing them. If the chocolate industry can differentiate the positioning between Snickers and Mars, the least telco people should do is clearly diversify their services’ positioning.

If the cliché term of ‘out of the box’ is to apply, these words would be in the wood used in the manufacturing of such a box.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Telecom Advertising

I’m sure that anyone of you has seen at least 10 repulsive telecom ads…
Telecom advertising is an overlooked field. Almost all ad agencies would love to have a telecom operator client as they are among the top 10 advertising spenders in all countries; usually they regret that afterwards though due to the short lead times, long working hours, and over demanding clients (mostly from technical backgrounds); all of which result in a relatively low quality end product.


Telecom advertising is a very specific industry in many ways different from conventional advertising mostly due to the nature of the beast (it is a media within itself that is constantly expanding to include more and more industries) and constant evolution. Advertising agencies rarely have such experts though, due to the high turn-over of people on the accounts, mostly due to the reasons mentioned in the first paragraph.
Despite their differences all telecom operators require the same campaigns, usually in the following order from launch date (I will use a mobile operator for the sake of the example as they do the most advertising):

1. A teaser / announcement to indicate their launch date
2. A brand launch campaign
3. Corporate Social Responsibility campaigns (showing that they care about the community)
4. Core Product campaigns (usually prepaid and post-paid)
5. Coverage Campaign (to show that their networks are now complete)
6. Payment methods campaign (listing the channels in which can pay their bills)
7. 3G campaign (focusing on their innovative technology, and claiming first to market)
8. Roaming campaign (mentioning how many operators they have roaming agreements with)
9. Airport campaigns (selling their ‘visitor’ lines, asking inbound roamers to switch to their networks, promoting their mobile internet roaming capabilities, and mentioning how you can feel at home while roaming on their network)
10. Store opening campaigns (indicating that new stores are opening and mentioning their locations)
11. International call rate reduction campaign
12. Tariff reduction campaign
13. Mobile Content campaign (focusing on the mobile portal and what content it includes, mostly music, ringtones, ring back tones, news etc.)
14. Value added services campaigns (these are dispersed throughout the communication plan depending on when a new service is rolled out)
15. Mobile Internet campaign (on both accessing the internet through your phone, or data cards that plug into your laptop)
16. Customer service campaigns
17. Business campaign (launching their business services division)
18. Business product campaigns (mostly data-cards, push email, and closed user groups)
19. Focusing on the Youth segment (through universities, and hip music)
20. High end packages (special numbers / elite services etc)
21. Loyalty programs
22. Bundling of products and services
23. Bouquet ads mentioning all of the offerings of the operator

Usually due to urgency, wanting to communicate so many messages at the same time, and the need to claim first-to-market (because innovation is a key platform); these operator end up with badly managed campaigns that are not fully integrated (mostly newspaper ads and mentions on their website and in stores), and sacrifice on the creative quality of their communications. All of the above results in a confused customer who knows that an operator has many services but cannot indicate or quantify them.

Several global learnings can be made from the above, these include:
1. Ideal campaign roll-out plans (starting with print and moving to ambient media, online ads etc)
2. Touch points management (deciding on what to communicate at which touch points)
3. Simple communications (mentioning the key benefit of a service and not listing all of its attributes)
4. More focus on PR and making most announcements through press releases that induce viral support
5. Updatable bulletins on new products and services
6. Developing more targeted advertising to specific segments
7. Focusing more on direct marketing and database building
8. Creating online forums in which customers can better express their views and usage patterns
9. Creating simple template ads that can be adapted and published as soon as new products and services are developed and need to be instantly rolled-out for claiming first-to-market
10. Media management (deciding on what are the best media for each campaign and where each product is most likely thought of by the customer – i.e. mobile payment at cash registers)
11. Giving autonomy to marketing-communications departments at telecom operators separating engineers from creative communications

The objective of this article is to highlight the need for telecom advertising expertise which can boost revenue for operators through simple communication management solutions that do not apply to other categories.