Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dining and Divorce with Old and New Media

Funny video as put forth by our friends and Microsoft regarding the state of advertising and media. Thanks to my colleague Chuck Staudenmaier for this one.

Comments welcome.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Brand Embrace: Revisited

In June, I wrote about a trip I had to a local car dealer and the awful experience that I had while I was there trying to work a deal on a shiny new Nissan Maxima. In the post, a cited how businesses should, when possible, embrace a customers' preconceived notion of their industry and leverage it. As an example, I described a car dealer in Philadelphia, PA that did just that; exploited the loud, boisterous, in-your-face advertising that many of us have come to know and love.

In an article yesterday on, they describe how car dealers are more frequently using viral video as a cost effective tool to reach their customers. In the video below, appropriately titled "The Seven Ways Dealers Screw You," they do just that. They embrace their brand and leverage the image of 'car dealer' to create a very funny, and rather entertaining poke at themselves.

The Seven Ways Dealers Screw You

Clay Corp
Norwood, Massachusetts

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Blistering Pace of Media II

Earlier this year, I blogged about how the speed in which news and other events are reported (Blistering Pace of Media, May 2008) has gone from reading about it in the newspaper daily, to watching up to the minute cable news, to finding out in a matter of seconds with the onslaught of microblogging services like Twitter paired with cell phones and a hungry digital community.

Now check out a new site that launched in August, called allvoices (, which aggregates news from you and I into one complete site.

From allvoices:

"allvoices is a global community that shares news, videos, images and opinions tied to news events and people. It is the first true people’s media.

It's a place where individuals from all over the world can share what is happening where they are (location) at a particular point in time. allvoices then brings together multiple voices or points of view via news stories, videos, images and blogs from the Internet, to provide context and build momentum. The platform provides the community with the ability to search and navigate a news event by location and category, to share and to have a discussion around it, to emotionally connect with each other’s perspectives and complete the human story.
allvoices is an open and highly relevant social media site "unedited by humans", where anyone can report and add their voice from anywhere."

NOW what do you think of the "Blistering Pace of Media?" Leave us a comment.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Brilliantly Disruptive

Wildly panned in the media, the round 1 Crispin Porter + Bogusky Microsoft Seinfeld / Gates ads were getting trashed by most as being confusing, complicated, stupid, or as PC Mag's John C. Dvorak wonders, kinky sex.

Seinfeld / Gates # 1

Seinfeld / Gates # 2

These ads proved to be a tipping point of a masterfully-planned word of mouth campaign that really started with the noise they created when they announced they signed Jerry Seinfeld as their spokesperson for $10 million. These disruptive ads were brilliantly designed to take over the conversation and "plow the road" for ads more on brand, and that land more of the vision and view of what Vista, and more broadly, what Microsoft, is attempting to get us to believe about it's image and what it's products can do for our lives. While it's yet to be seen how effective the campaign is at the register, they clearly have a solid plan on how they are going to shape the conversation.

"I'm a PC" Ad

What do you think? Leave a comment.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brand Embrace: What Will it Take to Get You in this Car Today?

Every so often I get the itch to buy a new car. I am quickly reminded as the process begins why I despise the car shopping and buying experience.

This week I wanted to take a peek at the new 2009 Nissan Maxima. From the pictures on the Web and write ups that have been done, it looked like a real sweet ride. I called one of the dealers a few days ago to see if it had was in and they told me it would not arrive until the first week in July.

When the salesperson asked my name on the phone I gave it to him.

When he asked me for my phone number, I declined and said there would be no need to call me. I explained that I was not in a hurry and would check back in July.

A couple of days later I was surprised to have received a call that the car had arrived. The salesperson had lifted my phone number from his caller ID and called despite not receiving my permission to do so.

Now knowing the car was beginning to arrive at area lots, I decided to take spin by a competing dealer on my way home from work. After the test drive the salesperson and I sat down to discuss the car, what goodies I would want, and then get into my favorite part, haggling about the price. If you haven't been car shopping, or not familiar with the process, it is always the same. The salespeople never do the deal themselves and there's always the token sales manager that comes over and welcomes you to the showroom and proceeds to act like your best friend.

It's really quite ridiculous.

The sales manager then goes through the same line of questioning that the salesperson did, and then leaves to work up the deal. I love this part. I often wonder if they are heading to the back to finish their dinner. There must really be a lot of hard math associated with pricing out a car.

It's really quite ridiculous.

After about 15 minutes, the sales manager comes back and proceeds to tell me the car's price - which caused me to nearly have a heart attack. While the car is very new, and not all the pricing information was available yet at the dealer, he quoted me a price that was $1850 above MSRP. When asked what the $1850 extra cost was he said it was a "market adjustment fee."

Really? A market adjustment fee?

According to the sales manager they placed this "fee" on top of every price they quote.

Nonsense. Pure nonsense.

I reminded the sales manager of how soft the economy is and that working a deal might be in our mutual best interest. Despite my best effort, this was his best price and I headed for the door. As I was walking away, I could hear the sales manager and salesperson joking about their experience with me, which caused me to turn and confront them for being incredibly rude. I love to negotiate and in this economy price needs to be addressed on every major purchase. I just couldn't believe that they made it so I would never buy a car from them.

This post is not so much about my experience with the first dealer who called me without my permission (see Seth Godin - Permission Marketing), or the second where they were so blatantly rude, but more about embracing your brand and living up to public perception.

Not getting it?

Let me explain - keeping with the car dealer stories...

In Philadelphia, where I lived before coming to Circuit City HQ here in Richmond, VA, there is well-known car dealer by the name of Gary Barbera. When you pull up to Barbera's - as we call it Philly - it is car dealer personified. The lot has streamers and balloons and at times a giant blow up gorilla in the front. Their tv and radio spots are the typical dealer ads where they scream at you how great their deals are. When you walk into the showroom, loud music plays, and you know it's going to be a contentious battle with the folks that work there. While I have never bought a car from them, I commend them on embracing the "car dealer" public perception with in-your-face, clutter-busting ads backed up by a raucous experience when you walk in the showroom.

With my experience at the two dealers cited here, I was not expecting that type of behavior from them - even though the brand of "car dealer" says I should. Their ads and their Web site talk of "...a pleasant, informative, and professional experience..." and "climate of trust."

Unless you have unlimited marketing budget, it probably makes sense NOT to try to spend money to change public perception of the industry you are in rather, embrace it and exploit it. Your dollars will go further and your customer experience will be more manageable.

Make sense?

Oh, and that itch that I had? I don't think I'll be scratching it anytime soon.

Share your brand experiences by posting a comment.


Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Blistering Pace of Media

Remember not that long ago, when getting up to date about your hometown news or world events was an appointment with your morning cup of coffee and the newspaper?

Or when you would tune into the evening news at 6pm or 11pm to get caught up?

And then do you remember when news channels launched on cable, and you could catch a breaking story live within minutes of when it was happening?

And now, news, the definition of news, and the way news is delivered to us has completely changed.

News Defined
For the purpose of this post, we'll define 'News' as any communication about any event that takes place. This could be a hard news item, such as the tragic events that took place at Virginia Tech last year. This could be about feature-based news such as a story about how your company is helping to improve the lives of those in your community.

Or it could be a moment in time, defined and created by your customers as an experience with your product or service. In any of these types of news, the pace in which news gets created, reported, and distributed can now be measured in seconds rather than minutes.

"...the pace in which news gets created, reported,
and distributed can now be measured
in seconds rather than minutes."

Everyone that has a cell phone today is a potential news reporter. They can shoot video and have it distributed on CNN, like that of Jamal Albarghouti, the graduate student at Virginia Tech who captured the frightening sounds of gunfire on April 16, 2007 during the massacre at Virginia Tech.

"Everyone that has a cell phone
today is a potential news reporter."

In a different scenario, a customer can interact with your brand, and if connected to social tools such as blogs, Twitter, or plain old SMS text messages, can distribute to potentially thousands of people within seconds, a commentary on their experience – and chances are the followers of that individual have an audience following them, redistributing the message to thousands more in an instant.

This type of word-of-mouth can be incredibly valuable or extremely destructive if not managed and acted upon correctly.

"Twitter in Plain English"
Courtesy: Common Craft

PR Firms and Marketers Take Note
For most of you, I am hoping, this is not going to be anything new. But I know of a number of very solid PR firms and individuals that are still doing business the old way. That communication is still managed by doing releases, making pitches, getting clips, doing media tours, working contacts, blah, blah, blah.

For those of you not converted, pay attention.

Cell phones, the Internet, and YouTube (check out CNN on YouTube) are changing the game completely. People are 'reporting' about companies in a whole new way, at a whole new pace.

While I was preparing this post, a former Circuit City colleague, Doug Meacham, sent me one of his latest blog posts where he calls out the ‘Top 10 Reasons for Monitoring Brands in Social Media’.

Perfect timing for the conclusion of this article.

So what do you have to say? Can you keep up?

What are you doing to keep up with the blistering pace of media?

Leave us all a comment.


Tuesday, May 6, 2008

It's a Jungle Out There

I saw this the other day and thought I would share this humorous look at the "war" between social networks.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Socially Fatigued?

There is a lot of talk about marketing within social networks these days and is one area that I have playing around in since I joined LinkedIn in 2004. For the past several months, there have been signs that perhaps there is some exhaustion occurring. That anyone that is already well connected is not interested in forming new networks - even as those networks may offer interesting value propositions for anyone willing to invest some of their social capital in starting a new network on another site.

In an article from the UK's The Register, they talk about social 'fatigue' - the notion that people are tired of social networking sites and that the Facebooks and MySpaces of the world are on the decline in engagement numbers such as pages viewed and time spent. That folks are just plain "bored" with these sites.

While I do not completely agree with the article, I do believe there is some shifting occurring as users of social media look for value in the technology they are using to connect with each other.

In my attempt to keep up with new technology, and after being flooded with requests to join one of the newest sites,, I decided to take the leap and join. During the setup, I imported my LI contacts and blasted everyone in my network by accident. Ahh yes, usability - or lack thereof.

While there are some bugs that need to be worked out, I like their concept of using the network to build your reputation, but how many networks can one manage?

While a decent portion of my contacts joined me on Naymz, I did get some mail from some of my contacts who declined, saying:

"What are you seeing here that Linkedin isn’t doing? Just debating the need for “one more” social networking site."

And another:"Just wanted to say thanks for the invite to Naymz, but I'm going to stick with Linkedin ... So ... PLEASE don't think I'm blowing you off ... never would. Just sticking to the Linkedin for now."

The referenced article above and e-mail from some of my colleagues is indicative of how much time it takes to invest in building a network, and the value that network returns. I also believe that it is up to networking sites to keep up with consumer demand for better tools and capabilities - giving people a reason to stay beyond the novelty.

Marketers can rejoice, while some of the sites are seeing a decline, there are ways to learn from how people are using social networks and interacting online. That the oldest form of marketing, word-of-mouth, is being enabled by the latest in technology. If you can figure out what's a fad vs. what has true value, harnessing socially connected individuals can be a powerful, very efficient, retention and acquisition tool.

What do you think? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Welcome LinkedIn Group Members

Thanks to those of you that have recently joined the new 'Digital Insights' LinkedIn group. The group was set up to network and share ideas on current and future digital marketing trends. If you are interested in joining the group you can click the link below. In the spirit of creating active participation with marketers, this group is subject to approval and you must meet the following simple criteria:

1. You must currently hold, or once held, a marketing role within an organization.
2. Actively participate in the sharing of opinions, comments, and ideas on this blog.

>View the invitation here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The Road to Nothing

I was driving home from work tonight, as I normally do, thinking about the day that I had. As I do day in and day out, I drove past a new housing development that is being built just a mile or so from my house. For years, planners and developers had talked of 5000 homes to be built on an enormous tract of land in the Southwest suburb of Richmond, VA.

They've recently begun work on constructing the walls that will grace the entrance outside of this new subdivision; grand masonry designed to get the attention of those that drive by, inviting prospective buyers to take a look beyond the walls. New flags wave at passers-by touting the great ammentities that await those willing to take the plunge and invest.

Today I decided to take a quick detour and see what the fuss was about. As I drove in I was impressed by the smooth, freshly painted asphalt road that lead up to...nothing.

Nada. Zero. Zilch.

Ok, well a sales trailer. But really, there was nothing.

Problem is, the housing market is in the dump, and this neighborhood is among a number of new developments in our area starving for folks willing to fork over a small fortune for new construction.

Think about being a home developer for a moment. Your job is to tie up huge amounts of cash in land for years, hoping to suck out what you can once you drop a house on it and sell it. I thought, sadly, what it must be like to be the marketing group for that developer doing everything they can to get someone to buy a house.

The recent activity at the entrance is obvious. They need buyers. They got my attention to come in, but did not deliver on the "promise" made at the curb. Perhaps they could have waited a bit to have a few models built, but then again the market is down, so any attention is good attention, right?


As marketers, it is our duty to provide sustained value to customers for the products or services we sell. Getting customers interested in what we sell is a matter of leveraging consumer insight, market conditions and trends, and creating the channel for which to communicate. If you do it right, and mix in a little bit of gut and experience, it should be pretty easy. Delivering on the promise, enabling a conversation about it, and sustaining interest of what you bring to market - now that's the hard part.

What do you think? Share a comment.

'Til next time!


Monday, March 24, 2008

Web 2.0 in a Web 1.0 World

In a February 28, 2008 blog post, Forrester's self-proclaimed Web 2.0 cat herder Erica Driver, put forth their Web 2.0 framework. I really like the the work they did to frame up the concept but it still makes me think about the whole concept of "Web 2.0."

It makes me think did we ever have a Web 1.0?
How come we never called it that when we were in it?
When were we in it?

When did the major code release happen for version 2.0? Is there a minor code release where we get a Web 2.2? When does Web 3.o come out?

I write this all with tongue firmly planted in cheek. I just find it funny, and kind of frustrating, that when I look back to 1996 we were doing Web 2.0 back then. (For those that need a basic definition of Web 2.o click here. For those who don't, read on).

Here's a story...

In 1996 I jumped off the TV production path and joined the team to help launch AOL's Digital City Philadelphia (DCP). It was there that I met up with some of the smartest, most forward-thinking people I would meet in my career.

Supported by our GM, we tried anything and everything experimenting with this new space. We would dream up ideas and new ways of engaging with members at lunch and by 4pm we would have it online. The only metric we held ourselves accountable to was ENGAGEMENT. Over time engagement translated into flat out retention where we could see usage patterns developing around regularly scheduled times we would update the site and specific times of day based on member lifestyle schedules. With engagement came ad sales. Go figure.

It was awesome.

My primary role at DCP when I joined was to build out our sports content. I had an advantage coming from a town full of passionate sports lunatics. For any of you that have spent any time in Philly, you know what I mean. We're proud to be known for throwing snowballs at Santa.

AOL was known for Community and at DCP this was at our core.

Every article that was written...
Every opinion that was put forth...
Every sports score that was reported... had a message board, chat room, upload library, or poll attached to it.

Usually, we connected multiple tools together to keep the conversation going. Imagine reading a controversial sports article, that was followed by an opinion poll, which then asked you to post a message on our message board as to why you voted the way that you did. While on the message boards members would find other users' posts to comment on - to the point where we built DCP into the most trafficked site in the Digital City Network (and the #1 local sports provider).

We were creating unbelievable, user-generated, sticky content for our members to repeatedly be engaged with throughout the week, which we measured each day. Even back then, with rudimentary measurement tools, we would measure everything we could to see the impact.

All on the world's (at the time) best community platform - America Online.

Web 2.0 started way before 2004. It's the the spirit for which the Web was built, bringing content and people closer together through simple to use interfaces. Where getting and sharing information, and communicating with people was made easier by technology.

What do you think? Do you have an opinion? Share a comment for the world to see.

'Til next time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Game Over

After several years working at PRISM / SportsChannel, pursuing a career in TV, I decided to make the switch in June 1996 to working online full time. I saw unbelievable potential, and with the Channels succumbing to Comcast's takeover of the Philly sports teams, I decided to make the leap to our partner, AOL's Digital City Philadelphia. What was to come over the next two years was some of the most fun, and rewarding experiences of my career. Throughout the next several posts I will tell some stories of great people I worked with and the amazing work that we did together.

More to come.


Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Start

The start. A natural place to begin. This could mean my first post to this blog, however I had something else in mind.

A peek at where and when I started working online. Indulge me for a few minutes, I think you'll be amused and maybe, hopefully, learn something.

Yea, yea, sounds all too familiar. Create a blog and be very self indulgent. But isn't that the idea of a personal blog?

Now, where was I? Ahh yes.

Since I have been doing this a long time, I thought I'd share some of my experiences.

Perhaps after you get a taste of my background, you may be mildly entertained by the fact that I was there very early on. That the work that myself and several of my colleagues did back in the early to mid '90s has created the foundation of what is being done today.

Back to the start.

The year, 1993.
Or was it 1994?

Either way it was pretty darn early in Web years, and I worked as Program Manager for PRISM / SportsChannel Regional Networks in Philadelphia, PA.

This is where it happened.
Where I caught the bug.

I was set. I was on a career path to be a TV producer. Working in Philadelphia, at a regional sports and movie network allowed me to try my hand at many areas of television production and programming. Program management and acquisition, writing, producing, editing, shooting camera - both news gathering and live Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers games as well as concert events.

Cool. Very cool.

But it was this new thing called the Internet that had me really intrigued. The idea of being first at something, especially in the what was then the stodgy world of television, made it seem even more interesting.

There were a number of opportunities brewing there to bring our networks online. Local Philly upstart called LibertyNet came knocking. Another was that our regional networks were all going to launch a Web site - and the third opportunity was with this new company called America Online, which had recently launched their Digital City Networks property in markets such as Chicago, Washington, D.C. and Hampton Roads, VA and were coming to Philly in search of a sports media partner. After careful deliberation, we decided to do all three and explore the potential that each had to offer.

LibertyNet, which was, as I recall, a project out of the University of Pennsylvania, was going to publish articles and programming schedules for the channels.

Our corporate initiative, working to launch, was more of the same but would be promoted nationally across all the networks and would also tout programming schedules, articles from on-air talent and other background info to connect our viewers to our channels.

And then there was AOL. With I think around 5MM subscribers at the time, it was the one that seemed to have the most potential. This partnership seemed ripe with opportunity due to the built-in eyeballs as well as folks were already starting to make AOL part of their lives and the concept of e-mail, chat, and message boards were catching on. (The screen shot here is from Digital City Atlanta - which is all I could find - oh, and check out those kickin' ad banners)

As we launched each of these initiatives, there was a team of us that internally worked through the old-school media factions to convince them this was "the next thing." I remember sitting with our promotions manager at the time and talking with him about putting our URL on the end of our tune-in ads. He looked at me, and said (after asking what a URL was), "You want me to send people to their computer - away from the TV?!" I would later learn that this was a common reaction at TV networks across the country. My reply, by the way, was that when we got them to their computer, and they explored our online offerings, we promised to send them back to the TV more engaged (or at least informed) with our networks, and perhaps give our viewers more reason to feel connected to us.

It was at PRISM too, where we dabbled in some of the earliest interactive TV experiments. At the end of the our Flyers and Sixers telecasts, we named our "PRISMLink" player of the game from an online tally of viewers that e-mailed our AOL account - which we had logged in from our production truck, counting votes by hand. We also had various nights during Phillies games where we hosted "E-mail the Announcers." Our live on-air talent would answer questions between pitches and innings from our viewers at home. Sounds awfully familiar today doesn't it?

Finally, the best early story of them all.

We brought in our partners from AOL to have an ad sales discussion with the head of our sales team. They pitched the idea, that since we were building various interactive experiences, that perhaps they could, gulp, sell it advertisers. The discussion was met with much skepticism and that no one would ever pay for ads on the Internet. Heh!

Our head of ad sales remains in contact with me today and has gone on to build a very successful media planning and buying company in Philadelphia.

The point of this post is that everything new begins with a start. That with great challenge comes great opportunity. Words I live by everyday as I have built a career on being first in a number areas of building interactive experiences and charting a course in new areas of business.

This blog will attempt to document the good 'ol days leading up to what I do now. We'll explore the past learnings and future trends - not as a point of self promotion - but more as words of inspiration.

My reward for this?

For you to encourage your organizations to do new things and continue to create new and different ways to engage with customers.

Do you have a similar story? Please make sure to make a comment!

'Til next time!