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Capturing the Latest Trends for women
Virtual worlds: The next Facebook? - CNN.com
08.10.07 | No Comments

Virtual worlds: The next Facebook? - CNN.com is an interesting article about the predicted boom of the “metaverse”, 3D interactive worlds where users interact via avatar. While I understand the attraction of immersion and rich experience, I think many of these studies overlook a key point- to truly represent a physical world there needs to be some perceived separation of the user from information. I.E., for me to believe that I’m on an island, the palm tree needs to be certain distance from me, the cabana another, and the sponsored kiosk yet another, and the time I spend getting from Point A to Point B helps reinforce the perception. When I’m online now, I have the convenience of accessing a multitude of information and sources immediately from my homepage, facebook page, search results, etc., and that’s a key advantage that I’d be sacrificing in 3D. Also, it is much easier (and faster) to scan text than other media- I would be hugely annoyed if the Washington Post or BoingBoing were only available via video or podcast, and the same is true with over 90% of the content I read everyday.

Much more intriguing, however, is the theoretical inverse of the metaverse, the geoweb. As dorky as it sounds, the ability to bring online in to “meatspace” will be much more valuable, IMHO, than bringing the inconvenience of the physical world online for most non-social, recreational uses. Being able to access limitless information wherever I am about a certain place, and read messages from other people about where to go, historical info, and which of my friends are nearby is very compelling, and has been hyped at this point much less. It also has the potential to be much more powerful for marketers in the next 3-5 years (think retail promotions, travel info, mobile advertising) than the metaverse will be in 10. I got through that whole post without mentioning the recent Second Life bank run! Whoops…

Hypochondria on viral marketing
07.16.07 | No Comments

Advertising Age’s “What’s Plaguing Viral Marketing” is an interesting counterpoint to the excitement about viral marketing. Based on conclusions of research that discounts the importance of “influencers”, the article presents the idea that marketers are headed in the wrong direction focusing on finding the few people with disproportionate influence that will transform a campaign into a phenomena. It is true that majority of such campaigns fail to catch on, and too many marketers try to catch lightning in a bottle with me-too tactics that have worked for others without considering that what worked for sneakers might not be right for pet care. But this article goes even farther based on what I am sure is a very elaborate computer model. Tom Hespos gives a good overview on why creative shortcomings might be responsible for most viral campaigns falling short, versus concluding that good ol’ mass marketing is what brands should consider (which is oddly enough what the article seems to suggest). I think there is an even bigger hole in this line of thinking, however, and it is based on the assumption that influencers are solely individuals that interact with one community.

Without knowing the ins and outs of Mr. Watts’ model, and drawing on the experience that we have from creating and planning campaigns that get picked up and spread by users all the time, I can say with confidence that it over-simplifies the real world landscape by a large margin. First, the idea that that an influential individual is “several times” more influential than an average consumer is bizarre, considering that an “ordinary” person may or may not blog, and if they do, their average readership is usually less than 10. Most of the bloggers that marketers target have audiences in the tens of thousands or even millions, which would seem to indicate there is a large magnitude of difference between the model and reality. If this difference is because the research uses a flat, peer-to-peer network as its basis, fine, but the article should have mentioned it. Also potentially misleading is the idea that marketers focus on finding individuals as opposed to groups or communities. A person who’s opinion carries weight in one community might be meaningless in another, or may be regarded as scripture in yet another. Knowing what to place where is often more important than who, and only by having a comprehensive understanding about how different communities (vs individuals) feed each other can marketers change viral from hit-or-miss to a key part of their strategy. Users will embrace great ideas, and the challenge is having them in the right format at the right time, not so much hitting up the same .1% of the population over and over again (or hiring a network of people to chase them, for that matter). I don’t know many people in marketing who really believed that if you found the 10 super-influencers you could collect your check and go home, but it is a stretch to apply an abstract model to a much more complicated environment.

Advertising Age - CMO Strategy - Rethink Your Web Strategy or Fail
07.11.07 | No Comments

Advertising Age - CMO Strategy - Rethink Your Web Strategy or Fail is a great article addressing many of the oft-overlooked realities of online marketing. And while I strongly agree with 90% of what Nilofer Merchant has to say, I do differ on a couple of her “Best” and “Worst” examples (none of which, thankfully, are clients). Craigslist, a questionable inclusion to begin with (not really being a marketer, and a proud holder of “.org”), has revolutionized local advertising by being simple and easy to use- the “all text” interface that it is criticized for has not dissuaded millions of users from embracing it. True, it is in no way elegant, but the for-users-by-users feel is one of its strongest brand assets, and has let it succeed where many cleaner, slicker and flashier commercial properties have failed.

However, my larger issue with the top 3/bottom 3 is the attempt to draw an apples-to-apples comparison between widely varying categories and types of sites. What the “Best” share in common is that they are all services/ecommerce sites or apparel manufacturers (and in the case of Threadless, both). Threadless and Amazonall have enormous inventories, and having customers rate, share, and organize the selection based on personal interest is the only viable option, and one where they can take a relatively “product neutral” stance. I.E. “I don’t care if you buy a Sony or a Canon camera, as long as you buy it from me and come back”. Nike, Converse (owned by Nike), and Lego all reside in a space where customization is key to their category, have a short manufacturing cycle, and have enough sway that they can sell direct to the consumer. The Panasonic and Nikon “Worst” sites, on the other hand, represent an entirely different category. Customization from an appearance standpoint, in electronics is much farther down the list of consumer considerations than apparel, and the products themselves are have a much longer, more involved manufacturing cycle. Also, because they are created by manufacturers that are not in market leader positions (like Nike) their ability to own the consumer without ticking off retail partners is limited. Threadless, by seamlessly (pun intended) incorporating community content, digg integration, and strong social network tools is definitely a model to look to, but one has to keep grounded in product, manufacturing, and most importantly, consumer realities.

Tag You’re it, Part 2- Where in the world?
06.27.07 | No Comments

Wired has a great article on how the open nature of Google Maps is changing how we interact with our surroundings. What really struck me as interesting is the potential of KML, which allows users to mash-up maps with any data they want and openly share it. Notably, Google is indexing all of the KML files they can find, whether or not it is specific to their own product. So what does this mean for marketers? Google Maps (and for that matter Live Local from Microsoft) will be integrated more and more into mobile, as evidenced by the iPhone’s deep integration of the service, and “third screen” marketing will become a much more effective and necessary part of the media arsenal. Will I drive an extra mile off the highway to go to a well reviewed local diner, versus a fast food chain at a rest stop? Definitely. Would I plan a vacation itinerary around other user reviews that I find via an online map, versus brochures I pick up, or a paid travel site listing? Absolutely. The talk about online local advertising is mostly focused on the online extensions of local media, not the local extensions of global portals, but I think that this will shift in the near-to-mid term. And again, what will drive the expansion, plus make local search (and by proxy, mobile search) much more effective is user tagging. Instead of a product page, it’s a businesses sticky on a map, and letting your users know how you want to be described (not that they’ll always listen) is a large part of taking advantage of this new platform. Whether I’m a car dealership that is betting that my location and advertising will carry the day, a casual dining restaurant chain that wants a new, better way to connect with my customers, or even a global CPG that wants to communicate with a customer base that is on a cell versus a laptop, the geoweb is worth exploring.

Same as it ever was?
05.08.07 | No Comments

Funny or Die, a Will Ferrell-fronted comedy video site, has received plenty of coverage around its launch, more around his involvement and their intro clip, “The Landlord” than around the user-contributed content, which has been more tepid. That said, there is an onslaught of theme-based video-sharing launches, based around humor, non-profits, tech, etc., which brings up a familiar scenario- What if the audience that YouTube has aggregated fragments right as marketers finally figure it out? The struggles that agencies are going through trying to adapt creative to the online video platform will only be compounded when assets will have to be adapted to different formats, channels, tagging systems, and communities in addition to figuring out appropriate length. Clearly many of the start-ups around today will not be around to witness this additional shift, but as marketers focus on the “what?” in a message, they should also be anticipating a much more complicated answer to the “where?”. Oh, and the same thing is happening to social networks as well, but I’ll save that for another post.

iMedia Connection - The Dangers of Exploiting Social Media
05.02.07 | No Comments

Our CEO, Pete Snyder and Project Manager Kaitlyn Wilkins co-authored a great piece in iMedia Connection today. Dealing with the media’s questionable use of social networks after the Virginia Tech tragedy, it raises some very hard questions about appropriate use of people’s online information. A good read on a difficult topic, and hopefully it will cause people to think twice before making public personal profiles in the future.

Implications of Wikis
04.12.07 | No Comments

Great article “Wonderful World of Wikis” over at Read/WriteWeb, which gives an overview of the many different flavors of social reference tools. One interesting point made at the end is that social networks are a type of Wiki, though limited in user input to an individual’s profile. I think that the announcement by WetPaint that they are adding social media tools to their product, showing the inverse to be true as well, points to a growing trend of Web 2.0 convergence. For social reference sites to be viable, they must have an active community that ensures the validity and value of the content. Conversely, for a social network to be a success, they must make it easy for members to provide worthwhile information to other members. Add to this equation the development of Wikia Search, and this convergence will potentially have a huge impact on marketers.

This, of course is entirely new ground for brands, as striking the balance between providing marketing speak and valuable, balanced information. What will most likely happen, however, is that brand information will be provided at a much quicker pace by consumers, both pro and con, than brands can adapt to participate in the conversation. Though the impact of an unflattering or inaccurate Wikipedia profile today is significant, it will pale in comparison to the damage that can be done as these types of sites proliferate and a potentially large share of the search market migrates to a user-indexed product. The challenge will be navigating a slew of protocols that are implemented to prevent abuse by those who would look to “game” the system. While the threat of such behavior is definitely real, companies can be an extremely valuable source of information to these communities once they look at these platforms as another way to talk with the consumer versus just marketing at them.

Valentine’s Day Wrap up
02.23.07 | No Comments

Interesting how video-sharing has transformed the face of romance- we did a quick snapshot of Valentine’s on YouTube, and here’s what we found:

Highlights
We found that people were utilizing video sharing extensively:

– Over 1200 Valentine videos were added on the 14th, the vast majority of which were video ecards of widely varying quality. Some were the standard slow song + hearts + scripted “I love you”, while more original directors took advantage of the snow to scrawl out their messages.

– 5 Marriage proposals were contributed, bringing the total to 254 on the site, ranging from CG animated productions to balloon fly-bys, to more awkward productions.

– Interesting twists on the traditional for single users – one user fished for Valentine suitors with a rendition of “As Time Goes By” that garnered almost 60,000 views, over 450 comments and 20 video responses, while another user volunteered to be any single persons sweetheart via a personal email message, which generated a whopping 609,366 views as of this writing and over 2500 users took her up on her offer.

Viral marketing pieces for Nokia and Siemens (set in the future) under the premise of being wedding proposals did not fare as well as their organic brethren, generating just under 3600 views for Nokia (in 11 months) while things look a bit better for Siemens which was viewed just over 6500 times since it launched Valentine’s Day.

2007 Super Bowl Ad Buzz Report
02.06.07 | No Comments

We have just released our Super Bowl buzz report, and we saw some interesting things that a lot of coverage missed – one of the most popular spots, after analyzing 12,000 discussions on millions of sites, was the CBS house spot featuring Dave Letterman and Oprah. It came in second to the Budweiser “Rock, Paper, Scissors” spot in volume and both spots generated an amazing 91% favorability rating. The most discussed spot, not surprisingly was the Snickers “Brokeback Mechanics” effort, which proved that not all buzz is positive. Lastly, the loser of the evening was Salesgenie.com, which hardly produced any positive feedback that we could detect. Our CEO Pete Snyder appeared on Fox News with Bill Hemmer to discuss our findings- check out the clip below:


Product Placement Buzz Report
12.22.06 | No Comments

We’ve released a new buzz report on product placement that was picked by The Hollywood Reporter. The main focus was on differing perceptions of product placement by platform. The report:

43 sites were researched with a focus on the top Film/Entertainment, Television, Gaming and Major Portal communities. Going back 3 months, 862 discussions directly related to consumer opinions about product placement were uncovered.

Surprisingly, 595 discussions reflected either acceptance or indifference to product placement, the remaining 267 discussions represented negative views. The majority of discussions centered on the use of product placement in film and television with only a small percentage of gamers discussing the topic. Overall, gamers were the most negative in tone to in-game product placement where the tactic is on the rise because they’ve had less time to become accustomed to the practice. However, the largest volume of negative discussion was focused on TV, which oddly enough is the one platform that consumers can get for free. The numbers breakdown as follows:

Positive

Negative

Total

gaming

46

11

57

tv

194

135

329

movies

355

121

476

595

267

862

Online consumers appear to be savvy when it comes to product placement and are willing to accept it if it does not detract from the entertainment experience. Employing subtlety and humor are more effective than blatantly plastering products everywhere.

Sites sampled included:

TV – (TV.com, TWOP)

http://forums.tv.com (TV.com)

www.televisionwithoutpity.com

Gaming – (Gamespot, TeamXbox)

www.gamespot.com

www.teamxbox.com

Film/Entertainment – (IGN, IMDb)

www.ign.com

www.imdb.com

Mainstream – (Google Groups, Delphi Forums)

http://groups.google.com

www.delphiforums.com