That Awkward Feeling

Have you ever had to tell your wife that “Yes, in fact that outfit does look horrendous.”?

That’s how I’ve felt the last few days, and I do not mean to say my wife needs a new wardrobe.

Oddly, we’re one of the 3.3%* of Americans without a television. (Actually, we have one, but it’s in the unfinished basement doing nothing.) There are certain times that we are frustrated by that fact, but in general, life has been fine thanks to Hulu, Netflix and iTunes. It used to be that sports and news were our concern. With Twitter and various other online or app venues, news has been pretty much forgotten about when we relive our concerns. Sports on the other hand is one thing that we both miss. I miss my pathetic Twins, and she misses the Olympics.

This year, during the opening ceremonies broadcast (pushed to prime time by NBC, which should get its own post, but I digress), I was at home working on a project, while Mary was doing a photoshoot for a friend. The television was on in the background for her, and I of course, had my Twitter stream up.

I’m not sure whether I was the chicken or the egg, but I started to see some interesting things pop up in my Twitter stream, and my wife recalls her confusion as well.

Let’s step back a moment. For those who don’t know me, I’m what you call a “fanboy.”  Look at my résumé and you’ll see that I dedicated just shy of seven years of my professional career to working for Apple. Why? Because it’s Apple. You can’t resist the allure of working for a brand that you so admire. While there, I met some of the smartest people, and best teams ever. (Unrelated to this post, go read Forbes: http://onforb.es/NBsJr5 .) While with Apple, I spent a good chunk of my time focusing on visual merchandising of the stores – making sure that they all looked, felt, and spewed the Apple brand. Not an easy task when you have thousands of people walking in and out on a daily basis. We got what it was to be the brand, and we knew the importance of protecting it.

So during the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and Apple spent a few million on air time, I was a wee bit confused. Not necessarily at the fact that they bought the time, but the reactions that were surfacing across the web.

Me not having a TV, I relied on Twitter for an explanation of what was going on. The first Tweet that really got my attention came from another former Apple employee who now works for one of the best ad agencies in town:

 

 

From there, the conversation continued, and I found an online recording of the commercials. (Now available from Apple at: http://www.apple.com/mac/videos/#tv-ads-mayday )

Well that was interesting.

Another former Apple employee joined in our Twitter conversation and pointed out that they seem more like Best Buy commercials than Apple. Spot on comment in my opinion.

Now that it has been a few days, the internet has spoken up, and the majority of folks think that they missed the mark – with a few specific exceptions.

To me, this points out a few very important things.

1. People actually pay attention to Apple’s advertising. What I mean is that if it truly were a Best Buy commercial, no one would have said anything or cared. It would just be normal for that situation. Apple just has a history with the ad world. It not only provides the tools for most of the ad world to survive on, but also provides great and inspirational ads. 1984 changed the Super Bowl. Think Different brought emotion to a box of plastic and metal. Silhouettes on billboards made us want to dance. Justin Long and John Hodgman had characters that made points worth listening to.

2. The category of people who thought they were cute, or good, were (in my audience at least) current Apple employees. There’s nothing wrong with this. They were fine ads – they weren’t horrible, they were questionable, and seemed un-Apple. But their defendants where those who are still drinking the Kool-Aid, as we say. Ironically, they also were first to point out how incorrect the ads were. The character shouldn’t necessarily have been a Genius – a Creative would be a better choice, or potentially a Specialist. But they made a concession and chose to go with the most widely known in the cast of Apple retail characters.

And that’s what I saw. Concessions being made. So here is where I tell my wife she’s got some ugly clothes on.  Apple fights the status quo in everything it does. In products, in retail, in culture. The same has held true for advertising. It seems as the times have changed lately, and not just in relation to this batch, either. If you look at their most recent iPhone commercials, you’ll see big celebrities being big celebrities. That hasn’t happened in the past. We didn’t need proof that the products were cool since Sam Jackson was using them. They were cool because they were cool. Apple had it’s own street cred and didn’t need anyone else to hold it’s hand.

Don’t get me wrong though. I have complete faith in Apple. But, I struggle with who at their roster of ad agencies came up with (and will admit) to this campaign.

Go ahead and rip me apart in the comments – I can take it.

****Update: Check out Ken Segall’s take. If you don’t know Ken, you know his work. From the Apple campaigns prior to this one….: http://kensegall.com/2012/07/new-mac-ads-landing-with-a-serious-thud/ ****

*Stat from Nielsen report in March of 2011 stating that 96.7% of households have a television, which actually dropped since their last survey where 98.9% had one.

Toolbox

In the last few weeks, I’ve come across two tools that I thought I’d share that are pertinent for those of you who are using WordPress, or if you are a brand.

1. TodayLaunch is a pretty neat social media monitoring platform. It allows you to monitor several Twitter streams, Facebook Pages, even WordPress sites for comments and other interactions. It gives a unified “inbox” mentality, so you can easily glance to see what’s going on in relation to your particular brand. What’s really nice is that it doesn’t stop with that. It also gives you the ability to set up some monitors. These are keyword (or hashtag) dependent searches across other people’s content. It’s pretty slick. And free. And pretty.

That being said, it’s not perfect. It has the ability to schedule posts for any and all of the linked social accounts, but the process is more about creating content, rather than making it easy to share. Right now, I use BufferApp to do most of my scheduled posts. What I love about it in comparison is how easy it is for me to go through my RSS feed in the morning, then with one browser-extension click schedule posts linking to a particular page. In general, I can get a few days worth of content scheduled, just by browsing and clicking on the browser extension. Plus, it links to my bit.ly account. Now that used to be more valuable before bit.ly decided to make their UI horrible…

2. BlogVault.net is a neat little service (with a monthly fee) that manages and automates both backing up and restoring WordPress sites. I heard about it through a friend of mine, and tried it tonight. It is particularly useful when you built a site in a beta environment, and then want to move it to the production environment. A few clicks, and it migrates everything from contents to tables over to the target destination.

Being that I manage or help manage a handful of WordPress sites, and I’m constantly building variants, this seems particularly useful. The downside is the monthly cost. Plans start at $9/month for one site – or $19 for three sites, and onward. If I were in an environment where I was hosting my clients on the Amazon cloud, or something else that has a tendency to go down occasionally, it could be worth it. And having a good backup really comes down to how much your time is worth – if $19/month and having to use it once is less expensive than the time it takes for you to recreate the whole site, then I suggest you take a gander. Lucky for me, no one actually reads these posts, so I don’t stress about the thought of the site imploding someday…

One very interesting point about TodayLaunch, is that it is built by a company out of North Dakota who specializes in marketing, and has this software (and other software) as a feature. I wouldn’t be surprised if they learn quickly that their software is their main business, or if they/it get acquired in the relatively near future.

I think there is a seismic shift coming to the marketing and advertising community. More and more companies in this vertical are becoming software companies. And for good reason. Software, and SaaS in particular (software-as-a-service) is becoming more and more valuable as a differentiator. Look at the impact of “big data”, and how having more information doesn’t mean much unless you can actually gain insights from it. A good example of this merging of tech and marketing is over at Three Deep Marketing, where they’ve come up with a  product called Crossfuse. It helps provide true analytics and insights to the craziness that is lead generation. Another example is a few years older, but still one of my favorite (and earliest) examples: Colle + McVoy‘s Squawq. It’s a Twitter digester, for lack of a better term. I’d love to see this continue to grow as a tool, as it’s been a few years and not much has changed.

I’ve said it before, but I think the marketer who understands the software (and technology) world is one who has a big advantage right now.

 

Campaign I’d like to see: We are the 99¢.

Ok. Just a random thought/post.

Not to belittle the whole Occupy movement, but I’m waiting for someone to come out with a “We are the 99¢” campaign to promote their latest dollar menu.

I imagine some more creative folks than I could have some fun with this.

Odd, I know. Usually I have verbose posts that have a point. This one, however, does not.

#end

So You Want to be a CMO?

Scratch that.

So you want to be leading a team in marketing or advertising?

Then I’ve got some homework for you.

I recently had a brief, but great, exchange with Chris Schermer, head of SCHERMER  – an ad agency in town that has a great reputation for their business to business focus.

The quick tweet-off was about the future control of marketing spending. It started with this:

Which led to:

 

Interesting thoughts to say the least. I am privileged to be square between technologists and advertisers on a daily basis, and actively get to play both roles. There is no arguing that technology – be it the Internet, mobile, social, new platforms – will continue its effects on how we market, and how we shop.

With that, my piece of advice to anyone who is interested in the field of marketing or advertising, do yourself a favor and participate.

By participate I mean a few things.

1) Play Farmville. Yes, I said it. But if you haven’t experienced Farmville or any other crazy game on Facebook or elsewhere, then you are doing you and your potential customers a disservice – because you don’t know what it is (other than a game). I’m not saying that you should implement a Farmville strategy here, I’m merely saying it is a good example of knowing what is out there. Are you on Pinterest? How about Instagram? Do you know what Spotify is? These aren’t small audiences, and by participating, you may be able to apply some of the thought patterns and principles to other aspects of your business.

2) Go back to school. Ok, not as in school school (but I’m sure that’d work too). Sign up for Codecademy right now. You’re already behind. Seriously. Codecademy is a program that is free – to help you learn and understand what it is that coders do on a daily basis. I’m not saying become a programmer, I’m saying participate in the process. If you can speak to code, then you can learn the boundaries. And, potentially how good your partners are at breaking them. Plus, it is also a great exercise in logic. If ___ then __ else___.  ===. Sign up here: http://www.codecademy.com   and do so now.

Sure you can be a good advertiser/marketer/whatever without these, but I bet you’ll be better by doing them.

Participation is key.

 

*To note, SCHERMER is also a client of mine at my day job – we provide them with IT support.

When Comments Go Wrong

As I watched my Facebook stream update this hallowed eve, I saw pictures of cute kids and pumpkins. I also saw an interesting link from Black Retail that originated at AdAge.

It was interesting, but as history repeated, the comments were the best part.

I am one of the bloggers involved in the buzz about M&M’s White Chocolate Candy Corn candies at Walmart via the #MMsGetCorny hashtag. We have worked diligently for three months to show brands how to utilize the power of bloggers to promote their products via social media outlets like Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest, YouTube, Flickr, etc. Hopefully more brands will take notice!!! Check out http://mmsgetcorny.com.

That was the first comment.

Of about 18 similar ones.

No lie.

The original post went up around 8:30 pm.

The editor got fed up around midnight. After what looked to be 17 (in a row) of these types of comments:

I am yet another blogger that participated in this campaign through Collective Bias but unfortunately, I was one of the unsuccessful bloggers that had to make a last minute substitution because the M&M’s White Chocolate Candy Corn Candies didn’t show up in time! In fact, my Walmart offered absolutely no help. They couldn’t (and didn’t make much effort) answer why the highly publicized debut date was not adhered to at their store. I seemed to know more than they did even though it was all over the flyer that they had upon entering the store???? Social media is a very powerful tool and the buzz created on my FB alone drove up their sales. People across the country were buying these candies just to tell me what they tasted like, when they got them, and offering to ship them to me! We’ll continue to talk, glad brands (and you) are listening!

What. The. Crap.

Don’t be stupid.

I guess I am glad to see that they all admitted that they were working for Collective Bias, but I think it’s sad that no one told them that a) their name is silly and b) it’s not about the virtual reach that having paid bloggers promote their wares.

Yes, we rely on social media for more decisions than ever before, but just because someone blogged that candy corn M&M’s are great, doesn’t mean I’ll listen to them. I NEED something of value, from a trusted source. Stop Collectively Yelling – start listening.

Call Me an Eeyore

My daughter has not moved (or blinked, probably) for the last hour.

She is almost two years old This is absolutely unheard of.

And then there was Winnie the Pooh.

First and foremost, as an adult (rather, as a former child,) this new rendition is stunning.

On the flip side, I’m pretty pissed at Disney right now.

Let’s quick walk through the experience.

My wife, being the savvy lady she is, found a coupon online from Disney for $5 off the movie. That’s a pretty great deal – 20% off. And it’s real, right from disney.go.com.

Go ahead. Click that link. And make sure your speakers are turned all the way up.

Stupid.

Don’t get me wrong. Loud music on your website isn’t aways a horrible idea. However, when you are a media distribution company, I’d imagine you have quite a few people who may be browsing your site, whilst trying to enjoy one of your products – i.e. a movie. Perhaps a kid’s movie. But I digress…

To print off the coupon, I had to log into a disney.go.com account. If I didn’t have one, I’d have to create one. Fine, whatever. But then I had to download some crazy printing thing. I mean literally, an application is required to print off a coupon. Really? Not only that, but it didn’t work for my wife the first three times, so she asked me to do it. I only got it to work by installing the stupid software, quitting my web browser, then navigating back to the page. And yes, I had to log in again to get….a coupon.

Finally, I was to the point where I could print. Joy. But then it didn’t print for who knows why. So I had to pause my print queue, restart the print queue, then try to print again, by (you guessed it) logging out and logging back in to the website.

I’m a fairly technical guy. But this is plain stupid.

So with coupon finally in hand, we ran to Target and got the movie (along with another $150 worth of stuff that we didn’t go in for).

We got home, and wanted to start the movie before our daughter had to go to bed.

So, the copy that we bought had a DVD, Blu-Ray and Digital Copy.

Naturally, I chose to get the digital version going since we live off our iTunes library all day, every day. This isn’t our first time we’ve bought movies with digital copies. Usually, they have some nice instructions on how to enter the code into iTunes. But this time, it wasn’t so.

Instead, we got tricked into (you guessed it) logging into disney.go.com to “register” our code. Naturally, I figured that this was part of the whole deal, and then they’d give me an iTunes download code. Fine, I’ll log in to your stupid site yet again to get a code that I shouldn’t need. What’s worse? I didn’t get anything.

Well what the hell?

I want to put it in my iTunes library, and sure enough, the little “Redeem” screen popped right up. “Is it really the same code that they just made me put in somewhere else because of bad copy?”

Bingo.

I think I was (and am) more mad that they made it seem like I needed to log in to the Disney site to get another code, and then when I did, they offered to stream the movie for me. No, thanks though. Instead of instructions, or next steps, I had to wing it and see if it would work.

What I don’t understand is this is a company who does so many good things in terms of giving us great experiences and telling great stories. Yet they fail so miserably in their online presence. The whole digital aspect of getting Winnie the Pooh was horrid.

Luckily, the movie more than made up for it.

On Top: MIMA Summit a Success

Alright. I am very proud to say that I am no longer a MIMA Summit virgin.

Yesterday, I had the unbelievable luck to be one of several hundred to attend what must be one of the best conferences in the country. Yeah, you heard me. The big old United States.

What made it so great you ask? The Summit started with a stellar keynote by Avinash Kaushik (@avinash), one of the undeniable wise-guys from Google. Not only was it great content, but he understands the showmanship that is involved with presenting information. He talked about great experiences online leading to true ROI – and how to measure it. He also humbled some of our local big brands by telling them what they’re doing wrong. No joke, Best Buy, who had several TABLES of people right next to the stage, was one of his victims. 3M – whose products he loves, also was brought to it’s digital knees.

And rightfully so. One of the great things he pointed out was the age of the internet was also the most poignant example of what I call Digital Darwinism. Only good experiences survive. The rest perish. Many companies have lost their brand, profit, revenue and existence due to the web. And that isn’t a bad thing. The web provides accountability for success, and the ability to accurately test digital alternatives.

If I had payed the $450 just to see Avinash, it would have been worth it. But then, it kept getting better.

There are tremendously talented agencies in town – of which I’m proud to say many are our clients. But that’s not all. One of the greatest things was my brief encounter with Molly. Molly is a Senior at a liberal arts college currently. She came to the Summit (both days- the whole package). Why? She’s not a designer, or in UX. But because she wanted to see what it’s really like. What the world of Interactive and digital truly bring to the table. She was incredibly bright, and it made one thing clear: the future of the marketing world will be ok. She was hungry, smart, and someone out there better hire her right away. If you don’t, I will. Unfortunately, I’m stupid and didn’t get her last name.

SpyderTrap was also kind enough to build a great iOS App to keep me on track for the day. Not an easy task, in a short timeframe, and well executed.

Those little moments of greatness transpired throughout the day, and it made one thing for certain:

MIMA Summit 2012 will be amazing and I cannot wait for it.

Congrats to all who participated, presented, volunteered, and of course the committee members who helped make it so successful.

———————————————————

I’ve compiled some of the presentations from SlideShare below, plus the Minnov8 guys did an outstanding job of providing content throughout the day as well. Make sure you check it out.

Inbound Marketing is All Connected

View more presentations from Rand Fishkin

The 22 Ideas of Creativity

As I was digesting the internet this evening, I ran into something fairly intriguing.

Several times I’ve heard that there are really only seven basic plots as it relates to television and movie scripts. In reality, potentially all of literature. Christopher Booker wrote a book about it.

Now, the standardization of content not only has entered the realm of creative briefs, but also the world of apps. All at the same time.

Don’t believe me? Check out Brief Buddy (found via The Denver Egotist).

Now, it isn’t exactly seven stories, but 22 ideas behind creativity. What’s really great is that it actually has live and relevant examples.

This is by no means a replacement for having a brain, but a refreshing approach to helping creatives break from their regular routine.

22 ways to spark creativity. 22 way to think about a new solution. 22 ways to create a different voice to be heard.

Related, I saw a post earlier in the week that was an inspiring thought. I can’t remember who to attribute it to, so my apologies if it was you. But the idea was simple enough:

Next time you throw a product away, redesign it.

That caught me off guard when I read it. And to be honest, I was hesitant to throw anything away. I’m not saying this app can solve my trash problem, but I am saying why not branch out and be inspired. Wherever it comes from.

One app. $2.99. Why not take a peek.

Google Says Hello Moto

This morning, the hot news has been that the search and software giant Google has acquired Motorola Mobility.

I’ve been trying to think about what this means for the tech world.

I have a lot of respect for Google. They do business unlike most, and provide some innovative thinking behind how we use the web. My fear is for Motorola. Generally not seen as the most revolutionary of companies, how will it deal with a culture-shift? How will the hardware business change the way Google does business?

So, doing what most do after seeing “big” tweets, I tried to find the source. Sure enough, Google released a post on their blog about it early this morning. And then I read it.

What a bunch of whiny ninnies.

We recently explained how companies including Microsoft and Apple are banding together in anti-competitive patent attacks on Android. The U.S. Department of Justice had to intervene in the results of one recent patent auction to “protect competition and innovation in the open source software community” and it is currently looking into the results of the Nortel auction. Our acquisition of Motorola will increase competition by strengthening Google’s patent portfolio, which will enable us to better protect Android from anti-competitive threats from Microsoft, Apple and other companies.

-Larry Page, CEO

I get it. You feel like you are getting squashed. This is another venue for you to talk about your “openness”. But really? You are Google. Don’t just sit there whining about what patent laws are doing to you, go invent a new way to do something.

Is “openness” hurting Google? Is Android getting too hard? Think about it. They just bought a phone company, so that they can build their products better. I get it, and it’s a great idea. I’m excited to see what comes of it. However, by creating the hardware and the OS for the phone, isn’t that one step closer to a closed loop process? Sure the OS will remain hackable and more freedom for development, but then you build the OS to take advantage of the hardware that you build. This action isn’t going to shut other phone manufacturers out, I’m sure. But it creates one less step to a controlled ecosystem – something that Google has adamantly spoken against.

But, they’ll say it’s about the experience. Oh wait, they did:

The combination of Google and Motorola will not only supercharge Android, but will also enhance competition and offer consumers accelerating innovation, greater choice, and wonderful user experiences. I am confident that these great experiences will create huge value for shareholders.

The user experience is all that matters. That’s part of the reason why Apple with iPhone and iPad, and iOS, has been so successful. The experience is there, and controlled throughout to the best of Apple’s ability.

Google being more open has a harder time getting manufacturers to build off a certain hardware specification. Will this solve the problem? No, but Google will start building (or branding) phones that work best with their devices. Then again, knowing Motorola, there will be plenty of devices that offer “entry” opportunities into the smart phone (and not so smart) environment.

It will be very interesting to see, that’s for sure. Android has, and always will have, a place in market. Now controlling both software and hardware, will it change who Google is?

Expediency

Life is always about how valuable our time is. Time is money in some people’s view. Time is life in others. Both views are correct to me. But when an organization tries new methodologies to connect to their consumers to make things faster, they should make every effort to be more responsive.

It’s a defensive game, for sure, but if you want to play, speed is key.

Twitter is a good example. Several companies are trying Twitter-based support for their customers (which I wholeheartedly endorse). However, two recent incidents have got me thinking that they should be allocating their resources elsewhere, because their efforts are in vain currently.

Don’t get me wrong. I WANT these companies there. But we NEED their responses to be faster.

@AskWellsFargo – I sent a basic Tweet asking if anyone was listening, because I had a question. I sent the first Tweet in the afternoon on a weekday, and it took until the next morning to respond. The next morning? I then politely direct messaged them as they requested stating that the issue was resolved by through their (arcane) phone tree.  They said thanks, and glad that it was resolved, and signed it with their initials. No big deal. Slow, but a valiant effort.

But wait.

The next day, the same person (based on their signature initials) actually asked me again to direct message them to see if they could help with the issue. Really? Two days after it happened, and answered by the same person?  Come on people – there are tools available to help you in these situations (see CoTweet for example).

A good effort, but honestly, if you can’t respond quicker, more accurately, and with less annoyance than that, then you shouldn’t be playing the support game via Twitter.

Another incident didn’t happen to me, but I watched it unfold. A friend sent a public message to @TalkToQwest – an experiment for me, and unfortunate outage for my friend. It took them about four hours to respond, again asking for a DM to clarify the problem. Hopefully it was resolved, but our internet went out at home for a few hours and I was not a happy camper, so I feel my friend’s pain.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, @UPS actually responded to me within minutes- while I was waiting for their service center to open. They got me the information I needed and helped solve the problem. That was fairly impressive.

One of the big points behind Twitter is that we learn more in 140 characters than in 140 pages – mainly because we’re still awake by the end. If you can’t put resources behind your social media efforts, then you need to evaluate the purpose of it. Plenty of companies are doing it very well. Usually those companies have good partners in either agencies, or consultants, guiding them through the ever changing waters.

A few of my friends are Community Managers. It’s experiences like these that prove to me the value in such a role, and how it can (and will) change our consumption and customer service future.