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Groupon Is Good For Something. Newspapers Actually.

Groupon Is Good For Something. Newspapers Actually.

I have never used a Groupon. And there are plenty of nightmarish stories about how they kill small businesses. No big news here folks — it’s going, going, gone.

But not the model.

It should actually be out there reviving newspapers. That’s kind of a non-sequitur. Let me explain:

I was talking to my older friend who was a former editor and columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer about how to save newspapers. He’s kind of a media curmudgeon (sorry AC!) so he didn’t quite get — or consider — the following — I’m curious to hear what you all think:

Let’s allow people — and even newspaper professionals — to post suggested stories — just like Groupons are posted and with the same gamification. Like this: People who are interested in a story can pledge some money to it, and when a level of interest and financial support is achieved, the story gets kicked off and assigned to a reporter (or a pre-assigned reporter).

This would give readers editorial pull — and it gives newspapers a business model tied to performance. Practically and financially speaking, I’d rather (or likely) spend $300 in small increments across a year, investing in particular stories or reportage rather than spend $50 on an annual subscription for content that often never connects with my interests.

I love local news — but I’m always frustrated that the ratio of good content to bad content + fluff is 1:100.

So, is the Groupon model just a model? And if it is, can it be the thing that saves journalism? It might just be able to de-couple the content-advertising dependency that has corrupted journalism.

 

 

 

I Just Got ‘Warm Transferred’. It’s A Southern Thing.

I Just Got ‘Warm Transferred’. It’s A Southern Thing.

I dig language. I dig analyzing human interaction. And I dig marketing. That actually means every interaction with every business is like a moment in the lab for me.

So I hit a triple play today when I was on the phone with a State Farm customer service rep. The rep told me she wanted to get me to speak to someone from my state. She said: “Let me warm transfer you to someone in PA.”

Dingdingdingding.

My prefrontal cortex woke up with a jolt. I have honestly never heard this before.

I knew of course what it meant: to be transferred to another agent with a live agent-to-agent hand off. Of course there should be a word for that!

Shouldn’t all transfers be ‘warm’?

This is customer service gold. Use it — do it! — and your customers will be delighted.

So at the end of the call, when she asked me if I had any other questions, I checked in with her: “Did you say ‘warm transfer’?

Yes, she said bemusedly. She then politely explained what it meant and added: “It’s a Southern thing, I guess.”

Well, that makes it twice as nice.

 

What’s the Return On Putting Your Pants On In the Morning?

What’s the Return On Putting Your Pants On In the Morning?

If you’re a marketer and are wondering how worth your time it is (and your budget) to go after the infinite social media channels out there, consider what that presidential candidates are doing this year (as reported by the New York Times in Campaigns Use Social Media to Lure Younger Voters):

Worth it?

Jan Rezab, the chief executive of Socialbakers, has an interesting reply: “What’s the return on putting your pants on in the morning? We don’t know… but we just know it’s bad if you don’t do it.”

This is a pretty cool riff on the ubiquitous and probably apocryphal “don’t know which half” quote from department store magnate John Wannamaker:  “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted, but I don’t know which half.”

But it seems like maybe the half here that’s in question — the social media one — could actually be paying off.

Coye Cheshire, an associate professor at the School of Information at the University of California at Berkeley, suggested that updates might very well be a simple way to see how a candidate measures up to themselves.

“It is important for people to know whether or not a huge political figure shares the same taste as me,” said Dr. Cheshire, who studies behavior and trust online. “And creating a playlist on Spotify is part of what makes them seem more human.”

Don’t leave home without your pants. It’s one of those things you just have to do — same goes for social media.

 

We Need (And Already Have) Better Economic Indicators

Today, I asked Kathleen, my sensible dental hygienist, how the “dentist business” was going.

I honestly didn’t expect the answer I got — I assumed that folks’ teeth would be one of those “recession proof” things. At least regular check ups and cleanings.

Not the case: “It’s been different… worst recession I can remember,” she said.

According to her, my region’s dentists and their office staff are reporting “not even getting their co-pays”.

That’s not good — and for a multitude of obvious reasons — but here’s a different way to think of it:

For all the official economic stats out there, and specifically the “leading economic indicators“, those stats like the “Average weekly jobless claims for unemployment insurance” and the “The University of Michigan Consumer Sentiment Index” that supposedly represent the trajectory of the economy, there’s probably not one that is as straight forward and tangible as the nascent one implied by my anecdote: are the folks in your town skimping on basic health maintenance?

I think it’s fair to say that it might be time to think about changing that phrase, “All politics is local”, to “All economics Is local”.

If we want folks to understand the state of the economy, why start with national, abstract measurements? Why not anchor it to the folks in your town?

Actually, I’ve been meaning to write about this concept for a while… Way back in 2009, I noticed that when I went to the bank I’d see a lot more people than normal with their change baskets at the counting machines — dumping change, waiting patiently, dumping more, waiting and then finally taking the paper print out to the counter.

I had the fleeting thought back then that it would be really interesting to see the data regarding the usage of those machines?

My thesis: you could gauge the anxiety or budget stress families were having in a region by measuring the frequency and volume of change redemption across banks.

Who ever thought the change in the couch could give you so much insight?

 

 

 

 

Tim Burton’s Mom, the Key to Artistic Genius and What’s Wrong with America

Tim Burton — you know, Beetlejuice, Edward Scissorhands, Batman — well, there’s a great article on NYTimes.com — Tim Burton, at Home in His Own Head — that synthesizes, via a simple anecdote, a few key subjects I’m interested in:

  • Creativity
  • Child development
  • U.S. culture
  • Innovation

Tim Burton:

“If you look at children’s drawings, they’re all great. And then at a certain point, even when they’re about 7 or 8 or 9, they go, “Oh, I can’t draw.” Well, yes, you can. I went through that same thing, even when I started to go to CalArts, and a couple of teachers said: “Don’t worry about it. If you like to draw, just draw.” And that just liberated me. My mother wasn’t an artist, but she made these weird owls out of pine cones, or cat needlepoint things. There’s an outlet for everyone, you know?”

Thank you Tim Burton for making a few things prophetically clear:

  1. Don’t limit yourself. Do new stuff. Even if it’s ‘weird’ or not your typical thing. Your life depends on it.
  2. Kids do best when they get to follow their instincts.
  3. A culture that compulsively values (demands!) grandiose perfection — Lady Gaga or bust — is headed towards irrelevance.
  4. Innovation stems from having freedom to roam and having the freedom to produce “mediocre” stuff.

When my kids (5 and 3) say “I’m going to be an artist when I grow up!” I say proudly: “Well, that would be the finest thing one could ever be.”

To be clear: it’s not that I envision them in an art gallery or behind a drum kit. It’s not the profession that I care about — it’s the mindset… the mindset that looks through boundaries — or doesn’t even see them at all.

So, let’s make some weird owls out of pine cones, shall we?

Follow Tim on Twitter.

 

 

Uberconference’s Beta Gamification Is Kinda Awesome

Uberconference’s Beta Gamification Is Kinda Awesome

Uberconference is the new kid on the block for online meetings. It looks like it’s gonna kick WebEx in the shins–if not in the mouth. So, yeah, I did this:

Uberconference's join beta input field

Uberconference’s Beta Sign-Up Form

 

And that brought me to this brilliant little game: Promote my interest in Uberconfernce and get points. Get enough and I get ‘to the front of the line’.

That’s pretty smartypants. And damn simple. Wonder if they did an A/B test–and what the lift is.

It’s scavenger hunt-esque.

Uberconference's Beta Invitation Gamification

Uberconference’s Beta Invitation Gamification

This also makes me think of the amount of time it took to build this company vs. WebEx. I’m sure it’s a multiple of 10.

 

 

Mobile + Social Has Got to Get Faster and More Meaningful

Mobile + Social Has Got to Get Faster and More Meaningful

Just took the girls out to breakfast at the Classic Diner in Malvern, PA and besides having great food and a zany time, I had a social media epiphany after seeing this:

Restaurant receipt and social media

Social media – a half start

 

Kudos for the Classic Diner for getting their social media Calls-to-Action (CTA) on their receipts–a great engagement point–but they should have gone a step further. But, really, it’s not all their fault–the industry has to step up a bit too. Let me explain:

The restaurant could have added short URLs–or better yet a QR code (although this would have precluded perhaps having two CTAs). But what would really create a tipping point is a one-step action that creates a better connection to the consumer. I think two things have to happen:

1. Mobile phones have to build QR tech right into the camera.

2. Businesses have to focus and decide what their engagement goal is.

If I had my way, Classic Diner clients would see a QR code on this receipt and by snapping a photo of it they would automatically ‘like’ the restaurant on Facebook. Or, better than that, they would sign up to receive direct–perhaps even custom–offers right from the restaurant.

Bottom line: businesses should make the connection experience radically simple and super meaningful.

 

5000 Interviews, 5000 Errors: Social Media Let’s Famous Author–and You–Set the Record Straight

Good, little vid over on TechCrunch about Nicholas Sparks, the bestselling novelist and screenwriter (The Notebook and A Walk To Remember), on how, and more importantly why, he uses social media.

He says something almost in passing that is so critical about social media that often gets missed. Here he is (around 10:24):

“I have close to 1.2M fans on Facebook, for instance. That is my platform so to speak. It’s interesting. It’s a wonderful thing in that I’ve had 5000 articles written about me over the years. I’ve sat through 5000 interviews, right? Virtually every one has errors in them. Just little things. So this is your own platform. You can be who you need to be here.”

This is something that just did not exist before social media–that didn’t exist in earnest even 5 years ago.

Essentially, Sparks creates and directs his own interviews for his fans. This level of control and direct participation is really amazing.

And here’s the video:

Brands 2.0 – Transparency, Not Mythology

I’m new to Douglas Rushkoff, but I’m digging what he’s saying over on FastCompany about the state of ‘brands’ and the future (now!) of marketing.

In short, ditch the inflated and created ‘branding’ that takes place at your org–just be transparent and really good at what you do. BTW: One good example of this is MailChimp.

Rushkoff On “Brands”

[But] it’s not about creating a mythology around the way a product was created, so it’s no longer “these were cookies made by elves in a hollow tree.” That’s not the value of the brand. The value of the brand is where did this actually come from? What’s in this cookie? Who made it? Are Malaysian children losing their fingers in the cookie press or is this being made by happy cookie culture people? At that point, all these companies come to people like me saying, “We want to become transparent. We want a transparent communication strategy.” And I’m like “Well, are you proud of what’s going on inside your company? Are you proud enough to pull up the shades and let people see inside?” It’s that easy.

Every company has a social media strategy whether they know it or not. You can have your dedicated social media person chasing down consumer complaints, but your real social media strategy is how are the people who work at your company and the people who buy from your company and people who supply to your company, how are they talking about you in social media? The way to make them talk about you [favorably] is by walking the walk of the thing that you do. And that’s so hard for so many of these companies because they’ve become so abstracted. They’ve become so distanced from the core competence of their industry. The job of a communicator–or someone like me–is to go in and say, well, just do something. Don’t outsource one thing and then make your company about that.”

Rushkoff On Marketing

In response to: “What will marketing organizations look like in the future?”

It will be companies that figure out how to communicate the non-fiction story of a company, so it’s going to look a lot more like a communications company than a creative branding agency. It’s going to look a little bit more like PR, in some sense. It’s going to be people who go and figure out what does your company do and how do we let the world know about that? There’s going to be a lot of psychology involved, except instead of it being psychologists turned against the consumer, it’s going to be psychologists going in and trying to convince companies that what they’re doing is worthy. It’s breaking down this false need in companies to hide from the public what they’re doing–except for the ones that do (need to hide).

We’re getting back to the basics–and I like it.

Sometimes It Does Make Sense To Advertise Your Business On Your Garbage Can

Sometimes It Does Make Sense To Advertise Your Business On Your Garbage Can

Believe it or not, this makes sense:

It’s a little hard to see, but the little sign is for “Cara’s School of Irish Dance”.  At first glance I thought, “Why would anyone advertise on their own trash can!”

Then I realized where I was and what I was doing: I was pulling two little girls in a red wagon down an alley in my town. Where I come from alleys are a great place to walk–our brick side walks are very bumpy! So, in fact, Cara is pretty smart: she knows how to get in front of the folks she’s targeting (parents from town)–even if that means advertising on a garbage can.

That’s local marketing innovation!

Lululemon’s Secret Sauce Is Pedestrian–But Intuitive and Damn Refreshing!

Here are a few excerpts from a recent Wall Street Journal article on Lululemon and its seemingly anachronistic methods of product design, customer insight and brand management.

  • Unlike most retailers, Lululemon doesn’t use software to gather customer data, doesn’t build lots of new stores, doesn’t offer generous discounts and purposely stocks less inventory than it can keep on its shelves.
  • When it comes to making decisions, Lulu has gone back to basics. It doesn’t use focus groups, website visits or the industry staple—customer-relationship management software, which tracks purchases.
  • Instead, Ms. Day spends hours each week in Lulu stores observing how customers shop, listening to their complaints, and then using the feedback to tweak product and stores. “Big data gives you a false sense of security,” says Ms. Day, who spent 20 years at Starbucks Corp., overseeing retail operations in North America and around the world.
  • Lulu also trains its workers to eavesdrop, placing the clothes-folding tables on the sales floor near the fitting rooms rather than in a back room so that workers can overhear complaints. Nearby, a large chalkboard lets customers write suggestions or complaints that are sent back to headquarters.
  • While a large part of Lulu’s strategy is getting the product right, an equally important part is keeping it scarce. The goal is to sell gear at full price and to condition customers to buy when they see an item rather than wait. “Our guest knows that there’s a limited supply, and it creates these fanatical shoppers,” says Ms. Day.
  • Lulu also sells 95% of its gear at full price, says Chief Financial Officer John Currie.
  • The company never puts its core items on sale, and it has a very strict return policy: no products accepted after 14 days, and all must be unwashed and unworn, with original tags.

How Google Shows Content Marketing Is Easy–and Effective

So if you’re a marketing or web type, you most likely saw Google’s unprecedented video of its search meeting:

Video! The search quality meeting, uncut (annotated)

This really is awesome for a number of reasons:

The first–and most obvious–thing is that  Google is being more transparent around its highly secretive search “recipe”. It’s showing anybody who is interested what kind of meticulousness and rigor go into decisions to improve search.

The second thing, and the thing that matters more to me as a marketer, is that Google is showing what good SEO–and what good marketing–is all about: producing great content. This video, is  not professionally produced, nor is it staged or scripted. It’s just an honest peek inside their meeting.

So this is my observation: lots of firms have a treasure trove of good “content” happening every day in their company: it could be an epiphany regarding product development, or an anecdote from a client service rep about outstanding service, or a story about how useful a customer found a product… The take away is that marketing doesn’t always have to be the production of brand new “marketing” content, it can simply be opening the doors to show the real people behind the work, products and company.

Kudos to Google for walking the talk.