system two

system two
start-up thinking in the enterprise

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

the worst idea I've seen this year

Sending adverts through your twitter account - in other words asking users to exploit their mates for material gain.

Who, with even the most rudimentary knowledge of the post advertising world would think this is a good idea?

Or am i missing something?

Wednesday, 16 July 2008

instead of running ads - improve your product

I was talking to a friend who runs a startup technology company. A web2.0 application, which frankly needs some work - both in its functionality and look and feel.

He's a wealthy guy and he knows a thing or too about business but he's never run a tech startup. We got talking about his marketing strategy and he told me in some detail the number of people he had working on this project and that, what he would be spending on PPC, this much on below the line etc.

He was making the classic start up error. Spending on marketing instead of your product. Having got out of beta, it is so tempting to start spending on "marketing" - the analytics suddenly look good, the investors are pleased something is happening

And then.....


Takes a lot of courage to continue to look honestly at your product, your technical development plans and your internal systems. To listen to your customers and address their concerns.

Money spent on developing your product is never wasted. Cash spent on old skool marketing too early often makes the directors and shareholders feel better in the short term but rarely produces the long term users and revenue it was designed to.

Monday, 14 July 2008

psychological profile of people generating UGC

Occurred to me, as it has other people, see here, that the type of person who takes the lead in generating content, blogging and the online world isn't necessarily reflective of society as a whole.

My wondering is, if we don't understand and take account of any built in bias, what impact could that have long term in the way we ask brands to engage in the online space?

Would sections of society become left out of the virtual world? Would the participatory nature of the blogging community, like open source software development, somehow skew everyone's perception of the real world?

To be crude to prove a point. If ultimately all off line research were discarded in favour of data from "pure" customer sentiment online. What general biases would start to emerge?

Could it be, that in the future we will have a sense of the way certain groups of bloggers think, as we do now with the leanings of the printed media - or would a general viewpoint emerge? Would we find "most" online reaction more left wing, more green, more anti big business than our conventional media. I suspect so.

The argument against, would suggest as more of the population engage and generate content, then any early leanings one way or the other will soon disappear. But it would be foolish to ignore the possibility, certainly in the short term.

I'm reminded of the 3 personality types profiled in the Tipping Point - mavens, connectors and salesmen. In the real world Gladwell assumes all 3 personality types interact, to generate a tipping phenomena. But what would happen if we were to profile 1000 bloggers and find a disproportionate number of them were salesmen? What would that do to an ideas ability to "tip" online?

Perhaps there is a large chunk of research or book I've missed. If not this would be a fascinating area of study for a brand or institution.

Religion, Darwin and the speed of change for brands online

The cynic in me is hearing the words but barely able to believe it. Bush has to NATIONALIZE a financial institution - WTF???

The US state. The home of the "free" market whose central tenant is the belief the market can solve all ills has to nationalize a bank.

Tee, hee....

Anyway, we digress.

Driving away from one of the most bone crushingly awful christenings I've yet to have the displeasure of attending. Complete with music on CD introduction and a call to renounce the devil (for thoughts on organised religion Richard Dawkins pretty much covers it here.) a random and wandering thought struck me.

Does the relative speed at which the religion "brand" blew up, have any implications for the online world today?

Premise 1: Organized religion is a brand. Not a new idea, but one that bears repeating. In a nutshell - a lot of people spent a lot of money (and time, nearly 2000 years) associating the image of a cross with meaning to convince people to swap their hard earned cash for forgiveness.

Premise 2: Religion brand was chugging along very nicely for most of its 2000 year period, "saving" souls and generally doing (cough) good works - and making a tidy pile of $$ by the by, when a young, biologist called Darwin (or rather Spencer - lets not go there) pulls the pieces of a very ancient jigsaw puzzle together and points out (in the absence on Mendelian genetics - which in itself is extraordinary) that it looks very much like a gradual evolution of species might have occurred, and this could possibly have taken place without "you know who" - with the beard - upstairs.

Premise 3: Religion brand, within the space of 200 years (10% of its overall lifetime) collapses. Almost overnight organized god bothering goes into terminal decline and is reduced to absurd, toe curlingly embarrassing rituals like the one I just attended.

The relative speed with which the wheels came off the religious brand cart is in itself surprising.

Even more interesting. As the wheels flew off, the disintegration process seems to have accelerated. Can we learn anything from this?

For as long as modern brands have been around we (brand) tell you (the consumer) what messages and concepts to associate with our name.

But now, and only just very recently, that concept has been turned on its head. Now we (consumers) are telling you (brand) what messages and concepts we'll associate with your brand. We’ll let you participate in the conversation, you can direct and suggest, but ultimately we're going to make the decision.

My sense is that we're reaching a tipping point. A point where ideas of community, free thinking and participation that were bubbling in the online world for 15 years, start to coalesce and take shape.

The birth of the Internet was the Darwin moment for brands where overnight, the status quo blew up. In relative terms then brands might need to change very fast, very soon.

Of course large, abrupt change isn't always welcome. If we draw on another 18th century political theorists Edmund Burke would be worried. He was all about gradual change. Darwin could be seen to harness some of his thoughts in his own theory. For Burke only gradual, non cataclysmic, calm, measured change would do.

Are more turbulent times around the corner for brands?

Feels like it and I guess at heart I'm with Edmund, that's probably why I am so fascinated by what is happening with them online and why I probably shouldn't be laughing as Bush Nationalizes banks.....

Friday, 11 July 2008

listening not speaking

14 years ago, as a young record company exec I tried to convince my MD we should build a website. It was hard, there was no obvious reason for it.

Pretty soon everyone needed a website to tell a global audience about themselves.

14 years on and with (most) of the world understanding the basic utlity of a website the game has moved on.

The web isn't about telling people anything. Users of your product or service can very well find out the warts and all story about you, far quicker and more easily than you could, or should provide it. The game is now about listening to what people are saying about you. Shaping your brand around the the conversations you and they create.

In many ways, this (web 2.0 for want of a better way of describing it) is a much harder sell than 14 years ago. A website is a mouth piece. An electronic billboard. Nothing more. Listening to your customers often involves the reinvention of a business model. Profound change in pretty much every department of a business, from HR through to product development. In tough economic times many large household names could become extinct in the next 5 years.

Early adopter brands and companies who have twigged this of course are already stealing a march on their competition - see Dell, LG and Avis for some impressive growth figures even in a difficult economy.

Are Avis or Dell's products really that much better than the competition? - or are people starting to base their purchasing decisions on the views of an online audience and their own perception of how a brand seems to care about its customers?

I own a Dell computer and walk past an Avis forecourt with an Aston to hire every morning - I know what I believe.

I wonder how long it'll take to convince the rest of the online world to start listening....

Friday, 4 July 2008

what we mean by a global village

On from yesterdays post...

One of the most thought provoking pieces of writing on the web is by the late, great Douglas Adams. Read the whole piece here

The 2nd to last paragraph I love..

"We are natural villagers. For most of mankind's history we have lived in very small communities in which we knew everybody and everybody knew us. But gradually there grew to be far too many of us, and our communities became too large and disparate for us to be able to feel a part of them, and our technologies were unequal to the task of drawing us together. But that is changing."

More quickly than anyone really imagined, humankind is rediscovering, via technology, the ability to reconnect with itself. It is this phenomenon that is at the heart of the connected world.

To put the concept in context.....Within your village 250 years ago you would have known the business of most people. You'd have known who was sleeping with who, who brewed the best beer, which baker added sawdust to their bread and who slacked off at harvest time.

What digital technology has done is recreate this world, or at least, recreate the mechanics of it. To amplify human bonds, to make us feel, at least partially, more connected to everyone else, the world around us and ourselves.

For 250 years, as we've burned hydrocarbons and industrialized, the importance of these connections was downplayed, even considered "dated". Instead we learned to rely on 3rd parties - to trust businesses we had no personal connection with, to informed us as to the best products and services. We no longer knew who brewed the best beer. Advertising was born. We got to the stage where our sense of self became so caught up in these messages, many of us lost our identities. We became, in Marxist language, "alienated".

As people thinking about how to engage other people in the digital world, this concept, that we are "natural villagers" should be at the heart of our thinking. Only by recreating and harnessing the inbuilt desire to connect can we be effective - and more importantly, can be build brands who can usefully serve us again.

the dove "make over" viral

Its been around for ages and talked about at length, but in a meeting this morning the dove "make over" viral was mentioned and we took 3 minutes to watch it again. If you've not seen it already the clip is here

Every time I watch this I'm blown away by it.

In its simplicity and execution it educates, informs and entertains the viewer - I am more likely to buy a dove product because of this.

The clip is everything inbound marketing should be - forget finding your audience as a PR, there are too many people to keep a track of and in touch with. instead rely on your ingenuity and creativity to come up with a brilliant idea and let an audience find you.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

how not to do it....the music industry

The trials and tribulations of the traditional record labels and their failure to engage in the digital world hardly require re-examination.

You don't need an MBA to figure out suing your customers and then expecting them to form an orderly queue at the record store is unlikely to produce a long term, mutually profitable relationship.

Present a 15 year old with the choice between an expensive, complicated and legal way of acquiring a product and a free, easy and illegal method and again, you don't have to have a masters in psychology to figure out the route most teenagers will go (and most adults for that matter).

The question is what could a business, that has so obviously got it wrong for so long, do now to turn the ship around?

Well, to begin with they need to understand the problem as it stands today. Unlike 5 years ago most people within music now understand that a 360 degree model is the way forward. There is little debate over the solution itself.

The issue for the record labels is that they are now taking a battering, not just from their customers, but other businesses within the sector, offering artists deals they simply can't compete with.

The labels look like the distinctly uncool dad at the skool disco.

Their only chance in my mind is for them to become a brand. The only value left in their businesses, once the publishing arms have been sold and the glitzy offices have emptied, is the significance and meaning associated with their name.

EMI, Chrysalis, Warners - those names still have meaning, not to their customers, but to the talent.

Hands at EMI and Bronfman at Warners will almost certainly fail. By VC standards Hands is already 6 months late in delivering a working business. The chance for reinvention perhaps is after they have gone and those companies are going cheap.

Join those brands with semantic web technologies which enable the better understanding of customer and talent - add city funding, in the form of tax efficient vehicles like VCT / EIS and you have a model for the future.

Monday, 30 June 2008

"no logo"....more like "all logo"

Really interesting piece here .

In short - most consumers make choices burdened by asymmetries of information. i.e. they aren't able to make truly rational purchase decisions because they are not in possession of all the facts.

But of course that is changing.

Within 5 years, a customers ability to instantly access reliable data on how a product or service performs - will mean the age of pulling a fast one on your customers is over. Only total honesty, total openness will suffice - or to put it another way - the consumers' cynicism about what they're being told in ads will be complete.

All this means of course within a very short space of time the concept of marketing itself will be radically different - it will no longer be an activity associated with convincing people to buy stuff.

The role of public relations will be as important as ever - marketing on the other hand will become a business activity - pushing a brands identity into ever more creative and interesting activities - to augment the perception of the core product/s.

This in itself will drive the next phase of globalisation as mega brands coalesce around whole sectors whose product and activities support each other.

But what is really interesting - what is really going to change the face of our society forever - is brands becoming the true guardians of our ecological, social and political aspirations.

It will be brands, not politicians or NGO's who will become the catalysts to a fairer, more sane, calmer world.

Brands will defend our rights. They will champion ever more serious causes. They will migrate closer and closer to the social, economic and political heart of our culture. Within 10 years we may well have politicians having their salaries and expenses paid for, by brands.

No logo....more like all logo.

Friday, 27 June 2008

what is the semantic web?

Recently the concept of the semantic web has been coming up in conversations - and many people I talk to don't seem to have a grip on exactly what it is.

A "semantic"(or meaning) web is one in which machines "understand" data. Data about data if you like.

Ostensibly, from a business perspective, the semantic web is about data - but it will likely be much more than this as the idea matures. In time, by using a common language (RDF), a technical ecology will evolve where systems and devices of all kinds can share data and come to understand each other more completely. Many people are talking about the semantic web as the world growing a central nervous system.

As a drugs company. I might want to find out why a particular group of people in an area are more susceptible to diabetes.

At the moment, due to the limitations on the amount and type of data I could practically look at, I might confine myself to the obvious - I might look at smoking rates, or lifestyle data.

In a semantic web world - I would instantly be able to pull in a much wider variety of data from different sources - allowing me to see non linear correlations between the disease and factors I could never have assessed before. Perhaps a DTI data set could tell me how many lorries with toxic waste travel on the nearby roads? Is diabetes related to the amount of dog poo in the local park? Perhaps data on the weather could tell me whether there was any link to above average rainfall?
At a practical level then, the semantic web is about the format of data. The establishing of a common language and systems to enable people to combine information, cut it how they want, and make it more useful for themselves in the real world.

Getting our heads round the digital channel - corporate incongruence

From experience way less than 50% of businesses are truly engaging in what we might call web 2.0.

Many are struggling with 1.0 and its hardly surprising. What the hell is a folksonomy? And more to the point, how the hell is knowing what one is, going to help me sell more wigits next quarter?

The web landscape is changing so rapidly that even as someone who makes it their business to be informed, I'm faced, pretty much daily, with a new bit of technology or concept I need to get my head round - its bewildering and scary. A lot of senior marketeers appear to be getting left behind.

There are brands, who, like annoying younger siblings, seem to be at ease with the web - Avis, HP, Dell. So what are these companies doing that others aren't?

Well, for one, they've realised the need to re-engineer pretty much their entire corporate structure to take account of what their customers want. They are listening like never before - and that takes courage and time.

A brand I was talking to a couple of weeks ago was convinced that they wanted to talk about being green. I showed them online where people were screeming at them that the environmentally friendly options on their products were buried deep in the menu structure of their machines. They weren't being congruent. Their corporate body was saying one thing but the body language was saying another.

If you're a senior marketeer who wants a daily 5 minute tutorial on the web and how you can use it. I hope you bookmark my blog.