Wednesday, December 28, 2011

12 Facebook Resolutions for 2012

Make Facebook a Better Place in the New Year!

At its inception in 2004, Facebook had a seemingly innocuous mission: to connect friends. 7 years and 800 million users later, the social network has found its way into most aspects of both our personal and professional lives.

Recent enhancements have all been focused on one thing: more sharing.

Are you finding it increasingly difficult to thumb through newsfeed without rolling your eyes? With more to share comes a greater opportunity to aggravate and annoy.

You have to figure that since Facebook profiles are self-curated, they possess an inherent bias towards the sharing of positive milestones. Friends are more likely to post photos of their cool new flat screen then mention being passed up for a promotion. And so, Facebook has become a culture of subtle competition and one-upmanship (both, natural triggers of anxiety and resentment).

Do your friends a favor; don’t be that facebook-er.

As a marketing professional, I tend to think of Facebook as an individual’s “corporate website.” 
It’s home to the brand that is you

In that spirit, commit to providing a better “customer” experience in 2012!
Be classy, engaging, and whatever you do, don’t look desperate.

12 Pointers for '12:

1. The Profile Picture:

Think of it as your corporate logo; your first impression on others. It should capture your essence.

To start, it should actually BE you.
Not a cartoon character.
Not an athlete or actor.
Not your infant son or daughter (see #11).
Not Steve Jobs or the Apple logo (ugh).
Not a picture of the beach you went to last summer.
Not a picture of you in a huge group - (“is Suzie even in there? Oh, wait – there’s half her head”).
Not a picture of you and your significant other - (although yours may beg to differ).

It shouldn’t be more than a year old. (What extra wrinkles/pounds are you trying to conceal?)
If the season is wrong, it shouldn’t be glaringly obvious. (Don’t be sled riding in July)

And, while we’re talking pictures…

2. The Photo Album:

Don’t upload an entire “roll” of film - (spare us the 9 near-identical versions of a shot you were trying to “get right”).
Don’t upload photos sideways or upside down.
Don’t upload images that are blurry.
Don’t upload large spans of pictures only to leave them caption-less - (Some are self-explanatory, but followers want to know your take; why are the images significant/worthy to you? – TELL THEM!).

Then, there’s The Status Update:

3. Facebook is NOT AIM

Your updates are not away messages.
I mean, what are we supposed to do with these?! “Yum! I like Chipotle too! What did you have?” What a waste.

Mom’s #1 reason she won’t join Facebook is she “doesn’t need to know what someone is eating for dinner.” Listen to your mother, and don’t post such useless drivel.

4. Don’t Go “Fishing”
Don’t post if you’re just looking for compliments or attention. You just look pitiful. Whatever feedback you receive is disingenuous because you had to ask beg for it.
If you need someone to talk to, close Facebook and open your phone. If you’re having a real problem, call a real friend. These kinds of updates make your nice, close friends uncomfortable and your mean, not-so-close friends gossip about you. 

5. We Don’t Want to Work Out With You

WARNING: if you upload a shirtless locker room mirror picture, we're posting it to

Has there ever been a more desperate cry for attention? We all thrive on the occasional, “wow, looking good man.” But, trust us; it feels better when these compliments are earned, not begged for.

When it’s ok: When you’ve been training for a major event – first competitive run, an Ironman. By all means, share your thoughts on crossing the finish line, share pictures taken. Friends may even offer their congratulations.

6. Let’s (Not) Talk About Love
Part 1 - Gushing

Anyone who posts amorous messages with certain regularity is only trying to cover up how terrible their relationship truly is. It’s been proven. If you are in a long-term, serious relationship than you SHOULD love them; it’s assumed and doesn’t need reiterated in our newsfeed.  

When it’s ok: Milestone events. You get engaged or are celebrating your anniversary.
Your significant other does something that “is SOO him/her.” In these types of instances only is a single, semi-sweet shout-out permissible.

Part 2 - Lovers Scorned

Ah yes, the other side of the coin.

You look childish when you make the fallout of your relationship public. Crazy even. Relationships are personal and complex. Even your status change from “In a Relationship” to “Single” should be hidden. Especially refrain if you aren’t 100% certain you are over for good. You know the story: Relationships hit a rough patch. Lovers air their dirty laundry on Facebook. Friends take sides. Couples make up and friends are forced to welcome cast-offs back into their good graces. ::Awkward::
Side note: if you see a post about a break up – DO NOT COMMENT. It only perpetuates the lunacy and makes you look petty.

7. The overly ambiguous
What are you, some desperate television premier trying to build rating with mystique? If you want to tell us something, just say it.

There will be times when you have killer news you want to share but can’t (you accepted a job but haven’t quit your old one) – we know it hurts, but hold it in. Wait for the big reveal.

8. The Poet Laureate
Yep, there you are. A regular Billy Collins wedged between a YouTube video of a drunken girl lip-syncing “Super Bass” and a foursquare notification of an ousted mayor (see #9). If you need insightful prose or song lyrics to get through your day, write them on your hand, not on your wall.

9. Social Media Cross-Pollination
If we wanted to know you were at the Post Office, we’d follow you on foursquare. Different Social Media platforms exist for a reason. Use each channel for its intended purpose and don’t be redundant for those that dare follow you on multiple.

10. The Party Animal
These status updates are sad. Not funny, not cool – just sad. No one wants to know they’re friends with a proud douchebag or slut. If you want to be wild that’s fine, sign off Facebook and keep your exposure limited to those in your immediate (physical) presence.

11. The Proud Parent
Why does having a child trigger the social media death of some mothers? One day you’re thumbing through your newsfeed and, surprise! You’re friends with another infant! That’s right, there’s a baby posting updates to your feed, commenting on your wall. Don’t be that person.

We are friends with you, not your child.  Stop sharing the natural progression of child rearing. We all learn how to sit on a toilet. While perhaps a big deal within your family, it’s not interesting to your entire pool of Facebook friends. 

When it’s ok: 1-3 posts per month MAX (and it better really be something)! Share funny things that are uniquely your son/daughter – things that are manifestations of your child rearing.  Reader’s should smile and say to themselves “Only so-and-so’s kid would say/do such a thing!”

12. Play-by-Play Man
Everyone that cares about the game is already watching. All you’re doing is bombarding non-sports enthusiasts with irrelevant updates! You want to be able to share your thoughts on every play? Get a friend to sit and watch with you. Don’t have any friends? Go to a bar where the game is playing and force yourself upon a captive ear. These are the people that might actually care about your up-to-the-minute commentary.

The ONLY EXCEPTION to the list: Self-Deprecation.

Yes, poking fun of yourself on Facebook is ALWAYS welcome. In that same vain, extraordinary, unique, catastrophic, and hilarious feats; all welcomed updates.

If it takes a little thought before you post, that’s the sign of a quality update!

As much as I fantasize being happier without social media, I know the opposite is true.
An extrovert by nature, I know I’d feel isolated. I can’t tell you how many of my conversations in the real world revolve around content first consumed on Facebook. With social sharing of news and other media growing, it is becoming increasingly more difficult to keep up with what’s current without one’s newsfeed.

While Facebook can make you hate your best friend, (or at least their online persona) – not tuning in will drive you mad.

It's time for you to weigh-in.
Any other “Resolutions” to add?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Does Marketing B2B Need 2 B Blasé?

A: No.

Note: I originally posted this article on DMNews and again on The Customer Collective, it’s a message that bears repeating. With 2012 upon us, we’re all back at the drawing table; planning out next year’s marketing strategies. Don’t bore your audience just because you’re marketing B2B.
If you're anything like me and marketing business to business, you have probably instinctively traded graphic-intensive, colorful sales collateral for stoic, straightforward and very often exceedingly dry content. That content is typically rich with articulate product information. We need to ask ourselves — is this knee-jerk approach to communicating value coming across as mundane and uninteresting? Are you boring your audience to an extent that it is affecting sales?

As a marketer of professional products and services, you believe that your brand value is complex and cryptic. You assume the more verbose and in depth you communicate your significance, the more likely your product is to be comprehended, trusted and ultimately purchased by your valuable customers and prospects.

Put yourself on the other side of the table for a minute. As a vendor, partner or customer, have you ever struggled to digest a long-winded case study or what seemed to be endless paragraphs of dull product specifications?  While no one can discount the confidence added detail provides for many of your prospects, what you can't quantify are the prospective buyers who are driven away by the information overload in your marketing materials.

Marketing 101 teaches us that if you want to gain attention and ultimately generate loyalty among your customers, brand “stickiness” is often just as important as product quality. 

This lesson seems to have been lost on business-to-business marketers.

We are all consumers, right? 

Put your intrinsic preference for the balance between statistical detail and visual stimuli aside. The inclusion of both is fundamental in growing your business with both types of customers you are targeting. 

So how can you begin to change your focus?

Break the mold. Get creative. You can start by augmenting the tools you already possess. Break behemoth case studies down into smaller, concise pieces that are terse by design and make them easier to digest for your customer or prospect in one sitting.  Develop intuitive graphics and work-flows that clarify and “tangibilize” even the most complex solutions. 

Infuse color. Grab attention with color and graphics that represent your brand. These will generate excitement and create a brand personality, and that will be more memorable for your audience. Test clever tag-lines or rhythmic jingles. Build consistency with the repetition of graphics and pictures.  This is the glue that binds us and pulls us towards one brand compared with another.  

Personality breeds relateability. In a crowded, mature business-to-business market, it may be the fix you need to break through the clutter and add excitement to your brand and incremental dollars to the bottom line.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Facelift | Faceoff: State Farm Insurance

Like a Good Neighbor, State Farm is (still) there…
…she just looks a little brighter! After nearly 60 years, the team at State Farm decided it was time for some creative Botox.
We continue our Facelift | Faceoff series with a discussion of the changes made to the State Farm Insurance mark, slated to roll out the first of the year.
Before the facelift:
You know it well. Here, we see “STATE FARM” and “INSURANCE” stacked vertically, yet separated by a pyramid of 3 interlocked ovals. The ovals spell out State Farm’s three founding service offerings; Auto, Life and Fire insurance.  
After surgery:
Distinct, yet familiar. The new look pulls the ovals out in front; gone are the words ‘auto, life and fire.’ The new logo drops “Insurance” and brings “StateFarm” together horizontally with a refreshed upper/lower, italicized casing.
30k Ft Weighs In:
A lot can change in 60 years! At more than 65,000 employees and nearly 18,000 agents, State Farm has grown 5-fold.
Now purveyors of securities, annuities, mutual funds and banking, dropping the word “Insurance” better aligns with State Farm’s broadened range of financial services.
If service line extension wasn’t enough reason to scrap the “auto, life and fire” verbiage, the proliferation of digital and social media channels coupled with the rise in mobile browsing was. We’re sure the old logo rendered beautifully on billboards, tv, and the weekly paper. But it’s not 1953 anymore. Can you imagine trying to read “auto, life and fire” in a Facebook profile? What about a mobile app? Clearing out the ovals provides a sleek viewing experience where brand real estate is shrinking; enabling State Farm to maintain one consistent look regardless of channel.
For us, the change is a welcomed one. “After” prevails.
So, weigh in.
Did State Farm get it right with their “less is more” approach and modest refresh?
Which look do you prefer?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Take your free pudding and quit griping about ‘Big Brother.’

Kraft Foods begins testing a new breed of vending machines today. Created in conjunction with Intel, the devise dispenses free Jell-O brand Temptations - but only to the product’s target market: grown-ups.
That’s right, programmable discrimination! The machines are equipped with special cameras that scan faces and discern approximate age. Adults are dispensed pudding. Children go wanting.
Wait, but what about ‘Big Brother?’
Please. Do you really think a pudding machine is going to steal your identity? There’s no human behind the lens – it’s just a detection device! The machines look for universal indicators of age, like distance between your eyes and ears.
So take your sample and be grateful the good people at Intel have yet to figure out how to stop you from coming back for seconds… (or so we’ve heard).
Goofy Gimmick or Next-Gen Marketing?
Call it what you want – it sure beats the long-standing alternative of awkwardly holding your hand out to an apron-touting blue-hair at the super market. But even for us extroverts, machines are portable. They are omnipresent and can be placed strategically within areas of heavy foot traffic.
Yes, sampling machines reach a much wider demographic than peer-to-peer sampling alone.
Not to mention, while still new and widely elusive, the machines boast a certain mystique and “wow” factor that lures curious consumers in.
Sampling isn’t going away.
Food and beverage manufacturers spend $1B/year on sampling. It’s a vital component to product launch.
For consumers who can shake their fear of cameras, the machines offer an anonymity and universal approachability sampling from a human cannot.
Beyond facial recognition, look for next-gen machines to provide additional insights. Intel is said to be working on a device that can detect facial expressions; smile v frown.
Use or Refuse?
What do you think of Kraft and Intel’s latest innovation?

Original article

Friday, December 9, 2011

On the 12th Day of Christmas, Starbucks Gave to Me…

It’s day 2 of our exploration of new and exciting ways to garner attention and increase in-store traffic during the inevitable lag that occurs between Black Friday and Christmas Eve (Read the first here).
Starbucks is no stranger to integrated marketing innovation, especially during the holidays. At the onset of the season, they launched an in-store promo in Augmented Reality. Now, as the holiday hustle and bustle hums along, Starbucks is beckoning wary shoppers in for more than just a re-charge of caffeine.
Introducing, Starbucks’ 12 Days of Gifting!
While your true love showers you with drummers drumming and turtle doves, Starbucks has something else in mind. December 1st through 12th, store baristas will be serving up more than the usual mocha and latte. 12 different products - a different promo every day. “Why?” you ask?
The National Retail Federation (NRF) projects 2011 holiday retail sales to reach $456.6B, up 2.8% from 2010 (way-cool infografic).
Starbucks wants a piece of that pie.
With “12 Days,” Starbucks showcases their growing collection of gift-able products; reminding regulars and rookies alike that they have evolved beyond coffee. “12 Days” transforms cafés into stores, encouraging patrons to step out of the drink queue and peruse the shelves.
When it comes to coffee shops, the competition is heavy. But with an increasing line of packaged products, music and gifts, Starbucks sets itself apart in a saturated market.
And on the Web, a Virtual (and Secular) Advent Calendar!
It wouldn’t be a Starbucks event if it didn’t have an interactive component! The subdomain is just the place to fall in love with the “12 Days” promotion.  
Floating merrily across the top of the screen is a red bird. He carries with him an offer to opt-in to Starbucks’ mobile campaigns.
Cursor over the ornaments on the tree to reveal offers missed or those to come (and enjoy the pleasant ring of bells). Click the ribbon at the base of the tree and day transforms to night, the tree illuminates, and the offer board falls away, revealing Starbucks’ growing cast of Holiday characters.  
For Starbucks, the web component is a crucial part of packaging the promotion – the added “magic” of online interaction makes the whole event more delightful – and hopefully, more enticing to buy.
What do you think?
Will “12 Days” encourage regulars to pick up more than stocking stuffing gift cards this year?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Move Over, 2-Day Sale...

It’s day 1 of 2 in our exploration of new and exciting ways to garner attention and increase in-store traffic during the inevitable lag that occurs between Black Friday and Christmas Eve.
Target hoped to increase their share of Black Friday’s wallet this year when they rolled the start of their 2-day sale back to midnight. But with Wal-Mart, Macy’s, Best Buy, and others following suit, it proved useless.  Well, it’s Christmas time and at Target, the more (promos) the merrier! Move over, 2-day sale - a new promo is comin’ to town!
Introducing, Target’s 3-Day (almost last minute) Sale!
Ok, since when does a sale starting in the single digits of December constitute as last-minute? Did Target’s famed Christmas Champ move Christmas and not tell us? That’s not the point.
We’re now in the throes of the holiday season. We awake daily to a barrage of specialty store emails touting their own unique sales. It’s time supercenters got in on the game! With their new promotion, Target breaks Big Box tradition of simply relying on weekly circulars to drive sales between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The 3-Day (almost last minute) Sale gives holiday shoppers an extra reason to shop Target on what otherwise would have been a level playing field weekend. 3-day wow?! It's pure genius.
The promotion uses time (both in window of sale and perceived proximity to Christmas) to break through the clutter of competing promotions.
Will eclipsing their weekly circular with a second layer of (more) spectacular sales make a difference? I guess we'll find out this weekend...
What do you think?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Black Friday is evolving. Retailers take note.

A game of one-upmanship might have forever changed the rules of retail’s “biggest day.”

Ok, shopping the day after Thanksgiving is not for everyone. We’re not taking sides (team Black Friday!) - love it or hate it, this article is about the marketing strategies behind a marquee retail event under fire.

Ten years ago, the fear was that online shopping would kill Black Friday (along with traditional retailing as a whole). In reality, the two get along quite well, eCommerce perfectly content living in Black Friday's shadow come 'cyber Monday.'

No, it turns out Black Friday is its own worst enemy.

Black Friday's goal is plain and simple; be the first stop.

But, how do you do it?

It starts with price.
If you can rope shoppers in with the best price on one or two most-coveted items, chances are good they'll stick around and buy more. It is not uncommon for major retailers to price highly-sought after items at or even below cost, a strategy in loss leadership designed to attract volume in hopes that their purchase of other items will offset any loss from underpricing.

Yes, in being the first stop, the lion's share of a shopper’s holiday budget is yours to lose! Collect.

Now, time is gaining momentum.
For as long as I can remember, 6 a.m. was the starting line. Stores opened two, maybe three hours earlier than normal. Circulars would hit the newsstands boasting holiday must-haves at rock-bottom prices. Customers would compare and plot their course. History would determine the winners and losers.

Then came the 5 a.m. door-buster.
Then JCPenney boldly went where no retailer had gone before: 4 a.m.

Maybe retailers became fed up with competing strictly on price?
With time, they could marginalize the impact price had on a shopper’s Black Friday schedule. Think about it. You might have been 2nd or 3rd priority in both price and product, but by opening two hours earlier than your competitors, you stood a good chance of being shopped first and shopped hard. It was a new (and highly influential) variable.

Downside: time is only a temporary competitive advantage.

It’s easily replicable. Once competitors get word of your Black Friday hours of operation strategy, they’ll aim to meet or exceed next year. When JCPenney moved to 4, Kohl’s opened the following year at 3. Benefit lost.

This year's move by many to midnight was matched by competition within days and simultaneously set a new high-water mark for the start of holiday shopping. I mean, how much earlier can we kickoff Black Friday without further disparaging the sanctity of Thanksgiving?

·         Last in a 3 retailer race, Kmart has been open on Thanksgiving Day for several years.
·         This year Old Navy began testing Thanksgiving hours in select markets.

With strategies in pricing and time exhausted, how will retailers look to stand-out against the competition in the future?

Black Friday Strategies of Tomorrow: What to Expect.

Black Friday is about to go Wild West. To glean additional wallet share, retailers will have to go beyond price and time, break from tradition, and get creative.

The rolling door buster/pricing promo.
Placing all bets on a single tactic like hours or price is too risky. Instead of a single event, Black Friday will evolve into a series of smaller, independent promotions – refined year after year. Traditional and online retailers alike have already started testing strategies in rolling promotions.

Walmart promoted three separate Black Friday events this year:
1.       A toy promotion starting at 10 pm Thanksgiving
2.       An electronic sale beginning at midnight
3.       A more traditional whole-sale deal starting at 8 am Black Friday

By offering different product categories at different times, Walmart has set the stage for Black Friday customer segmentation and enhanced store-traffic management.

Amazon didn’t just have Black Friday, they had Black Friweek, launching different promotions every day (and every few hours on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday). The e-tailer built excitement and intrigue with an omnipresent countdown clock embedded site-wide throughout November.

With new deals arriving intermittently, Amazon no doubt increased traffic and frequency of site visits.

New Name(s).
Have you noticed the “Black Friday” moniker being dropped in favor of more ambiguous titles? Now retailers are having After Thanksgiving, 2-, and 4-day sales. It’s all in the vein of differentiation. To get attention in today’s cluttered holiday retail space, one has to be unique. And really, with different product category promotions running at different times, each retailer’s Black Friday Sale can be unique.

Beyond (and Before) Friday.
With every hour of Black Friday now exhausted, stores are building new promotions both before and after. Banana Republic offered Black Friday pricing online the Monday before. Others narrowed in on best customer segments and offered limited Black Friday “previews.”

And now, the Wild West.
In the past, the whole store was on sale. All stores opened at similar times, offering similar products at similar prices. But competition grew. Stakes were raised. Standing out got more difficult. Black Friday is becoming an enigma. No definitive start or kick-off. Different products on sale at different times at different stores. As a shopper, the task of organizing your spree can prove daunting.

Hear that, Social Media and Technology?  It’s time for a collabo!
I want to be on the team that builds a social media plug-in for managing Black Friday shopping! I know web forums that speculate, post, and discuss Black Friday ads already exist.  But with all the new variables, we need something more intelligent and collaborative. Picture a virtual calendar that would plot selected stores and associated promotions against one another. An online tool that could query by product: “Show me where and at what times and price I can find product x.”

Users could personalize by importing their gift list and zip code, select intended stores, and BAM - the virtual platform would render a most-efficient route and cost-saving schedule.

Are We Wrong?
Were you out shopping last Friday? What did you think of the crowds? Did they seem smaller? Less congested? Initial reports show sales are up. Perhaps, in Black Friday’s case, evolution breeds innovation! By breaking the sale down into smaller promotions that span a larger, less defined windows of time, demand (and crowds) can be parsed out as well. And who knows? With less emphasis on Friday hours, we might even see stores give Thanksgiving Day a little breathing room back!    

What do you predict for the future of Black Friday?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Facelift | Faceoff: Marc’s

Logos fascinate me.
They really are the physical manifestation of the company or product they stand for. What I really love is talking with the marketing and creative minds behind a logo. The passionate way they express the rationale behind every minute detail is invigorating. It reminds us that each color and font, every word and creative element, is heavily debated and painstakingly scrutinized.
And when a logo undergoes a major change, that’s when things get really good. That’s when all the lively/emotional debates are still fresh on everyone’s mind; the point where decisions were inevitably made of disagreements in intended interpretations.
And so, in that spirit, we bring you a new series aptly named: Facelift | Faceoff. It’s a spot where we’ll discuss both the before and after of a logo/brandmark revision; what was the intent behind the change and which version is better.
Our first subject comes from my childhood. Marc’s Grocery & Deep Discount Stores is just that, founded in NE Ohio with locations spanning much of the state (we promise to feature more national recognized brands in future posts).
Before the facelift:

Here, we see “Marc’s” in all caps; the logo made use of hard, black edge lines and a drop shadow treatment. The yellow-colored tagline, “Fun for your money!” was part of the company’s signature television/radio jingle: “Have fun for your money and sa-a-a-a-a-av-v-e…at Marc’s.” It almost looked like a cashier’s nametag (a cashier named “Marc”).
After surgery:
Ah! The new logo moves “Marc’s” into an upper/lower casing, replacing the apostrophe with a floating green leaf. All of the hard, black edge lines and drop shadow are gone, giving the treatment a fresh, clean look. The legacy tagline has been removed, along with it, the conflicting yellow. In its place, a bright, new tagline: “Fresh Savings. Smart Living.”
30k Ft Weighs In:
I mean, who pairs red and yellow with black? When set alongside the new, the original logo almost makes me squint. It’s so hard and abrasive by comparison.  For anyone who has been inside a Marc’s store, the previous tagline is accurate. Marc’s was a wasteland upon which larger retailers would dump their unsellable.  A veritable funhouse of surprises awaits anyone who dares meander down Aisle 1; all at ridiculous prices. And, oh yea, Marc’s has groceries.
With the soft green leaf and absence of hard edges, the new logo articulates a shift in business strategy and greater emphasis on fresh grocery offerings. The new tagline is conscious of the current economic climate. It also alerts customers that two things wrongfully assumed to be at odds, “freshness” and “affordability,” can be found in-store.  
For us, the change is a welcomed one. “After” prevails.
So, weigh in. Did our ersatz plastic surgeons botch the procedure?
Which look do you prefer?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Yippee" for 'Yahoo!?' Don't celebrate just yet.

You do remember, Yahoo! – right?
Turns out Yahoo! is still very much alive, and recently released a few changes aimed at making their brand more social media friendly.
First, new social sharing features within Yahoo! News that makes sharing/recommending articles easy. Devised through a partnership with Facebook, the new feature simplifies peer-to-peer recommendations and allows readers to automatically share the stories they’re reading with Facebook friends.
Next is something Yahoo! is calling the Social Sentiment Slider. Placed directly below news content, the widget poses readers with a question related to the article, allowing them to record their opinions by simply sliding their cursors across an interactive scale. Jaguar signed on as a launch sponsor with additional brands to be announced soon.  In beta, initial tests showed the feature to boost both purchase intent and brand likeability by approximately 12%. (And you gotta figure, the Facebook tie-in is bound to help increase brand visibility within Facebook user feeds as well.)
So there you have it. Two steps in becoming more social. Innovation is great (and in Yahoo!’s case, deeply needed). But is optimizing for social share the only way Yahoo! can evolve?
Well, when it comes to search, it would seem Yahoo! continues to lose ground:

Forget search and let Google run with it. (Find the entire comScore Report here) 
What about email?
Stats from September break down the big 3 email providers by active users:
1.       Hotmail 369M
2.       Yahoo! 275M
3.       Gmail 193M
Opportunity strikes! To earn its keep,
Yahoo! needs to provide advertisers with better targeting, increased ad interaction and, where applicable, the ability to include social share.
But even with the second largest user base, Yahoo! desperately needs to refocus on holding user attention.
Ever try to change primary email addresses? (Notifying family, friends, utilities and all your favorite retailers?) It’s no easy task.  A high exit barrier Yahoo! has relied on for far too long.
What does the Yahoo! user base look like?
I found this great inforgraphic that breaks it down here.(try not to get offended by the characteristics associated with your browser of choice)

So, Yahoo! users are less tech-savvy (when compared to Google). Their family is priority #1 and they are extroverts. How can Yahoo! improve their site experience, thereby keeping them in front of ads longer?

1.       Streamline the email user interface (UI)
·         Clean, simple lines. More intuitive navigation.
2.       Reduce SPAM (Google figured it out)
·         Mail/contact lists requests alike. (Anyone else getting these daily?)

3.       Tight(er) integration with Flickr (you know, that company you purchased back in ‘05?)
·         Make sharing photos with family and friends a breeze via Yahoo! mail – it will keep users logged in longer.
4.       (Further) personalize the homepage
·         The Trending Now box was genius. It transformed the static search engine into a living, breathing thing. Here rises another opportunity for integrating with social. By cross-referencing a user’s “likes” and “followers,” related trends can be given heavier weight and promotion within both Trending Now and the primary news vignette.
Yahoo! and Google can co-exist. Like Target and Wal-Mart, it’s just a matter of aligning innovation with the unique needs of one’s target market.
Keep it up, Yahoo!. We believe in you.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

“Who’s YOUR Santa, QR Code?”

The gift of a second chance is given to quick response (QR) code technology - and by none other than the good people of J.C. Penney!  (I know; I was surprised too. Back in business school, we would have NEVER thought to chart “Innovative” and “J.C. Penney” in the same quadrant).
Since its recent inception, the QR Code has been used primarily (and not well) to direct customers to mobile websites, forms, and special promotions.  But J.C. Penney has taken quite a different (and might I add, brilliant) approach.
Check out the “Santa Tag” in action:
Not going to make it home for Christmas? As the video indicates, you can record a message and the JCP “Santa Tag” will store your sentiment for playback under the tree Christmas morning!
There’s that brand stickiness again.
With “Santa Tag,” J.C. Penney stakes its claim over the holiday gifting budget of tech-savvy shoppers.
“(Santa) Hats off” to JCP for repurposing QR technology to spark curiosity and delight; putting a little more magic into the holidays!
What do you think? Is it time to dust off our QR Code reader apps and get gifting, JCP-style?

UPDATE (11/11/11): It’s not about being “the best.” It’s about “delight.”
I received a number of emails challenging yesterday’s applause for J.C. Penney’s “Santa Tag.” 
While I agree that people will look to other, arguably more advanced, new-technologies when connecting with loved ones this holiday – (Skype, text and picture messaging just to name a few) - that’s not the point.
Think of the Santa Tag as the proverbial cherry on top. A small gesture, both surprising and charming.
Its intent is not to replace more substantial means of communication between gif-ter and -tee this Christmas.
Rather, it exists to go beyond the gift - bringing a brighter smile to the face and incremental warmth to the heart.
It’s icing on the cake.
Nothing more and that’s precisely the point. :)