Barack Obama promises to reboot the White House. But first he'll have to navigate the blogosphere and deep layers of federal gobbledygook.
Customer experience has become the new differentiator. Short product development cycles now mean that many companies release new products that offer little differences in actual product features. To stand out, organizations now need to meet and exceed customer expectations.
In the sea of horror and despair that is the American shopping mall, the Apple Store is often a singular source of refuge. Check your email -- for as long as you want! Play a game of Angry Birds -- on the iPad of your choice! Ask a bearded blue-shirt named Jon anything at all about about the new MacBook Pro -- he'd be totally happy to talk about whatever! Beneath all the chillness and chirpiness, though, there's one more bit of precision required to make the Apple Store so Apple-y.
As we get more engrossed in the idea and practice of digital experiences, are we missing out on the opportunity to build better physical experiences with brands? There's a huge opportunity here to fuse the world's of design and art with technology and create something new. As way of inspiration, I think it's good to look at the work of artist Olafur Eliasson- who's spent a lot of time trying to understand how we "see", manage, react to and interact with space.
Most weekday mornings are fairly predictable: I make a pot of coffee; I walk the dogs with my wife, Eliza; I have a second cup of coffee while Eliza gets ready. This probably sounds familiar, as we all have our routines. But this is not where the predictability in my day ends. I check email on my phone to find a daily handful of mass mail from various research firms and business publications. Many of the articles within these emails (especially those targeted toward marketers) will be on the topic of social media. Perhaps this, too, is a normal part of your morning. If that’s the case, perhaps you have noticed the content of these emails is also a bit predictable.
Writer and artist Jonathan Harris laments about the lack of humanness on the internet, blaming online tools and social networks for offering the same kind of bland user-experiences across platforms. He also says that while communication has become shorter and faster, there will be a time when we will crave more in-depth, emotional interactions with people, but it would be difficult to move back from a digital world to the past.
There's a memorable scene in the movie Minority Report where a man reads a futuristic newspaper with rich embedded multimedia updating live with breaking news. While we are a long way seeing anything like this in the hands of the general public, a German newspaper has taken a small step in that direction with the release of a special augmented reality (AR) edition of its Friday magazine.
Own an iPad? Downloaded the eBay app? You should. It is by far the best way to experience eBay. Watch Movies? Seen the IMDB App? It is so much better than the website. Use Twitter? 81,43% chance you are not using Twitter.com but an App. It seems that more and more Apps are replacing websites in a time when more and more applications are moving to the web. What exactly do we want? Email went from the Application to the Cloud with Gmail, and we love it. The same for Flickr for photos and Google Docs for documents. At the same time Twitter started out as a website but quickly moved to applications on multiple platforms. It is clear that just moving everything to the web isn’t the ultimate solution for everything. That eBay and IMDB app are clear examples.
It took both the telephone and the mobile phone 15 years to amass 100 million users, but Facebook did it in 9 months. We see more and more people becoming connected on online social networks, and it seems our networks are growing exponentially. But the reality is, social networks rarely add to our number of connections. We’ve already met almost all the people we’re connected to on social networks. We’re already connected to these people offline. Social networks simply make the connections visible.
The business of marketing is in the midst of a massive cultural shift. While buzzwords like co-creation, mass-collaboration and crowdsourcing are all the rage, there’s actually a much bigger and deeper change going on with the way work gets done. Three disruptive forces: the expectation of transparency, the further digitization of the workforce and the rise of the curator class, all coupled with the current macro-economic conditions, have changed the world of marketing forever. Like it or not, from professional creatives to consumers, people want to be involved with your brand.
In late January, Toyota watched the hundreds of stories about its recall situation flow through Digg and saw the passionate comments and conversations triggered by those stories. Toyota was already an advertiser on the user-voted news aggregator, but execs at the company concluded that ads weren’t going to be enough. In a fast-changing crisis, the carmaker needed a PR platform where it could listen and interact with consumers.
A smart subordinate should actually want the relationship with the firm to be based at least in some part on things that are qualitative — that require judgment and interpretation because these are what makes it necessary and optimal for him to be an actual part of the firm. A quantitatively based relationship is a shallow one while one that has an important qualitative dimension is a deeper one. The same logic applies to a firm's relationships with customers. If our understanding of customers is based entirely on quantitative analysis, we will have a shallow rather than deep relationship with them.
In the increasingly brutal book wars, Borders Group Inc. is learning what coffeehouses long have known: Encourage shoppers to think of you as a home away from home and they'll spend more, maybe even become regulars. To spur that feeling, Borders quietly unveiled a program late last month that invites book club groups to convene at its cafe spaces instead of in club members' homes. The step is geared toward helping the money-losing bookstore chain drum up sales and reshape itself into a local gathering place instead of a faceless superstore.
I hate the word "buzz," especially when it's being stoked by a calculated PR push, so I'm going to start using a new word, "puzz" (publicity + buzz) to describe that phenomenon. The last couple weeks have seen a lot of puzz about Foursquare, a very interesting, cutting-edge social media application that combines digital, mobile distribution of data with the real-world physical locations of its users. Basically, it's a social network site that tells your friends where you are. This is a very cool idea, bringing online social media -- previously restricted to the infinite, abstract Internet -- into the limited, concrete geography of the real world. The latest Foursquare puzz has it partnering with IGN Entertainment's AskMen.com site, for a deal that will distribute content about local travel and entertainment from the AskMen A. List newsletter to Foursquare users, complementing the highly targeted local social focus of the latter.
Maybe you’re not in a formal ambassador program or even consider yourself an ambassador of, well, anything really. But when you start thinking about it, you might be surprised that you choose or not choose to be an ambassador every day.
Imagine a planetarium-style presentation about the future of technology, followed by a tour of dozens of hands-on exhibits — whether of sandlike microparticles that flow like liquid in a beaker, pictures that appear three-dimensional or concrete that floats. Is it the latest science museum, or a new Disney attraction? No, it’s the “World of Innovation” showroom, a cornerstone of the 3M Company’s customer innovation center at its headquarters in St. Paul. In a world of online user communities, social media, interactive blogs and other technological means for companies to elicit customer feedback, you might think that face-to-face interaction is a thing of the past. Think again.
If you are a pundit, or get paid to watch trends, then this message doesn't apply to you. It's your job to go out and find the next shiny object that could influence how we live and do business. But if you're in the trenches of an organization, my advice is to stop acting like or listening to pundits. Stop looking for the next Twitter. Why? It's simple—because the odds are you already have plenty of projects and ideas with proven potential that you need to improve on without worrying about the next thing you'll start. Here are a few thought-starters based on observations I've made about all of "yesterday's Twitters" that need some care and feeding before you start looking for the next Twitter. Perhaps some may hit close to home for you.
Steve Helmer doesn't order for pizza by phone anymore because, he says, "they're usually busy and not paying attention and they leave something out." Instead, Mr. Helmer uses a build-your-own-pizza feature that Domino's Pizza Inc. last year rolled out on its Web site. Customers can watch a simulated photographic version of their pizza as they select a size, choose a sauce and add pepperoni, black olives and other toppings. The image changes as ingredients are added or removed. The site also allows customers to track orders—with updates on when a pie enters the oven or leaves a store. Mr. Helmer, a sales representative for a telephone company in Beaver Dam, Wis., says he likes knowing the price before he's prompted to pay. "If I add something that's too expensive, I can just remove a topping," he says.
In the World According to Twitter, giving away access to information rewards the giver by building followers. The more followers, the more information comes to the giver to distribute, which in turn builds more followers. The process cannot be commanded or controlled; followers opt in and out as they choose. The results are transparent and purely quantitative; network size is all that matters. Networks of this sort are self-organizing and democratic but without any collective interaction.
As we look ahead to 2010 in the world of social media, we should first stop to appreciate how far we’ve come in this journey to new found relevance and presence. Social media served as a great equalizer. The technology and the corresponding networks that freely connected us, democratized the ability to publish and share content, weave more meaningful relationships, as well reset the ecosystem for establishing and wielding influence. Perhaps most notably, Social networks made the world a much smaller place. As such, it also set the stage for the emergence of a new caliber and genre of influencers and communities that support their mission and purpose. On any given subject, these authoritative networks can incite change and galvanize action to govern, change, and direct market behavior.
Isn’t all design a service to someone? Perhaps that can be debated. But currently the service design genre is receiving considerable attention and achieving currency. When Phi-Hong D. Ha, an interaction design and strategy consultant, was asked what is meant by “service” in today’s design world, she responded, “Service design is a collaborative process of researching, planning and realizing the experiences that happen over time and over multiple touch points with a customer’s experience.” And according to Liz Danzico, chair of the School of Visual Arts’ new MFA Interaction Design program, “Service design looks at customer needs and experiences in a holistic way.” Yet many service designers in the United States do not call themselves Service Designers. Much of the work done in this area is still referred to as “customer experience” or “user experience.” This is where Ha enters the arena.
Last August, the people who putatively run Twitter — the small crew that three years ago launched the world’s fastest-growing communications medium — announced a relatively minor change in the way the site functions. The tweak would have a small effect on retweeting, the convention by which Twitter users repost someone else’s informative or amusing message to their own Twitter followers. Retweets start with RT, for “retweet,” and usually cite the first author by user ID. And, importantly, retweeters often add a word or two of commentary about the repeated content. But there was a problem: Twitter itself didn’t invent retweeting; it was created by Twitter users. In a blog post explaining the changes to retweets, the company’s second-in-command, Biz Stone, called them “a great example of Twitter teaching us what it wants to be.”
And actually get to the heart of things. The touch of a human hand is always welcome. Yet it is what scares people the most. All kinds of push back and walls have been built to rationalize, compartmentalize and control the most basic of needs - that to connect with another human being. Yes, I'm also taking about social media environments. It's time to start mingling with the rest of the world - and do/create something. Doing business is a way of connecting, that of the current economic model and context. While it would be nice to think about intrinsic value, we use money to buy groceries and pay rent - business today equals earning money.
It’s clear that the public relations landscape is changing. No longer does emailing a journalist a press release always result in coverage on major news channels (there are exceptions, naturally, but the average business doesn’t get on Oprah). These days, journalists (and yes, bloggers too) are inundated with press releases. It’s easy to hit delete and move on. How do you get your pitch heard above the din? Conversation. Engagement. Interaction.
At Picnic I attended an interesting session called The City as an Interaction Platform that took this theme as its point of departure: Cities have always been about providing frameworks of services to improve the quality of life for residents and businesses. How will social networks, mobile devices, reactive environments, and cloud-based data services transform the experiences of living in cities in the coming years? What new municipal infrastructure will evolve to meet the needs of citizens looking for the type of real time information and configurability they have come to expect from Internet applications? It was interesting to see three completely different takes on these issues. First Ben Cerveny of Vurb sketched an optimistic view of the ‘cloud city’ – a future scenario in which citizens could get easy access to urban informatics and use those as the foundation for a blossoming civil society. Greg Skibiski of Sense Networks provided another optimist vision – be it based on a different paradigm – in which urban computing is used as the base of offering ever more personalized information and localization services for urbanites. Adam Greenfield however argued that when taken up in a certain way, the rise of urban computing might do urban culture more harm than good. What is at stake, he argued, are some of the essences of urban culture.
To really incite the full range of customer reaction to a brand -- and by full range, I mean everything from bitter rage at the low end to fantastic appreciation at the high end -- traditional advertising is not the way to do it. In these postmodern times, where every interaction with the customer is a marketing event, the real crunch point comes when the customer meets your customer-service department.
General Motors Co. Chief Executive Frederick "Fritz" Henderson is launching a public-relations salvo this week, activating an online suggestion box called Tell Fritz. The initiative, part of a wider assault the auto maker is waging to repair its tattered image, is designed to enable the 50-year-old executive to further distance himself from what has become known as the Old GM, or the auto maker that existed before Mr. Henderson steered the company through bankruptcy court in about 40 days.
"Next in line!" shouts the counter person in the fast food restaurant. If you're the customer, the impersonal language of the server says that you are nothing more than the next 'cheeseburger-do-you-want-fries-with-that?" order. But go down the block to another fast food establishment and you'll find employees who have been trained to ask, "May I help the next guest, please?" For thousands of companies that depend on the instant impressions created during these Moments of Truth between employee and customer, the words that employees use are more than just language. How your employees speak with your customers is, quite literally, your brand brought to life.
This is one area of social media and especially blogging that has always irked me. The belief that if you create great content, you are set. That your blog will be inundated with thousands of visitors just dying to get the chance to glimpse your verbal greatness.
While worshipping the 'now’ may seem the new religion, there are equally strong currents favoring the 'forever’. Dubbed FOREVERISM, prepare for a fluid 'trend', guaranteed to spawn new ideas. We promise.
Dramatic shifts in "consumer involvement" are game-changers for brand marketing and innovation The economic downturn is causing a fundamental shift in how consumers interact with brands. To survive and thrive, marketers and innovators need to dramatically increase their focus on measuring and understanding consumer "involvement" and involvement frequency across the "journey of interaction" with brands.
Online shopping is about to get social. For years retailers have struggled to improve their online experience, but shopping online is still a solo endeavor, devoid of the interaction many consumers seek. Groups of women aren't often found huddled around computer monitors for a shopping trip, after all. Without that interaction and purchase validation, shoppers, plagued by indecision, often abandon retailers' sites, said Andy Lloyd, CEO of Fluid, a San Francisco-based interactive agency.
When it comes to analytics, few know the space like Avinash Kaushik, which is why we took your questions to him. He's the author of "Web Analytics: An Hour a Day," a prolific blogger at Occam's Razor and Google's analytics evangelist, where he proudly claims the tagline "Data-driven decision making uncomplexified."
When there were old-school parking meters in New York, quarters were precious. One day, I'm walking down the street and a guy comes up to me and says, "Do you have a dollar for four quarters?" He held out his hand with four quarters in it. Curious, I engaged with him. I took out a dollar bill and took the four quarters. Then he turned to me and said, "can you spare a quarter?" What a fascinating interaction.
We're now in what I am starting to call the perfect storm for social media. On one side we have lots of very smart and accomplished professionals who are and have been using these tools to network, learn, and some to market themselves successfully to new jobs and careers. On the other we have many companies that are starting to see the need for different answers to growth than the diminishing returns not guaranteed by traditional channels.