Friday, November 23, 2012

a survey and observation around the Thanksgiving table

Our Thanksgiving routine is probably a typical scene with four distinct phases:

  1. Pre-game/pre-dinner bonding around the kitchen table or football couch
  2. The main event 
  3. Dinner clean-up and dessert presentation time out (back to football)
  4. Dessert
Around yesterday's table/couches the inevitable 'what phone are you using' conversation came up. While the family favors Apple by 3:1, Android has made some inroads and the lone Blackberry holdout is no longer derided, but now viewed as the eccentric uncle.

What was missing from the conversation, however, was the word 'cool'. Past years phone purchases/plans were punctuated by arm waving and passion. Now, iPhone buyers spoke about 'my other devices are....'  and Android folk were about pricing and screen size. In other words, over the past year, at least for us,  phone innovation has taken a breather in favor of a platform and pricing.

If we are a representative sample, the consequences for Apple are dramatic. As a premium priced vendor, they are at a disadvantage in garnering market share in the incredibly price sensitive, and fast growing Asian and African regions. Of course, their growth, through line extensions to their platform and sales of high margin products (software commissions), should continue. But growth will no longer be torrid. 2012 is notable for Apple losing its cool.

Cool isn't necessarily gone forever, heck, Apple's taken a couple of cool vacations and it's not like other vendors have replaced its cool. Microsoft's cool with Surface and Windows8 feels like a parent trying to be cool at a kid's sporting event or Sweet 16. It's forced and unnatural...untrue to the brand. Google's products are really pragmatic, but just not cool. Pinterest's UI was, at first, cool. Now it's expected. *

Innovations on the horizon with LTE networks, NFC, faster chips, and innovative user interfaces are the basic ingredients for cool. They are waiting for the chef with the right recipe to whip up something that gets a 5 star rating. Someone who people first laugh at, then ignore, then fight, and finally lose to (a bastardized Gandhi quote).

All the best for a great Holiday weekend.

* kudos to cousin Ken for coming up with a 'cool' suggestion....he noted that when ordering pizza, you can get crumbled sausage (which he and most people around the table prefer to sliced sausage, but he's never seen crumbled pepperoni., only sliced. Here's to you Ken....bring it to market!!!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Being a part of the explosive growth in earned media through SparkRebel and tracx has been exciting. I've now also joined the board of advisors for one of the fastest growing companies you may never have heard of, WeHeartIt (WHI).WHI, with more than 1B montly page views and a commanding position in the under 25 year old female demographic is an explosively growing company in the social curation arena.

I love the company's devotion to the simplicity of their user interface, with the minimization of clicks to get things done. It's one of the key principles which has made Amazon so successful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Paid, owned and earned media

Tradionally, brands and agencies focused their efforts on helping clients gain attention through two major media outlets; paid and owned. A thrid wave, buoyed by the rise of social networks, earned media is the core of the creative and technical internet commerce and discovery wave.

  • A paid outlet is where a brand pays a provider to deliver impressions to a consumer (or 'user'). TV, newspapers, billboards and radio are the most popular paid outlets. Most of the paid money is delivered to the provider who delivers the impression (has assembled the audienc). While agencies and other helpers recieve a relatively small share for planning, creating, and measuring the results.
  • Owned media represents a brand's own assets, a web-site, mobile application, or newsletter. The primary cost here is assembling a relevant and meaningful audience for the produced message
  • Earned media is the fastest growing segment. While traditionally focused on public relations, the growth of social networks, especially vertically oriented ones, has created places where consumers are now the creators of 'earned media' (e.g. Starbucks now has more than 10mm likes on Facebook). Posting content which is automatically shared with friends, discovered by people with similar tastes and acted upon by those with similar budgets reflects dramatic change. Leveraging these channels has greatly expanded the role of agencies and creation of firms which provide the front-end infrastructure (e.g. Pinterest) automated tracking, analysis (e.g. tracx), or security and placement services. 
Here's a nice chart from Forrester Research

Earned owned paid charat

McKinsey Quarterly argues that five forms of media exist, adding Sold and Hijacked (when people hijack the comments on your site), to the aforementioned categories, need to be managed.

Though these three areas are distinct, by no means are they separate. Just look at Sunday football commentators now publishing their Twitter addresses, or billboards promoting company Facebook pages. Earned represents the most dynamic ecosystem that, for now is additive to the other two. It is possible that they coopt them too.