Archive for April, 2008


Search me



I am obsessed.

Search tool. Visually driven. Smart as hell. Uses Apple-like displays and functionality. 


Sold. I am a user. 



More and more big money makers are heading into Walmart… and are comparison shopping online.  

(Others still continue to spend money like crazy.The theory, we will always have lots of money, let’s just keep spending seems to apply to Paul Parmar.)


Walmart says their number of affluent consumers has increased to 2.2%, while an American Express survey finds that 70% of those households making $100K + prefer to shop online, researching products and prices. 

My question is this: Are the affluent more like to comparison shop when they are in private?  Does shopping at Walmart tarnish their self image or is penny pinching how they built their money?



Grand Theft Auto Social Network & MP3 Downloads

It’s just not possible to post something unrelated to GTA today. From WIRED:

Calling ZIT-555-0100 on your in-game cellphone tags whichever of the 200 included songs is currently playing on one of the game’s 16 radio stations, so that later, when you log in to Rockstar’s new social network, you’ll be able to preview,  buy and download them in the 256 Kbps DRM-free MP3 format for 99 cents each or less.

Obviously I think the idea of marketing through a social network is brilliant, but I think it’s a bit clunky to have to go from game to PC to Amazon to get your music. I wonder how many people will actually use this feature, as opposed to just checking previews of Amazon’s GTA soundtrack compilation.


Morgan Stanley’s Internet Trends Report

Just a quick hit: Grud3008 found this report via TechCrunch. 95% of Facebook users have used a 3rd-party app! And social networks are the big snowball rolling down the hill onto Daffy Duck.


Blogs vs Social Networks

How do next-gen consumers relate to content on blogs and social networks, and what does it mean for marketing?

I thought I’d unpack some of my thoughts about the Edelman Trust Barometer survey and the Universal McCann Wave 3 study. So all the helpful research & numbers & graphs come from their great work, and the dumb thoughts about them are just my rambling on.

1. The Relative Unimportance of Blogs & Social Networks

Edelman Trust Barometer, 2008. Page 11.

According to Edelman, blogs and social networks are among the very least used and least credible sources of information about a brand or product. They are less credible than a company’s own website.

Social networks have the edge, however: they tie with corporate advertising at 22% credibility. That’s almost twice as good as a blogger’s credibility (a measly 12%). A CEO blogging about his own company is also roughly 22% credible. A regular employee blogging about his own company is almost twice as credible as that.

On the other end, of course, are traditional media sources such as news reports and industry analysts. And friends and peers.

The conclusion Edelman drew: consumers trust “people like me.” That’s a 60% credible group.

A different conclusion I drew: consumers trust a certain degree of objectivity coupled with insider knowledge. Thus a CEO is more credible than a random blogger. A regular employee carries a greater expectation of objectivity, and thus is even more credible. At the far remove, disinterested journalists and analysts who have performed objective research.

2. The Limits of Socializing

Some quick hits from the Wave 3 study:

  • 26% of US internetters have begun a blog
  • 57% have joined a social network
  • 55% have uploaded a photo
  • 22% have uploaded a video
  • 33% manage their social networking page daily (total 65% do it weekly)

Keeping in mind the low trust all this content creation engenders, it raises some obvious questions: Why? Well, looking at some other numbers in the study, 56% percent say blogs are about self-expression. And most post about their personal life. And almost 2/3 of blogs read are personal diaries.

Blogs aren’t about persuasion. And they aren’t about other people. They’re about you, talking about you.

Blogs are top-down. Commenters can’t drive topics.

3. Blogs vs Social Networks

Universal McCann Wave 3, page 38

Universal McCann Wave 3, page 39

Note the heavy, frequent usage of social networks, and also that 74% of it is messaging friends.

The social networks are social. They are peer-to-peer. They are word of mouth.

4. So What?

This is the part where I make even wilder leaps of reason, desperately reaching for straws to grasp. But I swear all this is just to engender discussion.

A. Don’t stop blogging. Just stop dominating the discussion.

Consumers say that a company that blogs is 1/3 more trustworthy (accordig to Edelman, of course). But watch for blogs to become less top-down and more open. Like on Daily Kos: the Diaries open things up to many more contributors, and they’re even working on their own wiki.

B: Meet your consumers.

Trustworthiness skyrockets to almost 2/3 for “people like me”–that is, people who share interests and activities with the consumer you want to persuade. (Edelman again!) So find out what those interests are, and engage with them. Even if they don’t have much to do with your brand.

C: Be Honest.

Remember that objectivity raises trustworthiness. So if you make a mistake, own up to it. If you’re critical of something you’ve done, open up about it. Then when you praise yourself it’s more credible.

D: Take blogs with a grain of salt.

Consider the level of performance that goes on: these aren’t unpracticed voices. I disagree with Edelman McCann (edit!) when it argues that blogs are an accurate source of consumer opinion. And consumers seem to agree, given the lack of trust they put in blogs.

E: Most importantly, focus on social networks.

I dissed Edelman McCann (edit!) in the last point, so I’ll grant them one here: social networks are becoming the way consumers organize their internet experience. In the latest Fallon Brainfood talk, Aki Spicer notes that applications need to be “slippy.” By this he means APIs and Widgets that let users take good functionality and use it as they want, where they want. Look for social networks to become more interoperable, and maybe more like aggregators. Like Netvibes.

The point is, become an enabler of this: sponsor social networks. Or sponsor widgets. Or just make it easy for consumers to do.

But avoid interruptive ads. No page takeovers. And maybe banners and their sub-1% clickthroughs are dying out. Enable the peer-to-peer conversations, don’t interrupt them.


your next virtual life

There are three things I want to talk about in this post – information overload, the reality of “virtual” friends, and a new book I just picked up called groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff of Forrester Research.

Exhibit A:

information overload?

I think this graphic makes it fairly obvious that there is a lot of information out there, and not enough memory in our brains to take it all in. So what does this abundance of information mean? I found this quote from Herbert Simon (1916-2001), a cognitive psychologist on a blog after seeing it on a slide (same place I saw the graphic above) and googling the quote to find out more: 

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention, and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.”

So, if there is a wealth of information, a lack of attention, and not enough memory capacity to absorb it all, where does that leave us? Computer brains, of course! Not that we’ll have computers implanted in our brains, although apparently scientists are already putting brains in robots – but that’s another story altogether.

What I’m thinking is more along the lines of computer software getting more intelligent and helping people sort through the limitless vortex of information. There are tons of these already – RSS readers, search engines, sites like that allow users to vote for what they think is important information, and social networks that keep track of what your friends think is important.

Which brings me to Exhibit B:

social systems

This graphic is from a post David Armano did on social systems. Of the many “social ecosystems” we maintain, he says:

“…when we find ourselves as the supplier of light in our self-created microverse, the implications become clear.  There are only so many ecosystems that we can meaningfully sustain.”

So, who are our friends online? Do we really know them? Do they know us? How far can our social orbit extend? Whitney Hess posted about “the meaning of friend” the other day on her blog, which she started thinking about after reading a post on Russ Unger’s blog.  She tries to decipher the distinction between all the social networks, and what it really means to be a “friend” – on Facebook, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, etc.:

“Maybe the reality is that a “virtual friend” ceases to exist when you walk away from the computer, while real friends remain with you wherever you may be. But in the age of mobile devices, we’re communicating when I’m at work, at home, at the park, at the gym, at dinner, when I’m shopping, when I’m just waking up…you’re with me in all of these private moments, so maybe that’s why the line gets blurred.”

She follows up on her next post with places you can find me, listing the sites she is on and inviting her blog readers to add her to their networks. Proof that the online community of “friends” is still alive and kicking. I follow Whitney Hess on Twitter, btw. That’s how I found out about her posts. I don’t even remember why I started following her on twitter. Hmmm….

Whoever our “virtual friends” are, we follow them for a reason, whether we have met them in person or not. And, we’re much more likely to trust their opinion than the opinion of advertisers or companies. I just read a statistic that 61% of consumers trust people like themselves over advertisers – but in the plethora of sites I’ve been looking at lately, of course I can’t remember where I saw it. Will have to dig into that later. Maybe my friends out there can help me out on this statistic?

Update: bendy3008 pointed out that the Edelman report, which he mentions in his post, has the 61% stat. Thanks!

And finally – Exhibit C:


Very hypnotic cover – and, I just noticed, very similar to David Armano’s graphic above. I’ve skimmed through this book, and so far, I think it gives some good examples of different types of “social technographics” as they call them – which include creators, critics, collectors, joiners, spectators, and inactives.

groundswell, btw, as defined by the authors, is: “a social trend in which people use technologies to get the things they need from each other, rather than from traditional institutions like corporations.” It’s all about the masses of people being bigger as a collective whole through social communities on the internet than any corporation. 


So what does all this mean for the next-generation of consumers? I think it will be finding a way to aggregate all of the information down to bite-sized bits, and relying on a collective mass of human memory capacity to be able to tackle all of the information out there, i.e. our communities of “friends”, and to keep us in touch with the latest trends and news. We’re more connected now than ever before, and it gives us the opportunity to build off one another and create things that no one person alone could imagine.



How will the next generation use technology?

Kid, Cell PHone

Frankly, we could make predictions until our faces turn blue and still not even come close. Rooted in patterns and habits, it might be easier to understand how current consumers are adapting new patterns of conversation, of technology usage, and so forth.

 Instead of looking at the obvious next generation consumers (ahem, Harper Drake), let’s instead look at an older generation to see how technology shapes their lives today.

 After two mini-research projects, I have come to this conclusion: current intimacy with technology defines where these consumers will go next.

 Case Study I: Mobile focus groups in Chicago

Boomers taught me this.

Their mobile is their best friend. It connects them with others, provides them information access points, and is never far from reach.  Despite the BFF status, they are quick to turn on the mobile. If the information is not easy to get/find/manage, they want nothing to do with it.

 After talking with them about the future of mobile, they see it as a ubiquitous device that does everything from opening the garage door and turning on lights, to remotely controlling their TiVo to help them record shows they may have forgotten about, to streaming doggie day care video so that can watch their pets while they are at work.

YET, when asked what feature they see themselves using the most in the future, it is hands down voice capability.


 Hmm. Moving on.


 Case Study II: My Parents (Mom: Rachel,  Step-Father: Ken)

I again learned some new things from my parents.

I learned that Ken plays solitaire on the computer to “warm it up” and then moves on to the Internet (once the computer is warm).

I learned that email attachments are something that you only forward on. Not something Mom knows how to physically attach to an original email.

I learned that Ken knows how to read text messages, but doesn’t know how to send them.

 I tell you these things not to spite my parents. I tell you these things to give you a broader picture.

My mom has been using a computer for 16 years, the Internet for 12, and yet has no desire to watch TV shows online or download music. She uses the Internet to check and send email, book trips, print out maps, and shop. Her offline interests (travel, shopping, communicating) have translated into the functions that she is most intimate with online.

 Ken’s vision of mobile phones is quite interesting as well. When asked to describe his ideal mobile phone, he basically described the iphone. He wants a slimmer phone that fits better on his hip, with a bigger screen and larger buttons that will make it easier to use. The iphone is not yet a reality to him. It’s what comes next.

 So, how do we leap this hurdle?

The point:

We need to realize that consumers come and in shapes, sizes, and mindsets. What might be truly “next generation” to you and I, ignores the millions out there who aren’t yet quite comfortable with the mobile web, or even the stagnant web for that matter. Our goal, no matter who the consumer is, should be to create well-designed, intuitive experiences that take the challenge out of learning new technology, therefore creating deeper experiences more readily.

Boomers can brainstorm a million things they that WANT to do with technology. But, in reality, they can only actually see themselves using features they are already comfortable with. So, what’s next? The are driven by utility, thus, technology and all things associated need to be accessible and easily assistive.

How do we help them build on the intimacy and baby step into the future?