Monday, August 15, 2011

Google made Windows Phone a viable platform

The world of mobile communication is not short of drama. Today's news that Google will acquire Motorola Mobility was an unexpected chess move from the boys in Mountain View. Even if the rationale for the move was defensive and rooted in the patent wars of recent, it will have a huge impact on the consumer space of mobile phones. Essentially, I believe, that this purchase means that Motorola becomes the bastion of the untainted Android experience and lead platform in entering the market with new innovations and flavors of the OS and by doing that they will push the other manufacturers to raise stakes in the Windows Phone ecosystem, giving it the necessary boost it needed to become the third major phone OS/ecosystem.

The area of innovation for Android has already been very narrow, and manufacturers have attempted to create some form of propitiatory value with their own facades to the OS, such as the HTC Sense. I think that most consumers don't really care about them and on the other hand enthusiasts like me would prefer the stock Android experience. Google's move has made it even harder for independent handset manufacturers to stand out, as I suspect that Motorola will be rolling out the latest and greatest before them, leaving others fighting for scraps. If that happens it's far from the "defensive move" that Google seems to have the other manufacturers signed up for.

Well, what options do the other players then have than? The comments from the other manufacturers felt scripted and there's a certain tension that can be said from what they are not saying rather than the short and almost identical blurb that Google made them issue. Moving forward, there are only two viable options in my opinion:

1) Play second fiddle. Follow Google/Motorola and focus on the tech-spec race, facades and heavy advertising to stand out. This is the official party line of all of them - for now. It depends on how fairly Google/Moto plays with the others and we'll see if their tolerance for favoritism fairly soon. Any sense of giving more goodies to Moto will break the alliance and shift resources away from the Google backed solution.

2) Bet on two horses. Most manufacturers have stake in Windows Phone already so shifting more resources to the third viable open platform while playing down Android's role would be easy to do. This would be an overall positive development for the Microsoft/Nokia alliance as the platform is desperately looking for some traction and the additional support might just do the trick. Nokia's stock price jumped a healthy +10% as a reaction to the Moto/Google news, so it seems that the market is believing in this scenario.

It does seem like Google just might've created a fracture into the (up-to-now) very solid Android alliance and almost accidentally made Windows Phone a viable platform. The handset makers would love to see more competition in the OS space, as that will give them more negotiating power - let's be frank, as of late, they haven't had too much it. This is why I suspect that they will go with door #2 and bet on both the horses if they can. Honestly, I think even Nokia should look into this. Pumping out an Android phone or two would be very easy with the close Linux based family heritage of Meego/Maemo and Android - and that would mean that they have all bases covered. If Windows gains traction, they could then just drop the Androids from the portfolio.

What ever happens, I'm sure the big winner will be the consumer, as all of the players will have to work hard to impress us - and there will be at least three massive operating systems and a few of smaller ones to choose from.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The dark art of SEO

Most people don't know what the hell SEO, Search engine optimization, is. Most people in advertising think it envolves black cloaks, chanting in the basement and sacrificing a goat to the gods of Google to make you site pop up on top of the search results with the queries you want. That would be pretty cool, but in reality it's quite a lot stupider than that. In my experience there are four important levers that affect Search Rank:

1) Quality of content: Search engines are actually pretty smart. They tend to pop up the best content, so the best way to climb on top is making something worthwhile for the sites audience. So matching your sites content against what people are looking for seems like a smart idea. Use Google Insight tools to dig into the existing consumer behaviors to match your content with what people are searching for. Let's say you have a site about Ice-Cream. What should the content on your site be? Looking at the most common related queries would be a good place to start.

2) Frequency of updates: If you want to top the charts in Google, you need to look alive. Search engines hate static pages that seem to be frozen in time, so it might be a good idea to create an editorial calendar that spreads out the content over time. It also makes managing your site easier as you don't need to create everything at once. This is the reason why corporate blogs are a good idea, as they are a natural way to keep publishing new content. Editorial calendars also make planning messaging across multiple channels easier - anywhere from tv-campaigns to tweets.

3) Inbound links: This is the vaguest one of them all, as it is hard to test. But urban legend tells that Google in particular is sensitive to inbound links and that they affect search rank significantly. I think it is just good practice to first of all cross link your existing web properties and then encourage track backs and social sharing. It doesn't hurt to add a "Tweet this", +1 or a LIKE button either, as they could push more links and traffic in too and generate inbound links.

4) Don't sabotage yourself: Yes, there are some best practices in creating content, but if you avoid the big no-no's, like big-ass Flash elements that don't have HTML equivalents or not adding alt tags to images, you should be fine. Choosing a good CMS should make making content search engine friendly pretty easy.

And that's it. You're now indoctrinated into the dark circle. Robes on the left, candles and knives on the right.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

QR codes in ads are stupid

Which one of these are you more likely to navigate to: the QR code or the human readable URL? I can easily imagine a situation where a creative agency or progressive marketing client wants to "get more out of their campaign" and under the pretext of being "cutting edge" decide to add a QR code to their billboard or print ad. This is a great idea... or would be if anyone actually used QR codes or if they were actually useful this way. I haven't been able to find one single execution where it has been used successfully although the technology is over 10 years old. Just use common sense and think of someone walking down the street, seeing an interesting offer, taking out their phone, finding or downloading the QR-reader, aligning the image perfectly, snapping the pic and navigating to a campaign website. How likely do you think this is?

Click on that? Really?
Why it's not a good idea to use QR-codes in advertising:
          1. Most people don't know what they are or how to use them
          2. They barely work. Just try to navigate from a QR-code from a Times Square billboard, I dare you.
          3. A QR code is just a URL in a form that humans don't understand. Wouldn't you want humans to know your URL?
Is there a situation where it would make sense to use QR codes? Yes, of course, there's nothing wrong with the technology, just the application of it. I would recommend QR codes in situations where you need a large number of unique URL's and the interpretation of that code is done under controlled environments or it doesn't rely on the user to interpret it. Classic examples are theater tickets or boarding passes. And if you really really want to use it in a campaign, perhaps a scavenger hunt where people have to collect as many unique codes as possible could make sense. But just as a link into a advertising campaign website, I have a feeling that short human readable URL's are a better way in - and perhaps NFC in the near future.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

An open letter to Mr. Elop

Dear Stephen,

I have to say: I'm a big fan. Having someone in the drivers seat of Nokia who really understands modern software and ecosystems is exactly what the boys in Espoo need. You seem like a guy who loves gadgets. Although I appreciate OPK as a business savvy number-cruncher, I couldn't see that he really really loved the things the company made. The burden also on your shoulders is not an easy one - making Nokia great again would be one of the most legendary turnarounds in modern industrial history. And I totally support the decision to phase out Symbian and place a bet on WinPhone instead. Anyone who dares to defy that should use the N97 mini for a week or two.

But this MeeGo thing, I do not understand. The thing is, once hope dies, there's nothing left.

Instead of telling everyone that it's essentially a dead OS or "research initiative", why wouldn't commit to doing one software release and hardware update a year for the next... lets say three years. This is a minuscule investment in the grand scheme of things - and you could keep the team really lean. Then invest a little bit in technology that makes porting or running Android apps on it really simple. I heard it took a one day to port Angry Birds on Meego. With making the effort required really low, you could mooch off Android's ecosystem and have a viable offering in no time. It would annoy the hell out of Google! And look what Apple did with one phone a year. This would give you some sort of leverage in the OS market and give Nokia at least have some relevance with tech pioneers and gadget freaks. Have you read the early reviews? Geeks love this stuff. If you end up as just one more OEM for WinPhones, i'm sad to say, there's very little to love about Nokia.

So the deal is; now the N9 is just a very sexy Zombie.

So I urge you, please reconsider. Come out and say that MeeGo will get a software and hardware updates for a few years and that you'll invest in developer tools that make porting simple. Keep hope alive. Give us geeks some reason to love you.

Your sincerely,

PS. In the spirit of full disclosure: I had the privilege of working at Nokia before your time. My final gig was planning marketing executions for what now turned out to be the N8 and N9. I'm sure my work was rewritten a thousand times as it seems things were constantly in flux in the marketing department. But i guess change is good. Best regards to Kari and the team in Nokia House 3G.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Death to Digital Strategy, long live Creative Planning

When I hear advertising people call themselves as "digital natives" or "digital/analogue hybrids", it makes me throw up in my mouth a bit. It represents a douchy and belittling attempt to create a new breed of ad men. The reason it annoys me is that the term assumes that the only thing that we need to change is the people, not the tasks. As if by magic, if you happen to have a "digital native" as a account planner or copy-writer, you're stuff is instantly relevant and better.

I don't believe this is true.

It is more important to define new tasks than new skills in an integrated analogue / digital world. I'd rather have mediocre people fulfilling smart tasks, than smart people fulfilling mediocre tasks.

When it comes to my own role, I think "Digital Strategist" sounds cheesy as it only looks at one aspect of any brand problem. Personally I like "Creative Planning" as a modern descriptor for the integrated discipline better. It nods to the roots of planning but elevates it into a creative endeavor. Planning is all about possibilities, and in the digital universe possibilities are virtually endless. There are a million different ways you could do something, but it's the creative part that helps you pick the right one. Creativity is all about taste and understanding of nuances.

Let me give you an example:

You are looking for a place to host videos for your campaign somewhere. Let's say you could use Vimeo or YouTube, in your campaign and you weigh in all of the relevant factors to choose one or the other. Perhaps YouTube would get more organic traffic, but for your campaign Vimeo could perhaps produce a better brand fit and therefore higher quality traffic. It comes down to having the relevant information to make an informed creative decision. One of the decisions would undoubtably yield better business results, but which one? Stereotypically a digital strategist would pick the one with higher traffic and a brand planner would pick the one that is a closer match with the brand manifesto.

So what does one need to make a choice of this nature? What makes a Creative Planner?

1. You need to understand the architecture of your campaign: The design and blueprint of your campaign that links all your media, not only digital, as a coherent ecosystem. This helps answer questions like "What are you trying to do?", "How many visits will you get?" and "What do you want them to do there?" 

2. You need to understand the nature of the channels themselves: You need to be educated enough on the technical capabilities, user behavior and best case examples of each channel. You need to know the in's-and-outs of the YouTubes, Facebooks, blogging platforms and what-not. Even a little experience in coding helps here. Also experience with terms of services and other battle-scars are valuable.

3. You need to understand research: Being comfortable digesting quantitative and qualitative information is a must. You need to understand the human behaviors and motivations of the people your trying to affect. Numbers are one thing, but the hard thing is to get a real read on an insight. I think this is rarer than most marketers would like to believe. 

4. You need to get the brand: It's tough to describe a brand in a way that would truly capture it's essence. Most brands know what they think they want to be, not what they really are or aught to be. Talking to executives, customers and suppliers - and finding a lens to evaluate all that your doing is imperative. 

5. You need to be able to help the creatives: Let's face it. Most creative directors are big babys. Working with them in a cooperative fashion, in tandem, within the creative process is crucial. The old sequential way of working is not only suboptimal and slow, but it results if crappier work. After all, you are designing a brand ecosystem, not a singleminded brand "carwash" where eyeballs come in one end and happy customers come out the other. A small shift in the way people interact with the brand or the creative idea can make it blow up in a massive way and constitute significant changes in an other part of the campaign. The creatives will just have to get used to you hovering around, inspiring them, pitching in suggestions and keeping an eye on the big picture.

If you can perform those afore mentioned tasks, I'm sure you can strategize the hell out of any modern brand challenge. And yes, I know its hard to find one individual that embodies all those qualities. Maybe the baby step forward is planning teams or couples that compliment each other. But my point is: define the right task and the people will grow into it.


To summarize in a tweet:

Creative planner = Campaign architect + brand champion + technical savvy + scientific mind + creative collaborator

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A Consumer Centric Advertising Brief

Most advertising briefs are brand centric. They aim to solve brands problems. One could argue that that's what they are supposed to do, but that's like saying the only function of a movie script is to make money. I think in order to find great disruptive ideas your briefs have to be written from the point of view of the consumer. Brands have often been said to be tone-deaf and rude shouters that don't really care what you think, just as long as they get to deliver their message. That's probably not a symptom of bad creative. It's just a bad brief.

But before we jump to the cure, lets look at the illness.

I’m proud to say that I’m a part of a continuum of pioneers of planning and the strategy discipline in advertising here at TBWA\Chiat\Day, as this was the essentially the birthplace of the "American flavor” of Account Planning. But I can't help but to feel that there is something stale in the way we implement strategy nowadays. Jay Chiat himself was of the opinion that planning was an endeavor of finding new things, not regurgitating the old. I concur. It's time to come up with something new.

One of my favorite presentations on "modern" planning is “The brief in the post digital age” by Gareth Kay, Director of Brand Strategy at formerly Ogilvy, nowadays at Goodby. Although two years old, this presentation still puts most briefs to shame. Kay has some very sharp observations and frames the problems perfectly. I would've loved to hear him present it. His presentation shows that the primary weapon of the planner – the creative brief – has not evolved at all during the past twenty odd years. It’s outdated. Broken.

Or is it?

Conculsions from Kay's presentation, a bit mushy in my view
The thing is, that if briefs were totally broken, we would’ve fixed them already. They kinda still work. Most of the great work in advertising is most likely created from fairly traditional briefs. If it ain’t broken, why fix it? The thing I least like about Kay’s presentation is the ending. His proposal for a “post digital” brief just isn’t sharp enough. He does a tremendous job gathering all the right ingredients, but the souffle doesn't rise. If I’ve learned anything about working with people with "creative" on their business card, it is that they need restraints to be great. Blue-sky-do-whatever –briefs are the worst. Most traditional briefs offer a tight sandbox, but the assignment is is always a message. Most new briefing formulas are too vague for my taste as the outputs and constraints are very fluffy.

If we seriously want to create a better brief, we need to find out what has changed. The easiest thing to point to would be technology, but I don’t think it’s that simple. Technology supercharged everything in marketing and made it easier to target marketing dollars, but those are measures of efficiency not a true change. The second claim I hear quite often is that “human behaviors” have changed. Sure, they’ve been modified somewhat, but we are still homo sapiens, driven by the same urges and wants as we were before Twitter. We are genetically cavemen. Social Media is not the answer either; Word-of-mouth, or conversations, existed before the “like”-button, it just wasn’t as efficient, measurable or accessible for marketers.

Touch-points of a modern vs. pre-digital camapaign
In my view the thing that has changed is the number of dimensions in a marketing ecosystem. The marketing environment of the television era was fairly one dimensional. It starts with a view and ends in the store. But marketers can't count on TV being the first touch-point. Consumers have multiple other ways of coming across your brand - from search to social.

Becoming a customer does not require opening any doors or footwork; it requires nothing more than a thought. Brands have naturally intuitively understood this. They’ve started to design ecosystems, which link nicely together. It shouldn’t matter what your vector into a brand is, you should always feel welcome. Search, a banner or a sample at the local super-market. The best brands understand what it is you’re after. They get you. And more and more this happens after they have your money – the ecosystem is their product offering. The easiest, albeit most worn-out, example is Nike+. It’s not running shoes. It’s the experience of owning running shoes.

With the risk of drifting off-topic, I want to also mention that the role of “social media” has been over-emphasized in my opinion in many current marketing briefs. Conversations should be at the heart of very few brands. I’m sorry, but even if I like Oreos, but I really don’t want to talk about it. Even less am I interested in seeing other people’s conversations about "their dunking habits". Social media is a great place to find the audience, but it shouldn’t mean you pester them. (More on my thought about social media can be found in my post about the ROI of likes).

Let’s get back on track. What is the best possible creative brief?

Firstly lets examine what makes the current standard brief work, so we know what to keep:
  • It’s short, usually fits on a page. If it doesn’t, cockpunch your planning director and tell him to try again.
  • It’s trying to be based on human truths. This is the toughest nut to crack. Finding one thing that is always true to be your true north. That’s why the directors get the big bucks. 
  • It’s single minded. The benefit is the thing to communicate. Does the campaign do it? Yes, success. No, failure. 
  • It specifies the business problem
  • It describes the brands attributes or characteristics
In essence; it’s tight. There’s no way you could write an off-brief print ad, if you have even a mediocre planner helping you. Where it breaks down is when you try to force the same dimension on the whole marketing ecosystem. This brief format is focused on the dimension of telling. It assumes you have the undivided attention of the consumer. As media gets more and more fragmented, this is becoming a fringe case. Getting someone’s total attention is a rare luxury. Briefs should include other dimensions as well.

My new multi-dimensional brief tries to incorporate what it good about the good old Bill Berbach –style, laser focused briefs, and applies it to a world where information and opinions move at the speed of light (or at least the speed of AT&T). Notice the emphasis on the consumer, not the brand. This doesn't mean you don't need to do your homework on defining the brand, by this point you should've actually already have done it. Also, do yourself, the client and the customer a favor: use simple language. Don't use douchy consultant terms. The focus is on the using your imagination to create great stories.

A consumer centric briefing template:
  1. Let's get introduced: Brand meet consumer, consumer meet brand. Describe the characteristics of both as they were individuals. Force yourself to humanize both, the less mushy the definitions are, the sharper the focus.
  2. What's your problem?: What is the brand trying to do? What problem are you solving? Sales? Love? Both? Be specific. For example, “awareness” is not a goal, it’s a measure. What problem does the brand solve in the consumers life; again be very literal.
  3. It said to me: What's your brands: "OH REALLY?" -message? What do you tell the consumer, irrespective of the channel when you have her whole undivided attention? No bullet points, please. You have to be able to say it in a sentence.
  4. This is what I told a friend about it: When the consumer walks away, what is the thing she can’t wait to tell her best friend? And why would she tell anyone?
  5. When I looked for something like it: What is the selection process of a brand in your category like? Think Google, think retail, think flea market. Whatever works. How could you revolutionize the brand here? Bringing classical CD’s to Victoria’s Secret made sales explode. 
  6. That looks interesting: What are the brands peacock feathers it uses to lure people to come closer? Think fifty yards or a banner ad. Why would I care? 
  7. I heard them talking: It’s rude to eavesdrop, but what if the consumer heard you talking to an existing or prospect buyer… what would she hear? 
  8. It said to us: Social media is not really a conversation… it’s more like standing on a soap box on a crowded market. What did your brand tell the crowd? What stops our consumer on her tracks and makes her care?
  9. I want it now: What if it's It’s 4AM on a Sunday morning and the consumer wants to buy your brand right now. What if your consumer is at the mall on a Tuesday night? What is the shopping experience like? What else can you do for them than just sell them your product? They have their wallet out… it’s the best time to find something else they like also.
  10. I just bought it: Then what? What’s the first thing the consumer gets after purchase? What about tomorrow? What about next week? 
  11. I love owning it because: Imagine talking to our lovely consumer six months after purchase. What makes her use and love the product every day? For her running shoes it could be Nike+. What is the Nike+ of Shampoo? What is the Nike+ of accounting software? What is the Nike+ of a whiskey? 
  12. I’m getting a new one: After years of use the product is finally worn out and breaks. Describe how easy it is for our consumer to get a new one. 
The first creative output of this type of brief is a bunch of stories. Love stories - between the consumer and the brand. And the way to get there is through interaction between planners, creatives, account people... hell, sometimes the finance guy could crack it. But the whole point is that the creatives should be able to tell you and (the client) all the funny, wonderful, interesting things that happen in the life of our consumer and how she found this amazing brand - and how they both thrive because of it.

Things like technology choices, media budgets, timelines, legal approvals and what-not are easier to accomplish when everyone around the table falls in love with vision, the ideal ecosystem, for a brand. Yes, you will have to comp up the print ads, write the tv-script and code the website at some point, but that’s craftsmanship – you should know how to do that, now that you know what you’re doing.

At the end of the day, it’s not about digital. It’s not only social. It’s not about being integrated or matching luggage either. It’s just about being relevant.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

5 reasons why TV is a better marketing tool than Social Media

1. TV performs consistently, Social Media is erratic. It's hard work being interesting - and that's what social media is about. Holding someones interest in an environment that is totally democratized is very difficult. Basically Exxon and my Ex-girlfriend have equal tools to create social media content. The one who manages to get my attention and hold it or even more difficulty - manages to affect my behaviors or purchase decisions has to put a lot of effort into it. That's why the use of social media in marketing purposes is erratic - it's hit and miss. TV on the other hand is fairly consistent. A good tv ad with a healthy media budget attached is going to perform approximately the same way it did last year. When planning a business, reliability of forecasts are crucial. Oh yeah, and just because social media doesn't have a media budget doesn't make it free.

2. TV is pre-testable, Social Media needs optimization. Every social media consultant presents the wheel slide: listen, engage, converse, optimize. Or something like it. Basically it means: throw some spaghetti on the wall and see if it sticks. The good thing about TV-advertising is that it's 50 years old. We know how to test it. We know what people think and feel after they've seen it. We know how to deduce effects on sale. For social media, most of these things are still a mystery. If anything, there's too much data available through the social media monitoring tools. It is messy, labor-intensive and therefore expensive to sift through.

Sony retweeted the PS3 jailbreak code
3. TV is low risk, Social Media is volatile. The risk of screwing up in social media is ever present. You could end up, for example, saying something insulting to your target audience or aiding sensitive information getting out. With TV, you can have an army of lawyers make sure you're good to go before you pull the trigger. With social media, you need expensive always-on publishing machines that check every tweet or facebook post with legal, comms, marketing and yo' momma before being able to do anything. Every time.

2010 Superbowl ad twitter conversation volumes
4. TV starts conversations in social media. Television is one of the strongest drivers of conversations in the western world. Personally I think Twitter has made it worth watching The Oscars again. The amount of snark and wittisisms is simply magnificent. Also the Superbowl is such a great experience, when one combines it with seeing what people say about the ads. Social media just usually responds to things that happen "in reality". And with reality, I mean The Bachelor.

5. TV dollars are measurable in both old and new metrics. Marketers love to see ROI numbers. In television ROI is calculated based on GRP's  and impact on sales. This is by no means perfect, as it is statistical averages and not real behavioral data. Social media enthusiasts pride with the fact that you can get actual behavioral data from social media. Well... there's no reason you couldn't do that with TV ad's as well. You can go in and "monitor the conversation" about your ad if you want to. What you do with that data is then up to you, your analytics team and the guy wearing a Transformers t-shirt claiming to be a "social media expert".

Alright, alright... I wanted to troll out a bit, so don't take these points too seriously, but I do think Social Media is over-hyped and it gets away with murder because, well,  it's cool. It's treated like magical pixie dust or a dark art where you need to have some secret special information to make it work. When in reality it is an extension of people's existing behaviors. Word-of-mouth existed before Twitter. People recommended good brands before the "like" button. TV and social media are not competitors, but compliments. They support each other. So instead of creating things for channels, like TV or "social", we should create things for humans.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Twitter needs a quality indicator

My relationship with Twitter is complicated. Twitter is the closest thing to a cultural heartbeat we currently have; it has made shared cultural events, such as award shows or the Olympics, more enjoyable. It is lightning fast at reporting breaking news and spreading vital messages, such as “hey there’s a revolution, let’s overthrow the government”. It can easily sniff out trends and is a valuable resource for science.

But it is wasteful. The “signal-to-noise” –ratio is very low.

Most of the time we are not sharing a cultural moment or we don’t have something vital of importance to share. I almost never overthrow governments. Still, the constant flow of tweets flow through the servers in an ever-marching parade of zen, not caring if anyone sees them or not. Most of the stuff being mundane repostings of news or just pointless personal messages from people who sometimes say something interesting.

More Tweets, less value.
I follow 952 people on Twitter, in the past hour I received 138 tweets. I think I spend maybe 30 minutes a day on Twitter, in perhaps three 10 minute chunks reading the Tweets from the past hour or so. So I receive around 3/24 of tweets that I ‘ve subscribe to, that’s around 13%. So, just using the amount of Tweets in the previous hour as an estimation I receive around 3.300 tweets a day, and the looking at the time estimation, I only read about 400 tweets a day. So most of the things pass through my feed unread.

This results in two main problems in my mind:

Firstly, the tweets that I read are selected by pure chance. There is no quality control, if I suspect someone I really like, for example @badbanana, has said something smart, I have to check it manually.

Secondly, I’ve managed to claw up to 1850 followers, which has made me practically a king-amongst-men in Twitter (in my own mind at least). But if my tweets have a reach that is comparable to the reach I calculated it means that any one of my own tweets only has the audience of 200 or so people. In reality I suspect that this number is even lower. Most people have a lot less followers than that, and the harsh reality is that they could probably get a bigger audience chatting in their workplace cafeteria than with their Tweets. This encourages post frequency over quality. More shouting, less thinking.

So what’s the solution? Twitter desperately needs a “like” or a “+1” button for the audience to indicate the best, most valuable tweets. Adding a quality indicator on top of the existing functionality would detract nothing from it’s existing utility, but would make it possible to find the more relevant content and reward me for spending time and effort tweeting something else than “Eating a bagel, yummy”. And no, retweets are not the mechanism I’m looking for, they actually just create more noise and add to the problem. I would like to know what people find valuable. And I would like to try to write valuable tweets. Help me do that, Twitter.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

What Nokia should've done

It’s been painful to watch Nokia stumble lately. It saddens me to see such a great company, full of smart people, struggle to get anything meaningful to the market. Nokia’s new leadership have had to do some painful and drastic measures to try to get the company on the right track. Probably the most painful one being the de-prioritization of the MeeGo operating system in favor of the Windows Phone OS. Killing, or at least seriously de-railing the single thing that gave hope of a better, Symbian-free, future has put a big downer on the organization, the open source community and, to some extent, Finland.

Don’t get me wrong. WP is a perfectly good phone OS and honestly playing with it for a while makes going back to the iPhone feel antiquated. And choosing between Android and WP for Nokia, I would’ve probably done the same decision. At least now Nokia has some sort of chance for differentiation. Where as the Android market is already over-saturated and cluttered. But yes, the this was clearly a situation where Nokia only had two bad options.

But let’s go back to 2009, to simpler times, when MeeGo was still called Maemo and Prince was still called Prince…

N770, N800, N810, N900

The N900 was a doomed to begin with. The EVP of smartphones and project owner of everything cool at Nokia, Anssi Vanjoki, had stated that he had a five-step plan for the Linux-based devices, before they are ready for prime-time. N900 was the fourth (and currently the latest) step in that continuum. The predecessors for the N900 were the phone-less internet tablets: N770, N800 and N810. Part of this plan was that the N900 was a test device to learn about the capabilities and limitation of the platform. It’s like a public beta - not to be taken too seriously, as it was, after all, just an iteration on the way to the promised land. Which Nokia never got to.

I loved the N900 from the first time I used it. Sure it was way too big to fit in my jeans pockets and could be considered to be somewhat ugly or boxy, but the smoothness of the Maemo5 OS versus the pain of using Symbian was a breath of fresh air. The software had it’s weird glitches and suffered from some really bad design choices (resistive touch screen… no portrait mode... three levels of navigation...), but all in all it was paradigm shift in OS’s for Nokia.

Now here’s what Nokia should’ve done: The N900 was clearly a test and the hardware platform was already by launch seriously aged (Cortex A8 running at 600 MHz). They should’ve simple refreshed the hardware and fix a few of the stupid design choices on the device and blast full speed ahead with Maemo5, instead of waiting for the magical unicorn of Maemo6 which never came to be, due to the merger with Moblin forming what is now called Meego. Just imagine an E7 with the Maemo5 sofware – a totally competitive offering to what’s out there now. At least better than the current Symbian offering.

I don’t know what has happened to Maemo since it became part of Meego, but looking at the pathetic Meego-tablet demos out there, it seems like integration and added complexity has not done it any favors. I think the "five step plan" from Mr. Vanjoki felt very arbitrary and honestly Nokia should've just sticked with Maemo5 and pushed forward full steam on that. We can just imagine what two or three years of full scale development would've done for it and how far it could be today. Personally I don't think it's still too late. So Nokia, please bring Maemo5 back.

(Full disclosure: I've worked at Nokia 2006-2010,  and was in a global marketing role and did work for the N900.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Where is the digital battleground?

Nike and Puma Running homepages
I don’t know a lot about marketing running shoes, but a quick review of the top brand's web-pages seem to confirm my suspicion that they are fairly similar in their digital presence. Same functionalities. Same type of content. And even closer commonalities are easier to find in the mediums where art direction is limited or non-existent: search engine marketing and social media.

The matter of the fact is that the traditional marketing funnel for these companies is almost identical, especially in the digital space. Everybody is doing the same things. Diversification is limited to art direction of the picture of the shoe and the clever tag line to support it.

Nike+ is one of the most over-hyped marketing innovations of… well… ever. Most of the praise has been, in my mind, about the wrong thing. As a stand-alone service it’s mediocre-to-ok’ish, but the reason it is fantastic is that, it shifted the battleground of digital from advertising to "the post purchase". We went beyond the funnel. It actually changed what you sell, not so much how. When selecting a pair of running shoes, instead of what shoe you want, you choose which ecosystem you subscribed to; and obviously being the first true end-to-end ecosystem out there, Nike+ had a significant first-mover advantage. Nike’s market share in running shoes bumped from 48% to 61% during the first two years after the introduction of Nike+ and analysts attribute a lot of that growth to the merit of the service.

Domino's Pizza share-price past 2 years
Another good example of going through the line and improving the experiencing a brand through digital mediums is the Pizza Tracker from Domino’s Pizza. Essentially it is a total companion to ordering pizza online, that allows you to monitor the process of delivering your food to you, step by step. I love this service, especially how it solves a totally new problem. It focuses on the “yo, where the hell is my pizza, dude!” -problem, when all other services are just trying to solve the "so, what pizza you want, eh?" -problem. It's post-purchase, not pre-purchase value. The service developed by CP+B was launched in 2008 and since Domino’s Pizza’s share price has doubled. That's tasty.

What to take away from this? Brands should stop and ask: how can "digital" make the experience of being my customer better. The point of monetization is not the finish line, but actually that’s where the real race starts.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Ten easy steps to bad strategy

I've spent most of my time on the client side of the marketing equation and had the chance to work with some of the best agencies in the business. I must've seen on average at least one agency presentation per week and dozens of internal strategy presentations for five or so years.

That's a lot of Power Point, my friend.

The good ones were eye-opening and often quite to-the-point. The bad ones, well.. not so much. For anyone who really wants to write a really bad strategy presentation I've gathered the top 10 tips:

1) Rely on semantics and nuances.
Strategy, after all, is an art-form. The more delicate you can make it, the better. If possible try to write it in a haiku form. That'll show 'em.

2) Never, ever summarize. To summarize is to simplify and that is kryptonite for bad strategy. If you must summarize, try to fit all the same things you've just shown on one slide by making the font really really small.

3) Never share incomplete work. One strategy is one whole. To share early stage thinking could contaminate your work with thoughts or comments from others. It could be subject to criticism and need to reflect on things such as reality. Which are totally unnecessary boundaries for bad strategy.

4) Approved strategy never changes. Once strategy is approved it receives divine blessing and to critique it is heresy. No matter if the reality changes around you, your bad strategy never should.

5) Channel agnostism = don't plan channels. You don't need to worry about things like search, social, retail and mobile... after all you plan everything in a channel agnostic way. It would be pedestrian to actually plan something for a specific purpose.

6) How to write insights? In big red fonts! It's an insight if you say so! What is an insight after all? It's basically a mystical mantra that gives you permission to back up any idea under the sun to "ladder up" to your strategy. Just make sure it's going to vague enough, so you don't paint your self in a corner.

7) Think of KPI's later. No matter what stage you are, you should probably think of KPI's later. The only exception is when it's already too late to think of KPI's for this particular project.

8) Use social media to create buzz about stuff. Buzz is important for stuff, so people can take part in the conversation to engage with early adopters in order to seed behaviors in the social spehere. Stuff. Buzz. Social. You know?

9) Spend your time making it pretty. Witnessing strategy being presented should be a powerful emotional experience, so you should spend most of your time making the presentation thing of beauty.

10) And finally; make any idea fit the strategy. After all, who are we kidding here, bad strategy exists just to fill the gap between the client ordering something and seeing the print. So it's basically there to fluff the clients and keep them warm, so that they'll buy something at the end of the day.

How many "likes" should I have?

As of one minute ago Oreos had 17,541,788 "likes" on Facebook. This is roughly the equivalent of the population of Chile. And if all the Oreo-likers would form a nation, it would be the worlds 60th largest. This is an impressive number. If compared against to another brand from the same company, Chips Ahoy! has only a miniscule 81,999 likes. As nations go Chips ahoy! would only match the mighty country of Andorra. Just based on these two data-points one could assume that Oreos are significantly larger brand. Comparing seventeen million to eighty thousand from a traditional packaged goods marketing point of view is simple, more share-of-mind should translate into more sales. So Oreos should blow Chips Ahoy! out of the water.


But comparing cookie sales statistics from last year show that, in fact, Chips Ahoy! is the most sold cookie in the country, by selling over 112 million units and creating $313 million in sales, regular Oreos sold 96 million units and generated $290 million.

What the Zuck does this mean?

How come consumers vote with their wallets to love one brand and with their mouse to like another?

I think the value of a Facebook engagement has been misjudged. Or perhaps it hasn't been estimated at all. The most common argument for engaging in facebook communication is that "you can have a conversation with your audience and engage in a deeper relationship". This is a nice thought, but for a "conversation" it's quite one-sided, as typically only few per cent of your fan-base engage with the fan-page monthly.

So how valuable is a like?

Let's say for arguments sake that this engagement factor would be in the case of Oreos around 3%. (I guestimated this by just looking at the posting frequency of the Oreo fanpage and the amount of likes and comments they get per post). This estimate would put the number of people interacting with the Oreos brand in the ball-park of half a million people. And let's say that as a consequence of this interaction these consumers increase their consumption by 0.1 packs of cookies per month. That means I've estimated that every tenth like or comment would sell a pack of cookies. This would lead into a roughly 600k sales boost per year, which is again roughly a +0.6% increase in sales. Although the numbers are ball-park and the math is simplified this should put us in the right postal code. Hardly a spectacular success. And surely not worth all that yapping about social media changing the face of marketing.

What are marketers thinking going after facebook "likes"? Well, I'm not a mind reader, but this is what I think is happening:

1) All the cool kids are doing it. Social media is trendy - It's cool to do social media. Huge companies are political organizations and having a social media project on your resume can make it a lot sexier.

2) There is a void of meaningful digital metrics and likes are the easiest thing to compare. Although my hill-billy-math-exercise demonstrated that sales might not sky-rocket after mongering facebook likes, it doesn't mean it doesn't make sense. The number of "likes" is just the easiest number to look at. I would love to see metrics on the quality of likes. A gigantic number likes is a comforting thing for marketers. It soothes the soul and makes you sleep better, when you know you've accomplished something to push your product; especially if you have more than your competitor.

3) Cookie-cutter approach for all brands. I suspect that some product or service types work better than others in a social media context. Perhaps a singular FMCG brand is not the right thing to promote on the platform. Although I like Oreos, I really wouldn't want it to give me a call at 7pm and ask me about "dunking habits" or whatnot when I'm decompressing on the couch. Similarly I don't want to see any of it's zero-value updates on my newsfeed. My bandwidth is fixed. I can not manufacture more attention, so to use this for cookies talking about themselves is not something I want to waste it on.

At the end of the day, we might come back to the simple truth that giving me either entertainment or utility is the only thing that makes me give a damn. And brands that can deliver that in a Tweet or a facebook post should really care about the number of likes.