Leveraging Curiosity

An quick observation – I am extremely curios by nature, especially when it comes to passions of mine. This has lately proven to be a little bit of a problem… As the story goes “curiosity killed the cat”, in this case “curiosity blowed the cats mind”. Todays digital landscape has really diversified, there are so many things happening within digital communications and within technology on the web is “almost” overwhelming, especially for us curious types. So many cool things so little time… Take today for example – started work on a online video strategy – ideas started to fly, things started to pop up in my head on stuff I ready/seen, so I started to digg in to my bookmarks, Google’n, looked in my archives, and started scanning in blog sphere, follow stories, linked to more stories, linked to more… You can just imagine how much one can find on the subject… and new things that has happened since last visited… ended up finding and spending way to much time on Mercedes-Benz new mixed tape TV site. Very cool, worth a visit (found it through a WSJ story).

Point is, in this massive, quickly moving landscape with unlimited resources, limitless experts (with reach) and open communication channels there is a real need for specifics. One need to really focus once curiosity and leverage that fraction… Know one thing and know it well the rest will fall into place, nothing new here but when the field your in is expanding quickly one need to re-focus/niche again and again and again.

Ok, need to stop blogging and go back to work 😉

Think user

Volkswagen UK

OK, now why is it that the (many) car manufacturer do the best job and push the envelope when it comes to a engaging product experience? True the product is desirable to most of us but when looking beyond they really know how use the medium to their advantage. Take Audi, they recently revamped there site and updated the way you approach and navigate the range as well as added AudiTV, which is filled with great stuff on technology, engineering, design, and motor sports. There is also some great use of video, sign-ups and other goodies stuffed in there. Then we have Ford and it’s multiple brands. Ford.com gives a good overview of the product and brand offering. Here the category navigation (ex. SUV) is very interesting, where one gets to see the full product offering form all the brands in on go. This is supported by an interactive filtering tool with a good range of sorting options. Lincon’s site offers a very cool “in environment” fly-over 3D presentation of the exterior and interior of the car which include a color picker. Nice. While Volvo’s site offer a more sober and clean product presentation but still to the point. And then Jaguar with its stylish and sexy take on imagery and video. Overall these examples have on thing in common, a great engaging branding product experiences.

Now lets move on to the future – user centric – welcome Volkswagen UK.
Surfing around I found this spot promoting the new site:

VW is know for it innovative site and campaigns, just take the current (now old) US site or the GTI campaign. But with this new UK one they have changed the focus – it is now all about the user and providing right tools for the experience.Just take the landing page – just brilliant, quick right to the point questions and entry to what you are looking for, new, used, own (finally sometime for the new buyer with feature like my cars etc.) as well as some clever campaign/model highlight integration. And the main sell/lead generators are always present in the top nav.
This user centric approach continues while navigating the site. Take the new car section, the complete range of vehicles presented in one view and a preference side bar with relevant options. Continuing on the model page we have a nice qucik animation intro and a straight forward nav. 3D model with hotshots are nice but I really like the overlay with detail images, creates nice impact. The gallery has a fresh approach, maybe not that user friendly but, with a nice layout options. As does the reviews/awards section.
Now, one of the more important, or even the most important section of a car manufacture site is the car configureator. Taken their last try into consideration one can do nothing else that applaud their efforts. Simple and intuitive with just the right amount of cool/effectfull animations.Believe that all of these site are examples of a great user experience and should be copied/modeled after more, especially the later. Just one thing missing in my point of view, social web integration, and we will have the best product site ever.

The Value Exchange

We are now knee deep in and learning to approach, interact and profit from the new social/2.0(5) web. Starting in 07 there was many predictions made on where we are headed and how we will arrive (at the end of this post there are some links). Ad-age has an interesting continuation to the story from bloggers on the Power150 blog-ranking index. They were asked to elaborate on what technology marketers should be paying most attention to in 2008. I think a clear picture emerges – apparent in this article and thought other conversations on the future (08). Here is my take on this cake… My list of kit (in no particular order)…

Micro-content
As Tom Martin (Positive Disruption) “With the cost of production and distribution of digital content rapidly approaching zero… the opportunity to create branded micro-content that consumers will invite into their lives becomes a financial reality with a huge ROI upside…” a.k.a widgets etc.. This I think is one of the strongest channels out there right know, at least when it comes to actual advertising to the consumer. Here we have a way of providing relevant, targeted, interactive, inviting and social (if applicable) branded stuff that the consumer can actually use. You know not jam down the trough just a gentle whisper… this is already taking of (been for a while now) and seem to be working. Now we just need be clever.

Mobile – the natural extension and Holy Grail of relevant and useful.
Take this micro-content/widgest/apps and make them work on mobile platforms as well and we are now adding an limitless dimension. Marie Lena Tupot (BrandNoise) “Mobile apps. But not in a whiz-bang, over-the-top manner; the sort of incremental mobile apps that make ordinary things even easier, like let you pay back friends on the fly, split the check at restaurants, pre-order your coffee so you can bypass the line at a local café, pay your belated phone bill, donate to your political candidate …” It is just logical right? I would love to have all my coffee related expense (here in Sweden there is a lot of “fika” going on or hanging at the local Starbucks for you Americans) taken care of by my phone, that would be great. And while one is at it just add a café rating (maye even Twitter) to this and one can be social as well. Further support to this is recent study by eMarketer on mobil ads.

Mico-blogging – or shall we call it Twittering?
While on the topic of Twitter and mobile integration… Peter Imbres (Point Oh!) – “The most important technology for marketers to understand right now is Twitter and some of the other micro-blogging platforms. It’s less a question of how they can directly apply this technology than how they need to understand collective conversations. Some of the most influential people in several different verticals are engaged in a dialogue at any given time on these platforms, and it provides a unique opportunity for brands to reach stakeholders when they’re actually listening, which is rare in many of these emerging media categories. The media outlets and politicians are starting to get it, hopefully other marketers won’t be too far behind.”
Clearly a great opportunity here, now how harness? I am not yet an active user of this medium so limited understanding, but it seem to be contagious if one has a large following… Very cool with the built in mobile support.

The Blog – the organic SEO
The (traditional?) blog must be one of the greatest things to have taken foothold in the last years. It is just great for all. Consumers benefit for the information and the multitude and companies benefit from information, advertising (it is like free adds space and it builds rep and cred) and the feedback (if dare). And it is all very social as well… and best of all for web sites; relevant streaming content.
Kevin Tomczak (PowerUp) – “Blogging continues to be one of the most influential communications channels for B2B marketers in 2008. This channel is a precursor to a true social network, and allows companies to continue the conversation beyond our traditional touch points. Yesterday’s mass marketing strategies don’t work — we’re on the customer’s time, and by keeping conversations going through blogging, we’re increasing the chance that we’ll be present when the customer needs our product or service.
We’ve also just begun to scratch the surface of the SEO benefits of blogging. In the US, roughly 80% of internet use (excluding e-mail) begins with a search. And a majority of business purchasers use the internet for research before a purchase is made. Blogging gives a company a lot of content containing a lot of keywords, and, with a lot of incoming and outbound links, that’s SEO gold.”

Yep, so true for both B2B and B2C. Be visible through content. More visitors and more time spent with brand

SEO
Joost de Valk (Joost de Valk’s SEO Blog) – “The technique/technology most worthy of any marketer’s attention is SEO. It’s the cheapest and best way of getting quality traffic to your domains. Especially due to the emergence of so-called universal search, ie. the integration of the results from vertical search engines like images, books and local into the “main” search results, more chances of driving cheap, high-quality traffic have come up.”
With the right (relevant to your target) content, linking and media one can go far… Throw in some local targeting and we are even better. Andy Wibbels (AndyWibbels.com) – “Local search. Consumers are learning they can find resources not just across the globe, but down the street. “Findability” is crucial, whether you are a global organization or local mom-and-pop. “
Nutshell – worth time and money invested.

Video – the face to face web revolution
Well no surprises here. It is now very quick and cheap to produce, it gives great effect and it is more fun. (or is it just that it is like TV and we are all used to and liking that?). I also believe it brings a more human aspect to content and to the web – you know, face to face, it is always more powerful. And yes very social web friendly.
Paul Chaney (Conversational Media Marketing) – “Online video/TV is the technology to watch in ’08. There seems to be a seismic shift toward digital distribution of video content, more and more video sites are being created, and there is a small camera revolution going on (which includes webcams) that portends a continued rise in user-generated video content. YouTube was just the beginning. Now, there’s ooVoo
, seesmic, Revver Jumpcut … the list goes on and on. Oh, and FastCompany.TV that Scoble just inaugurated. Add to that the fact that people are scurrying to their computers in droves to watch television programs which, themselves. More than any other technology, including social networks, online video is it.”

Niche
It is all about the niche. You can find or distribute anything you want, on any topic… and people will find it… Start/join groups on social networks, start blog, even start a social network. I mean it is natural conversation on topics you are passionate about. Now for the marketers there is a need for some thinking to get into this kind of conversation with some relevance.John Ebbert (ContextWeb Internet Advertising Blog) – “…Marketers need to understand the impact of the media fragmentation now occurring as users migrate await from portals and large sites to smaller, niche content sites, and how one of the key technological beneficiaries of this trend — online advertising exchanges — will create new opportunities for marketers seeking to improve ROI.”

In-game advertising
Believe that this is the next channel for large scale branding and advertising… Kinda like product placement in TV that is so blissfully annoying , but with relevance. Like this – walking around a beautifully rendered true-to-life city scape (…maybe hunting aliens or under attack from the enemy, but anyway;) and seeing all these signs, posters, products, details that are most of the time very badly executed or just a brand ripoff… it is a shame to ignore details like this and undermine the surrounding work. To the point, these spaces are being opened up to advertisers and brands. This is great, we get detailed product in its relevant environment to complete the picture and cheaper/free/better games because of revenue. Big opportunity for advertiser of course.

The content marketing movement
Kinda sums it up…
Joe Pulizzi (Junta 42) – “The single biggest issue/technology that deserves the most attention is not a site or an application, but more an organizational philosophy. It’s the content marketing movement — which is the philosophy of marketing services not by traditional methods, but by delivering valuable, relevant and compelling content to customers and prospects on a consistent basis. This is being done through all media platforms, and we are seeing companies like P&G and Nike put a large amount of money and resources into these efforts.”

The Semantic Web Emerging

The semantic web is finally emerging out of the shadows of the nerds. Yahoo has just made the move to start indexing Semantic Web and Microformats markup from around the web and will use the information to improve search results and make them more structured. Excellent, this is a god start and will defiantly push the standard forward.
Defiantly one of the more interesting things that I think will push us out of 2.0 and move froward. And allow for some smart, powerful applications. With support from big players, Yahoo, Google (will probably jump on the train very soon) etc it will quickly become more relevant.
Some very interesting info on this was posted on TechCrunch and ReadWriteWeb. Semantic Web, W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee discuss in a interview on topic with Paul Miller – great summary here or listen to the whole thing here. Don’t know what this is start the read here.

So what does this all mean and how will its effects be? Thought the RRW gave quite a nice overview: “today, a web service might work very hard to scour the internet to discover all the book reviews written on various sites, by friends of mine, who live in Europe. That would be so hard that no one would probably try it. The suite of technologies Yahoo! is moving to support will make such searches trivial. Once publishers start including things like hReview, FOAF and geoRSS in their content then Yahoo!, and other sites leveraging Yahoo! search results, will be able to ask easily what it is we want to do with those book reviews. Say hello to a new level of innovation.

The basic idea behind Semantic Web technology is that by signaling what kind of content you are publishing on an item-by-item or field-by-field basis, publishers can help make the meaning of their text readable by machines. If machines are able to determine the meaning of the content on a page, then our human brains don’t have to waste time determining, for example, which search results go beyond containing our keywords and actually mean what we are looking for.
Publishers will now be able to clearly designate content on a page as related to other particular content, as business card type information, as a calendar event, a review or as many other types of content. It will make Yahoo! a lot smarter and should shake up the world of Search Engine Optimization and web publishing, a lot.”

In a nutshell – a more structured web of information that allows for smart applications to evolve. In the end benefiting the end user with relevant info at their fingertips. And yes, marketers and publisher to.

The best tool ever is back in digital drag

Twiddla Logo

The good old white board. The ultimate idea generating conversations tool, period. Doesn’t it feel like every time one use this tool in a meeting productivity rockets? I wonder if there is stat on this? Anyway I am from the creative side of the industry and it is a must have. A recent problems has been the video/tel conference with no smooth way of getting everyone involved on one board/screen. But finally we have an solution. Welcome Twiddla! Check it out, use it. Features include Kick Ass and Doesn’t Cost a Thing.

Twiddle this page!

Earn the right – the success formula for brands

Lately there has been a lot of conversation around the term Free and how this can be a beneficial model for success. I have been following some discussion in this from Seth Godin, Chris Anderson and Kevin Kelly among others. Definitely worth reading about and baking into the equation. Now reading the latest on this I found the following statement –

“the most powerful brands are the ones that earn the right to a transaction” (full article here)

If there ever was truth, this is it. I am working on a piece on the subject so will come back to this. Wanted to share this brilliant phrase. Thanks to the gurus for their genius.

Tv and the Web. Correction – Web and the TV.

So how do your spend your time after work/kids/etc? Watch TV? or surf? or multitask? At our home there is always an laptop present in our coach. Now there are some interesting stat out there on this –

More than three-quarters of the US adult Internet users surveyed by Harris Interactive in February 2008 went online while watching TV. More than one-third of the respondents to the survey, which was sponsored by blinkx, said they did so “always” or “often.”

internet usage while tv watching

Some consumers are not multitasking. They are just watching less TV. More than one-third of respondents to a July 2007 TNSAOLGoogle survey said that increased Internet use was a reason why they watched less TV. However, only 9% said they watched more TV shows or other video content online.

reasons why people watch less tv

Note that this is US stat only but I am sure it is similar on this site of the water. Read the full article here.

Excellent opportunity for some smart multichannel marketing, right. Yes one would think so, but it seem that many are missing the boat here.

Just take a look at this years Super Bowl as an example. Lots of spending, some good stuff produced for TV, and almost no integration? Not true for all, of course (the beaver thing as example), but most did not have an message to continue online, not even an clear url (interesting article here). Now, due to the surfing behavior many got some good stat anyway. And of course YouTube helped. But the transparency and the opportunity to build more was lost. Why is this? It is beyond me… Spend a large amount on some good exposure and do not use it to its full extent.

There are may more exemples here but still… why? We have stats, we have success cases, we have ROI…

May reasons – I think the now old thinking of “online as an afterthought” is very prevalent and still the major reason, especially for the bigger corps. Even is transparency and multichannel was in the mix I do think that they are still missing the boat. So what to do?

A few humble suggestions – start with integration of campaign, all channels, define purpose and goals for each and cross link. What is the goal, what should the outcome be, relevance, niche, time? Most likely forget the campaign site, think one experience for the user. Use current stat and behaviors of your target – social?. With a clear picture make the most of each channel while still thinking seamless integration. Making the consumer a part of the experience should be high prio. Don’t forget the long tail, how long will this live and how can that be used most effectively. Have a complete road map and time line. Measure everything with relation to goals. Follow up on all and analyze based on set criteria. Success!

In short – provide a seamless experience that offers relevance to your consumer.

A Valuable Blog

 Wal-Mart Check Out Blog

Coming back to the subject of companies need to be both smart and humble to open up to their customers. Dare to have an open discussion and let them have a chance to feedback. Now a big brand has joined the race – the ever so closed Wal-Mart. This is big for a such a giant company, 5,000 stores, 1.2 million workers and annual sales of nearly $400 billion. Ok, so the corporate blog are not new as we know, but this is somewhat different – Check Out (checkoutblog.com) as it is called, is not relying on the traditional “management” level for the stories, it is written by a small staff (experts at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club) of bloggers which is then commented by the consumer – here is the cool part – (largely) unedited. Now this is both gutsy and brilliant. The largest tailer/e-tailer has understood the opportunity.

“Wal-Mart says the Web site helps buyers solicit quick feedback from consumers on the merchandise”

“We are real people, and that gets lost in the to and fro of business”,
“It puts real personality out there in a real conversation.” – Nick Agarwal, a Wal-Mart communications official.

A few quotes form an article from a newtimes.com on the subject (above) and also a outcast from the About section (below)

This is a blog, simply, about a team of experts at Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club who have really cool jobs working with gadgets, games, sustainability and more. Even better, these jobs are centered around helping people save money and live better.

Finally, in terms of blogging, we like the advice Robert Scoble gave back in 2003 when he wrote his version of a “Corporate Weblog Manifesto.”

Strongly believe that is will be more and more common as we catch up to full web 2.0 transparency. Now this will open doors and is defiantly a case to run with when convincing… Will benefit both sides as well – Wal-Mart get good feedback on their stock of product and the consumer get valuable reviews/comments while shopping and get the chance to comment. Once this take off this need to be managed in a smart way, lets hope they stay on track with the potential of the information. Now while on that subject, another good example of using customer feedback to you advantage is Circuit City which has a very good integration of review content.

Will now enjoy following this as we go along.