September 30, 2005Back in the day, Gutenberg didn't have a care in the world. "I'm going to print this book," I can imagine him saying, "And everyone--everyone who is literate that is--is going to read it exactly the way I print it."
No one was changing things. Remixing them. Figuring out new ways to put them together. Okay, maybe ransom notes were the first foray into this, but I'm trying to remain positive.
Today, everything is in flux.
- Print? How's it work on the Web?
- Web? Can the user tweak the interface?
- Software? What add-ins and tweaks are available?
- Song? With which songs would it mash-up well?
- Movie trailer? How are they going to remix it?
- Game? How are they going to change the controller settings?
- RSS? Who's going to be syndicating it?
- Photo? Who's going to (with apologies to Adobe for continuing to turn their product name into a verb) Photoshop it?
I mean, this stuff didn't happen to Gutenberg, and it still doesn't happen with toasters, but practically everything else with which we interact, today, is destined to be remixed.
And we, as marketers, must operate with that kind of thinking in mind. It's no longer "how did we intend for this to be used?", it's "once this is released, how is it going to be used, reused, and tweaked?"
Friends, marketers, peers, are you listening? Take a deep breath, cross your fingers, make yourself comfortable. I have some bad news: We're not really in control. We never really were. Just as our brands have always been the results of the perception of the recipient, now, everything we do is changing in the hands of our market. And everything we release to the market is completely malleable. Every message, every tool, every thing.
Search engines tweak it. People tweak it. People borrow, reinvent, and regurgitate it. We have no control over that. And all the power, all the mystical production and creation that we once held, is now accessible to any user, any where, at any time.
Get used to it. Embrace it. Deliver things that are tweakable. Be that software interfaces, your Web site, or your company jingle. Give them the control that they want, because I can assure you, they're going to tweak it anyway.
And we stand something to learn from this fact. Where better to get real feedback on what people want and need from your company or any other company than to pay attention to how they tweak what you deliver? How they change it? How they make it better? Or how they make it more what they wanted in the first place?
What's more, you have to trust in the fact that your message or tool or toy or music is likely going to reach more people in the tweaked form than it ever did in its original form. How scary is that? Or how invigorating? How challenging? How can you create something that cannot only withstand the test of time, it can withstand the variety of hacks and manipulations that the market is going to throw at it? How can you create that thing that is still going to represent you or your company, regardless of the final form it takes?
Interactive media has quickly become malleable media. And we, as marketers, need to figure out how to work in this new arena. The old rules don't work. And trying to follow them could doom us to extinction.
What do you think? Is the mash-up, remix, reuse thing a fad, or our existence going forward? I'd love to hear what you think. Or feel free to syndicate this entry (or all of hypocritical for that matter), edit, amalgamate, and make something better. Either way, I hope you return.
Malleable media a must for marketers
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September 29, 2005One thing I have been remiss in mentioning, is that I have decided to participate in the Attention Trust. Partially out of curiosity. I'm always intrigued by the idea of organizations and the power that a group of people can exert, when directed to a common end.
The group has an interesting pursuit. Long story short, your attention is yours. And you have rights to the data that your trail of attention creates, be it clicked links, search data, online purchases, or any number of other things we do on the Web.
If you don't realize that all of that activity is being tracked, you should. If you don't understand the power of that activity in aggregate, you should think about it.
As more comes from this group, I'll keep you in the loop. In the meantime, you can visit the Attention Trust site.
Participating in AttentionTrust.org
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September 21, 2005
I can't tell you how many times I've stared at the top of a McDonald's drink, the top of Big Gulp, the top of a Starbucks drink... Well, I can't honestly.
But it always struck me that there were just those buttons staring back at me like cold eyes. Diet Regular Black Cream Sugar.
Sure, the outside of the cup is always ensconced in logotypes and icons that I never see, but the part at which I stare as a I sip through my straw was as nondescript as any standard, functional element for any cup, anywhere.
So imagine my surprise (and secret joy) when I found this little top staring back up at me from my drink. There, emblazoned across the top, right in my line of sight: Subway.
Not a huge deal. Not that it made me forget the increasingly annoying fixation on Jared and his oh-so-helpful eating advice. Probably not earning them millions of extra dollars. But it was a nice touch, and something that made me think the folks there might be a little more savvy than most. Even if they do use Jared.
Reporting from Lincoln, Nebraska. I'm Rick Turoczy. We now return you to your regularly scheduled plea for input.
Have you encountered any little touches that made you stop and think? Let me know. I'd love to see them or hear about them. Still not willing to lose the anonymity? That's fine, too. I'm just hoping that you find it in your heart to return.
Sometimes, it's the little things
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September 20, 2005So, I'm sitting on the plane, headed to Lincoln, Nebraska, of all places. And I glance, ever so nonchalantly at the publication that my seat-mate is reading in a rather engaged manner. Much to my surprise, it's The New Yorker.
Now, I mentioned I was headed to Lincoln, which is a college town, and probably has a bit more diversity than some of the other towns. I mean, Omaha has Warren Buffet, but you know what I mean.
"Are you from New York?"
"No, I'm from Lincoln."
"Are you traveling back from New York?"
"Actually, I've never been."
Stumped, I struggled for a way to continue. So I said, "Fan of irreverent cartoons?"
"I like the articles," she said without extracting her gaze from the publication.
Where have I heard that before, I thought. Thinking back to the businessman thumbing through the scantily clad women at the news stand. Ahem, I said, businessman. Try to stick with me here.
"But isn't most of that publication about things to see and do in New York?" I continued, knowing full well that, in fact, it was.
"Yes, but I subscribe for the articles."
"I subscribe," she said. She didn't pick it up on a newsstand. She paid to have it delivered to her house, time and time again. News about New York City and the theater, with some irreverent cartoons and fiction and opinion sprinkled here and there for good measure.
Interesting. Now, other New York publications, like the New York Times, I can understand. That publication covers a great deal of ground and its one of the few decent sources of news, anymore. Or The Wall Street Journal. Again, a good niche, but really a global focus.
But The New Yorker? I mean, I like a good chunk of fiction as much as the next guy. And don't get me wrong, I like the prestige of the publication. But buying something, at that price, knowing that a good chunk of the content will be completely useless to you?
That, my friends, is the power of brand.
She wasn't buying it for the articles. Well she was and she wasn't. She was buying it for the articles, but it is likely that articles of similar ilk are available in other publications. Maybe entire publications, focused only on those types of articles. But she chose The New Yorker.
And that is extremely interesting to me.
The New Yorker has managed to extend its brand. Has managed to expand its reach from the five boroughs it represents to engage a much larger audience. Has managed to infiltrate the reading lists of folks in Lincoln, Nebraska. Has managed to be perceived as something more that it is.
It is what it is. It is news about New York. But the perception of what it is, is larger. And that, gentle reader, is brand. It's that perception. That perception that causes someone to pay additional money for something that contains part of what they want and a lot of what they don't need or don't use.
A Nike shirt is no different. Or a Rolex watch. Or a BMW. Or an iPod.
And I just find that interesting. And I'm glad that I learned something, on my way to Lincoln.
Have you learned anything interesting on the way to Lincoln? Or had any minor or major epiphany lately? I'd love to hear it. If not, keep your eyes open and in the interim, feel free to return.
The New Yorker: Transcending far beyond its original reach
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Ah, Denver airport. How do I love thee? Not very much considering you charge me for wireless connectivity. Charge? Well, if I'm going to pay for it, you might as well get some value out of it.
Catching up on my reading, I thought that these were worth passing along:
- 9rules continues to draw a crowd
- James Torio is delivering his masters thesis Blogs: A Global Conversation as a serial of blog entries
- Nick Usborne does his usual fine job of delivering guidance, this time on making copy more interesting by making it more personal
- Aside: When have you officially "abandoned" your luggage? There's a guy near me who continues to walk about 100 yards away from his bag
- Jason at 37signals rails on customer service that is too polite
- Google continues to consume all information and all media; now offering Google Wifi
- Slacker Manager provides some great guidance on fast-tracking yourself
Things to do in Denver when your plane is dead
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NOTE: I'm currently on a plane bound for Denver, Colorado. In the old days, when I was in this type of situation, it was highly likely that I would craft long-winded diatribes to my friends and co-workers. Filled with pithy verbiage and thought-provoking ideas, these missives would sit, quietly waiting for me to reconnect with my email server so that they could go flying out to their intended recipients.
Long story short, they told me to stop. They said that they were not impressed by my thoughts and that they were a little miffed to have to suffer through pages of my drivel just to serve as some receptacle for my bored midair ramblings.
Lucky you. You get it instead. And with that, on with our diatribe.
I may be overly sensitive. I'm willing to admit it. I like to think that it is that empathetic nature that makes me better at marketing. That makes me better at my job. That helps me consider, respect, and understand my audience.
And, being completely absorbed with myself as well as the proud owner of a good healthy dose of egotism, I also think of that empathy as a sort of intelligence. An emotional intelligence. A respect.
Unfortunately, I expect every intelligent person to have that same sensitivity. I expect every person with whom I attribute the moniker of "genius" carries that same sensitivity. But in reality, they don't. Some people excel and design and products and writing, but they're downright rude when it comes to communicating. And that is something that we all, as marketers, need to understand. Not everyone, my friend, cares as much about how they communicate as you and I.
Take, for example the following little email, where I lobbed an idea and some praise into a software developer for whom I have great deal of respect. Genius in terms of usability at this place. Impeccable design. Event good communications. Yet, this was the communication (with the identifying information stripped).
I sent this somewhat flowery and overly complimentary communiqu‚:
I've long been a fan of [YOUR COMPANY'S] work, from both a client-of-[YOUR PRODUCT]-users and a user's perspective. Thank you for all that you and your team have done to make my work more efficient, more intelligible, and more beautiful.
Unfortunately (for you), while I could continue to laud praise upon your team for pages and pages, I was actually contacting you with a much more selfish interest in mind.
Our corporate marketing/public relations/events team (internal and external) is desperately in search of a [PRODUCT] that would allow us to [DESCRIPTION OF PROPOSED FUNCTIONALITY].
Ideally, we would be able to share this resource with an untold number of users (ala the [FUNCTIONALITY]), perhaps even "publish" views to an Intranet.
"Sounds like [YOUR PRODUCT]," I'm sure your saying. It is, and it isn't. It's very similar to the [FUNCTIONALITY] tool found in [YOUR PRODUCT], but it lacks the [FUNCTIONALITY] aspect of [YOUR PRODUCT]. We're just looking for a broad-brush,[FUNCTIONALITY] kind of functionality.
So, I was wondering if your team had any plans to extract/extend the features of that [YOUR PRODUCT] component, similar to what you've done with [YOUR PRODUCT]? In my experience, this [FUNCTIONALITY] is a much needed tool for corporate marketing and public relations teams, an area in which typical [COMPETING PRODUCT] tools lack greatly, and a feature/product that could potentially extend the reach of [YOUR PRODUCT] into some different markets.
Hopefully, either I've overlooked functionality that is already there and you can tell me to RTFM, or you guys are already down this path. But if not, I'd be happy to discuss it further. In any case, I'd appreciate any guidance or advice you have to offer in this regard.
Thanks for your time. I look forward to your reply.
Thanks in advance,
Okay, perhaps a tad over the top, but all true. I wasn't being hyperbolic by any stretch of the imagination. That's exactly how I felt about the company and its products. That is, until I received this reply:
We don't have plans to build a [FUNCTIONALITY] tool, sorry.
Hmm. Okay. Well, this isn't a big company. And they probably get thousands of messages from crackpots like me, every day. And they probably have to slog through them and respond to all of them. But, I have to be honest: I would have rather received a canned response from a bot than this "personal" response from the folks there.
Because this response damaged their brand. It altered my perception of their company. And it brought them down a few rungs, in my book.
Now, will this altered perception really affect them? Probably not. But, maybe if they had taken a couple more seconds to respond to my query with more than a "nope," maybe if they had run out to my car like the Les Schwab folks and showed some interest in what I was proposing-even if it was feigned interest-this blog entry would have been an entirely different entry.
One or two more sentences. They might have solidified my stance as one of their greatest proponents and most prolific champions.
But they didn't take the time to do that, because it didn't seem important. Because that empathy wasn't there. Because there wasn't a second thoguth about "how would I feel if I received this response."
Great design. Witty copy. Too bad that doesn't permeate everything they do.
Just something that reminded me that every communication is an opportunity. An opportunity to connect. An opportunity to motivate. An opportunity to win friends and influence people. And like any opportunity, if it's neglected, it's a missed opportunity.
And it reminds me that I, too, ever the hypocrite, miss these opportunities on a regular basis.
Am I overreacting? What do you think? Have you had a similar experience where one of your "heroes" burst your bubble? Tell me about it. That's why the comments are there. I look forward to your stories. And I look forward to your return.
Every communication, no matter how seemingly insignificant, is an opportunity
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September 18, 2005NOTE: No doubt, folks have written about this concept time and time again. I've probably even read a few of those concepts, internalized them, and forgotten that I read them. I'm freely willing to admit that. However--given that a) I tend to think a number of my ideas are completely earth-shattering and I feel like letting everyone know how smart I think I am, b) I like to forget that people have given me a good idea, to convince myself that the idea was actually mine, and to then broadcast that idea to the world, as if it were, and c) I haven't seen anyone pursuing this idea, yet--I decided to write about it.
We're at an interesting spot in the world of modern cinema. Good plots from major movie studios are fewer and farther between. Movie ticket prices continue to rise. The words "contractual obligation" appear next to many of the major stars in the credits.
And still, I don't get the idea that the movie studios have valid ways of effectively gauging their market's wants and needs. I mean, I hear more and more complaining about how the studios are losing audiences. How they're losing touch. How their demise may be near. Did I mention the higher costs for flimsier plots?
And that's not even beginning to scratch the surface of DVDs, video on demand, the 37 HBOs to which I have access, illegal downloads, the resurgence of the small screen... I could go on and on.
What to do? What to do?
Well, we have this thing called the Web which seems to keep a chunk of the populous pretty connected. More and more folks seem to be using it on computers, handhelds, phones, you name it. There might be a kernel of something there.
Let's see who else sells tickets and uses the Web? Concert promoters. Yes, they do. Airlines do. They even have a whole secondary level of "travel sites" that sell tickets at cheaper prices...
Wait a second. Cheaper prices. You buy earlier. You get cheaper prices. You fill seats that weren't going to be filled. You get cheaper prices.
Now, we're getting somewhere.
Why doesn't the movie industry adopt an airline-ticket pricing structure? That is, I buy my tickets early, I get a discount on those seats. I buy my tickets late, I get a discount on my seats, but I don't know what theater I'm going to be attending. I fly the red-eye, I get cheaper tickets.
You see where I'm going here? Take every aspect of buying airline tickets and transfer them to the world of movie theaters. I think there are some compelling advantages.
- I plan ahead; I get a cheaper ticket.
I, for example, have a young child. I know when I'm going to be able to see a movie weeks in advance. If I could purchase that ticket for say, half of the window price, by scheduling my theater, the day, and the viewing time. Throw me a discount for popcorn while you're at it. I can guarantee you'll get me into the theater.
- I have to get to a certain movie, so I'll see it anywhere (with in reason).
So I didn't plan ahead, and there are 20 theaters showing the film I want to see. I don't care which of those 20 theaters in which I have to see it. I just want to see it. And I don't really want to drive around or call to figure out who still has room for me. Give me a discount and sell me a ticket for the least trafficked theater. Maybe the next time I want to go, I'll book ahead at that theater. Maybe I'll tell my friends how nice it was there. Maybe business will go up.
- Give frequent flyers more perks.
If I'm going to book every viewing in your theater, then show me you care. Give me some perks. I'm helping you fill what could be empty seats.
- Schedule films to fit the audience needs.
Maybe all the screens don't need to be showing the new release next Friday. Maybe more people want to see that film that's been out for 3 months. Right now, theaters don't know because they have no idea who will be arriving (beyond Fandango purchases). Let people book in advance and you'll have a much better idea about who's showing up when.
- Of course closest to my heart, start paying attention to what I see and when I see it. Then start promoting particular films that will be of interest to me. Or suggest films of tangential interest that are available during times I attend. Pay attention to my booking habits. When my attendance starts to degrade, ask me why. Start the conversation with the customer.
And those are just a few random smatterings of thoughts. None of them are really that well-baked because, well, I haven't really thought about it that much. But it seems like there was the kernel of something there.
So, like our good friend Seth Godin, I thought I'd take the opportunity to throw the idea out there. Hoping that someone will listen. Hoping that even though they've probably heard it a number of times before, this will be the time it sinks into their subconscious. Hoping that someone will run with it. Someone with the power to make it happen. Someone who thinks it's their idea. Because, no matter what, I'll benefit. And so will a whole host of other folks.
Heard this idea before? Leave a comment. Or pretend I'm the first person to impart this knowledge to you, and return to see me regurgitate other old ideas. It's all marketing. It's all been done before, anyway.
Please return your popcorn to the full upright and locked position
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September 15, 2005Just a short little entry here. But I found this interesting. Blog Search or Blog Search. Blogger Blog Search or Google Blog Search.
Same company. Same functionality. No doubt, exactly the same backend. Different front ends.
Interesting marketing concept. I'm not sure I agree. But interesting.
I trust the Google brand for search results. I don't necessarily trust the Blogger brand for search results, or consistent functionality.
Obviously, far more folks will be hitting the Google chromed version of this functionality than the Blogger chromed version. It will be interesting to see where this goes.
Was this a wise move on Google's part? The jury is still out in my feeble brain, so I'd love to hear what you think. Please critique, comment, and return.
Google splitting the brand on its blog search functionality
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September 14, 2005Blog or Wiki? Wiki or Blog? Good question. Both would be the answer. How nice.
See, I had the opportunity, ever so recently, to attend a seminar on blogs and RSS feeds, right here in my hometown. Hosted by the Software Association of Oregon, the event was designed to provide some context on these newfangled tools for the local community.
The discussion gravitated more toward blogs. They're more tangible than RSS. They've got the spotlight and the hype. And with Google releasing its blogsearch, no doubt they'll stay that way for awhile. Those blogs, they're cute little critters. And so abundant.
Anyway, the event was well attended and informative. No real revelations. Still, I was quite impressed by Stephen King of Marqui. Delightfully impressed. Smart guy.
But I digress. Because that's not our focus here, is it? No, my friend. You come here for my overly self-involved opinions, don't you?
Give me a second to blush.
Okay. The most thought provoking part of the event was formulating my own answers for the questions. And one such question got me thinking, which got me writing, which got you reading, um, this. That question was this: Wikis versus blogs. How did they differ? What were they for?
Which, as I said, got me to thinking...
So here's my kernel of something-or-other for you on which to mentally masticate: Blogs are Kerouac. Wikis are Hemingway.
(I picked Kerouac as my Beat. Not creative I realize. But still. If I'd picked Kenneth Patchen would that have made you feel any better? It would? Oh you cultured devil you.)
"So, yet again, what are you talking about?" I hear you asking. Well, it's all about how you use these easy-to-edit tools. So noodle on this a bit:
Blogs are Kerouac. They're written and they keep going. No turning back. No big edits. Stream of consciousness. Go go go. Sure, you can edit. Or correct. But the flavor, the vibe, the beat remains. You don't revise. You may re-approach a topic. You may completely contradict. But you don't erase. Blogs are written on a sheet of butcher paper with a golf pencil.
And their value is derived from the very fact that they are a dynamic and representative stream of consciousness. Use them as such and understand the power of that technique.
Wikis, on the other hand, are very much Hemingway. Go back. Go back again. Simplify. Revise. Rebuild. Edit and edit again. Take one topic and continue to revise it until the true nature of that topic is revealed. Use language sparingly and with purpose. Avoid conversational triviality. Strive to contain the topic and expose it for what it is.
And there is a great deal of value there too. Understand the power of that constantly edited copy. And use it accordingly.
So there's Kerouac and Hemingway. And like any American Lit 101 class, they both have their place. They both have their use. They're both contemporaries of one another. And they both suffer from an overly macho-fueled hubris. Oh wait. Scratch that last part.
So, feel free to use both. Just use them wisely. They each have different advantages and drawbacks. And it's important to think about their application before you dive into using them, all willy nilly.
Got on opinion on blogs or wikis or the combo of the two? I'd love to hear it. Even if you don't, feel free to comment. Or remain anonymous and just return. And no, there are no extensions on your term paper.
Blogs : Kerouac :: Wikis : Hemingway
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September 13, 2005Gentle reader. How long has it been? Too long, I'm afraid. Or afeared. Or both.
First and foremost, please accept my heartfelt apology for what must seem like complete and utter abandonment. That was not my intention. I had a good string of entries going, I had momentum, and then life sort of happened.
Some of that life was good. Some of that life was very bad.
It derailed me in ways that were, similarly, both good and bad. And while the timing of the whole thing, and the combination of events, wasn't opportune, it never is.
So accept my apology, if you can. We'll move on. We'll make a fresh start.
Or maybe we won't. And if we won't, well, fare thee well, gentle reader. No hard feelings. I mean, we hardly even got started, did we? But while you're here, why not read a couple of oldies but goodies and remember the good times we had. Like that time with Spock and Kirk? Or that time we went on and on about RSS feeds? Oh boy, those were the days.
Well, and then it kind of went south.
It wasn't you. It was me. We needed some time apart. Now, don't. Don't do that. Try to stick with me. Take a deep breath. There, there. I know you've all been waiting with bated breath for my next "revelatory" insight. Or perhaps you haven't. (I'd like to think that you haven't, because, quite frankly, I don't like the pressure.)
Now, that that's out there, we'll return to our regularly scheduled programming. Hypocrisy and holier-than-thou critiques.
And thank you, seriously, for even considering a return to read more pithy marketing diatribes. I appreciate your time and your attention. I'll try not to disappoint.
Picking it up and dusting it off
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