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15 posts from September 2008

09/29/2008 User Generated Journalism

Images CNN has started an interesting project called iReport. They’re looking to augment their professional journalism with citizen journalism. It’s a little different from the normal “send us in your pictures of disasters.” It also looks like the first big push from a major news outlet since the failed LA Times attempt a couple of years ago.

From a UGC and a Web 2.0 prospective, iReport has some great benefits for CNN.

It adds to their core offering – By opening this up to a wide range of people, CNN potentially has much more material to show its viewers, both online and offline.

It gives them a huge feedback group – Even if they don’t use the material, they can tap into the content generators and have them react (a big deal for TV). They did this, for example, after the debates.

It teaches people about journalism – Not only is this a great public service (check out their advice on how to create a story) that educates the public, it makes content generators more appreciative of how hard it is to create good stories.

Now, take those three things, and see if you can apply them to your company or client. If you can do that through customer participation, you should win. I hope CNN does, it’s a great idea.

I only wonder how much this costs them to do.  You can surely measure the monetary impact of participation, but it still would be fun to get an ROI check on this.

09/26/2008 Blood not simple

Red_cross_int I’ve been a blood donor since college. As I’ve become busier over the years, the challenge of finding a good time to give gets harder. The Red Cross calls me a lot, trying to remind me and book appointments. Given that the U.S. blood banks keep declining, and that critical need keeps increasing, you’d think that the Red Cross would be doing everything possible to attract new donors and make it easy to give.

Would you be surprised if I told you the opposite was true? If ever there was brand in need of a complete makeover, it’s the Red Cross Blood centers.

Today I walked in as the center opened. There was no other blood donor in sight. I waited 10 minutes while I watched the personnel mill around talking to each other (nothing wrong with that, but it was clear that my time was not that important). I then did the usual: I gave my name, birthday and social and did the normal screening tests. After I filled out long questionnaire, another person came in, asked my name and birthday, and asked other questions. Then she (I’m not kidding) asked my name and birthday again, and asked me more questions.

Then she took me to the actual donation chair and, once again, asked me my name and birthday. Now, she didn’t look like she had a bad memory. When I protested, she said simply “Those are the rules.”

Buddy_Blood_Drop The rules also include that no one who has lived in Europe, or is gay, can give blood (maybe those are the same to some people).

Now, it’s not like I’m making any money on the deal (like they do in Sweden, or so I hear). I’m really not into needles either. I’m trying to do the right thing for something that should be easy and important.

Instead it was more difficult than it should be. It would have been a lot better if I could have done most of the paperwork online, gone in quickly for the tests and donations, and then received something simple like a free song at iTunes for my time. It’s too bad they don’t put some strategy and marketing towards this; we could solve the blood problem in no time.

Maybe next time I’ll just send in a check.

09/25/2008 Faster than Bolt

Puma was quick to launch an online game challenging people to beat Olympic champion Usain Bolt in an online game at the Puma site. I like things like this because they’re
•    Quick
•    Easy
•    Fun

The visuals are pretty ridiculous, as is the concept, but I still had to do it three times. A good little brand builder.

I wonder if they leveraged this through expandable ads or social media. From a strategy and marketing perspective, it’s almost a crime if they didn’t.

09/24/2008 What? You don’t Skype?

I love it when I find a great technology tool that solves all sorts of problems. That’s one of the reasons I love Skype. Skype isn’t new; it’s been around for a while now. I had an early account, but no one, alas, to talk with.

Over the past year or so I’ve turned more and more of my family and colleagues on to it. At home we use it to talk to family in Sweden. At work, I use it to videoconference with team members for virtual collaboration.

From a work perspective, it’s invaluable. Talk about being geographically agnostic. Skype lets me connect with co-workers all over the world, and even ones down the hall.

That’s why I’m still surprised to find a huge number of people who don’t use it. I’m especially surprised at people in the digital and traditional communications business. I’m not talking about the Skype phone with subscription; I’m talking about the free one you can use on your computer.

I mean, my 80 year-old mother uses it to connect to her grandchildren.

If you aren’t using this you really need to start. If you decide not to, then the sound you just heard is the world of new media passing you by.

09/23/2008 Full screen, please

I’ve seen a couple of interesting sites over the last couple of weeks that have taken a huge step forward in the realm of Web site engagement. Using Flash 9 and AS 3, they’ve basically broken out of the browser window to deliver a full screen takeover experience.

Back in the day, the only way we could do this was through projector downloads. We were always constrained one way or the other to do a full takeover. There was always some distracting folder, window or desktop peskily lurking in the background reminding us to get back to work.

Look at these two sites:
Hyatt Siesta Key Beach (Click on Take a Tour, what a great video background!)
Lee Towndrow Photography (make sure you click on FS up in the top nav)


And of course, it’s not perfect. In full screen mode, your keyboard becomes useless: no text entries or keyboard shortcuts (thanks to Joe Manley for that info). But it’s a great improvement. Let’s hope Adobe keeps pushing this.

It’s the Web the way it should be.

09/22/2008 What's the word?


If you’re interested in hearing what customers say about your brand, but can’t afford expensive solutions like VML’s Seer, you should try Twing. There are a number of different search tools out there that have started focusing on this area. Twing is a little bit different.

Rather than look at blog or Twitter posts, Twing searches forum and community sites. In a sense, it highlights discussions rather than opinions. A subtle but not unimportant difference.

If you’re an online marketer, this is a good listening tool to have

09/19/2008 Are You Curious?

As a marketer, do you KNOW? Your business, your customer, how to get results, how to get more? Most of us would say “Yes,” we’re good at what we do and we know a lot, that’s why we’re making the decisions we make.

Butterfly One thing I’ve realized is that if you know, then there’s no reason to test something out. Think about it: Why should you waste your time testing when you have a pretty good idea of what will work and what won’t?

The reality is that we don’t know a lot more than we do know. The beauty about being curious and testing is that we let our customers help us, make us smarter and guide the decisions.

The Eisenberg brothers are one of the great evangelizers for testing. They have a slew of articles about how to learn about testing and advice for trying it out. One of the better ones here is about the value of learning even when the results are small, “Don’t dismiss the base hits.

As marketers and especially online marketers, testing needs to be part of our DNA. Since we can get results back quickly online, we need to build testing into all parts of our marketing mix. We need to be curious.

The funny thing is, it works. Check out a case study Marketing Sherpa wrote on a test I did for Unicel.

In Zen, they call this beginner’s mind. Are you brave enough to be curious?

09/17/2008 VSAC is a Winner

WA_2008 The Web Marketing Association awarded a Standard of Excellence award for Education in this year’s WebAward competition. The site was part of an innovative campaign I helped develop at KSV to get young teens interested in continuing their education.

We pretty much turned expectations and conventional wisdom on its head by creating a Web centric outreach aimed at rural kids. The awards are nice (it won an Adobe Site of the Day as well) but the reaction from the kids themselves (they deemed it a “rock star”) was proof that VSAC found a new way to reach their young audience. All this from an organization that originally expected a TV campaign.

The site lets kids create a visual college of  “who they are.” It gets them to start thinking about what they like to do, and how that might actually lead to a career.

I led the engagement planning, digital strategy and interactive work. Julie Kravetz did the amazing planning, and I was lucky to work with the great interactive team of Corey Machanic (ICD/AD), Anna Goldsmith (copy) and Joe Manley (Flash Development).

Congrats team!

09/16/2008 Who is this for, anyway?

We marketing professionals like to be in control. We like making decisions and hope that someone (our bosses, our clients) thinks we’re making smart decisions. We tend to make it about us, not about you.

But it’s not about us anymore (if it ever was). Those who ignore this run the risk of making some bad decisions.

A while ago, we rebuilt a simple e-commerce site, one that was working pretty well, to make it work even better. Then we ran into a traditional AD who, with support of the ECD, refused to make a “crappy” Web site. It wasn’t about conversions or customers or business goals, it was about making it look “beautiful.” It was really about putting it in the AD’s portfolio.

The beautiful site is up, and it’s doing less business than its predecessor. Guess if the client is pleased.

I’ve seen marketing directors pull the plug on campaigns because they couldn’t see the banner ad or Google paid search. Never mind that we geo-targeted the ads to a different area or that we targeted a different target demographic.

If we can’t accept the fact that it’s not about us, it’s about the customer; if we can’t give up our control fixation and give more control to the customer, we’re going to continue to waste marketing dollars.

And with Lehman Bros, AIG and the rest of the economy starting to tank, that doesn’t seem like a very smart move.

09/15/2008 The Customer Speaks

Just saw an article that, like a growing number of online retailers, is adding a customer ratings and review feature to their site. I’ve always been a big fan off allowing customers to give feedback, even if it’s constructive (read negative) feedback. The stats show that people seem to want and need this more and more in making their purchase choices.

Sephora chose Bazaarvoice, the same company providing ratings to online stores from Macys to Home Depot. One thing I noticed in a short jaunt through those sites was: Where are all the ratings and reviews?

I found more on Home Depot than on some of the others, but still not that many. Somehow, I would expect people to review hardware more than clothes (although that may be my own gender shortcoming). I mean, you want to know that you bought the same refrigerator or tool set as someone else to make sure it works okay and that you’re not buying a lemon.

Clothes, on the other hand, are so personal and help us to stand out, rather than to blend in. Do you really want to recommend something so someone can look just like you?

On the other hand, the lack of ratings and reviews on all of these sites makes me wonder if customers feel suspicious that the site might censor their honest reviews. What is the tolerance and policy toward negative comments? I couldn’t see any spelled out.

Or maybe most of us just don’t have time or interest.

I wonder if we could increase ratings reviews in a couple of ways

  1. Reward people for their effort. Some type of points or rewards system might jump-start this. Since they’ve invested the money in the system, how about investing in the reviewers themselves?
  2. Outsource it. Maybe there’s a business model for an honest ratings and review broker to ensure that there’s no censorship. It would even offer a way to compare stores.

If you build something people want, and no one uses it, then something is clearly not working.

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