Inflection point


George Parker’s well aimed rant at weak minded advertising for weak beer, included a very interesting idea. While beer advertisers have reduced their media spend on traditional media by almost a quarter, overall market sales have gone up.

What do we learn from that? That the digital media advertising that’s taking-over the budgets is really driving sales? Of course not. It’s easy to forget that advertising isn’t really needed to prop up the segment itself; you don’t need to watch a load of tv spots to think ‘oh I fancy a beer’ or ‘I think I’ll continue to buy detergent’. 

Big budget bought media is all about driving market share for individual brands, and yes we will still soon this stop working. When the big spend (in Seth Godin’s terms in the TV-industrial complex) starts costing more than it brings in, then we really will see an inflection point in the decline of bought media.


(Fantastic cartoons, as usual, courtesy of Gaping Void).

Starbucks in their Ipods


Yesterday’s keynote from Steve Jobs was, as usual, a great show, full of amazing new products and product innovation. The Nano got even smaller and got video, the shuffle got more memory, the standard iPod got a new name (“classic”) and more storage, the iPhone became a lot cheaper, and he launched the new iPod Touch, an iPhone without the phone bit.

Fascinating to watch and I wouldn’t like to be working at a competitor today, as Apple proves it is relentless in staying ahead of the game.

However, the bit at the end of the presentation was equally intriguing.  Steve Jobs gives up the stage to Starbucks’ founder and chairman Howard Shultz to explain in detail the companies’ new partnership.

Walk into a Starbucks (some time in 2008) with your iPhone or wifi-enabled iPod Touch and new button will turn up on the screen, a Starbucks button! This is so close to one of those Google April Fool’s jokes that it takes a second to realize that a) they’re serious b) what they’re talking has potentially huge impact.

Click (or rather tap, of course) on your new Starbucks button  and via free connection to the Starbucks network you can see what the currently playing song in the restaurant is (and the last ten tracks), and buy that track (from iTunes of course).

Both Apple and Starbucks have always understood the importance of experience design, and this points the way to a whole new generation of experiences that merge the boundaries between physical and electronic.

Shultz describes Starbucks as “a place to discover music”. So while HMV, Virgin et al are licking their wounds and shutting their stores, Starbucks and Apple marches in and takes what’s left of their market. How?, by making something of the experience.

How long before iTunes is the number one music store in the world (currently number 3 in the US)?

In case anyone missed it, Shultz punches home the point:

To build a great enduring company, you can’t embrace the status quo, you have to keep pushing for re-invention and self renewal, and no one has done that better than Apple.


 Bombing at Glasgow airport

It’s been less than two years since the July 7 bombing in London and Richard Sambrook telling us that the BBC no longer owns the news. Today we watch as the somewhat bizarre UK car bombing news rolls in. No longer does the BBC interview off screen and report on screen, instead – on News 24 – we hear members of the public interviewed live and replayed immediately. All of the good coverage appears to be mobile phone pictures and videos as above. We hear Peter Sissons say “John Smith from Glasgow says XX, Helen Jones from London say YY”.

It feels like as well as owning the responsbility of ensuring that they will fail, we really do now see organisations like the BBC as organising and filtering, not generating and controlling. One more thing to be proud of in our open society. 

New balls please

Tennis balls 

Mike Butcher picks up on the Brand Republic story about the future of social networks being in niche verticals.

The most remarkable thing about the original article – about the Association of Tennis Professional (ATP) launching a ‘social network’ with 10Duke – is the lack of thought added to the piece by the journalist as she fairly obviously retypes a press release. What she forgets to mention is that companies don’t get to launch social networks – social networks do.

This article has attracted quite a lot of coverage, so it’s a real shame that it’s so uncritical. Even 30 seconds of Googling would have uncovered the woeful test site. Couldn’t any of us have done better on Ning in five minutes? Or if time is short – spend two minutes making a Facebook group as Mike suggests, and then support it with interesting content, as they should be doing anyway.

As with all these ventures, build it and they will come does not – by a long shot – make sense. And the investment should go into interesting and engaging content. Without an audience playing ball (sorry), the world welcomes one more empty warehouse from ATP. Consumers do not need brands to provide enablement, they need brands to provide interest.

As seen on Web 2.0

Blog maps

Antony’s Map, Monitor and Engage mantra was a great rule of thumb for brand marketers looking to take their first steps in social media. Unlike most 1-line solutions it has the benefit of being usable and meaningful; providing an actionable plan for sometimes very hesitant marketers. First of all work out who your community is, then track what they’re saying about you (and everything else) and then – and only then – consider how to engage with them. Easy!

It (or this approach at least) also led to few practical mapping/monitoring tools, often called “webmaps” such as Jon‘s and one from Spannerworks. I’ve heard of two or three others, and just today seen this interesting post from a staffer at VML, who are using their seer solution to alert brands to problems (unhappy conversations) so action can be taken. The Wall Street Journal discussed how Seer was used by Addidas to spot a problem with its Predator boot which led them to provide customers with care advice. Perhaps it would be preferable for customers to be having those conversations directly with the brand but this is a good second best.

More importantly than the fact they’re clearly getting better press coverage, VML certainly has won the battle for the coolest (if not strikingly useful) visualisation.

Stars and stripes

Axis of Feeble

I love the Economist so was slightly underwhelemed to  read on Open that their crack team on Project Red Stripe, after several months of deliberation into the paper’s future have come back with a social network solution. In their own words

Our mission is to develop truly innovative services online. In the past three weeks, we’ve used this site to collect ideas and received nearly 300 of them – more than we expected. We never intended to just run with them and we will now post summaries, each focusing on one theme or group of ideas. This will feed into our own idea generation process, the result of which we look forward to bringing to market.

Guys, look behind you. I think alot of us feel we could have saved you a lot of blood, sweat, tears and white board markers by guessing this would be the shape of the answer before the team was formed.

But also more important, to generate a relevant future path for your excellent newspaper, have a look at the newspaper itself. What do people like about it? They like that it distills complex issues for quick digestion but without dumbing them down. It is the opposite of blogging.

One thing which is telling. In the shortlist of potential solutions to their problems, is a list of other people’s solutions to other problems. Do they “do a facebook” or “do a wikipedia”. Well, how about they “do a Ted Talks”. The founders at Ted realised that the web is just a facet of what they do, it is not what they do. Users don’t perceive value in media selection but in content, connection and ideas.

Perhaps the team’s mission was too grand. As far as I can see, a bit of fine tuning of the newspaper’s site and emails would be enough to keep them on course.