Cue The Future

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"I'm living in the future, so the present is my past" -Kayne West

How two companies overcome the biggest challenge in marketing (repeatable success stories)

“To me, marketing is about values. This is a very complicated world, it’s a very noisy world, and we’re not gonna get a chance to get people to remember much about us… no company is.

So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.”  - Steve Jobs describing the biggest problem that marketing squares off against, even today in 1997.

It hasn’t gotten better for marketing departments in the last 13 years — this problem has gotten much worse. The world we live in is far noisier and far more complex with every passing year, and this trend is continuing.

As our society progresses technologically, the amount of things vying for our attention grows exponentially. It gets progressively harder for marketers to get our attention; to tell us the stories about their brand that they want us to remember. Today, consumer attention is currently split across so many places that it’s even harder to do this on any one channel.

This trend works to decrease the value of marketing contact databases across time. People are paying less attention to their inboxes over time, less attention to their feed readers, less attention to ad spaces — so the relationships you build with consumers on any channel decays naturally. Consumers are moving to Facebook, Twitter and Mobile right now, but in time they’ll move on from there too.

Consumer attention is no longer captive — it floats free, between a flotilla of competing locations. Welcome to the Splinternet.

Marketing in the Splinternet era requires making sure your paid and earned media is unified to tell effective stories to your target audience across multiple channels.

Investments will be required in building audience relationships with consumers on multiple channels. Because we’re in the splinternet, each new channel you invest in acts as a hedge against the eventual dwindling attention in pre-existing channels.

I believe in the future of marketing, and embrace opportunities like this every day at Involver for marketing ourselves, developing our products, and educating our customers. In that vein, here are two examples you can emulate from companies who have developed fantastic marketing campaigns that embrace splinternet marketing: Dropbox and the Golden State Warriors.


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Obama’s missed legacy

I’m a big fan of Obama, and have publicly supported him on this blog several times. I think, by in large, he’s done a great job of managing the presidency and engaging in traditional politics — which is, in my opinion, his biggest (and most annoying) failure.

Obama stopped mobilizing his supporters when he took office. His email database, SMS database, and social lists have been relegated to un-targeted and 2nd-rate messages. Used effectively, those tools could have been extremely powerful tools in Obama’s push for agenda items like healthcare.  It would have galvanized and involved a broad audience of people, which would have made the public view of the debate more of a citizen v. citizen issue.

This would have been messier. It might have even cost us healthcare reform. But if Obama pushed his main agenda points by proxy through millions of supporters who signed up to be involved (email/SMS/social), it would have ushered in an age of consistent engagement by forcing the other side to engage their base similarly.

Obama could have created a legacy of being the man who brought the public back into the fold, who engaged the common man more than once a term. That’s one of the many reasons I voted for him — because he represented that promise.  Instead, you hear that “Social Media in the Age of Obama” is all about how this marketing channel is changing campaigning.  Trust me, that wasn’t the part of the process that needed better engagement tools.

Could answering beat out blogging?

There’s a new “blog” I’ve just discovered and I’m a big fan of it — but you can’t subscribe to it in google reader, it’s only on Quora.

I recently read an answer on Quora to the question, “what have been your most important life lessons?”  The author of this answer echoed a lesson I’d recently learned (namely that we often misread another person’s insecurity as signs they don’t like us, and this harms our ability to deepen relationships). He made his point in a compelling way and also added two ideas that I hadn’t considered. The author was  thoughtful and thought provoking across the board. I was really impressed with Jack Stahl and subscribed to his answers.

Stahl’s answers on quora have been a pleasure to read, his content is fantastic. I enjoy them in the same way I enjoy my must-read/high priority blogs (like A VC, chris dixonVenture Hacks and Both Sides of the Table). Interestingly, I don’t think Stahl has a blog, and even if he did, I’m not sure I would have a found it without Quora, unless he had invested in creating distribution. This got me thinking, maybe, when we look at Quora, we are looking at a pretty effective personal blogging platform.

Generally, personal bloggers are people that want to share ideas, influence public opinion, get feedback on their thoughts, and earn reputation. In order to be a successful personal blogger, you must do two things really well:

  1. Create amazing content that make people better for reading it.
  2. Get that information in front of your target audience (generally, the people who can do something after being empowered by your content).

Quora makes it easier to solve these issues for personal bloggers focused on consumer internet startups. The community there contains some of the most prolific investors, entrepreneurs, and thinkers who have shaped, and are still shaping, the way humans interact with the web. Those people are telling the service what questions they have, what questions they find interesting, and what answers they have to offer. That directly affects those two blogging musts:

  1. The site tells you what topics are worth tackling, by letting you know what thought-leaders and really smart people think are good questions. You are looking to answer questions with high activity and/or high number of followers.
  2. Answered questions get exposed in the feed to people following that topic, leading to distribution and exposure to new people you don’t have to build a relationship with prior to them engaging. Traditional blogging relies on SEO/SEM/Social/etc. (extra work from the author) to get people there.

If Quora is able to repeat their success in attracting the best and brightest in new niche communities (their biggest challenge, but one they have successfully solved once), it could serve as the tool of choice for learning about new issues as well as demonstrating and sharing your expertise. It has some similarities to Twitter or Tumblr on this front, as it could be a great complement to hardcore blogging or complete replacement for lightweight blogging.

Quora lets interesting people focus on creating answers and expressing their opinions, which is all I care about as a reader.

That’s one reason I love Quora, why do you love quora? Answer that question here.

The concern of privacy

I read an interesting article on USA Today’s website: “Some ditch social networks to reclaim time, privacy

The reporting is on the trend of more and more people quitting social networks.  What spoke to me most is how much of a minority opinion this was. Here’s a quote:

Lucca, Italy-based Seppukoo helped 20,000 people erase themselves from Facebook after the site launched last fall. Two-month-old Web 2.0 Suicide Machine — where a noose dangles near a ticker tracking the digital mayhem (“181,898 friends have been unfriended, 329,908 tweets removed”) — has been used by 2,600 people. Thousands more are waiting to be accommodated by the site’s small server, says Walter Langelaar, 32, one of three programmers who created the “art project” for Moddr, a media lab in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

20,000 people?

2,600 people?

Facebook has 400 Million active users. Twitter is in the mid 8-digits. Myspace is in the hundreds of millions.

With more users, you’ll have more attrition — I don’t think the “trend” being reported here is much to think about. Facebook has maintained incredible user-activation (50% of it’s users log-in daily). The examples in the article are clearly  from a minority.

My friend Ben Casnocha posted yesterday about privacy, RIP Privacy and Identiy Synthesis on the Web.  It’s a good read, and I would wager he would agree with my statements above, especially given his statement that: “many users do not understand how their personal information is tracked and displayed. But I do not think the majority mainstream users of any age care and I think no young people care. Young people will soon replace old people.”

Ben and I may be buying slinkys on this one, but the privacy argument is becoming moot.  Here’s my outlook:

  1. There are still large risks associated with giving up privacy, but far fewer than decades past.
  2. Our culture is clearly headed to sharing more, not less, information.

Bottom Line:  Privacy is dying. We are wasting our time trying to save it. Instead, let’s make the world safer for those who are living out in the open — because pretty soon, the majority of us will be.

It sounds radical, and full of the brashness of youth, but… I’m pretty sure it’s correct. I think that message needs to be spread wide and far. And I don’t just mean removing the risk to US Citizens like those profiled in USA Today above, I mean protesters in Iran. As Jonathan Zittrain noticed in a talk I attended last year, Iran could pretty easily/cheeply use Amazon Mechanical Turk to identify and persecute dissidents (starts at 32:45).  The safety of privacy will increasingly be an illusion that can be destroyed almost at-will by those with real power.

You want that in twitter friendly length?  No problem. Put this in your pipe and tweet it:

“Focus on making the world safer for living without privacy — soon, you won’t have any left.” /via @tylerwillis  http://bit.ly/bOdSSN

The creator of Gmail on the iPad

I’m a big fan of Paul Buchheit, the guy coined “Don’t be evil” and created both Gmail and Friendfeed. Now he’s working at Facebook, cooking up exciting things I’m sure.  He’s wrote a post about product design, using the iPod, iPad and Gmail as examples today. It’s a great read if you’re thinking about how to build a new product.  It is required reading for all entrepreneurs.

He thinks about the iPad similarly to me, which makes me pretty excited — when smart people come to the same conclusion as you entirely separately, you are on to something; and Paul is very, very smart.  I’m humbled and excited.  Here are excerpts from our two posts, back to back:

Here’s what I wrote:

The most impressive innovation, and the one that truly makes Ambient Computing possible, was the A4 chip.  That chip is at the hart of the new devices speed and responsiveness. While, I hope this new chip design extends to the iPhone in the future, it currently, makes the iPad capable of near-instant boot and it empowers applications to be incredibly responsive.  It removes all of the experience associated with computing other than getting into your desired program and completing your goal.

If Apple has built a machine that almost entirely removes the starting cost of completing an action on a traditional computer (which, even in good scenarios, often takes 20-30 seconds on non apple machines), then it has created a machine that’s much more capable of capturing cognitive inspiration from it’s owner – making you, as the user, more likely to act on your ideas.  Apple is already good at this (going from sleep/closed to working on a new macbook is generally a sub-10 second proposition), but carrying a laptop with you everywhere is a nuisance, and pulling a computer out of your bag for a 1 minute task in most situations is awkward (and often rude). Smartphones already handle these issues well, but they are generally sluggish and unreliable for anything but the simplest tasks.

If I was Scott Forstall, I’d be focused on empowering applications that resonate heavily with this crowd:  cookbooks come to mind, board games also, news/photos/communication will be killer (and already are on the machine), what else?

Here’s Paul’s take:

So where does this leave the iPad, with it’s lack of process managers, file managers, window managers, and all the other “missing” junk? I’m not sure, but one thing I’ve noticed is that I spend more time browsing the web from my iPhone than from my laptop. I’m not entirely sure why, but part of it is the simplicity. My iPhone is ready to use in under 1/2 second, while my laptop always takes at least a few seconds to wake up, and then there’s a bunch of stuff going on that distracts me. The iPhone is a simple appliance that I use without a second thought, but my laptop feels like a complex machine that causes me to pause and consider if it’s worth the effort right now. The downside of the iPhone is that it’s small and slow (though the smallness is certainly a feature as well). That alone guarantees that I’ll buy one to leave sitting next to the couch, but I’m kind of atypical.

Ultimately, the real value of this device will be in the new things that people do once they have a fast, simple, and sharable internet window sitting around. At home we’ll casually browse the web, share photos (in person), and play board games (Bret’s idea — very compelling)…

About the Author

Tyler Willis is the Vice President of Business Development at Unified, which builds enterprise marketing technology for brands and agencies.

This blog is about how the future will affect technology, marketing, and the things we care about most. Learn more about Tyler.

Speaking

Tyler is a featured speaker and instructor for The American Marketing Association, and is a popular speaker on topics related to social marketing and how technology is changing our lives.

Recent engagements:
- South by Southwest
- American Marketing Association
- TMP Directional Marketing Client Summit

Email for Speaking Requests.

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Lightweight Update

I write infrequent (quarterly at most), semi-formal updates of what I'm doing and thinking.


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