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3 posts from June 2010

06/15/2010 My First Week with the iPad

I've had my iPad for a week now and I'm surprised and delighted in how I'm using this new device.  Its very different from most of the other devices and machines I've used. However, it's not perfect and from a marketing standpoint, the iAd isn't quite revolutionizing the space.

A Sharing Device

I had read reports of how having an iPad caused people to gather around it. I wasn't sure whether that was due to its newness or its functionality.  One of the biggest differences between an iPad and either a smart phone or a computer is that I've been sharing my actual use and experience with it with others. I find that I don't do this once in a while; I do this for almost half the time I use it.

I'm watching movies with my kids (via the great NetFlix app), or reading news media with my wife, or playing games together with my kids. I've never experienced a "two-person" computer before. With the desktop or laptop, you can look together for a while, but it usually lasts only a short while. Togetherness on an iPhone usually means a glance.

On the iPad, however, we're sitting down together to read, look at pictures, watch and play. From a game standpoint, it's like a good mini board or video game, with your fingers as the controllers. From a movie or pictures standpoint, the quality on the screen is so much better than I expected (and photos on the iPad from a news standpoint blow away everything else). 

I usually hate sharing a magazine or newspaper with someone else (while I'm reading it). But not the iPad. It seems natural to do so.

Close Encounters

Another thing I'm noticing about the iPad is the closeness I feel when I use it. There's a physical distance between you and the computer. There's no distance between you and your mobile phone.

I like the distance between the iPad and me. It's at arms length, a very natural distance for me. Like most other media I've grown up using. It feels very close and personal for a device, much more so than the iPhone. Maybe it's wrong to compare it to a phone, but it's hard not to.

Compared with a computer it feels vastly more personal, like wise compared with a TV. Watching a film feels almost private. I watched "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs" with my son on the bed this week and we both felt luxurious. Yes, the screen was smaller, but I think we both saw this as almost a private screening, rather than a matinee.

Maybe the feeling of closeness has to do with the fact that I'm not stuck in my computer chair when I'm watching something, nor tied down to one room. It is a very mobile device.

The iAd

When you start calling things "The Jesus Tablet" you build up expectations. I had/have big expectations for the iAd, especially after reading about the vision for what the format might do for online advertising. The media has these expectations as well as they try to figure out how to make more money through online advertising.

From a format perspective, it has some great promise. Look at this page from the New York Times app. We're not talking about an ignorable web ad in odd shapes, cluttering up a page. This looks much more like a magazine ad, with a great visual as part of the reading experience. It makes you want to do something with the ad. So far this is a vast improvement on the web from a layout standpoint.

However, the actual functionality of most of the iPad ads I played with was very disappointing. These banners in the New York Times allowed me to see different watches, albeit with a cool transition. I don't think this is much of an immersive experience or one that provides me with valuable information or interaction. Other ads were worse, on a variety of other media apps (Wall St. Journal, Time) as they simply launched a Web browser. 

Actually, that is worse than current online advertising. At least there I can close a tab and go back to browsing, but on the iPad I have to quit out of Safari and then relaunch my previous app.

Oh, and I was hoping so much that this would be better. Unfortunately, I think a multitasking feature is going to make this worse. I would rather see rich media, immersive experiences without leaving my app. I hope this gets better.

First Week Conclusion

As a media consumption device, the iPad is something new, just like the iPhone before it. It clearly shows that we're moving into an era of mobile computing where mobile does not just mean a phone. When you start to think about cloud computing and SaaS models, the iPad starts to give a meaning and structure to various trends; we can start to see how this may play out.

I'm taking the iPad out on the road over the next few weeks. I hope it is fairly functional as a working device. Otherwise, its usefulness might be limited to home entertainment.

06/10/2010 The Hybrid Age

Last year I started writing about the need for Hybrids in marketing. It was born from my experience with digital marketing; the speed in which things changed along with frustration at a slow, traditional advertising process. Hybrids capture a need for not only digital creatives, but also for anyone who enters into something now labeled "social."

I've met with a number of people over the years that have attempted to shift their organizations by hiring more hybrids. While the good news is that there are more hybrid individuals out there today than there were before, the bad news is that it's still a huge challenge to integrate them into an existing organization and create a culture where they can thrive.

One of the most interesting people taking on this challenge is Ben Malbon of BBH. First tasked with running BBH Labs, Ben is now right in the middle of BBH New York trying to transfer his experiences with his small group to a much larger group. How do you shift a culture to retain what is good but to change what needs changing?

Here's Ben's preliminary answer. While it talks about hybrids (or the term he prefers, T-Shaped people) it also talks about how to create a space in which hybrids can thrive. That last point may be the most important. Hybrids have existed for a while, but they only succeed when they have people around them who can recognize their hybrid talents.

Take a look at this presentation and then read Ben's blog.

Are You Ready to Form Voltron? (June 2010)

View more presentations from Ben Malbon.

I'm looking forward to hearing a lot more on how this effort plays out. Hopefully others can be this as a model for their own organizations.

Just remember, Ben's not alone. There are lots of people out there trying to help create a culture of change and hybrids (Edward Boches, Faris Yakob, and Adam Cohen, to name a few). We need more of them.

What we're seeing is the start of the Hybrid Age.  May it last long and be prosperous.

06/01/2010 Social Media or Marketing: Do Labels Help or Hurt?

I read John Jansch article "Why Social Media Doesn't Matter" on his Duct Tape blog last week with great interest. John's point, to me at least, seemed to be that by labeling this type of customer engagement as "social media," we gave marketing departments another reason to marginalize it. It was just another marketing "thing" that they could check off of their list and relegate to the "done" box.

John's right on, of course. Too many marketers read the deluge of articles and blogs, and attend conferences and seminars on why they need to include social media in their marketing mix. By giving it a label we can pay lip service to it at best, and ignore it at worst.

I agree that social media should be a core competency, a new way of doing business and that the label, social media, matters much less than companies and organizations acting in new ways. But I don't agree we're ready to jettison the term social media just yet.

I think Mark Earls is right: We have to change behaviors in order to change minds.

There are a few great marketing people and groups out there, revolutionizing the way they work, with a focus on customer needs and behavior. Then there are the majority of marketers, both late and early. Most of them aren't ready to change behavior or they way they think. Many still go about doing business as usual, focusing mainly on broadcast print and TV campaigns, and trying to dabble in social media without shifting resources or focus to it.

Slide12Bvisual from http://suewaters.wikispaces.com
That's why the label social media makes sense. It's why the label digital still makes sense. As long as we're trying to connect to digital customers through analog marketing departments, we need to focus on changing behavior, not minds. Social media, digital, social CRM, or mobile may be the way of the future but we need to frame our actions through specific behaviors we can test, adapt and succeed with, in order to change peoples minds.

This argument makes me think of an old international relations book, a classic, by Graham Allison of Harvard. His book "The Essence of Decision" on the Cuban missile crisis tried to analyze the events of October 1962 through a few different models. These included the Rational Actor model, the Organizational Process model, and the Governmental Politics model.

If you think about it, the rational actor, or hero, would break through the marketing clutter and change direction toward a new way, the social media way. There are heroes like that, including Tony Hsieh of Zappos.

Some marketing departments, though, are thoroughly caught in their own organizational processes. Doing something new happens very, very slowly and cautiously.

Or the focus of the company and marketing is a result off in fighting over budget control, an analogy to the government politics model. If the person who believes in social media wins the budget, then the company usually goes in that direction, but does so without integrating the other groups, a crucial element in success.

So what does this have to do with social media? It shows, simply, that organizational beliefs and patterns end up deciding how well a brand embraces social media. More importantly it shows how great a challenge rational actors face within their own organizations.

Labels are important. While the label social media implies a much greater shift in the way we think about marketing to people, it's a useful one for now, in that it gives us a chance to change peoples' behaviors, both inside and outside of an organization.  When we do that, we finally have a chance to change the way people think about marketing. When we introduce social media initiatives, and do them right, it gives the organization and the people in it a chance to see that the behavior works, that it's important, and that it's worth reassessing how you market to your product and services to people.

Sometimes, that process is a lot slower than we wish it to be.

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