Monday, December 20, 2010

Stay tuned....

*** Author's note***

This week's T3 coming to you soon.  Due to work commitments, this Tuesday was not a realistic deadline for creating a piece with the kind of quality and value I want.  But stay tuned!  I'll be posting shortly!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An 'Electric' T3

As according to Mashable, the first 350 Chevrolet Volt vehicles are on their way to their "eagerly awaiting buyers in New York, California, Texas and Washington".  The full national roll out will be taking place in a year and a half from now, but this heralds the first time that the much acclaimed car will be available to consumers in North America.

The Volt comes as a solution to the booming 'green' movement: consumers are demanding more economical and environmentally friendly options (even if it's not them who buy it).  Is the Volt a great eco-car?  Well, it could be.  It has an electric range, and then a combustion engine to charge the car which the electric power runs out.  Some electric cars, such as the Nissan Leaf, run purely on electricity and gain their charge through a plug in unit.  But do you need an eco-car to be eco-friendly?  Absolutely not.

One of the most popular engine choices in Europe is the diesel engine, which is available in practically any model of car.  Diesels burn cleaner, fuel lasts longer and you will save money in the long run.  But they are also environmentally friendly in comparison to petrol models, it terms of economy and efficiency.  But diesels aren't the only environmentally friendly cars: just look at Fiat.  In Europe, you can buy a Fiat 500 (a small car that been out for years and only coming to North American next year) with a two-cylinder engine.  It has got 0.8 litres of capacity!  These engines return excellent fuel economy and environmentally friendly in comparison to other models.

So if there are alternative (and more discrete and anonymous) options, why do we need flash cars with eco-badging? 

As a marketer, I know that the appeal runs deeper than simply wanting to 'pitch in'.  Green products are different by design, not just because of the different materials or processes, but because they want them to be different and unique.  A smart man, by the name of Jay Leno, once said that hybrids and electric cars were bought by people who "want everyone to know the good work they do anonymously".  And I think he is absolutely right.

So what can a marketer take from this, in today's 'Green' climate.

1) If you're green, make sure sure people know it - Especially in North America, consumers want to know that they're 'doing their part'.  But also, they want people to know that too.  Badge it, label it, promote it.  Just look at household cleaners, TV's and cars.  Toyota are huge at this, hence the big 'hybrid' badges and styling cues.  Why does the Prius look like nothing else?  Some would say it's more aerodynamic but it also looks like nothing else. You see it, you think green.

2) If you make the claim, you need to back it up - If you claim to be green, you need to be prepared to back that up with facts.  Branding is about trust, and if your claims can't be trusted, then neither can you.  Don't try and make your product something it isn't: take a reality check and only speak the truth.  Remember that consumers are more sceptical and informed than ever, so make sure you can walk the walk before you talk the talk.  Has the Volt backed it up?  Well, statistics say yes.  But until the car's become properly rolled out, we just won't know.

3) Can 'green' be a USP?  -  No.  Consumers care about the environment, but not at the cost of product performance and price (up to a limit).  If you're product can't do what the consumer wants, then they will look elsewhere to satisfy their need.  Sure, the Volt is environmentally friendly but if it can't take you where you need to go and haul what needs hauling, people will be lining up for their Prius instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brand Loyalty T3

Brand loyalty is a challenge for all marketers, but especially now more than ever.  Consumers have access to ever increasing amounts of data: product specifications, direct comparisons between competitive brands and products, product and consumer reviews, peer reviews, opinion blogs, market research...  Consumers are able to turn this sort of product and brand awareness into superior knowledge about what it is they want and what they want to pay for it.  There are two results from this enormous wealth of information: skepticism and brand loyalty.  Consumers have become much more skeptical about brand promises: it is really the best?  Does it really do what is promised?  To help make better decisions, consumers turn to our research to either refute or support the brand promise and in part, this helps us to make our buying decision.  The other side is brand loyalty, or perhaps more accurately, lack of it.

Many companies has loyalty programs.  Think about any company that you have signed up to.  Chances are you have some sort of Air Miles card or petrol station card (thinking Esso Extra or Petro-Points or some such), if you fly you likely have an Aeroplan card or an equivalent.  You might be receiving e-mails from travel agencies, clothing stores, jewelery retailers and any number of other types of stores, offering you this percent off or coupons for savings.  Some of these work, some don't.  The airline industry is an especially difficult market in which you can create a successful loyalty program.

For example:  you want to fly from New York to London, UK.  You might have an Aeroplan card, that would provide you with reward miles for flying Air Canada or an Star Alliance member.  However, unless you are a frequent enough flier to accumulate the kind of points that translate into meaningful rewards (such as business travellers), most consumers will choose the flight that has the cheapest fare regardless of carrier.  Why?  Because they'll both get you to where you need to go and outside of timing and terminal, offer comparable services.  It comes down to how low can you go, and chances are we'll take the cheapest fare every time.

The airline industry is hardly alone on this.  In Canada at least, the wireless market operates in the same sort of fashion.  I have just switched carriers from one major player to another, and in a large part it was about what can you do for me.  The bills for my old contract were outrageous for the services I was being provided, only brought to my attention when my sister changed her plan.  It was a four-year old plan, well past the maturity of my contract.  No data, nothing fancy and yet my bills were high.  Naturally, my carrier was contacted and asked what they would do to make me a happy camper.  I wanted a new phone, a data plan and whole list of other services that were being sold from other carriers for less than my current bills.  My carrier's plan were complex, add-on heavy and difficult to understand.  Any movement required a significant amount of discussion and negotiation.  At the end of the day, we were hung up on price: my carrier couldn't give me the phone I wanted for the price of the other guy.  So I switched.

So what can a marketer learn from this:

  1. Consumers are smart - Consumers know what they want, the features they want and how much they want to pay for it.  Just look at this article to know what I mean (thanks Shaminda and Alan Quarry for this article).  Try not to muddy the waters with complexity, but be clear.  Selling techniques have changed: it is no longer build them and they will be sold, but find out what's needed and make it available.  Everyone has the same phones now, so you need to understand that the consumer knows the phones they like but is looking for the best service.
  2. Price is very important, but not everything - Price leadership is important, no question.  But not at the cost of all the other elements of strategy.  My example of the airlines was based on comparable service, and where all elements are the same except price, brand loyalty is almost impossible.  If you are trying to build loyalty, sacrificing all your other strategic elements in the name of price leadership means you're missing the boat.  Price leadership will make short-term sales, but for loyalty it needs to be used along with great customer service and maintaining the best products.  Know what you want to compete on and make your strategic choices: sacrifice is the first step in strategy.  Price is not a strategy on it's own, for sales or loyalty.
  3. Brand loyalty is built on service, not price - Just because I switched, doesn't mean I am not loyal or disloyal to any one character.  If you want me to become loyal, that relationship needs to be built on trust and service, not on price.  If I am not given a reason to stay outside of price, I will only go where the best savings will be found.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

T3 Thoughts #6

This T3 is going to be a bit of a departure from my normal format.  As product news cools off the heels of Black Friday, I'm going to focus on the issue of creating and nurturing your tribes.  It is on the radio.  And in store windows, city centres and coffee cups.  That's right Christmas is just around the corner, or so they'd have you think.  So is this going to be a season of cheer for consumers and marketers alike?  Maybe, I certainly hope so.  But with high sales expected in the wireless market, some might have more to cheer about than others: Android might have the best season of all.

Does Apple and the iPhone team have something to worry about?  They managed to keep up (and arguably ahead in some aspects) with the likes of Nokia and Blackberry, but there is another threat that Apple needs to be keeping an eye on: Android.

Katherine Noyes in PC world thinks that Apple is feeling the heat now more than ever in her recent article.  According to the article, Apple is hurriedly trying to build their legal team to develop both the "offensive and defensive capabilities" fight the likes of Nokia, HTC and maybe deter Android.  In the third quarter of 2010, Noyes points out that Android powered phones accounted for just over 25% of smartphone sales, while Apples fell slightly based on the third quarter of 2009.  Clearly, Apple sees the threat of the now No. 2 smartphone OS platform and is doing all they can to keep them at bay (including even banning an Android-centric e-magazine from the App Store).

So what is the appeal of Android?  What makes it better or preferable to Apple's iPhone OS?  Noyes believes that the iPhone's "restrictions are too numerous, its approach too condescending, and its choices too few to have the broad appeal it needs to succeed on a grander scale".   And I think there is some merit here: that is an excellent and technical explanation for why consumers might choose Android over iPhone or Blackberry.  But lets explore why consumers might want Android on that branding level.

I think there is an element of "Anti-Apple" going on, and this type of sentiment is an almost cyclical phenomenon.  Brand is new and a bit alternative, then becomes the must-have product, then becomes the mainstream norm for products and soon becomes the big-guy overshadowing the little players who are a bit alternative.  You can't have the light without the dark, there will always be the alternative to the mainstream option.  But I think there is more going on here, and I think it has a lot to do with an idea from Seth Godin: tribes.

Android has created a tribe for their product.  Godin maintains that "what people really want is the ability to connect to each other, not to companies" and that tribes are based on permission.  As opposed to the traditional model of top-down brand management, Godin states that it's about seeking out services and products for your tribe: as a marketer you want "to build people who want to hear from the company because it helps them connect ... [and] it gives them a story to tell and something to talk about".  I think Android understands this.  Apple forces you to choose you Apps from them and only them, meaning you have no control over what you have access too.  You cannot change the OS at all and Apple is okay with that.  Sure, Apple is cutting edge but they aren't building the same kind of tribe that Android is.  Android has an open-source element to help encourage development of the functionality, where as Apple must control every aspect of their operating system.  Android makes hundreds of thousands of applications available on a wide-variety of media, Apple does not.  Android can be run on a multitude of machines, Apple cannot.  In this day and age, where customers want choice and control, consumers want to spend more time personalizing and customizing their brand experiences than having it shoved down their throat.  Is it a problem that Apple doesn't give consumers as many options?  Not necessarily, but for some it's a big deal.  Apple has it's own tribe, but I am not sure that they aren't blurring the lines between consumers connecting with consumers, and consumers lining up to connect with Apple.  Remember, as Godin says, "the challenge is to work for the tribe and make it something even better".

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

T3 Number 5

One of the coolest things I've heard about this past week was the announcement by YouTube that they were getting ready to debut a new way of advertising.  The current system involves traditional banner ads, featured videos and more recently a video advert that plays before your selection plays.

It is this last feature that 'erked' me the most, both as a consumer of social media and a marketer.  YouTube makes it's money by selling ad space, so it is logical that they would introduce this form of advertising.  However, I feel that it violates one of the most important principles: permission.  Banners and featured videos?  I can choose engage in those forms of marketing, but when it comes to the forced video ads, I have no choice because it is 'interruption marketing', as Godin would have put it.  This is where the new "TrueView" comes into affect: it is what Godin would have called permission marketing.  Sort of.

Irina Slutsky reported on Adage that TrueView is a platformed "designed to give users the choice of which ad they watch - even if that choice is to watch none at all".  This means that YouTube will no longer be interruptive but more permission based.  The idea is that for short movies, a user might get an "in-stream" ad, which [they] can skip if [they] wish".  For longer movies, consumers can have a choice: watch a "video with ad breaks or ad-free after watching one of three ads first", ads which may not be skippable.  As a consumer, I am pleased because now I can enjoy my involvement without being pestered or frustrated.  However, it's a more complex issue when it comes to the marketer in me: how do you attract companies to continue to use you as a medium for advertising when consumers can choose to skip your ad-space?

Slutsky explains that companies wouldn't have to pay for skipped ads, much the same way that pay-per-click works.  Also, and possibly more importantly, Slutsky explains how TrueView will "allow you to reach the opted-in engaged audience at scale", rather than annoying an audience who is not engaged in your message.  And I have to say, it makes sense for all parties: YouTube, companies and the end consumer.

This past week saw the return of Tiger Woods to Twitter.  Why?  I think this is the start of Woods trying to rebuild his image and personal brand, and that's pretty obvious.  However, many people are writing off his attempts to rebuild his brand as a poor attempt with poor timing.  Poor timing because he is starting this attempt near the 1 year anniversary of the car crash that brought the whole scandal to light.  Poor attempt because just having a Twitter feed doesn't a new image make.  But that is where I think they're wrong.

I'm currently reading a book by Mitch Joel called 'Six Pixels of Separation'.  In it, Joel makes it clear that branding isn't an overnight phenomenon.  Creating and strengthening a personal brand (or any brand of that matter) takes trust and loyalty.  These things are earned slowly: months, years or even many years for that matter.  You need to be consistent and create value, and create trust over time.  In Woods' case, might take longer than others but with time, consistency and value, I think it's possible to rebound.  So lets not judge him too quickly: these things take time so judging the attempt now is like calling the winner of the Stanley Cup from the pre-season.

Another big news item, and I have to admit a bit of a disappointment for me, was the announcement from Apple that the iTunes Store would now carry the Beatles.  I know that last week I commented that it was likely that iTunes would announce this, but a little part of me wanted there to be something else.  No, not a Beatles themed iPod like U2 had a while ago (although don't rule it out, anything is possible!).  But I was kind of hoping something else would be announced in conjunction with the Beatles songs.  They've been on such a roll lately, I guess my hopes were a bit high.  But whose fault is that?  If you're constantly hyping, consumers are going to be expecting you to constantly be delivering.  Consistency is king: as Joel says, lean on the side of consistency and don't over promise.  Failing to deliver on a promise is a worse fate then promising less and over delivering.

Does Apple 'over promise'? Well, maybe.  Or maybe it's just that they have been doing so well in the marketing department that our expectations are that much higher.  After all, they really are a 'one-of-a-kind' marketing machine nowadays.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Tuesday Three #4

This week's 'T3' coming up, let's jump in.

How could we ignore the news coming out about Facebook these days.  Earlier this week, Mashable reported that arguably the biggest social media channel of them all could be worth around $41 Billion.  This means that in comparison, Facebook is valued higher that eBay, which is hovering at around $39 Billion.  That is an incredible (and somewhat arbitrary) statistic to think about, especially when you consider where Facebook was just a number of years ago.

However, the biggest news about Facebook was the heating up of their battle against other online service providers, such as Yahoo! or Google.  As Geoffrey Fowler and Amir Efrati reported in the Wall Street Journal, Facebook has "unveiled a messaging service to compete for the loyalty of millions of Internet users".  This new messaging system looks to build upon the large network already existing amongst the Facebook community by introducing many new communication tools, including a email address for users.  Facebook is looking to become a one-stop-shop for communications as the more "fun and more valuable" way of keeping in touch.

So is Facebook a 'Gmail Killer'? 

In a word, no.  In many words, it's not meant to replace the function of 'proper' e-mails systems like Gmail or Yahoo.    Mark Zuckerberg admitted during the launch that they don't expect "anybody to wake up tomorrow and say 'OK, I will shut down my Yahoo or Gmail account and switch exclusively to Facebook,'".  Fowler and Efrati point out that while Google and Facebook have different core businesses, they've been set onto a 'collision course' by trying to both secure supremacy over the online activity and user data market, a critical need for the 'future of targeted ads online, already a $26 Billion industry in the U.S." alone.  Both Zuckerberg and Google CEO Eric Schmidt seem to agree that their products are close to each other, but not replacements for each other.  The functionality of Facebooks messaging system is to put traditional e-mail, instant and SMS messaging together in one place, sending messages using whatever method works best.  On the other hand, Google's Gmail is a great platform for receiving formal e-mail correspondence.  Zuckerberg was quoted as saying "Gmail is a really good product", while Schmidt was quoted saying that it "is basically good to have more competition in the space," and that Facebook "appear[s] to be taking a different approach".

So can we take from this?  Facebook is certainly on the way to trying to take a stranglehold on the way consumers interact with the internet.  By putting all of these services together, it's hard to see how consumer's won't slowly shift to using Facebook for all of their casual conversations online.  It might be too early to make any conclusions, but this seems to be a big step forward towards making Facebook a powerhouse in the targeted ad market as well.

To read more, you can find the article here.

Facebook allows you to have limitless numbers of friends and connections, and Twitter also promotes the boosting of followers and the broadening of relationships across their network.  But one social media tool is taking a whole different kind of stand.  As reported by Brennon Slattery in PC World, there is a social media that doesn't seem to be that social.  Launched on November 14th, 'Path' is a social media built on three pillars: "photo-sharing, smartphones and exclusivity".  The purpose of the tool is to allow users to share photographs with friends, but unlike any other media, you can only have up to 50 friends.  Period.  Why is that?  Based on the research of Oxford Professor of Evolutionary Psychology Robin Dunbar, the human brain can only sustain up to 150 relationships at a time.

So what we have is a social media that limits the number of connections and relationships you can make.  You might be thinking, well that doesn't make any sense.  Even Slattery feels that Path "seems a bit underdeveloped".  He goes on to cite the views of many: it has the "utility of a toy poodle", "doesn't see much of a future", some find its "exclusivity obnoxious and far too limiting".  Added to that, Path has gone exclusively with the iPhone as an app, completely ignoring any other smartphone platform including Blackberry and Android.  As if that wasn't limiting enough, there's a list of things you cannot do on Path:

You can't:
  • Connect to Facebook, Twitter or.... anything
  • Edit after posting
  • Like
  • Comment
ReadWriteWeb has a whole list of things you can't do.

So why would anyone ever get involved with Path?  BluHalo might have the answer.  According to their article on Path, experts in the field believe that "Path is trying to re-create the social media world by taking a dramatically different approach" with the aim of "building a far more intimate and personal network of close friends".  And I think they have got a point.  We cannot compare the functionality of sites such as Facebook against those of Path because Path was designed to not be like Facebook.  Path is supposed to be minimalist, intimate and ruthlessly simple.  By limiting the number of friends you can have (despite their cited research, which may well be true), Path forces you to spend more time nurturing the relationships you have rather than spreading yourself too thin. 

Take yourself as an example.  You are more than likely on Facebook and Twitter and if so, it's possible to have hundreds of 'friends' or followers.  I know that I have an excess of 600, thanks mainly to networking through high school and university.  Now that's not a huge number, but it certainly more than perhaps I am capable of maintaining.  And the facts are that I don't.  I cannot tell you that I communicate with all 600 people I have on my Facebook account on a regular basis.  Some of them are people I have known briefly, or very old schoolmates or people I grew up with.  Some might even have less substance than that!  The upshot is that whenever I look at what my friends are doing on Facebook, I can often find someone I don't really know doing something I don't care about.  Or they're taking pictures of themselves on a Mac and showing everyone... Including me.... And I don't care at all.

So maybe there is a lot of merit in Path.  It is ruthlessly simple because you friends don't need to 'like' your pictures.  You just want to share them.  But this brings me to a point I am confused about.  The main form of communication on Path is photographic, not text.  While you can add a caption to a picture to tell people where it was taken and who is in it, you cannot say much else.  So if you're trying to force me to nurture these relationships, how can I do that only through the medium of cellphone photography?  I think that as minimalist as Path is, we need a bit more interactivity in order to communicate with others.  So until then, if you really want to limit your connections, just purge your Facebook.

This next bit isn't exactly news, but more an item of speculation.  It surfaced a few days ago that Apple, the masters of build-up and showmanship, hinted at something big coming to iTunes.  We know Apple is a powerhouse of this 'tension marketing', just read Shaminda's post on Apple Press Events, so this kind of hinting might not come as any surprise.  The website simply said: "Tomorrow is just another day. That you'll never forget."  Ian Paul from PC World thinks that this could be a hint to "Paul McCartney's first solo hit, Another Day, which was written while McCartney was still with The Beatles".  Based on sources familiar to the situation who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, the rights holders of The Beatles songs have "finally decided to let it be and sell the Beatles albums on iTunes".

However, we won't know until... about 30 minutes from now.  It'll be worth keeping an eye on.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Lest We Forget

Please observe a moment of silence at 11am, where you are, as a mark of respect for those who risked and gave everything for the freedom of others.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Tuesday Three #3

Let's get rolling.

A big news item I saw on the National Association of Convenience Stores website was something I didn't expect to take this long: Facebook has launched a location-based media service.  Foursquare has been one of the biggest social media channels involving geographic locations, and Facebook needed to introduce a similar to keep up.  Facebook's new addition is called Deals and allows individuals to 'check-in' into stores and locations, and by doing so they make themselves available for rewards by the owners of these stores.

Reggie Bradford, the CEO of Vitrue, a social-media marketing firm, told the NACS website that Deals is “a massive validation of location-based marketing" and that it's “a huge sea change in terms of the way location-based services are going to hit critical mass fast".  Bradford cites that millions of Facebook users already use Facebook's Places tool, and with the widespread use of mobile devices for accessing Facebook, Deals could really take hold in the marketplace.

In terms of reaching consumers, this is a great platform.  Stores can reach their customers in a way they have never seen before, allowing for a connection to be made over the Internet even before the consumer enters the store.  With the growth of Places and of sites like Foursquare, many social media consumers are buying into the idea of sharing their location with friends and supporters: we've seen it used within friends, organizations and even politicians.  I think of a scene in the movie Minority Report.  Do you remember when Tom Cruise is walking through the Mall and all the stores scan his eyes, allowing the store to tailer their posters just for him?  I have no doubt that at some point, marketers will know who we are, what we've bought before and what we'd likely be interested in at some point in the future.  Deals is a step in that direction.  But will it work when consumers have to share it with companies?  I think it might, but it's hard to know.  Clearly, many social media users are not shy to sharing this kind of information but in an age of ever increasing skepticism, it's hard to know how comfortable individuals will be with giving this information to marketers.

It comes to an idea from Seth Godin: Deals is about permission marketing.  Users have to 'check-in' to stores through Deals, so the consumer is choosing to engage with the brand and allow the company to market to them.  As long as Deals remains permission based, I think it has great opportunity for success.

If you want to read the article yourself, you can find it here.

My friend Shaminda has some great thoughts on this very subject in his posting on this past Sunday.  He notes that the Deals platform is an important news item for Facebook, but equally important are their new partnerships "with companies like Loopt, Zynga, Groupon and Yelp, to offer mobile users a 'single-sign on'".  What do these partnerships mean?  To Shaminda, it means two things: if you can't beat them, join them.  And if you're the smaller guy, can you afford not to join with Facebook?

I think there is a lot of merit to both points.  The most interesting debate can be found with the second point: can you afford not to?  There is no arguing that Facebook is absolutely massive, and perhaps a bit more contentious to say they are the premier social networking site.  If the success if your company would be in intertwined with the success of your partner, you want to back the winning horse.  With Facebook being as strong as it is, and there is no major reason to think they will be dethroned soon, can you afford not to bunk up with them?  I don't think so.

Go ahead and read Shaminda's thoughts on this, it's a good read that makes you think.  I'm sure we'd both like to hear what you think.

On an aside, did you hear?  The Queen (and the Monarchy for that matter) are on Facebook now.  With a new group site, fans can now follow the Monarchy, events and news.  Want to be friends with the Queen?  Well, unfortunately you won't be able to be friends with Her Majesty, but this is an interesting example of how relationships and communications are changing with social media.  Read about the Queen and her presence on Facebook here.

The last year has seen the roll out of tens of 3-D TV technologies and models.  With the pile of movies coming out in theatres in 3-D, and the rising demand for 3-D technology at home, it's hardly surprising that manufacturers are looking for other avenues for this technology.  But have you ever looked at your phone and thought, 'yeah, I'd like my phone's screen to be 3-D'.  Well, neither have I but Sharp thinks otherwise.  It was announced this week on Mashable that Sharp will be launching 3-D phones late this year and early next year in Japan.

The phones look pretty pedestrian and from first glance, be easily confused with touch-screen and full-keyboard smart-phones.  However, the screens and technology are very different.  According to the article, the phones will feature 3-D screens that don't require glasses or anything, so you won't need to do anything different to use them then any other phone.  They will also feature top-of-the-line cameras and the platform for the next generation of mobiles games.

To me, this is a logical step for product development.  It might turn into other of those things we don't think we need, but it becomes a basic feature we expect from new products.  Don't think so?  Did you ever think you needed a colour-screen?  How about a built-in radio or MP3 capability?  Touch screen?  High quality camera (or any camera at all)?  Video conferencing?  But when you go to buy a phone now, these are features we look for and demand from our phones.  We've seen all these technological improvements, leaving limited avenues for product developers to go down.  3-D screens seems like the next step for the next generation of phones, but I am not entirely sold.  When I am trying to use my phone, the less glitz and confusion the better.  I don't know if this is a good idea, but it all depends on what the phone will be used for.  For personal use and entertainment, it might be a winner.  But in a business application, maybe not so helpful.  Then again, I never though putting MP3 technology or video conferencing would take off for main stream consumption.  3-D could be the next big thing.  To read the full article, find it here.

Finally, a product hit the news this past week that can protect you... from you.  We've all seen it before: someone has a good time on the town and gets a hold of their Facebook or Twitter account when they get home.  Not being of complete mind, these people usually end up saying things a) not in the words or order of letters they wanted b) they didn't want to really say to someone or c) that make them look and sound like an idiot.  My good friend Shaminda wrote that article not too long ago about being your own brand manager: that you are the gate keeper to creating and maintaining a strong personal brand with those around you.  This means you need to control how you communicate and interact with others, and this also means controlling your presence electronically.

Have no fear though.  If you need something to protect you from you, George Stroumboulopoulos found a product to help you out.  Webroot has created the Social Media Sobriety Test.  This program forces you to pass a sobriety test before allowing you to enter your social media application.  If you're of sound enough mind to pass the test, it will allow you into it to go about your business.  However, failing the test means you can't get into your Facebook and do something stupid.

A good product?  If you're someone who needs to be prevented from getting on Facebook when you've had a few, absolutely.  But maybe the better idea is not to go near social media when you've had a good time and save yourself a few bucks.  Must be said, if you need this, maybe buying a product to stop you from entering your site isn't the real solution.  A 'Breathalyzer' doesn't correct drunk driving, and neither will this.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Still Amazes Me

I know that the way marketers can reach the consumer in today's world is vastly different from 10 or 15 years ago.  I know that, thanks to advances in the availability and depth of technology, marketers are able to communicate with consumers quicker and in a more focused way than ever before.  I know that thanks to social media, brands can now (almost instantly) reach, respond and interact with consumers like we have never seen before.

I know all this.  But I still was in awe of just how far this interaction has come when it happened to me.  Yesterday, I discussed the Chevy Cruze, about consumer skepticism and how this product could be the turning point the American car manufacturer needs to compete with the market leaders.  I wanted the brand to succeed and when I visit the Toronto Auto Show early next year, I wanted Chevy to follow through on the branding promise they've delivered.  Within hours of my blog post, my thoughts were responded to personally by the Chevrolet Cruze Twitter account.  I replied on Twitter and was soon replied back to again.

Now I know I shouldn't be surprised, this is what today's marketing world looks like and Chevrolet is staying on top of managing their new model's brand in social media, just as they should be.  But until it happens to you, you don't really feel the magic behind it.  I understand now, better than ever, that social media is going to be a major tool for any brand wishing to manage, interact and influence their brand experience and value.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Tuesday Three #2

It's another week and another Tuesday, which means it's time for another Tuesday three! 

It has been a busy week in marketing and social media.  One of the biggest news items from the past week was the launch of the new MySpace design.  MySpace, which seems to have played second or third fiddle to Facebook for a number of years now, updated their design to focus more on the entertainment side of social media.  Among the worst things an organization can do is change their look, brand or logo because they are bored of it or feel like it's time for a change.  If you're re-branding, you do so with a purpose or a reason, a reason that is supported by your choose re-branding strategy. Mashable is quick to point out that MySpace is not just changing the wallpaper, that their updates are "the start of a fundamental shift in focus" for the website.  That focus?  According to their coverage of the event, the shift is toward making MySpace a “social entertainment destination".

As according to Mashable, MySpace's new target demographic is Gen Y, the 13 to 35 year-old segment, and is looking to become a premier destination for connecting with entertainment-oriented "fans and curators".  To me, this move takes a lot of sense.  I think that MySpace understands that they are no longer the premier social networking site and that their model needed to be focused on a need that was not being fully satisfied.  Sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, are excellent platforms for connecting with friends and colleagues and building on connections.  Twitter is a brilliant idea-sharing and quick messaging platform for meeting industry leaders and like-minded individuals.  However, MySpace realized that there was no platform adequately catering to the sharing of music, videos and entertainment.  Mentally, I have always associated MySpace with music: how many bands have presented themselves there.  Further, how many of had a break there? I think a lot of MySpace's potential success lies in their ability to nourish up and coming artists and giving them the platform they need to get exposure.

There is one thing that still concerns me.  We cannot forget that there is one platform that is already giving many musicians and artists exposure: YouTube.  YouTube doesn't allow for the same networking that is possible through a site like MySpace, but I wouldn't be surprised if this improves in the near future.  Members can subscribe, like and rate other's content.  If MySpace doesn't blow us out of the water, there is a chance their move has come too late.

Another huge piece of news to come to light was that, for the first time ever, Apple overtook RIM and the Blackberry in the heated-battle that is the smart phone market.   According to Michael Babad in the Globe and Mail, citing new research by International Data Corp., reported this past week that Apple's iPhone enjoyed sales that "eclipsed those of RIM's BlackBerry in the third quarter for the first time", with Apple shipping 14.1 million to RIM's 12.4 million.  Both companies enjoyed growth however, with Apple's market share reaching 4.1% in the quarter, up from 2.5%, while RIM enjoyed a quarterly increase of 0.7% market share, up to 3.6%.  This growth was helped by two new products: The Blackberry Torch for RIM and the iPhone 4 for Apple, two products which have brought smart phones to the next level for many consumers.

So what does that mean?  It could mean that Apple is starting to get a stronger foot hold into what has been a predominately been Blackberry territory: the business application.  In recent years, I feel that Apple iPhone and RIM Blackberry have been closing on meeting in the middle.  In 2007, Blackberrys were business machines: efficient, productive but not stylish or particularly attractive.  In 2007, Apple came out with the iPhone: a stylish and attractive phone, but not particularly effective or efficient for business applications.  With the most recent models, the line between business machines and stylish devices is blurred, both products being strong media and business performers.  However, as Apple delves deeper into the business world, Blackberry will need to respond to the Apple threat through marketing and their product development.

Or do they?  A friend and fellow graduate of mine at Laurier, and employee of RIM, informed me that the data cited by Babad may not reflect the truth.  According to my friend, due to the different in quarters-ended, the sales numbers quoted do not include the month of September for RIM, which is traditionally a big sales month for them.  If this is the case (I have his word, but have no found any publicly available information to confirm the numbers independent of each other), then these numbers may not reflect anything at all.  They serve only to remind us that the battle is far from other, and hotter than ever before. (Author's note: if you do know where this information is available, please let me know on Twitter, I'd be most interesting in finding out more! @andrewbasker).

This week also saw our first peek at the new Samsung Galaxy Tab.  However, I am not going to talk about it here.  Not yet at least, not until I have the opportunity to see it in person. More over, I want to be able to experience all three of the big players in this market: the iPad, the Playbook and the Galaxy.  I have experienced the iPad but was not instantly won over.  As I have discussed before here, I am an iPod Touch owner and see no need or desire to have an iPad (apart from the data, something readily available through the iPhone (and it lets you make phone calls), or those who want to access the Internet but lack the knowhow to use a full computer OS). However, I only spent a few fleeting moments with the machine in a Bestbuy.  Why Bestbuy?  Have YOU tried spending any time in an Apple store to see one?  Yeah, exactly.  Watch this space for a review of all three machines, something I am aiming to do as soon as I can.

However, there is something I want to talk about before this post is over.  That is the Chevy Cruze.  For years, Chevrolet has been known for making very affordable but depressingly poorly build vehicles.  I have attended the Toronto Auto Show for the last number of years and every time I go, I always make a point of checking out the GM stands to see how the cars feel and look.  Five years ago, you could sit in a Cadillac and find buttons plucked directly from the Pontiac Sunfire.  Even a couple years ago, their new vehicles like the Traverse were build better, but still suffering from poor build quality and cheap materials.  Chevrolet would like us to think differently about them now though, as they being their new car to Canada and the US: the Cruze.  GM spent a lot of money to make the first genuine 'global car', excluding cars made my Suzuki under the Chevy brand.  'Global' cars refers to having one design sold around the world, something many car companies have been doing for a long time: Audi, Mercedes, BMW, Mazda and starting in 2012 Ford as well.  Chevy is also spending a gigantic sum of money updating their factories and marketing their new product heavily.  Using traditional media, and slowly breaking into social media, Chevy is putting a lot of their future in the success of this new, more technological and quality-driven vehicle.  If you want to learn more, check out this good article from

Will it work?  Well, I'd like it to work but I am cynical.  I've seen these promises before from GM, I the skeptical consumer inside me doesn't want to believe everything I see or read.  This is one of the most worrying aspects of being a marketer in today's market: the levels of skepticism are higher than ever before.  You can't simply say you're the best, consumers are looking for you to prove it.

So go on then Chevy.  People want you to fail, and it'd be convenient if you did.  But if you want to slug it out with your competitors, you need to prove you belong.

*** Author's Note: Shortly after this post was published, I got this response from Chevy:

  - Chevy Cruze
@ I belong! I belong! You said it yourself: I'm quality-driven :)
I sincerely hope 'you' are, because if it's true 'you' could be the turning around point for Chevy as a brand.***

Friday, October 29, 2010

Teaching is a lot like Branding

This morning, Seth Godin had an interesting posting on this blog about 'pushing back on mediocre professors', and that got me thinking.

You hear the cliche a lot: first impressions are important.  I'd like to take that a step further, that all impressions are important and that your first is merely where you start from.  I have always been a firm believer in paying attention to the way you act and present yourself to others, because all impressions are important. The better your first impression, the better your starting position on the grid.  You need to make a good first impression, but maintain it and build upon it.  Now this all sounds very familiar, but in a different context. 

I subscribe to the school of thought that people are brands.  The way we look, the way we act and even the way we talk communicates who we are and what we stand for.  Our first impression becomes our first brand experience and if that experience is poor, then it takes a lot of effort and time to improve your brand image.  Like any brand, we need to work at maintaining the image and experience we want to communicate, all the time focusing on being genuine and creating connections.  Marketers should be among the first to know this and this is why many are self-critical and self-aware about what their personal brand is communicating.

As marketers, one of our goals is to turn a strong brand into strong sales.  By managing a brand, we are trying to encourage consumers to buy into our ideas and our products.  So as individuals, we need to try and encourage other people to buy into our ideas.

Professors are no different.  You need to manage yourself and your brand to encourage students to buy into your thoughts and ideas.  You need to engage them in thought and pull them into a valuable conversation, and this is what Godin is getting at: "perhaps you could assign this as homework and we could have an actual conversation in class...".

We've all had professors who have pulled information directly from texts, read from slides and generally left us somewhere between bored and unconscious.  Why?  Because we weren't buying in.  I've had the privileged of having a number of excellent professors who did engage me, who compelled me to buy into their brand because they had interesting things to say, a tolerance for new and innovative thinking and a desire to promote conversation and debate about concepts.  These are the individuals who understand what it takes to get buy-in and understand the value of maintaining an engaging brand.  As Godin says, these are the people who push us "to solve interesting problems, overcome our fear or learn something that I could learn in no other way", and for that we should all be indebted to them.

Avoiding uninteresting professors is not the take away from this.  Think of Godin's ideas in a wide variety of contexts: purchasing consumer goods, being an employee, making new relationships.  In every case, you need to manage your brand to create buy-in, create engagement and give the other party what they are looking for: value.

--Authors Note: I think personal branding is important, but so does Shaminda Attygalle.  Check out his thoughts on defining your personal brand here. He is right: we are our own brand managers. --

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Tuesday Three - #1

Being a Twitter Snob is okay.

Or at least according to Mitch Joel it is.  And I agree too.

In his Sunday posting on his weblog, Joel argues that the only people you should follow on Twitter are those who "are immediately interesting to you or people who might becoming interesting to you".  What do you do with the rest? "Ignore".  He points out that this strategy (not necessarily following someone back if they follow you) somehow goes across the gain of what social media is about.  However, I disagree with him on this point because this whole notion is very "social media".  To me, social media is about creating value, relationships and learning.  As Joel Comm points out at the beginning of his book "Twitter Power 2.0 - How to Dominate Your Market one Tweet at a Time", social media is about two-way communications: create a conversation that brings meaning and value to you and from there, those conversations create communities.  If you're not creating a meaningful communication with your Twitter followers, maybe you shouldn't be in there.  Comm points out that Twitter relationships, like friendships, need to be maintained and nurtured if you wish them to be successful.  If you don't see the value in the relationship, if you don't put the effort in and you don't see yourself doing so, don't follow them.

Mitch Joel outlines some other reasons for being a 'snob':
  • Numbers don't mean valuable - By having a huge number of people you follow, it can communicate to others that you don't pick and choose your followers and that you're don't discriminate between people of interest and value from those that do not create any.  People may judge you on this basis, like judging a book by it's cover, and be turned off.
  •  Who you follow adds credibility - Being selective allows other people to better understand who you are, what your interests are and better determine if you're someone they want to make a connection with.  People who do will follow you and find the people you find interesting because there is a genuine connection being made.
  •  Having standards means value standards - By picking and choosing who we follow, and adding credibility, we are in fact creating better value for everyone who follows us.

    So, unless you're a brand looking for feedback ("none of this applies: why not follow back everyone who is following you? "), discriminate on value.  Go on, be a snob.

    Read the posting here.

    Starbucks' Digital Network

    This past Wednesday October 20th 2010, Mashable reported that Starbucks was to unveil their new 'Starbucks Digital Network' in their stores.  Operating through the store's free Wi-Fi internet, "SDN" has two key objectives: "enhancing the customer’s experience and better engaging customers while they’re in the store".  The experience includes access to newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, but is also split into six areas of engagement: "News, Entertainment, Wellness, Business and Careers, My Neighborhood and the customer-personalized Starbucks channel".  This means newsapers, e-books, magazines, local news items, community information... you name it, it's probably there.  In addition to these facets, there is also a connection with LinkedIn, where patrons can find exclusive content and job searching capabilities.

    Yahoo! are the brains behind the network, running the system and having designed the site as Starbucks technology partner.

    Starbucks is all about experience and getting engaged in the environment.  I don't know about how other social media sites fit into the SDN, such as Twitter or Facebook, but when I get the opportunity to try it out myself I will elaborate on how I think it works inside the Starbucks strategy.

    Read the full article here.

    Apple Back to Mac

    As you might have heard, Apple had a little do on October 20th called the "Back-to-Mac" event.  In true Apple fashion, it was a dramatic and awe-inspiring experience where many things were announced and many jaws-dropped.  Here are some of the big things to take from the event, as covered by

    • OS X Lion previewed - I use Apple computers and have almost always used them at home.  As a OS Leopard user, I am not quite at the cutting edge of the OS X curve but from all appearances, OS Lion is going to be a step forward.  It appears to have borrowed some interface ideas from the iPad/iPhone/iPod family.
    • Introduction of the Mac App Store - It was only a matter of time before the user-friendly style of the App Store was transposed to the Mac for other programs.  With the same revenue-splitting system, this move will boost the availability of independent products for Mac.
    • iLife 11 - It's coming.  Surprised?
    • Macbook Air - Now available in two sizes, 11.6" and 13", it is now available with flash memory instead of a traditional hard drive.  This is much like the newest iPods, iPhones and the most recent iPad.

      To gain some more insight into the "Back-to-Mac" event, see Shaminda Attygalle's blog post "What can marketers learn from an Apple press event?".

      I feel that the Macbook Air is finally the product that Apple should have made in the first place.  Now, I am not going to presume that this humble marketer is smarter than the entire Apple marketing department, that'd be ridiculous.  But to me, the iPad never really made sense.

      I have a one year-old iPod Touch and I think it's brilliant.  It can play the music I want, the videos I want, gives me both useful and entertaining applications as well as, when within range of a wireless network, allow me to check my mail and social media sites.  When I see the Apple iPad, what I am really seeing is a glorified, larger iPod Touch.  Yes, the iPad has data capabilities but if you really wanted that, you'd buy the iPhone instead of the pod.  Other than that, and the larger screen, I don't really see a blockbuster product.  I see an iPod that's less practical: it doesn't fit in your pocket, it's the size of a network, it's difficult to type on and less practical as a music device.  After discussing this with many people, including my sister who is also a marketer by degree, we agreed that the only application of the iPad as a practical item is for those who don't use or know how to use a computer.  As a user friendly product, it could be the means for those who are not savvy to check their mail, and surf the web with its easy, push-button operating system.

      But maybe this is the point exactly, I am approaching this from the practical, beige-trousered approach.  Seth Godin might be able to explain why the iPad, despite its apparent shortcomings, still sold like hot-cakes.  Godin was interviewed at TED 2009 in this video, where he explains what might be going on here.  In the video entitled Why You Need a Tribe, he says it's not about "here are all the features, you should switch", that the one with the most features for the money isn't the one that's necessarily successful.  For example, the "iPod doesn't have the most features for the money" but "that's not why people buy it".  According to Godin, people buy it because "of the story, because of the way it makes them feel".  A lot of this desire comes from word of mouth, leading into Godin's idea of the "Purple Cow":  something that is remarkable.  People will talk about things that are remarkable, and it's the marketer's challenge to make something that is remarkable and get people talking.

      The "Back-to-Mac" event is a perfect example of this marketing, something that Apple seems to have perfected.  People talked about it, people wanted it and people got it.  A prime example of branding turning into purchasing.  Does it matter the iPad might not be practical?  No, because people want it anyway.

      PS: Reading Joel Comm's book Twitter Power 2.0, I will be posting a review of the ideas in the book later on when it's finished.  So far?  An excellent read.

      Sunday, October 24, 2010

      One confusing brand.

      Is it just me, or is Swiss Army one of the most confusing brands around?

      It's certainly unexpected if you think of it.  Here, lets do an exercise.  Just take a moment to think of what comes to mind when you hear "Swiss Army".

      Done?  Chances are you hit upon these: accurate, intricate, reliable, red, red logo with a white cross.  Those are among many of the things I thought of, but maybe it's not so simple.

      I have a watch with a red logo with a white cross, labeled as Swiss Army.  Recently, I needed to have it repaired and I was trying to find an authorized dealer to have the work done.  I tried to do some research to find my watch for the watch model number.  That, was the beginning of my issues.  I found watches sold under the 'Swiss Army' brand, then found some watches under the 'Wenger Swiss Army' brand. And if that wasn't confusing enough, there were more watches made under the 'Victorianox Swiss Army' brand. Logos?  All red with a white cross.

      I know that in some cases, these brands are related but as a customer, I couldn't find this more confusing.  As a brand, there is little differentiation in my mind between any of them but as entities, they are much different.  I think some clarification would be handy, especially since (selfishly) it needs to be fixed.

      Saturday, October 23, 2010

      Speaking of value...

      I found this great piece by Janet Fouts on the importance of recognizing and reinforcing your 'social capital'.  It really leads on from my last discussion about making sure that you're creating a valuable experience and relationship with anyone you are connecting with on social media.

      If you're on social media (such as Twitter for example) and you've got followers, then you have got 'social capital'.  But how much of your following is actually social capital varies.  As discussed in my last posting, a significant proportion of your social networks are not going to be engaging in what you do online.  I like to think of these as background noise.  Then, as according to Fouts, there is the 'social capital' within your following: the follower that "listens to you, trusts you and takes action based on what they’ve read".  These are the followers who are hard to come by, hard to cultivate but by far and away the most valuable to your network!

      In this way, the evidence against the numbers came continues to mount.  Social capital does not equate to social credibility.  Fouts is quick to point out that "just because somebody has tons of connections does not indicate the level of their value to your network, or even their own".

      How do you maintain a valuable network?  "Make it a point to respond or otherwise support a broad spectrum of people in your network. When they do good things point it out. Answer questions, ask questions that you know they have the answer to just to support them" says Fout.  Don't spread yourself too thin or over do it (they will tune you out), but stay involved and make the effort to make the connections.

      All in all, a good read about the value of networking when you get what you give.  Check out Fout's website and give this article a read, well worth your time.

      Have a comment?  Find me on Twitter and let me know about it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts.

      Friday, October 22, 2010

      "A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers"

      Plato clearly would have been an effective social media user.

      In fact, I'm willing to say he probably would have earned himself many fans, followers and connections in the electronic networking world.  We would have been privileged to follow his thoughts and ideas, subscribing to @AcademyInAthens and gobbling up his philosophical musings.  "RT: @Socrates New Ideas on Western Philosophy"...

      But I am sure that Plato would have been one of the first to recognize that leagues of followers and a million 'likes' cannot replace generating a genuine connection with an audience.

      Franciso Rosales clearly understands this idea too.  The breadth of the connections you make is all very good, but you cannot simply measure success with a site-counter: depth is an important factor to consider too.  In his recent posting, Rosales explains the dilemma of whether numbers are important to a social media marketer: do you beat the drum as loud as you can to get the greatest number of followers, or do you value quality of connections above quantity.  I am a keen supporter of the quality argument: making a genuine and valuable connection with one person is far more valuable than a weak connection with ten.  However, as Rosales explains, which route to take is dependent on your overall strategy.

      Measuring the success of your existence on the Internet is difficult.  Social media is a new and emerging tool for marketers, but should be used as part of a clear, overall strategy.  Rosales is quick to point out (and I agree) that before you just jump in and try to measure your success in social media, you need to "understand what your business objectives are and how they translate into online goals".  In most cases, do bigger numbers necessarily mean bigger profits?  No, "having higher Retweets than your direct competitor means nothing on the front-end".  In the exception of a few companies, who are trying to promote their own "information products for sale", number of followers or retweets means very little.  Know what your strategy is, why you are in the ring and how you being in it fits with your objectives.  Then and only then you can have a way of measuring your success.  As in any strategy, have SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time Oriented.

      Realistic is a key aspect of having a sustainable strategy and objective.  Rosales is quick to point out that social media is no exception.  Understanding what kind of connection you have made with a consumer defines what relationship you've made, what experience you have impacted and how valuable the relationship is for both parties.  If you're looking to make 'deep' relationships by finely controlling the brand experience, you need to be realistic in your measurements of success.  According to Rosales, "only a tiny fraction" of those 'liking' or following a feed "are actually engaging or [have real] relationships" with your brand.  Mark Collier agrees, going as far as to say that most social media numbers are in fact useless as a measure of success.  I feel there is a lot of merit here, especially if you are trying to enhance a brand image with the objective of creating purchases.  Measuring increases in sales seems to be the obvious choice, but even this has it's pit falls.  If you're on Twitter to purely boost sales, then I don't think you're there for the right reasons.  Through studying his own Twitter traffic, Collier concludes there are two important things to keep in mind: you're going to have low engagement from all your followers,  but those of who are more involved in your brand, you are going to have a high level of engagement from that group.  He states that the level of engagement is " likely be inversely proportional to the size of the group", citing an engagement rate of between "1-3%".  But, of those who are involved in a more meaningful relationship, you are going to have a larger portion of engagement, more like "33%" in his example. 

      Clearly, there is an emphasis on understanding and controlling your relationships, it can make a huge difference when it comes to measuring your success.  It is a two-way street: you need to interact, respond and be involved in promoting the creation of a meaningful relationship.  If 'deep' is important, get involved.

      I come back to the idea of a genuine relationship.  Rosales points out that 'social proof' is a big part of creating  credibility, in the same way that "a book cover reads 'Author of the Best-Seller'..." might sell better than one without.  In this way, he explains that numbers can be a symbol of your success and leadership and therefore build your credibility.  To an extent, I have to agree.  If it is important to you that people see you as successful and a leader and you feel the best way of attaining that is through numbers, then that is your strategy (and lets face it, in many cases this is what happens).  However, those people who know, who understand and who seek real value will agree that a popularity contest proves little.  Creating value is what matters: if you do not provide value to your followers, you will not create the interaction and commitment that will generate a positive and real brand experience.

      Making decisions about how you use social media is about knowing what you want and how you are going to go about it.  Provide value, create meaning and interact.  It's what Plato would have done.

      Have a comment?  Find me on Twitter and let me know about it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

      Thursday, October 21, 2010

      "The secret of getting ahead is getting started" - Mark Twain

      Sometimes all you need a push in the right direction.

      A good friend of mine, and in my opinion an excellent marketer, introduced me to the idea of taking my ideas farther.  We are both recently graduated from Wilfrid Laurier University, where we studied Business with a specialization in marketing.  However, we are both still very much students of marketing.  We have both been using social networking and media to follow important news stories, network with professionals and to learn from those who in the industry.  Social media is an emerging tool for marketers that, as part of an overall strategy, is giving us a way of reaching consumers in ways we have never seen before.  The presence of organizations on social media, such as Twitter for example, gives marketers a new way to deliver and control their brand experience, and engage the consumer in a genuine, two-way relationship.  To me, this last part is key: a genuine, two-way relationship.  It is not about volume of posts (where you run the risk of becoming noise) or giving out special offers exclusively.  It's all about providing followers with an interactive face of the company, someone who will listen and address the issues raised.  It's about creating and controlling the consumers initial brand experience (we all know how important first impressions are).  Critically however, it's about seeking and returning value.  People will listen and follow you if you have interesting and valuable things to say.  As a life-long student of marketing, I look to creating relationships using social media to enrich my knowledge.

      But social media is a two-way street, which brings be back to my friend.  He inspired me to take my involvement to the next level: to help create value for others in my search to enrich my own knowledge.

      As long as I have known Shaminda, he has always been ahead of the curve.  A man of great insight and thought, I highly recommend you read his ideas about marketing literature and topical news items.   You might find he inspires you the same way he inspired me.

      This is the beginning of my opportunity to grow, develop and learn as a marketer.  In this blog, I will be constantly on the look out for interesting news items, thought-provoking ideas and be developing discussion about all things social marketing.  If you're a liked-minded individual looking to delve deeper into social media, please continue to check back here for my "Tuesday Three" and for other news, concepts and publications.  Also, feel free to connect with me on Twitter: I am always interested in new viewpoints, opinions and ideas.

      Share the journey with me, I hope you enjoy as much as I do.

      "A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step"
      - Chinese proverb

      Have a comment?  Find me on Twitter and let me know about it!  I'd love to hear your thoughts.