Sunday, June 29, 2008

Readings on Sunday 29/6

Some fun Bric a brac outside of the normal topic

1 Wired is inspired of the Wiki idea and they urge people to turn in their “How-to”. Marketing on internet should be about engaging the consumer in different activities. Wiki "How-to target this well I think. There is something for everybody. Everybody is an expert on something. Why not just chose a topic which interests you and start to write?

2 If you want something more creative, and e.g. include the whole family in your actitives - why not create creators in the game Spore.

3 If you want something more advanced such as building social applications, the page of Zembly could be something for you.

4 Another article form Wired, but with a different theme to the above. This air machine Blackswift is awesome in every way - burn rate of money, speed etc.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Think out of your customer’s point of view! That is often continuously hard work

The need of walking in the customers shoes so to speak and see things out of the customer’s perspective is something we marketers often empathize.

But in our everyday practice, how easy is it not to forget this? We become preoccupied with other technical and tactical marketing stuff and lose sigh of how the customer think and what their real needs are.

A small example of this came about when I read the blog post of Willy Franzen. He argues that if you have the word "subscribe" over your RSS feed on your blog, you may scare away many potential consumers. My first reaction to this was that this is way overboard – “Of course everyone understands what subscribe to a feed means”! It does not mean that you have to pay for anything or something like that. However, after a while I saw the saneness in the argument. Yes, wrong of me to assume that the consumer necessary knows what subscribe means. I thereafter adapted my text of my RRS in an attempt to better meet the potential customer’s need and understanding. Now when I have changed it, I think it is much more clear and informative.

This is one small example on how easy it is to take things for granted and assume that everybody think as yourselves. Marketing is about checking continuously our activities so that they always are focused on the customers needs.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

“Content is king” arguments on Internet - Knowledge about machines wins over knowledge about humans

Those who have knowledge have power. That is a statement many of us holds to be true. It does not matter within which area. It applies in most of them. Take the business markets as an example. Those who truly understand the logics of a particular market - how it works and tics – they have a competitive advantage over those who do not. On internet markets, it seems to be very important to have deep knowledge about the search machines – much so than about humans.

Bloggers and social media
The reason of my reflection about knowledge is that I have read a lot of blogs about how to be successful as a blogger. Nowadays blogging is a very important marketing tool so it is important to cover that ground if you want to be successful in marketing on internet. In my reading everybody acknowledge the importance of SEO. But many seem to be very focused on, what I call the human side of internet marketing. Much recommendation is e.g. about how you should market and promote yourself in social medias. The argument is that you can not just sit and wait for somebody (search engine) to find you. You have to “go out there” and make yourself visible – connect and mingle with other bloggers! To me this feels intuitive right – spot on. This is something which I'm familiar with. It fits my experience. But I have learnt that when I easily tend to take things for granted, I should be aware.

A contrarian view
The alert came when I read Court's excellent post about avoiding the search enging pipe dream by focusing on social media sites. Most of the many commentators seem to agree with the author. However, one of the commentators, Vic, seems to have a different take on this than the rest. He emphasis that “Content is king – Period!” Google’s algorithm is what rules on internet. He goes on and explains his doubtfulness on the focus on the social media. The problem is express in this quote.

“Court I do agree that social sites are great but the problem is the older the content is in a social sites the less people come from it, hence you have to constantly keep writing new stuff, with Google is the opposite the more older content you have the more keyword combinations you site have.”

What matters is to add rich content. That suits the algorithm of Google. According to the commentator this means that it is important to choose a topic which is wide enough – in meaning of being interesting to a large population. Then will the Google algorithm help you to make a lot of money. This much more than interacts on social sites.

The "problems" of human thinking
I interpret this as a focus on the machine side of internet marketing. A lot to the success lies in the design of your communication, compared to its execution. To create a good design you need to have a deep understanding of how the machines “think”. The machines will like you if you chose a topic which is wide enough. To add content on internet is like food for the crawler machines. You feed them and they will like and reward you for it.

It is though not easy to think like the machines. I’m not a programmer who has a lot of knowledge about these things. I think the way human thinks. I have a keen understanding in how important it is to get notice by other humans and network with them. However, the risk with this non understanding (i.e. being human), is that I tend to deemphasize such things which I do not understand – i.e. machine thinking – and emphasize such things which I understand – i.e. human thinking. But that can be a loser game. It can reduce the changes of a successful marketing strategy on internet.

The importance of a well thought out design
For me as a blogger, it is important too avoid a too narrow topic – and of course a too broad. When I surf among successful blogger I have to remember that this is still a small market with very specialized interests. Yes, even if we are talking about millions. In these markets can social media sites be important. But in larger markets the customer is not necessary interested in blogging strategies and business networking. They want to find good keywords so they find information, friends, offerings as quickly and accurate as possible – and this is the job of the machines. Internet marketing as blogging is then about making sure that the machines work for you and place you really close to our potential customers. To achieve this, the blogger has to learn how to think more as machines than as humans when designing the business idea. Then can we obtain a competitive advantage on the internet market.

This can be odd, because we humans are humans. But the two guys who were able to think like the machines created the profitable business idea which now rules what we know as internet – the Google search. This business idea is hard to comprehend for many people who think like humans. That is why we use colorful metaphors such as beauty contest when we want to explain Google’s business idea. As for the machines, they have no clue what beauty contest means. What make sense for them is cold and hard numerical signs.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Readings on Sunday 22/6

Here are three posts on this hot topic of life streaming. Right now, it is a clear trend that we move from Twitter to Friend feed.

1 The first is an article from Gina Pace about Life streaming. We have heard the components in this before. But she does a very good summon of where we are up to now – with Friend Feed and others.

2 The second is about Steve Rubel, who suggests that Friend Feed may have a lot of potentials in the future.

3 The third post is some suggestions from Dave Slusher on how to go about when changing from Twitter to Friend Feed.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Google Web accelerator gives me extra "free" time

Yes, two extra "free" days!

Google web accelerator is a tool which makes your browser work more efficient. Now the accelerator tells me that it has saved me two whole working days since I started to use it.

Hmm, wonder what I should do with these? Probably, I will do the usual thing - surfing on the Web. An additional bonus with that is also that I will receive even more "free" working days from Google web accelerator *smile*. It is all about learning new things.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

FRA skiten!

Sorry for the swedish, but this has to be said.

Faan, det här glömmer jag inte, Fredrik Reinfeldt.

Att under kuppartade former ha underhuggare att klubba igenom FRA i Sverige samtidigt som du försöker framstå som go och glad nere i Innsbruck – allt detta smakar illa.

Synd, det här trodde jag faktiskt inte om dig.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shame foster change in consumer behaviour. Is this an idea to base effective internet marketing on?

We all have heard of benchmarking which is so popular in the world of business. One organization compares them with the best organisation in an industry. Out of such comparison they try to improve themselves to become at least as good as the organisation compared with.

Transparent is a key word when we talk about comparison. It is about making everybody’s actions visible to everybody else. By this one can foster competition and change. When everybody can see what everybody else does, you can easily and naturally validate your own efforts and hopefully get better motivated to perform even better.

The “network effect” on Internet seems to be building on these ideas. In a blog post Katie Fehrenbacher writes about how to reduce carbon footprints with help of the network effect. On Facebook you can chose to use the tool “carbon minder” which display how much carbon you have created. You do this in front of your friends. The point is that if your consumption has created more carbon then compared with your friends – you should feel ashamed. We know from history that some of the most powerful motivation factors for human behaviour are greed, vanity, and shame. So it is reasonable to assume that shame will create motivation for you to reduce your carbon production - if the eyes are on you, as in the Facebook case.

What can marketing on internet learn for this? I think that the idea of network effect have much going for it! Here are some tentative thoughts about it.

In marketing we have learnt that you should be cautious with blame and fright tactics. Marketing messages which make the consumer guilty or shameful due to their current behaviour run the risk of only creating hostile customers.

However, to learn from the above we should have an approach which focus on the human social aspect where the consumers wants to compare and compete with each other. It is something more than the well known Viral marketing where a message is spread through word of mouth on Internet. This marketing should aim at encourage consumers to transparency and benchmarking - an opportunity for the consumer to show of in a playful and fun way. Competition can e.g. be about collecting, usage, and/or challenging. Such marketing should have a self development as well a shame component. The outcome should be a positive change in behaviour. With positive, I mean a feeling of fulfilment and meaning for the consumer.

Well, I stop my tentative thinking here. More thoughts have to go into this in later blogs. Right now I’m looking into John Cow blog and those exiting experiments with games and challenges which go on there. From what I can understand, these activities seem to be very successful.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Readings on a Sunday

Some articles outside of the normal marketing topic

1 Do you fancy formula 1? Wired wrote a long behind-the-scenes of the latest scandal where McLaren obtain secrete information about Ferrari. How can a man how earns 600000 a year take such risk to earn little more. Fascinating story of greed, vanity, and revenge.

2 Venezuela is a country which arouses mix feelings. Business Week describe what subsidise gasoline price does for the country. In another article they show how mismanaged the country is. Needed investments in infrastructure are neglected.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mobil Phone as a Black hole. Its devouring of business ideas on its way to become The surfing device of Internet

Tech is the king. It is often said that technology changes everything and so in unpredicted ways. It is a force which few can predict or stop. New tech creates many new wonderful things for us consumers but it also wipe out many old businesses and business models in its way. Technology has few contenders to the throne of shaping the society. A bit behind, on second place we have the politicians. They have the power to set the rules for the game on how the developed technologies should be used. On third place we have the market which, within those stated frames, invents smart ways to translate the technologies into problems solving offerings for us consumers to consume.

Mobile phones seem to be on everybody’s lips these days. Iphone and Android creates a lot of excitement. The reason is its potential for being a surfing device on internet. It is a bunch of emerging technologies which combined force is to be reckoned with. Even if the technologies behind the mobile phone already have had tremendous effect on society, we apparently have seen nothing yet.

The mobile phone is more and more viewed as to becoming the most important “middleman” between the user and the cyber space in the future. These emerging technologies create a strong centrifugal force. Many related business ideas are forced to orbit around it. But also, more and more of them run the risk of becoming devoured of this black hole which the emergent technologies create.

Many producers are at risk. Producers of e.g. portable navigation devices see their business idea vanish according to Reuters. But it is not only GPS devices which are at risk. Producers of digital cameras and music devices are also worried. TV devices, surfing devices (e.g. computers), and payment devices (e.g. credit cards) can also lose their businesses to the mobile phone when we look a little bit further into the future.

Not even the traditional mobile phone producers themselves can feel safe. The world’s largest mobile phone producer Nokia is heavily invested in the Symbian platform. However, Iphone, Android and Microsoft seem to have other ideas on how this mobile thing should be played out and the Symbian platform seems not to be included in those plans. Right now the latter group seems to have the upper hand in this battle.

As with all technology driven forces, it is hard to foresee the outcome. But for the consumer it probably means a lot more of value added.

Due to the above, the future form of marketing is connected to mobile hand devices. How is marketing adapted and connected to this important device? Out of what I can understand, no one knows yet for sure. Marketing on the mobile phone is still little of a mystery. So there seems to be room for many new exciting marketing ideas. Someone who wants to have a go at it…?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Low tech solutions on high tech originated problems

Yes, I know. This is a real problem and many are desperate to find a smart solution – I included. But still, it makes you wonder of these high tech times we are living in.

Lifehacker reports of a simple low tech gadget which helps organize all your cables e.g. on your desk. This “Keep a cable” seems to attracted interest among commentators and even Kevin Kelly thinks this is a cool tool.

Me? I long for the day when we are truly cordless when using our high tech stuff. That is the real solution to all the cords that now clutter our homes and workplaces. But I know. We are not quite there yet. So in the mean time, we have to do with…a simple piece of plastic with some holes in it.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Auction as a Pricing model takes a hit on eBay

I have always though that auctions would be one important part of future pricing models on the Internet. It is an effective way to regulate demand and supply and also get access to othwerwise inaccessible things. Now, according to BusinessWeek, current events on eBay seem to prove me wrong. Apparently, people think that it is a hassle with auctions and they prefer fix-prices. 42% of the sold offerings are sold with fixed-prices – and the number is increasing.

If you think about it, it can make sense. Today, peoples’ time and attention are valuable. It is not worth the effort to save a small amount of money compared to that extra input of time the auction process demands. To that argument you should also include the additional risk which is inherent in doing business with strangers on auction sites like e.g. eBay.

However, I do not think this mean auctions being a non important pricing model. It all depends of what kind of offerings we are talking about. Yes, product which is in surplus and always possible to get access to may be suited for fix-prices. But in situations where there is a big difference between supply and demand, there I think auction is a relevant pricing model. An example, even though extreme, is tickets to a sports event where you have limited seats and huge demand. Here I think auction creates real value both for the seller and for the buyer. It is then only a matter of how desperate you want those tickets.

On eBay, a large portion of what is sold is maybe things which you can find in regular stores and on traditional internet shops. I do not know if that is the case - even though it is hinted in the article above. But if that is the case, it can explain why eBay gets hurt when the passion for auction proceedings subsides.

Update 1: It seems to be a lot on eBay's plate right now. The business model is under scrutiny from several different perspectives. Counterfeit - e.g. in fashion and luxuary related goods - is a problem on eBay and now are the court cases slowly building up according to BusinessWeek.

Update 2: That eBay has dissatisfied sellers is known. eBay seems though incapable to correct these problems. According to an article in ReadWriteWeb every effort to improve the situation seems only to degenerate the situation even more. Is this the beginning of a real down turn spiral or just a readjustment for the business model?

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Metallica’s choice of path? Grow old, innovate, or die!

In my blog from June 3, I wrote about Metallica's problem with its market of youth. The market has changed in that the fan base has become older. What an artist could get away with in the beginning of his/her career, is not necessary possible in the later stages of the career. This because when young customers becomes older, their interest and taste changes. One effect is that they may become more critical - both towards the artists and themselves. I ended the piece with the question: "How do producers of creative culture goods such as music cope and adapt to such changes?”.

The story of Metallic seems to be that first they got it right, and then they did not got it so right. I mean, it seems to be problematic to show up all your accumulated wealth and at the same time accuse those who have provided that wealth for stealing. That is a recipe for...problem.

Due to existing customer becomes older, an artists has a diminishing fan base over time. It is also hard to attract new young costumers. This because they have their mind set on other perceived new "hip" artists. Problem with costumer becoming older and their changes in interest is not any specific for music artists as Metallica. I think that is a general problem for all markets of youth. Markets of e.g. films, games, and books.

What paths can artists choose from to cope with and adapt to the changes in the market? Broadly speaking, I think we can talk about three paths.

1 The first is to get old with those loyal customers which you attracted when you became popular. I think this is the most common path. The artist hangs on to the true believers. You do not dare to tamper with the successful offering too much. The market knows what they can expect from you. Yes, some of the fan base will drop of. But if you had had many from the beginning, there will be enough left to take you to the end. This path is the safe bet. Some artists on this path are able to attract new generation of youth. However, it is not for everybody. The example I can think of is Bruce Springsteen. He has not changed his music concept much over the years. But he has something, which seems to attract also new younger generation of music consumers.

2 The second is to continuously innovate and thereby attract new young customers. This artist tries to follow the times and try to change his/her music style to meet the changing demand of the market. It is difficult to always be innovative and to anticipate what could be a new success in the future market. There is also an additional risk. When you tamper with the original successful music concept, you may alienate the old loyal part of your existing customer base. The risk is that you could end up losing in both of the ends. You do not attract any new young customers and you scare away the old ones. However, Madonna is an impressive example of an artist which has been successful on this path. She has reinvented herself many times. This by co-operating with young hip players. Together they figured out what was the next new thing.

3 The third is to quit while you are ahead. A band breaks up and the band members go separate ways. Sometimes it ends with a kind of Farewell tour. The music becomes timeless. ABBA is an example of this. They still attract many new young fans, even though they have quite long ago. A more drastic example of this path is when the artist unexpectedly dies. The obvious example, which comes to my mind, is Elvis. A rumour has it that he earns more money today than when he was alive. Generation after generation of young people seems to find his music inspiring and fulfilling.

Which path is Metallica on? I do not know? All three could be possible. However, if I must choose one of them, which one should it be? Probably not path number two. There are too many risks for a hard core rock band like Metallica. Path three is either not so likely. Metallica has shown before that they can cope with problems within the band. I assume also that they are going to stay alive. Therefore there is good probability that they will keep on going - "business as usual". My pick is therefore path number one. But on that path, they can not afford to piss of too many of their old fans. They will need every one of them to hold on to - in their way into the future.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Metallica and changes in its youth market – A case were the consumer becomes older

I’m reading the article in Techdirt and Wired about the debacle with Metallica and its fan base. What struck me is the strong feelings this topic seems to arose among the commentators. There is an overall consensus that the business decision about this Napster thing turned out to be horrible bad and that the band consistently and continually has mishandle the situation with their fan base. It seems that many of the commentators were big fans of the band. Not so anymore. The reason for this is e.g. that Metallic does not create any good music anymore and/or that they have behaved greedy and selfish.

The arguments seems reasonable to me. I do not dispute them. But can there be something more to this passionate discussion? There is one more additional factor, which I can think of. That is the fact that many people of Metallica's market have become older. When you become older your interest changes and you get little different perspectives on things. All this influences your views.

The reason for my reflection is my own experiences. I have never been a hard-core fan of Metallica. However, as young I was a devoted fan of Bob Dylan. But over the years I more and more come to view some of his more "political" texts as to simplified and naive. Today I still have a lot of respect for the "living legend" and what he has achieved. But I do not consume the music so much anymore. I have a much more "sober" view as far as his texts go - detached if you will. Conclusion? I have become older.

Yes, it is different with the case of Metallica. The opinion is that the band has done wrong and should be criticized for that. But is also the factor of "older and wiser" colouring the comments and reactions? I suspect that could be the case. When you are very young, you consume cultural creative offerings as music wholehearted. Many may do this somewhat unreflective and uncritical. Afterwards, this can make some feel a little embarrassed. Especially if the object of the desire turned out to be doing wrong.

My point here is that the case of Metallica highlights an interesting problem of these types of youth cultural markets. The customer base of these markets changes very rapidly. Out of the particular perspective above, due to consumer becoming older. How do producers of creative culture goods such as music cope and adapt to such changes? In the next blog I will deal with this problem.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Digitalization will free my home and mind!

I have always been attracted to a minimalistic lifestyle. Less and clean “things” around me seems to soothe and calm me down. It frees my mind.

However, I live in a small flat and that means that I have limited space. But I have a lot of things - e.g. many book selves with books, TV, CD and DVD player, files with important documents, newspapers, and paintings on the wall. They all collect dust and take up space. Not only that, they also take up my time and attention. I have to deal with all this stuff. I have to go out and find it, buy it, maintain it, store it, mend it, and replace it. In other words, all the stuff does not only clutters my home, but also my mind.

Even though I may dislike these physical things, I need and crave them. I like to consume them and I like how that consumption affect and contribute to my life. The problem is therefore that I need the things but I do not want them to clutter my life. Or stated differently - I am “a material man, stuck in a material world (Madonnaesque, or what)”.

The answer to the problem is of course Digitalization. There are growing possibilities to keep ”things” non-physical - as ”1s and 0s”. The discussion about the Long tail is all about digitalization. That is the "engine" behind the ever-growing tail. The more digitalization the longer tail, the less digitalization the shorter tail.

We have seen this trend for a long time now (Kindle, Android, Cloud computing etc). But it is first now that I really have realized the consequences of digitalization on a massive scale within many areas.

What glorious days do not lie ahead of me! I will manage with a hard drive connceted big paper-thin flat screen TV on the wall, a document typer and reader, and a small mobile phone. I can finally get rid of all my irritating books, DVDs, CDs, paper articles, magazine, and office documents. I can discard my now chunky TV, DVD player, CD player, and big bookshelves. Heck, I do not even need any paintings on the wall no more. That can the flat screen take care of. I will get a lot of clutter free space again and other, more productive, things to occupy my mind with. Finally - peace man!

But as always, immediately when we have answered one question, a new one pops up! Where will the digitalization end? The extreme of digitalization, which I can think of, is Star Trek. Talk about extreme clutter free environment. How many times have you e.g. seen some paper documents in that TV series? Even their food and travels are digitalized – or something similar to that. Even if it fascinates me, I have to admit that it also makes me uncomfortable. The thought of a sterile clutter free space gives me willies. Suddenly I feel stressed and my mind racing. So here we go again… de-digitalization, any one?

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